Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturdays and Teacakes - Teacakes

"She opened the over door and the kitchen filled with a smell sweeter than summer gardenias--the smell of teacakes."  - Saturdays and Teacakes, Lester L. Laminack

When I was growing up I had a very close relationship with my grandfather. Due to the early deaths of my other three grandparents he was the only one I was really knew and he was, in a way, like a third parent to me and my sister. Some of my favorite memories are of going on walks together, eating cheese and crackers in front of The Young and the Restless and--when I was in upper elementary school--getting involved in stamp collecting together. My grandpa adored all of his grandchildren and bonded with all of us in different ways. For those of us who lived near him, he never missed a dance recital, concert, big sporting event or graduation. He also made it a priority to visit his other grandchildren who lived across the country. I miss him every day and think about him often--especially when I see my boys enjoying things he would have enjoyed, like getting excited about planting flowers in our garden or playing an instrument.

(Me and Poppa, circa 1981)

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack is the story of a boy and his grandmother (Mammaw) and the special relationship between a child and a grandparent. Their standing Saturday date is a ritual that begins with the main character setting off on his bike and riding through town until he reaches her home. Their day includes sharing breakfast, doing yardwork, eating lunch (with fresh tomatoes from the garden) and--finally--making and eating Mammaw's special teacakes. Chris Soentpiet's lovely, Rockwell-inspired watercolor illustrations firmly place the story in a not-so-distant past and evoke feelings of nostalgia for a bygone era--a time when little kids really did ride their bikes through town (without helmets!) and gas station attendants wore spiffy uniforms. Despite the setting, the story is one all who have a special bond with a grandparent can relate to.

Laminack's publisher, Peachtree Publishers, has a recipe for "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes" on their website. I adapted it to be gluten-free.

Teacakes (adapted from "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes", Lester L. Laminack)

  • 2 sticks butter (I used Smart Balance Butter Blend)
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
Note: I halved the recipe--the last time we made cookies (and these are, despite the name, cookies) for this blog we didn't end up eating all of them. I used slightly less sugar than the recipe called for because the flour blend I used already has sugar in it. If you aren't following a gluten-free diet and are interested in making these cookies you'll definitely want to check out the original recipe on Peachtree's site rather than use the one I've provided.

1. In mixing bowl, cream softened butter and sugar.

2. Beat eggs and vanilla together. Add to butter and sugar and mix well.

3. Add flour, mix well until all ingredients are combined.

4. The original recipe says to roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to cut into circles. I really didn't want to mess with that; I made drop cookies instead. Normally I abhor those Airbake cookie sheets but I recently read that they work well with gluten-free baked goods. Since I was at my mom's house while making these I decided to give the Airbake sheet a try.

5. Bake at 375* for about 15 minutes.

(The boys and my nephew, enjoying their teacakes after lunch.)

To be very honest, I don't think these cookies are all that different from the moon and star cookies I made last month (I'm thinking of mixing up some ganache icing to give them a different flavor). However, the cookie itself isn't the point. This book is about a special tradition shared between a grandparent and her grandchild, and the important thing is the love and the memories centered around this special recipe, not the recipe itself. It could have just as easily been called Saturdays and Tacos or Saturdays and Tofu. In my case, it might have been called 11:00 a.m. and Cheese and Crackers. I will never be able to pass the refrigerated spreadable cheese section in the grocery store without thinking of my Poppa and all of the special times we shared while spreading cheese on crackers and watching the lives of Victor Newman, Jack Abbott and the other denizens of Genoa City unfold. My parents and inlaws don't cook with my kids. They don't watch wildly inappropriate soap operas with them either. But when my dad shares ice cream bars with the boys after dinner or my mother-in-law gives them silly nicknames I see their own traditions beginning to take root.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Maisy Makes Lemonade - Lemonade

"It's hot today. Maisy is having a nice cold drink. Mmmm. Lemonade."  - Maisy Makes Lemonade, Lucy Cousins

You may have noticed that lately the recipes on my blog have tied into the season--summer is the time for sweet, refreshing delights like fruit salad and strawberry shortcake. Another quintessential summer treat? Lemonade. What's more, it's easy to prepare. Even very young children can get involved.

Maisy Makes Lemonade was a library find. My four year old is in a stage where he still enjoys simple and comforting books like Cousins' Maisy books just as much as he enjoys more mature fare such as Batman versus the Joker. He was quite taken with both on a recent library trip and while neither would have necessarily been what I'd have chosen for him, I do think it's important to give my kids the ability to choose their own books at the library.

So I was going through the stack of library books to read one more time before our beach vacation and as I picked up Maisy Makes Lemonade I thought, Well, there's a good topic for the blog.

For those not familiar with Maisy (though if you have a toddler/preschooler, you should be), she's a mouse who--along with her various animal friends--experiences things that most kids are familiar with. In addition to making lemonade there are Maisy books about going to bed, going shopping, and going to places like the dentist or on vacation. They're told simply with a minimal amount of text on each page and cute, colorful illustrations. The storyline in Maisy Makes Lemonade is simple and predictable (to adults): Maisy shares her lemonade with her friend Eddie (an elephant) and they run out. They decide to make another pitcher. They pick lemons from Maisy's tree and make their lemonade, step by step. Then they enjoy their refreshing beverage. My kids wanted to make their own lemonade after reading it. If you have a small child, it's a good opportunity to suggest making lemonade "just like Maisy."


  • 6 lemons (or, enough to yield 1 cup of lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used a combination of regular and raw sugar)
  • 5 cups water

1. Slice lemons in half and juice them. We don't have a citrus juicer so I let the boys do it by hand. You need one cup of juice for this recipe.

2. Pour juice through a strainer (into the pitcher you'll be using) to separate juice from seeds.

3. Add sugar and water. Stir everything together. Lemonade is ready to serve, unless you'd like to chill it first.

It was 90* the day we made this! We waited until it cooled off a little and drank it outside.

Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate I earn a small commission from Amazon purchases via the links and search tools on this site. Thank you for supporting Eat Their Words!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

"On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry."        - The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

Is there a parent or teacher on the planet who isn't familiar with Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar? We've had our well-loved (board book) copy since my older son's first birthday and it's still a book my four and seven year olds occasionally enjoy. The great thing about it is that it can enjoyed on various levels. For babies and toddlers it's a good introduction to colors, counting, and the names of fruits. With older children it can be used to spark conversation about the caterpillar/butterfly lifecycle. Its unique design also appeals to kids. I remember being absolutely fascinated by this book as a child--there was always a long waitlist for Eric Carle books at my elementary school's library.

Do I even need to bother with a summary for this book? In short, the newborn caterpillar hatches from his egg and spends a week eating various foods before spinning his cocoon and eventually emerging as a "beautiful butterfly." It's illustrated in Carle's trademark style and the pages with the fruits he eats are staggered in size with die cut holes in the fruits to represent the caterpillar's bites.

The board book version we have is especially sturdy and has held up to years of use.

Our recipe for this week is simple and comes straight from the book: Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad. It uses as its ingredients the very foods the titular caterpillar ate during the week before building his cocoon. My kids and I enjoy making fruit salad in the summer; there is such an abundance of great, fresh, summery fruit. This was a perfect "cooking" project and snack for a summer day.

Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

In addition to the fruits mentioned in the book, I like my fruit salad to include bananas, blueberries, cherries and whatever else happens to be in season (never any melon though). However, I wanted to stick as close to the amounts in the story as possible. I made an exception for the orange. Five oranges? That's a lot of oranges. Might have been doable if clementines were in season but they're not. Thus, one really large orange as a stand in for the five mini oranges. Were I making this in the winter (but then, strawberries and plums would be out of season) I would use five clementines.


  • 1 apple
  • 2 pears
  • 3 plums
  • 4 strawberries
  • 5 oranges (5 clementines, or 1 large orange)

1. Wash fruit. 

2. Peel, slice and/or cut fruit as necessary. I cut everything into bitesized chunks. My seven year old helped with the strawberries.

3. Place sliced fruit in bowl and toss to mix. I added a splash of lemon juice to prevent browning.

I served this with lunch; it would also make a good dessert. Or breakfast, if paired with yogurt.

Eric Carle has a great website with his bio, lists of his books, FAQs, games, coloring sheets and more. There are even instructions on how to make a collage in his signature style. His blog can be found here.

Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission from Amazon purchases made through the links and search tool on this site.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Beatles in Popular Culture

Before we conclude this week--and because I have no other place to put this so it may as well go on my blog--I have two examples of the Beatles in popular culture that I ran across this week. If you pay close enough attention (and know what you're looking for) you will start to find their influence everywhere. In these two particular examples, they're used in advertising.

Exhibit A:

"All you need is loaf" button from Tillamook Cheese. (Sorry for the blurry quality.) A play, obviously, on the Beatles lyric "All You Need is Love." We received these from Tillamook reps who were promoting their products at a local grocery store earlier this week.

Exhibit B:

Bag from Lucky Brand Jeans store. Upon receiving it I thought, That looks like it was inspired by the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Then I turned the bag on its side and saw that it was designed by Sir Peter Blake. Who is most famous for designing the Sgt. Pepper cover. So there you go.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beatles Activities for Kids

This week has been all about learning more about one of our favorite bands, the Beatles. Earlier in the week we made strawberry shortcake (to go with "Strawberry Fields Forever") and drew pictures inspired by the music of the Beatles. Here are some of the other things we've been doing:

The Beatles AnthologyWatching (bits and pieces of) The Beatles Anthology DVDs. Specifically, we watched the part that includes discussion of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane". The Anthology DVDs include "promotional films" the Beatles made for the songs, which are really very early examples of music videos and, in my opinion, pretty sophisticated for the era. Watching these videos opened up more discussion about the Beatles but my four year old is still a little young for them, I think. He lost interest fairly early on. My seven year old was very interested and probably would enjoy watching more of the Anthology DVDs at another time.

Xbox 360 The Beatles: Rock Band - Software Only
Playing Beatles Rock Band on XBox. The Rock Band video games (games in general, actually) are something we enjoy as an entire family. If you're not familiar with the concept of this series of video games, you basically use color coded "cues" on the screen to "play" the songs on the instruments that come with the game. My older son likes singing (he does particularly well on "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds") and playing the guitar. My younger son plays the drums, though he usually needs help. I think this game is a great way to introduce the younger generation to the music of the Beatles. (Especially since their music is not yet available on iTunes, which seems to be where so many kids get their music these days.) The graphics are exceptionally well done. The opening sequence (view it here) is amazing. And yes, I know that there is a big difference between playing games like Rock Band and playing real instruments, but this game has paved the way for my boys' interest in learning to play real instruments. Now, I'm not advocating going out and buying a gaming system just so you can play this game, but if you already have one it is worth at least renting (can you still rent video games?) or borrowing from a friend.

Playing The Beatles Games from the National Museums Liverpool. I helped my boys take the quiz to determine which Beatle they are most like. Despite their very different answers they both got John Lennon.

I probably would not have been as inspired to teach my kids about the  Beatles--beyond simply playing the music--if I had not had a Beatles background to use as a jumping off point. In addition to the Anthology DVDs (which I saw when it originally aired as a television documentary/mini-series many years ago), there are a few other resources I recommend to any fan who wants to learn more. The very first Beatles biography I read was Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman and I still think it is one of the very best Beatle biographies out there. It would be great for teens who have an interest in the Beatles. The Beatles Anthology (book) is basically a rehashing of the documentary but it is (like much of the documentary) in the Beatles' own words and contains amazing pictures. (My only complaint is the size--it's large and difficult to look at when I have kids on my lap. Hence my desire for a Beatles book for kids.) Backbeat is a 1994 movie about the Beatles' first bass player, Stu Sutcliffe, and the early days of the Beatles. Again, this is suitable for teens but not for young kids like mine due to its R rating.

Are you and your kids fans of the Beatles? I want to know about Beatles activities other families have enjoyed. Please leave your ideas in the comments section!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beatles Artwork

It wasn't difficult for me to decide to spend a week immersed in the Beatles, especially after the boys indicated they wanted to learn more about them. I've been an amateur Beatles historian since the age of 16, when I wrote about them for an AP US History assignment. It goes beyond the CD collection; I have biographies and the Beatles Anthology DVD set and--oh yes--Beatles Trivial Pursuit.

It's hard for me to describe exactly what the Beatles mean to me. I suspect every fan has their own story and their own reasons. My mom was a fan growing up so I was always aware of them, but I truly became a fan during my junior year of high school, after watching The Beatles Anthology when it first aired on TV. That was the 1995/96 school year. Which was, up until 2003 (the year my son was born), the best year of my life. It was the year I discovered running as an outlet for my anxious energy. It was the year I began to discover more about myself as a writer--both with the help and encouragement of teachers I had and on my own. I grew closer to a few friends who are still dear friends to this day. I met my husband. The Beatles were the constant soundtrack to all of that, and it touched me in a way that's hard to describe. Their music is alive to me. Even today, hearing these songs decades after they were recorded, I can almost feel the energy and love that was poured into their making. And isn't that the point of art? To make you feel something? These songs were also vitally important in helping me discover who I am as a writer and how I choose to express myself. I'm a bit of a pacifist and can be on the granola crunchy side (I do live in the Bay Area) and that, too, is in part due to the Beatles' influence.  So I want to share the Beatles with my kids. I want them to be as inspired as I've been inspired.

With that in mind, I chose an art project that would allow them to fuse the Beatles' words with their own inspiration. I had them do stream of consciousness drawings as we listened to Beatles music. I randomized all of the Beatles songs in my iTunes, although the boys did make a few requests. I told them to draw what they felt, so the results were not always exactly what one might expect. The songs served as a jumping off point to unlock their own creativity.

Part of our Beatles playlist:

"Here Comes the Sun" by seven year old M: "It's a man taking a picture of apples falling off a tree."

"Strawberry Fields Forever" by four year old J:

Inspired by the line "No one I think is in my tree" from "Strawberry Fields Forever." By J.

This one is interesting. M kind of fused "Strawberry Fields Forever" with "I am the Walrus." Except instead of drawing an Egg Man he drew a "Chip Man." Wearing "a cheese hat with a propeller on it."

M's interpretation of "Revolution." He drew an electric guitar--most likely inspired by the prominence of the electric guitar (and guitar feedback) in this song. M is a big fan of electric guitars.

J's "Yellow Submarine":

The boys enjoyed this activity and as they got into it their drawings became more elaborate and fanciful. Next we're going to go beyond listening to the Beatles and watch some videos. I'll report on that, along with our other Beatles activities, later this week (tomorrow or Thursday).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields...

Some of you may notice the title of this post also happens to be the beginning of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever." What does this song have to do with this post? Everything.

For a bit of a change this week, I'm not presenting my recipe with a book. I'm presenting my recipe with Beatles songs. The Beatles as kidlit. Or kid poetry. Or something.

Before school ended I asked my kids what they wanted to learn about this summer. One of the things they both mentioned was the Beatles. I looked for a picture book with awesome illustrations that introduces the Beatles in a fun, engaging manner. Something along the lines of The Day-Glo Brothers, Racing Against the Odds or The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (three biographies my kids have recently enjoyed). Such a thing does not seem to exist. (Perhaps this is my cue to write such a thing?) So, spending a week learning about the Beatles and their songs was the best I could do. Which is not really a problem because we happen to be big Beatles fans around here.

We'll start with a recipe though. There are a number of Beatles songs that mention food. We've got the songs "Glass Onion" and "Mean Mister Mustard." "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" has "marmalade skies" and "marshmallow pies." But for me, there is only one song that worked as inspiration for this week's recipe.

"Strawberry Fields Forever" is my all time favorite song. Strawberries are my all time favorite food. Of course we had to make strawberry shortcake to kick off our Beatles week.

Magical Mystery Tour

"Strawberry Fields Forever" is not literally about strawberry fields; rather, Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army orphanage near John Lennon's childhood home. The song appears on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (alternate versions are found on their Anthology 2 album and there's a mashup version of it on Love). It's one of those polarizing Beatles songs that people tend to love or hate. If you're only a fan of early Beatles, this isn't the song for you. If you prefer Paul McCartney's (usually) more straightforward, lighthearted lyrics, this isn't the song for you. If you like surrealism, stream of consciousness (one of my personal favorite literary devices) and psychedelia with a dose of melancholy--hurrah!--this may be the song for you.

It is extremely difficult to find samples of Beatles music that I can legally share here. That's just the way things are with the Beatles and their rights. So, if you'd like to get a taste of the song I'll direct you to some covers done by other artists (but I really recommend checking out the original):

Strawberry Fields Forever cover by Jim Sturgess, from the movie Across the Universe

Strawberry Fields Forever cover by Ben Harper

One of the things my older son enjoys doing is listening to all my versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and comparing them. The three variants found on Anthology 2 and the version the Beatles finally released on Magical Mystery Tour are a mini-lesson in how a song (or any creative work) can undergo multiple revisions before resulting in a final product. We've also talked about Ringo's drumming in this song. My seven year old once pointed out that he "goes absolutely crazy" at the end. I in turn pointed out that it's a controlled kind of crazy that came only after years and years of practice (it's brilliant, really). (My hope was that this would encourage him to practice the piano without complaining.)

Before we made our strawberry shortcake we had to get some berries. This is how things work in our family: I mentioned we were going to make strawberry shortcake. My husband suggested we pick our own strawberries. I pondered that for like two seconds and began Googling pick-your-own berry farms. I found one not too far away and we went out there on Saturday morning. Berry season is coming to an end but we were still able to get an abundance of fresh, ripe strawberries straight from the fields. Fun! And delicious.

My preferred way to eat strawberries is plain. But this wouldn't be much of a recipe blog if all I do is tell you to wash your berries and eat them while listening to some Beatles music. So, strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from the Bisquick strawberry shortcake recipe)

I've made a few different types of shortcakes in my time (including chocolate shortcake) but lately I've gone back to the Bisquick method, using Pamela's Baking Mix instead of Bisquick. They are similar products and quite honestly, it's easier for me to stick with a tried and true method rather than mess with blending flours and figuring out measurements. On my husband's suggestion, I did tweak the recipe a bit--I cut the butter in instead of using melted butter according to the Bisquick instructions.


  • 2 1/3 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix

  • 3 T butter

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 3 T sugar

  • 4 cups sliced strawberries

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • whipped cream (optional)
1. Pour baking mix in medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter until it is incorporated into the mix.

2. Add milk and 3 T sugar, mix together. If mix is too dry, add another splash of milk and continue to mix. (I have never, ever made this--with Bisquick or Pamela's--and not had to add extra milk.)

3. Using an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Bake at 425* F for 10 minutes.

4. While shortcakes are baking, clean and slice strawberries. Place in small mixing bowl. (Putting the sliced berries in the bowl as they piled up on my cutting board was my four year old's job.)

5. Add 1/4 cup sugar.

6. Stir strawberries and sugar. Add a small splash of water. Cover and refrigerate. The sugar and juices will combine with the water to make a light syrup.

7. Remove shortcakes from oven, let cool (unless you like to eat them still warm).

8. To serve, slice a shortcake in half. Top with berries and whipped cream:

My boys inhaled these shortcakes. No leftovers here!

What else do we have planned for this, our Week of Beatles? Tomorrow I will post about some of the ways we're getting creative with the music and story of the Beatles, and later in the week I'll share other ways I bring the story of the Beatles alive for my kids. And that's not all. On Saturday evening my husband, sister, brother-in-law and mom are going to see Paul McCartney in concert! What a great thing to look forward to this week as my kids learn more about my favorite band.

*I'm an affiliate; I earn a small commission for any purchases made through the Amazon links on this blog.