Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder's Birthday with Food - Unplugged Project

A book I've had on my bookshelf for a long time is Happy Birthday, Grandma Moses - Activities for Special Days Throughout the Year by Clare Bonfanti Braham and Maria Bonfanti Esche.  It is filled with dates and activities - many that are creative, inexpensive, and memorable for children.

During February, I picked out several dates to celebrate with the girls.  On some of the days, it may just involve reading a book or two about the person or event.  On other days, there are many activities that we will be doing together.

So far, we have read about:
- Groundhog Day (February 2nd)
- Black History Month (During the month of February) - I've read several stories and non-fiction books about written by and/or about various African Americans who made an impact on others.  We will be making some food later this month that relates to what we will be reading.

We have read about and done activities for:
- Chinese New Year (February 3rd)
- Laura Ingalls WIlder's Birthday (February 7th)...more on that below

Upcoming dates:
- Thomas A. Edison's Birthday (February 11th)
- Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (February 12th)
- Valentine's Day (February 14th)
- Marian Anderson's Birthday (February 17th)
- Nicolaus Copernicus's Birthday (February 19th)
- George Washington's Birthday (February 22nd)

Earlier this week, I thought it would be fun for the girls to make some food that Laura Ingalls Wilder enjoyed.  This author is someone who the girls already were familiar with since I read the entire Little House series aloud to the girls last year. 

Growing up, I had only read the first two books in the series:  Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.  I  read bits of some of her other books, but never finished them.  I liked these first two books the best and didn't have a strong interest in reading any more of the books.  That was until last year when we read the complete series.  It was such a wonderful glimpse into the life of a girl/woman - from her early years as a young girl to her life as a young woman and mother.

I found some recipes on the internet that were from the book The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. 

We started by making homemade butter.  I poured some heavy cream into baby food jars for each of the girls to shake.  They have made homemade butter before - in a jar as well as in a butterchurn. 

They both agreed that they enjoyed using a butterchurn more.  Perhaps it is the novelty...or perhaps the motion of turning the handle versus vigorously shaking a why they prefer the butterchurn.  I'm not sure.

Olivia shaking one of the jars of cream.

Here are the different stages of buttermaking:

Heavy cream - stage 1.

Thicker cream - stage 2.

Getting closer - stage 3.

Butter - stage 4.

After we made butter and had it cooling in the refrigerator, we made Laura's Gingerbread.  The cake is very moist and has a subtle gingerbread taste.  If you like a stronger gingerbread flavor, you may want to increase the spices from 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons of each spice.

Laura's Gingerbread.

Laura's Gingerbread

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lard or other shortening (I used vegetable shortening)
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon each of the following spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well-beaten

Put brown sugar and shortening in bowl.  Mix together.  Add molasses.  Mix well.  Put 2 teaspoons of the baking soda in a 1 cup measuring cup.  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Let it fizz over the cup and into the bowl.  Refill the measuring cup if the soda/boiling water bubbled over.  Mix all well. 

Add flour, spices, and salt to the cake mixture and mix well.  Add the eggs.  Bake in a moderate oven (I baked it at 350 degees) for 30 minutes.


The next thing we made was cornbread.  We have a favorite cornbread recipe so we made that.  Rather, the girls made the cornbread by themselves. 

Olivia mixing the ingredients for cornbread.

At dinner, the girls put the fresh butter they made on the cornbread.  It was delicious...and the girls were happy that they were able to make two things by themselves for dinner. 

Cornbread that the girls made by themselves.


I hesitate to write about this, but we also made two types of candy which were a complete flop. The first was maple sugar candy.  It turned out hard as a rock in the pan as it was cooling a bit (a necessary step since the part required making patties and placing them on the snow). 

As we took some of the candy out, it came in blobs.  Putting these in the snow was not at all visually appealing.  As Sophia said, "Mom, it looks like something we would have found on a nature the snow...and not something we'd want to eat."  For this reason, I'm not putting a picture or the recipe for the maple syrup candy.

The other type of candy that we tried to make that turned out horribly was horehound tea candy.  The directions sounded basic enough, but somewhere along the line we must have goofed up because the final candy was too soft and more like a thick jelly than a candy. 

Sophia making maple candy.

Again, because the candy didn't turn out and it is visually unappealing, I'm not uploading a picture of it. We won't be making either candy anytime soon. Well...ever again. The cornbread and the gingerbread...that's a different story.  We will be making those recipes again.


I am adding our activities to the Unplugged Project which is a monthly communal project that inspires participants to spend some high-quality but low-tech time with their children.This month's theme is "Page." 

Every month the website proposes some sort of theme. The monthly topics are very general so that participants can adapt it to their children’s ages and interests.

Some people have been incorporating the theme into their home school curriculum while others just do it for fun. Sometimes it is helpful to come up with a specific project for children to do; other times it might be more fun to just present them with the theme and see what their imaginations come up with.

The point is to turn off the TV and find time in a busy schedule to have some creative fun at least once a week.

Shibley Smiles


Karin said...

I used to love the Laura Ingalls books. Sounds like a lovely idea for something to do with your children.

Looking at the gingerbread recipe I can't see any flour. Is that right? The picture looks like it was probably made with flour.

Harvest Moon by Hand said...

The way that the original recipe was written was kind of confusing now that looked at it since the flour and eggs were mentioned in the directions part, and not the ingredients list.

So, I just re-wrote it a bit to make it clearer. All the ingredients are now listed together.

Thanks for pointing that out, Karin! I appreciate it.

evey said...

That is a really interesting way to make butter. I am definitely going to give that a try the next time I make bread. Thanks.

eveyinorbit via swapbot

Karin said...

Thank you for making the recipe clearer, Ann. I think I shall try it. My daughter doesn't like ginger, but she likes other sweet spices and the German biscuits we have at Christmas. The spices seem more like those in German biscuits and cakes rather than true English/British gingerbread.

-Trashy Betty- said...

Hi! Trashy Betty here from SwapBot!! I'm now following your blog! You can check me out at Have a great day!! :)

TamTam said...

tamtamlee from follow my blog 2 swap-bot.
I'm now following you!
The gingerbread looks yummy!

Tam Hess said...

Wonderful! It's so nice to see/read all the interesting things you celebrate and you included a recipe! Home school Moms are great with creativity. So nice. :)I think I need to try that gingerbread. Your girls are adorable. Thanks so much for sharing! xoxo TangoAlphaMike *swapbot*

patricias fabric art said...

You are so lucky,so much help with the baking my 2 boys [senior and junior] don't even know where the kitchen is !!

Steve, Brandy, Allie,and Mackenzie said...

I love this. I actually love school school too but I love a lot of the different things you can do at home when homeschooling. Here they have "co-op" and it is almost like a half and half. But anyways, my daughter is 2 1/2 and we get ideas off the perpetual preschool site and ever week we have a "theme" where we do stuff like this. :)

JDaniel4's Mom said...

Thanks for sharing the recipes that didn't turn out. Sometimes I dread sharing what didn't work. It made me feel like I can too.

It sounds like you have found an amazing book.

Thanks for linking to Read.Explore.Learn.

SnoopyGirl said...

Wow... what a fun project. The butter looks like hard work to make. My daughter loves reading the Laura Ingalls series, but we haven't made any recipes from the cookbook yet. You have inspired me to give it a go. And I love the idea of turning off the TV and spending quality time. It is so vital and yet this is where we often miss it as parents. For me, I get lost in blogging and writing for Squidoo. It is my goal to spend more kid time beyond our homeschooling each morning.

Anonymous said...

What a lot of fun. I always wanted to make butter with the kids. Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie said...

I love that you Unplug with your girls. I have two daughters my self and only one of the likes to cook. She's very good at it too, loves following recipes. We will have to try the gingerbread one. Thanks for sharing ;)

Stefenfetchit via Swap-bot's FMB#2

LifeofLoRo said...

I read all the Little House on the Prarie books in the 3rd grade. I loved them. I would make believe I was Laura sometimes. :)

Jami said...

Thanks for stopping by An Oregon Cottage and sharing your experiment on Sad Saturday! Candy is so touchy- good for you for trying. :-)


Joesette said...

We've made butter this way before, but now I MUST try the gingerbread!! What a fun learning experience, my oldest daughter (also named Olivia) loves Laura Ingalls Wilder, so I'm stealing most of your ideas...except the cany :)

Anonymous said...

What a great idea for the theme of "Page." I love it! I too loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child and cooking some foods from her day would be fun and interesting. I am not surprised about your candy failures. I have never had much luck with candy-making either. I think it must be a very precise art, but good for you for trying. I'll bet you and your girls had a good time. Thanks for joining in the Unplugged Project this month!

Nancy said...

We have done these exact same things! Since we live in Laura's territory, we have read, listened, acted and enjoyed every one of her books countless times. The pageant is held in nearby Walnut Grove every summer and is a favorite event. Thanks for sharing.

P.S. - your blog is beautiful!