Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake with Caramel Glaze

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!  I hope everyone has a great day filled with lots of love, family and good food. Please take time to remember that there is ALWAYS something and/or someone to be thankful for.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I tried out a new recipe last night. As I said in an earlier post, I'm not huge on sweet potato but everyone else I know is. I got the new Southern Living book in the mail a few days and just happened to look in it last night and found a Sweet Potato Coffee Cake with Caramel Glaze. I wish I were the one who actually came up with this AWESOME recipe. It's amazing so here it goes! I apologize for the lack of pictures during the process. I'll make sure I take them next time. This is definitely a recipe that I'll be using again!

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake with Caramel Glaze:
Makes 10-12 Servings
Hands-on Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours including glaze


2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
5 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
Caramel Glaze (recipe posted at the end)


  1. Stir together first three ingredients in a 1 cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Stir together 4 1/2 cups bread flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. Beat yeast mixture and 1/2 cup bread flour at medium speed with a heavy duty electric stand mixer until well blended. (I used a hand mixer to begin with since I don't have a stand mixer. Once it became too thick to use the mixer, I removed my rings and mixed with my hands. Still came out great!) Gradually add sweet potato, next 5 ingredients, and flour mixture, beating until well blended.
  4. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 to 5 minutes), gradually adding remaining 1/2 cup bread flour. Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  5. Stir together 2/3 cup granulated sugar and next 2 ingredients. Punch dough down; turn out onto a well-floured surface. Divide dough in half. Roll one portion into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle. Brush with half of  a 1/4 cup melted butter. Sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Cut dough lengthwise into 6 (2 inch wide) strips using a pizza cutter or knife.
  6. Loosely coil 1 strip, and place in center of a lightly greased 10 inch round pan (I used a 9 inch). Loosely coil remaining dough strips, 1 at a time, around center strip, attaching each to the end of the previous strip to make a single large spiral. (Sugared sides of dough should face center of spiral.) In a second lightly greased pan, repeat with remaining dough half, butter, and sugar mixture.
  7. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees, free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  8. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned and done. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans to serving plates. Prepare Caramel Glaze and brush over swirls.
Caramel Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring first three ingredients to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat; which in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thicken. Use immediately.
Please note that this picture was taken this morning after it's been cooled.  And that the picture just doesn't do it any justice.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

I'm making a cheesecake tonight. We're having our Thanksgiving lunch at work tomorrow and cheesecake is simple enough. I'm really not big on the fancy, baked cheesecakes. I'm perfectly happy with the cheap-o no bake variety. Except I found a recipe online a few years ago.. It's one of the best baked cheesecakes and it's really easy to make.


  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
  3. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

For those who aren't big on pumpkin, you can modify the recipe by simply omitting the pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Mix remaining ingredients and you have a super easy, awesome tasting, almost homemade cheesecake. (If you're feeling extra Martha Stewart-ish, you could make your own graham cracker crust for a truly homemade cheese cake!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Creative Movement Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is one that I use all the time in class. It can be adapted for younger and older children. Making the instruments is GREAT for a rainy day project and can be done with items found around the house. Just be careful of using small, inedible items for younger children.

So why teach children about tempo or anything else related to music? One, it's fun. If you want children to learn something, set it to music. Doesn't have to be fancy, you don't have to have an amazing singing voice or any other musical talent (although it helps!)  in order to make learning fun for smaller children. In all seriousness, music helps children to create neural connections in their brains and actively participating in the creation of music helps to build the strongest connections. Research has shown that children who are actively involved in music are able to focus better, do better in math and reading, and helps children to learn control of their bodies. Moving along with the TEMPO helps children to explore how their bodies move, what muscles control certain areas, and teach children how to control those areas.

Age Range:  4-5 year olds

Subject:  Creative Music

Concept:  Children will become aware of the changes in tempo in music and songs.

Topic:  Tempo

1.     Children will reproduce changes in tempo.
2.     Children will demonstrate awareness of changes in tempo.
3.     Children will identify the words “fast” and “slow”.
4.     Children will label body parts.

·        Tape, CD, or DVD player
·        Various types of music depicting various degrees of tempo
·        Signs that say “FAST” and “SLOW”
·        Instruments (tambourines) made by the students
o      Paper plates
o      Dry Beans, Rice, Jelly Beans, Macaroni or any other hard, edible food to place inside sealed paper plates.
o      Paint
o      Hot glue (teacher use only) or heavier duty glue
o      Streamer/Crepe paper

Teacher Preparation:
·        Have students make instruments in advance, preferably the day before or earlier in the morning.
1.     Allow children to paint two paper plates however they choose. Set aside to dry.
2.     Once plates are dry, have children choose which edible food item they would like to place in their instrument-to-be.  Allow them to scoop and pour item onto one of their plates.
3.     If using heavier duty, child safe glue, allow children to place glue around paper plate edges and then place the second plate on top.  (If using hot glue, move child’s instrument to a safe area where you are able to glue the pieces together)
4.     Sections of streamer can be glued to edges to add extra flair and movement to the “tambourine”.
·        Select types of music with varying degrees of tempo

1.     Have children stand in a large, open area in the classroom or outside if possible.
2.     Explain to children that we will be learning about the speed, or tempo, of music.
3.     Show children card that says “FAST” and explain that when this card is shown, to dance or move their instrument fast.
4.     Show children card that says “SLOW” and explain that when this card is shown, dance or move their instrument slow.
5.     Begin to play music and encourage children to dance how they see fit. Depending on the tempo of the music, hold up the appropriately labeled card.
6.     For the next song, play a song with a contrasting tempo to fully demonstrate the difference.
7.     Help children to understand by moving and clapping your hands in time with the tempo. Encourage children to move along with you.
8.     Help children to name the body parts they move.

Developmental Objectives: This activity will target gross-motor, fine motor, cognitive, and social development. It will target gross-motor by allowing children to use their muscles to move and dance. It targets fine motor by allowing children to use their hands to paint, pour, and glue. It targets cognitive by having children use the sense of hearing to determine the change in tempo. Also by having children to recognize written words. It targets social by encouraging children to interact with classmates.

Learning Theory(ies): Vygotsky’s Theory of Development; children learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process. Learning and development occur when children interact with their environment and the people around them.

Evaluation:  Were children able to notices changes in tempo?  Could they actively interpret the changes they heard?  Were children able to come up with their own way to use tempo to make music?

Follow-up:  Have children come up with their own song or dance.  Encourage children to use his or her instrument to show the tempo on his/her song. The homemade instruments can be placed in dramatic play or the music center for use during the week. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preschool Field Trip shirts

My class is going to the zoo next week.. so we made our field trip shirts today.  These shirts will be used any time we leave the center. Simple as fabric and dimensional paints of any color you choose!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sugar cookies / Tea Cakes

I really wanted something sweet last night. I'm trying so hard to be good and lose a little bit of weight but sometimes your brain just screams "GIVE ME SUGAR!". So I made some cookies. I made some AWESOME cookies. I wanted to post the recipe because it's super easy and can usually be done with what you have in your fridge/pantry. Nothing fancy.. just awesome cookies.

1 box Betty Crocker Cake Mix (your choice of flavor)

1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Step 1:  Preheat over to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, beat all ingredients with electric mixer or medium speed about 1 minute or until thoroughly mixed.

Step 2:  Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll out each half. Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Place on ungreased baking surface and bake 6 to 8 minutes or just until set. Cool one minute.

Now that's the official recipe. I didn't make it quite like that last night. I only had about 3/4 of a cake mix due to making other cookies a few weeks ago.. so I modified this somewhat. I used 1/4 shortening and 1/4 butter, one teaspoon vanilla and 1 egg. The dough was still pretty crumbly so I melted about 1/8 - 1/4 cup of butter. After that, there was no way these cookies were going to roll out. The dough was super sticky and I was actually a little worried I would end up with frisbees instead of cookies. The dough was perfect for drop cookies though so I continued on and the result was AWESOME cookies. They almost remind me of the tea cakes my mom used to make.. light, soft, and fluffy. I'll be making another batch tonight or tomorrow for one of my college courses. I'll be sure to post pictures when I do as well as the lesson plan I'm using them in!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Creative Math Activity for preschoolers

Since I work in childcare, I know how frustrating it is to need an activity to do. Sometimes, no matter how creative we are, we wonder how we can keep coming up with idea after idea. I'm going to try to post weekly activities that I have come up with or that I have found and tried in class.

My first submission is a math activity that my class LOVES to do. The ages posted are just a general guideline. All activities can be adapted for younger or older groups.. as well as for different learning purposes.You will see as you read that the props in this activity can be used in a color teaching lesson as well. Once I get to work Monday, I will post some pictures of the props that go along with the story.

Subject: Creative Math
Concept: Children will observe and demonstrate an understanding of one to one correspondence.
Topic:  One to One Correspondence

1. Children will identify numbers by numeral.

2. Children will demonstrate knowledge of one to one correspondence.
3. Children will demonstrate knowledge of rote counting 1-10 and backwards from ten to one.
·        Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh
·        A large Jar
·        Multicolored large Pompoms
·        2” strips of yarn, 1 per pompom that will be used
·        Small Foam numbers 1-10
·        Glue
·        Large Rock
·        Sock
·        Wiggly eyes
·        Red construction paper snake tongue
·        Hot glue to place wiggly eyes and construction paper (for use by teacher only)
Teacher Preparation: Make sure that all items are purchased (if necessary) or available for use. Teacher will need to construct a snake sock puppet using sock, wiggly eyes, and a red construction paper tongue. Read story the day before this activity is planned so children are familiar with the idea.
·        Let child choose a colored pomom, a number and a strip of yarn to make their “mouse”.
  • Give children glue and have them attach yarn strip and number to pompom. Allow to dry before performing the story.
  • Once dry, have children prepare for large/small group depending on size of class. This particlar activity needs no more than 10 children participating.
  • Each child brings his/her “mouse” to the story area. Before the story, count how many mice are present in the “meadow”.
  • Begin to read story with teacher acting the part of the snake (using the sock puppet) who collects the mice one by one and places them in his jar.
  • At the end of the story, the mice free themselves and uncount themselves out of the jar. The child with the number 10 will find his/her mouse and “uncount” it from the jar, followed by child with 9, 8, etc.
  • Place either in reading center or manipulatives so that children can access it throughout the week.

Development Objectives: This activity targets social and cognitive development. It targets social development by encouraging sharing and turn taking as well as having children work together in a group. It targets cognitive development by promoting one to one correspondence, knowledge of numerals 1-10, and counting numbers in a sequence. It also promotes cognitive by providing literacy awareness, vocabulary, and attention to print.
Learning Theory:Vygotsky's theory of development; Children learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process. Learning and development occur when children interact with their environment and the people around them.
Evaluation: Were children able to identify numerals by sight? Did children demonstrate knowledge of one to one correspondence by correctly counting the mice? Could children rote count 1-10?
Follow-up Activity:  Encourage children to use this activity set to act out the story independently. Children can work alone, with a teacher, or with another student. (Colored pompom mice can also be used to create a color activity.)
(This was so cute, I had to include it! My class of two year olds loved it today!) Set up water table or a large bowl of water. In a separate bowl, have rubber ducks. Use a large foam die and have child roll for a number. Depending on number, the child places that many rubber ducks in the “pond”.

I'm not sure why my uploaded pics come out looking like this. I"ll try to fix it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Ok so maybe I did like Patrick's sweet potato pie last night. It was pretty good and I'll probably eat a piece later tonight. He got the recipe from which is a GREAT site. I've been a fan for years and anytime I want to make something, that's where I go. Anyway, here's the recipe he used.. Credit goes to the original maker, whoever he or she may be!


  • 1 (1 pound) sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust


  1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
  2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.