Autumn is in the Air: Time to Turn on the Oven and Bake a Cake


I love the fall…cool crisp mornings and warm sunny afternoons.

Here in Colorado, the aspen leaves will be turning to gold, while back in New England where my daughter and her family live; the maples will be wearing flaming headdresses of scarlet, crimson and purple.


Many parents will be helping their children plan their Halloween costumes and decorate the house with pumpkins and sheaves of autumn wheat and Indian corn.  Years ago, our local library had an annual pumpkin-painting contest and all of my children looked forward to choosing the “perfect” pumpkin to decorate and enter…hoping to win the coveted first place prize ribbon.


As the weather cools down, many of us start getting out the muffin pans and cookie sheets in preparation for holiday baking.  I encourage parents to include their children in meal preparation…and holiday baking is an especially fun time to have your kids in the kitchen. If you are looking for simple child-friendly recipes, you’ll find dozens of them in my book, Show Me How!

Here’s a wonderful recipe for Carrot Cake that doesn’t appear in the book.  It’s special enough for festive occasions, but simple enough so that young children can help.


The best thing about this cake is that it is very nutritious (one pound of carrots in each cake) and easy on the digestive system.  I recommend it for anyone who suffers from IBS or GERD problems.


You will need: 1½ cups flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1½ tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 egg beaten, ½ cup canola oil, 1 tsp vanilla, zest of 1 orange, 1 pound baby carrots grated, ¾ cup pineapple chunks with juice (about ½ cup), 2 bowls, 1 Bundt pan lightly greased, blender or food processor.

  1. Mix in large bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  2. Mix in another bowl: brown sugar, beaten egg, canola oil, vanilla, orange zest.
  3. Use a blender or food processor to grate the carrots and add the pineapple chunks and juice and blend until fairly smooth.
  4. Add the carrot/pineapple mixture to the brown sugar/egg mixture and stir well till blended.
  5. Add this to the flour mixture and stir gently but thoroughly..
  6. Pour/spoon into lightly greased Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.  After 30 minutes or so, turn upside down on a serving plate and allow the cake to continue cooling.
  8. For storage, cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to one week.

                                                                     For parents who are local to the Colorado Springs area





Saturday, September 24, 2011

12 to 12:45pm

Family Christian Store: 7165 N. Academy

719-598-1500 to RSVP

Or email

  • Bring your young children and listen to a story
  • Help your child make a simple craft project
  • Get a free flyer: Have a Healthier School Year

Vivian Kirkfield is a local author, former kindergarten and Head Start teacher and mom of three. Her parenting program and award-winning activity book for ages 2-7, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, has helped thousands of parents build self-esteem, develop pre-literacy skills and create a stronger parent-child connection.

Make-A-Meal Mondays: Child-Friendly Sweet Raisin Irish Soda Bread

Some of the bakers with some newly baked bread

Image by National Library of Scotland via Flickr

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day…here’s a simple Irish Soda Bread recipe that your child can help prepare.

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 Tb margarine
  • 1 beaten egg (reserve 1 Tb)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 Tb honey
  • Large bowl
  • Medium bowl
  • Greased baking sheet

The bread is supposed to serve 16, but it will probably be less, because everyone will want seconds and thirds. 🙂

1.   In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2.   Cut in margarine until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

3.   Combine raisins, beaten egg (minus the 1 Tb) and buttermilk.

4.   Add this to the flour mixture and stir until moistened.

5.   On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently for 1 minute.

6.   On a greased baking sheet, shape dough into a 6-inch round loaf.

7.   Cut a 4-inch cross, ¼ inch deep, on the top.

8.   Brush with reserved tablespoon of egg.

9.   Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes until golden and cool on rack.

Important tip: When I made bread with my own children and the children in my daycare group, we always made enough dough so that EACH child could make his or her OWN small bread.  The families of the daycare children definitely looked forward to our bread-making day each week…and how proud each child was, clutching his wrapped bread loaf as he made his way home!

Why do I always encourage parents to invite their young children into the kitchen to help cook and bake?

When your children help measure and mix the ingredients, they are gaining a sense of competence and confidence, two of the building blocks of high self-esteem.

When you spend time with your children, participating joyfully in an activity, your children understand that they are worthy of your precious time and they are people of value…these are also important factors in acquiring a positive self-image.

Would you like 99 other simple child-friendly cooking activities?

Just visit my website and buy a copy of SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING…still on sale for 50% off the cover price!  This is a unique resource for parents, daycare providers and preschool teachers.   It also provides 100 easy eco-friendly craft projects and 100 summaries of picture books your young child needs to hear.

Oh, and don’t forget…we are awarding a CRAFTY EASTER BASKET, filled with craft supplies for your preschooler, to ONE LUCKY WINNER!  If you purchase a copy of the book, you will be automatically entered to win…otherwise, you can fill out the contact form on my website for a free entry.

Please stop by tomorrow for Quotable Timeless Tuesdays.

Make-A-Meal Mondays: President’s Day Special

A pair of cherries from the same stalk. Prunus...

Image via Wikipedia

Every four years, the citizens of the United States have the opportunity to choose a new president who will hopefully lead the country on an upward path of economic and social reform, while staying within the budget.

Every day, three times each day, moms (and sometimes dads) have the opportunity to choose a new dish to serve to their families that will hopefully provide good nutrition and good taste, while staying within the budget.

Hmmm…have you also seen the similarity between running the country and running a household? 🙂

It is true, though, that the responsibility of putting high quality, highly nutritious¸ good-tasting, affordable meals on the table is a heavy one.  I thought that since today is President’s Day, I should offer up a recipe that includes CHERRIES as one of the ingredients.

Why cherries you might ask? 

I’m sure most of you know the story of our first president, George Washington, and the incident with the cherry tree.  As it was told when I was in school, young George went out into the garden with a new hatchet and chopped down a young cherry tree.   When questioned by his father as to whether or not he did it, George replied, “I cannot tell a lie.  It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.”   His father, impressed with his young son’s honesty, did not punish him, but praised him for telling the truth.

Of course, the moral of the little tale is that we should always tell the truth…no matter what we have done or what the consequences of our actions might be.  I know this is what we teach our children…and this week I’ll be examining the topic of honesty in many of my posts.  And, if you are looking for any information or resources about President’s Day, hop over to Mirth and Motivation.  The author of that blog is the consummate researcher…a great writer and funny to boot!  And she is having a Mega-Blog Hop…if you join, you will meet a bunch of awesome bloggers!

But for now, I’d like to provide you with a recipe for lovely child-friendly fruit crisp…full of super foods…and with the option of using cherries (sometimes they are available only in season and can be quite expensive) or substituting other fruits.


You will need: 5 cups mixed fruit, washed and then sliced if necessary (peaches, plums, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, apples), ¼ cup white sugar, ¼ cup orange juice, 1 tsp lemon juice, 3 Tb flour (for the fruit), ¼ cup flour (for the topping), 2 cups rolled oats, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ cup healthy margarine softened, a greased 9×13 inch pan, and 2 large bowls.

1.     In a large bowl, gently toss fruit with white sugar, orange juice and lemon juice.

2.     Sprinkle with 3 Tb flour, toss gently again and spread in the greased pan.

3.     In another bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and the remaining flour. 

4.     Add the margarine and mix till crumbly.

5.     Sprinkle crumbly mixture over fruit.

6.     Bake 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown.

7.     Serve warm or at room temperature.

8.     Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge.

9.     Serves about 12.

This recipe has so many super foods: oats, orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and all of the fruits…even though it is a dessert, you can rest easy giving it to your family because it is so high in nutrition and fiber while being fairly low in added sugar and fat.  Plus, it is really simple to prepare…your young children will love to help with the measuring and mixing.  It’s only one of the 100 easy-to-make child-friendly healthful recipes you’ll find in my new parenting book, on sale now for a limited time on my website for half price!  Check it out…I think you’ll be glad you did…it takes the hassle out of planning activities with preschoolers.

I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow for Quotable Timeless Tuesdays…for an honest look at honesty.

God Couldn’t Be Everywhere, So He Created Grandmas



This plaque hangs in my kitchen.  It was given to me by my daughter, after her son was born.  It is so very meaningful to me, and I smile every time I pass it by, not only because I’m thrilled to be a grandma to one of the world’s most adorable, smart, sweet, loving, handsome, and wonderful little boys in the world, but also because it brings back my memories of my own grandmother.

If I close my eyes, I can still see her, sitting in her antique rattan rocking chair, arms outstretched, ready to enfold any child in need of love and a listening ear.

This amazing woman cherished children and was always eager to praise your drawing made at school even though the people were stick figures and the trees were lopsided, listen to you practice the piano no matter how many wrong notes you hit, or just hold you.  She was a role model for Positive Parental Participation in an era before experts were encouraging parents to spend quality time with their children.

When I was ten years old, a wonderful thing happened.  My family moved into my grandmother’s house!  She was getting older and my parents and my aunts and uncles were uncomfortable having her live on her own.  I don’t know how easy it was for my parents to coexist in this multi-generational home, but for my sister and me…it was heaven!  Now we could have access to this very special person on a daily basis, not just on weekend visits.

My favorite time was early Sunday mornings.  My parents and sister would sleep a little later, but my grandmother was an early riser.  I would tip-toe downstairs to the kitchen where I would find her, drinking coffee and dipping her dry bread into it.  She would take down an old porcelain cup, pour in a splash of coffee and fill it to the rim with milk and hand it to me.  Starbucks’ lovers…eat your hearts out…there is no coffee drink available today that can compare to that nectar from the gods. 😉

After we finished our petit dejeuner or little breakfast, my grandmother would go to the pantry (yes, a real old-fashioned pantry that was like a walk-in closet) and get out bowls, flour, sugar and various other ingredients and we would spend the next few hours preparing apple pies and other amazing dishes.  Perhaps that is where I learned my love of cooking and baking and it is definitely one of the reasons I included a cooking activity with each story recommendation in my book for parents of preschoolers.  I understand how important it is to participate positively with young children and encouraging your child to help in the kitchen will build self-esteem and create a life-long parent-child bond.

I have two stories to relate about my grandmother…she was only human, after all.  One shows that she didn’t always use commonsense, and the other…well, if it happened today and the authorities found out about it, she would probably be in jail.  But, it was another time and people had a different mind-set about parenting.  Stop by tomorrow to find out about “curtains for dinner” and “the new car that lost its side-mirrors”.

Bedtime…Routines, Rituals and Can I Have One More Glass of Water, Please!!!

Woman reads as baby sleeps

Image by National Media Museum via Flickr

I can remember wanting to stay up later when I was a child.  And when my children were small, each had their own way of trying to put off going to bed.  So I’m sure that many parents today have the same problem…some things just don’t change.



Unfortunately, I can’t give you any guarantees, but I can offer a few simple steps that worked for me.

1.    Provide a balanced and harmonious day…children need to get outside to play if the weather permits…fresh air and physical activity are essential.  Indoor play can include arts and crafts, music and rhythms (put on your favorite CD while you and your child dust and dance through the house), puzzles and stories.  Just make sure there is a balance of activities during the day.  A child who is just sitting around watching TV all day will definitely NOT be ready to go to sleep.

2.    As bedtime approaches, have a plan that includes making sure all toys are picked up and put away, bath time or washing up, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, reading a story, singing a goodnight song, prayers, etc…whatever routines, rituals or bed-time traditions are right for your family.  The crucial tip here is to BE CONSISTENT!

3.    Have a positive attitude towards going to bed…it is NOT a punishment, but a necessary part of living, just like eating and breathing.  During restful sleep, our bodies heal themselves and our minds can dream.  Be matter-of-fact and give your child a heads-up as the bed-time countdown approaches.

Because of my passion for picture book stories, I’m always ready to recommend one to help children deal with the challenges they face.  If going to bed is a problem in your home, perhaps you can read the following book with your child and make a batch of overnight cookies together.


written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

          It’s time for bed and Cornelius’ father asks him the questions which we all ask our children at bedtime.  Have you put away your toys?  Have you used the bathroom?  Have you brushed your teeth?  Have you put on your pajamas?

          Although the little pig answers each question with a “yes”, the charming illustrations show that he and his father have different ideas about what needs to be done in order to get ready for bed.  Cornelius’ understanding father accepts his son’s somewhat strange routine and makes sure that he doesn’t forget the most important thing…a loving hug from him.

          Young children want very much to become independent and, although they may put their pajamas on backwards, we need to encourage them to learn to do things by themselves.  Of course, parents need to supervise some tasks; we don’t want them swallowing the whole tube of toothpaste or emptying the entire box of fish food into the aquarium.  However, praise for good effort encourages a child to keep trying and, as your child masters each task and skill, his self-esteem grows.


This recipe is unique because the cookies remain in the oven overnight and are ready in the morning…perhaps your child can have one with breakfast as a special treat…the egg whites, raisins and chopped nuts provide high quality nutrition.

You will need: 2 egg whites, ¼ cup sugar, 1 cup finely ground almonds, 1 cup raisins, cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil and sprayed with canola oil, electric mixer and a large bowl.

1.    Beat the egg whites with the mixer until stiff peaks form.

2.    Add sugar and mix gently with a spoon.

3.    Fold in nuts and raisins.

4.    Drop the mixture by the teaspoonful onto the prepared cookie sheet (if you want larger cookies, you can use a bigger spoon).

5.    Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Turn the oven off.

6.    Remove the cookies from the oven in the morning (you can actually take them out after an hour…if you like softer cookies).

7.    Store in an airtight container.

This child-friendly healthful recipe is only one of the one hundred that appear in SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.

Stop by tomorrow for a few more thoughts about the importance of a restful sleep (especially for harried moms and dads) AND an eco-friendly craft project to make bed-time the right time for your child.



Mother and three children, oil on wood, 38.5 x...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the biggest surprises of motherhood is the 24/7 factor.  For nine months, the ears of mothers-to-be are filled with horror stories and tales of sleepless nights and endless days of diapering, rocking and feeding.  But somehow, it doesn’t really make an impression until that first sleepless night or endless day.

Maybe that’s how we are wired…otherwise there might be fewer mothers-to-be.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED being a mother and actually enjoyed many of the nights I sat in the rocking chair, baby in my arms and a good book in my hands.  But I know there were days (and nights) when I almost wished I could change my name…mommy, mommy, MOMMY, MOMMY…where are youuuuuuuuu??????

I say almost, because my children have been great joys in my life…now they are grown (two with children of their own) and all of them make me proud that I can say I am their mom.

It’s true, though, that sometimes, as our children are growing up, we may feel we have a shadow…a constant companion, whether we like it or not.  How about when you are shopping and have to use the restroom…of course your child MUST come in the stall with you, especially these days!  And even at home, many children like to be with mommy wherever she is in the house.  This may get a little tiresome, but how would you feel if you turned around, expecting your child to be right behind you, and she was not there? 

The following picture book story suggestion addresses this topic.  It’s a classic in children’s literature from 1948.

BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey

One summer day, a little girl named Sal goes with her mother to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill.  Since she eats the blueberries almost as quickly as her mother picks them, her mother tells Sal to pick some of her own.  Meanwhile, a bear cub is also on a blueberry hunt with his mother.  Both Sal and Little Bear become separated from their own mothers and inadvertently begin following the wrong mother.  Fortunately, the mix-up is resolved and both Sal and Little Bear are reunited with the correct parent.

Very young children often get anxious when they lose sight of their parents because they are afraid their parents will never return.  This story reassures young children that even if that happens (or their parents leave them at daycare when they go to work or with a sitter when they go out for the evening), the separation will only be a temporary one.


After reading the story, perhaps you might want to try this simple cooking activity with your child.  Participating positively with young children creates a life-long parent-child bond.


I can still hear the “plink-plink” as the first blueberries of the season my children picked made their way into the containers.  At the time, we lived in an old farmhouse in a small Connecticut town.  The backyard was a paradise of fruit trees and, best of all, over one hundred blueberry bushes.  Here is the blueberry muffin recipe we used.

You will need: 1 cup fresh blueberries, ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ cups flour, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ cup canola oil, 2 eggs beaten, ½ cup milk, 2 bowls and one 12-cup muffin tin.

1.     Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease the muffin cups.  Rinse off the blueberries.

2.     In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking soda.

3.     In a small bowl, combine oil, milk and beaten eggs.

4.     Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

5.     Fold blueberries into the batter and pour batter into prepared pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

6.     Bake 18-20 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned and cooked through.  Insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin…muffins are done if it comes out clean.  Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack.   Store in an airtight container.  The muffins retain their heat for awhile…please let them cool and then cut in half before serving to a young child.

Do you enjoy the combination of story suggestion and related activity?  It certainly helped my days feel more organized when my children were growing up.  A simple schedule helps bring balance and order to what can often be a chaotic day.

“Be aware of wonder.  Life a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” – Robert Fulghum

Stop by tomorrow for a look at some tips on keeping balance in your life…one day at a time.


Carrot cake in pan

Image via Wikipedia

Have you had to give up many of the foods you LOVE because of medical conditions like GERD or IBS?

Did you resolve to start the New Year eating in a healthier manner?

Are you looking for a nutritious and delicious dessert to serve to your family?

If any of the above applies to you, here is the PERFECT CARROT CAKE recipe.  Easy to prepare and easy on the stomach, this child-friendly recipe is so yummy, you will want to serve it to company…and so high in nutrition, you will not hesitate to serve it to your family.  Check out the ingredients and you will find 4 of the SUPER FOODS recommended by health experts. (I’ve underlined them in the ingredient list)  And, as if that isn’t enough to get you started on this recipe, the preparation is easy-peasy and your kids will enjoy helping you measure and mix.

So, what are you waiting for?



You will need: 1½ cups unbleached white flour, 1½ tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp baking soda, ¾ cup white sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 egg lightly beaten, ½ cup canola oil, 1 tsp vanilla, zest of one orange, ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 cups grated carrots (I use a pound package of peeled baby carrots). ¾ cup pineapple chunks with ¼ – ½ cup of the juice (I use pineapple canned in its own juice – no added sugar). 2 large bowls, blender to chop carrots and pineapple, Bundt pan sprayed with canola oil.

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl (a whisk works great) and set aside. 
  2. Mix 1 lightly beaten egg (I substitute egg beaters), canola oil, zest of an orange (you can use a fine hand grater to grate the zest from the orange…and this is one of those items that SHOULD be organic if at all possible as you are using the outer peel), vanilla and brown sugar in another large bowl…I use a wooden spoon.
  3. Chop or grate carrots (I use a blender…you could use a food processor or do it with a hand grater).
  4. If you are using a blender or food processor, add the pineapple chunks and the juice from the can.  If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could purchase crushed pineapple in a can instead of the chunks.  You can blend or food process to a fairly smooth consistency or you can leave the carrots and pineapple in a more chopped state…your choice.
  5. Add the carrot/pineapple to the bowl with the egg mixture and mix well.
  6. Add this mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix gently until well-mixed.
  7. Pour into the lightly greased Bundt pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

10. When cool, turn over onto a dinner-sized plate.

11. I cover the cake with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge.  It can keep for about a week…but it won’t last that long. J

The great thing about this recipe is that it is very forgiving…a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients and the cake still turns out GREAT.  In fact, I once realized I didn’t have any pineapple AFTER I had started making the cake.  I substituted applesauce and it was delicious.  Another time I found that I had run out of baking powder…I added a little more baking soda and the cake still looked and tasted wonderful.  I’d love to know if you try this recipe…let me know how it turned out!