Anatole's Cheese Tasting Party

This recipe was inspired by Anatole. To learn more about the book and to see all of our Anatole activities, click here

Broaden your young reader's culinary horizons! Most kids are used to the ubiquitous American cheese, mozzarella cheese sticks, and cheddar mac and cheese. However, a quick trip to a gourmet cheese shop or even the dairy section of your grocery story will show the vast number of cheese varieties that are available.  

As an expert cheese taster, Anatole is able to detect nuances in the flavor of the cheeses at Duval's Cheese Factory. While this activity certainly doesn't require such such cheese-tasting authority, it provides a good opportunity to not only introduce new varieties but also to compare and contrast those that you select. Which ones are hard and sliced? Which are soft and spreadable? You can even compare the colors or smells. 

If you would like to keep with the French setting of the book, here is a great guide to French cheeses

Anatole's Cheese Tasting

Anatole's Cheese Tasting Party

Supplies

  1. Set out crackers and place one type of cheese on each. Taste and discuss! A fine vintage of grape juice optional. 

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Munster

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Neufchatel

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Sharp Cheddar

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Feta

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Parmesan

 

Anatole's Cheese Tasting
Brie




Homemade Wheat Crackers

This recipe was inspired by Anatole. To learn more about the book and to see all of our Anatole activities, click here

Make this recipe today to prepare for our activity coming up tomorrow: a Cheese Tasting. Anatole makes his honest living as a cheese taster (who better than a mouse?) by trying many different varieties each night at the factory where he works.

These are basic wheat crackers, perfect as a neutral base for tasting different cheeses. Plus, it is always fun to make snacks that children usually expect to come out of a package. Instead they get to see the step by step process, from mixing to baking and, of course, tasting!

 

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can help to measure and mix ingredients, roll out dough, and cut crackers before baking. 

Homemade Wheat Crackers


Homemade Wheat Crackers

Wheat Crackers

adapted from Family Fun's Sesame Herb Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat crackers
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar and salt. Add softened butter and use hands to thoroughly blend it into flour mixture. 
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk to well and stir to form a rough dough. If it seems very dry, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time. 
  3. Turn dough out onto counter or workspace. Knead until dough is smooth and all dry ingredients are incorporated. You can lightly flour the counter if the dough wants to stick, but I find that it is easier to incorporate everything if it is not floured. 
  4. Divide dough in half. Place one half of the dough on a large piece of parchment paper. Roll out with a rolling pin until roughly 16 by 9 inches. The dough will stick to the parchment paper as you roll it out; this is much easier than trying to transfer a large piece of delicate dough to a baking sheet. You want to roll it very thin so that the crackers will be crispy; if it is too thick they will be tough and chewy. 
  5. Transfer parchment paper to a baking sheet. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into desired cracker sizes. You don't have to separate the crackers after cutting. 
  6. Repeat with other half of dough. Bake crackers for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through bake time, until golden brown. 

Related Recipes: Homemade Cheesy Snack CrackersSpider Crackers with Sweet Potato Hummus 


Garden Shell Pasta Bake

 This recipe was inspired by My Garden by Kevin Henkes. To learn more about the book and to see all of our My Garden activities, click here.

 
The little girl in My Garden plants everything from jellybeans to seashells. This stuffed shell recipe takes that imagined crop and turns it into a delicious baked pasta dish!

 

Young Readers in the Kitchen

This recipe provides so many opportunities for young reader participation. Kid friendly steps include counting out the shells (you need about 22), mashing the sweet potato, stirring together the filling, filling the shells, pouring sauce in the dish, and nestling stuffed shells in baking dish. 

You can also cook the sweet potato and pasta before bringing young reader into the kitchen.

 

Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 1: Cook pasta
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 2: Make Sweet Potato, Ricotta, and Spinach Filling
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 3: Pour pasta sauce in dish
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 4: Fill shells and "plant" in sauce
Garden Shell Pasta Bake - My Garden by Kevin Henkes - Off the Shelf
Step 5: Bake!

 

Garden Shell Pasta Bake

Ingredients

  • Jumbo shells (you will need about 22, but I like to cook a couple more in case some break)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
  • 15 ounces part skim ricotta
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 jar pasta sauce

1. Cook pasta according to package directions for prebaked cook time. Drain and toss with oil to keep pasta from sticking together. Set aside until cool enough to handle. 

 2. Cook sweet potato one of 3 ways:

  • Pierce several times with a fork and microwave until tender. 
  • Peel and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Boil until done, about 15 minutes. 
  • Pierce whole potato several times with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done, about 45 minutes. 

3. Halve sweet potato. Scoop out flesh (discarding skin) and place in a large bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, salt and pepper. Roughly chop or tear spinach and stir into filling mixture. 

4. Pour pasta sauce in a 13-by-9 casserole dish.

5. Fill each shell with about 3 tablespoon of filling. Place in dish. Repeat until dish is filled.

6. Cover and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Bake for 15 more minutes. 


Eggs in a Nest Bread

This recipe was inspired by An Egg Is Quiet . To learn more about the book and to see all our An Egg Is Quiet activities, click here. 

I've always enjoyed those pretty loaves of bread studded with brightly colored Easter eggs, although I've never made one before. This seemed like the perfect recipe to celebrate An Egg is Quiet. What's unique about this recipe is that you place the eggs in the bread uncooked, and they then become "hard-boiled" in the oven. 

You can dye the eggs if you like, but I like how the natural brown eggs look with the cinnamon topping, just like eggs sitting on a perfect, round nest. This makes it a perfect treat for any time of year, not just at Easter. 

Now, what to do with those hard-boiled eggs? Deviled Egg Dip is delicious (and addictive) alternative to the traditional egg salad. And don't forget, those egg shells can be used as art supplies!

Egg Bread1

Eggs in a Nest Bread

Ingredients

For the Bread

  • 3 teaspoons instant or fast-acting yeast
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute 1/2 white whole wheat, if you want)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (around 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 3 to 6 raw eggs

For the Egg Wash and Cinnamon Topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine yeast, flour, salt, and sugar. Process until combined.
  2. With machine running, slowly pour in warm water. Once water is added, continue processing until dough comes together into a ball, around 30-45 seconds.
  3. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a flour sack towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.
  4. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. After dough has risen, punch down. Place on a piece of parchment paper, and divide into two equal pieces. Make two long, skinny ropes of dough, around 20 inches long. 
  5. Bring the two ropes together and twist all the way down. Form twist into a ring, and place on the parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  6. Nestle eggs in between twists of dough.
  7. Make the egg wash: Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush all over formed loaf.
  8. Make cinnamon-sugar topping: Stir together cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over bread. 
  9. Bake bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. 

Carrot and Sunflower Seed Muffins

This recipe was inspired by And Then It's Spring. To learn more about the book and see all of our And Then It's Spring activities, click here

Inspired by the sunflower and carrot seeds sown in the book, these muffins are full of healthy ingredients, from Greek yogurt, shredded carrots, protein packed sunflower seeds, and a touch of honey. The sweetness of

An interesting note: Filled with inspiration after reading And Then Its Spring, we chose carrot and sunflower seeds like those features in Erin Stead's beautiful illustrations to be the featured ingredients in these tasty, healthy muffins. Perfect for enjoying outdoors in the warn spring sunshine or indoors during a spring rain. 

An intersting note: you may notice your sunflower seeds turn green after baking. This is a chemical reaction between the seeds and the baking soda.  From brown to green, just like springtime garden in the book!

Carrot and Sunflower Seed Muffins1

Carrot and Sunflower Seed Muffins2

Carrot and Sunflower Seed Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup nonfat yogurt (Greek yogurt works too)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 cups shredded carrots, from about 3 large or 5 small
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a muffin pan or line wells with with muffin papers. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sunflower seeds until well combined.
  3. In a small bowl stir together yogurt, milk, egg, and honey. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. 
  4. Stir in shredded carrots until evenly distributed. 
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffins wells. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean and muffins are golden brown. 

 Adapted from Spiced Carrot Muffins


Teddy Bear Bread

This recipe was inspired by Otto the Book Bear . To learn more about the book and to see all our Otto the Book Bear activities, click here. 

Use our basic bread recipe, your own favorite bread recipe, or even frozen bread dough to make adorable teddy bear breads.

It might look like a complicated recipe, but once the dough is made it is pretty straightforward: play with dough and form it into a bear! For step by step pictures and instructions, see our How to Make Teddy Bear Bread Snapguide

  Teddy Bear Bread

Teddy Bear Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (about 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups flour ( I used 1/2 all purpose, 1/2 white whole wheat)
  1. Combine water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and stir to dissolve the yeast. 
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. 
  3. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Turn the mixer on low speed and knead for 4-5 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Divide dough into half and set one half aside for second bear. Divide remaining dough in half. One of these halves will be the body. Divide second half in two, one for head and one for arms and legs. 
  5. Stretch largest piece into a rectangle roll up to form body. 
  6. From the piece designated for the head, pinch off three pieces to form ears and snout. 
  7. Form dough for head into a ball and place above body. Place ears and snout on head. 
  8. Divide piece of dough designated for arms and legs into four equal pieces. Form into arms and legs and place against body. All pieces will stick together as the dough rises. 
  9. Make second bear from remaining dough. Place both bears on a baking sheet. Butter dough or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30 to 90 minutes. 
  10. Toward end of rising time, heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove plastic wrap and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 
  11. To add eyes and noses, microwave 6 chocolate chips for about 10 to 20 seconds, until the chips haven't melted but bottoms are soft. Place eyes and nose on each bear. Enjoy!

Penguin Parfaits

This recipe was inspired by One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. To learn more about the book and to see all our One Cool Friend activities, click here

One of the many activities Elliot and Magellan do in their first days of friendship is snack on goldfish crackers while Elliot looks through books about penguins. For a sweet take on that perennial childhood snack, we used Cookies and Cream Goldfish for layering in a parfait inspired by the graphic black and white illustrations in One Cool Friend. 

And speaking of goldfish crackers, you might also enjoy trying Homemade Cheesy Snack Crackers. Use a small small fish cookie cutter to make Homemade Goldfish crackers!

Penguin Parfaits

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Once the pudding is made, kids can completely make parfaits by themselves. Set out all three ingredients and watch as their sense of accomplishment grows! 

For additional fun and sorting practice, set out a small plate of the Cookies and Cream Goldfish and have young readers place the chocolate and graham goldfish in two separate piles for two different layers in the parfait. 

 

Penguin Parfaits

Ingredients

  1. In a small, clear glass (we used a small jam jar), layer all ingredients as desired. These parfaits can be chilled for several hours before the goldfish get soggy.

George's Cake

This recipe was inspired by Oh No, George! To learn more about the book and to see all our Oh No, George! activities, click here

We don't feature too many decadent desserts here on Off the Shelf, and when we do they are usually reserved for a very special occasion or celebration. But we figured that it is time for another cake, if only to bring some bright color into the gray winter days. 

The cake in Oh No, George! is bright purple with magenta frosting, so we looked for an healthier alternative to regular food coloring. We found the answer in this rainbow cake made with all natural food colorings. So, our simple vanilla cake is colored bluish-purple with blackberry juice, and the buttercream frosting is colored with beet juice. And rest assured, while the cake and frosting are colored with fruit and vegetable juices, they don't taste at all like blackberries or beets!

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can help to measure and mix ingredients, strain the blackberry juice, and frost the cake. 

Oh No, George! Cake
IMG_7074

 

George's Cake

Inspired by HWTM's Rainbow Cake.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup frozen blackberries
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Place frozen blackberries in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 1 minute, until berries begin to burst. Strain and reserve juice.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans. 
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. 
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, and vanilla extract. 
  5. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter, oil and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. 
  6. Add egg and mix until combined. 
  7. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the milk mixture. Repeat with another 1/3 of flour mixture, remaining 1/2 of milk mixture, and rest of flour mixture. Mix until combined. 
  8. Stir in reserved blackberry juice. Make sure to scrape to the bottom of the bowl so that all of the batter is colored. 
  9. Divide batter between the two cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center or one cake comes out clean. 
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before running knife around edge and inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely. 
  11. Level cakes if necessary. Frost top of one cake with half of the frosting (recipe below). Top with second cake layer and frost top with remaining frosting. 

Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 tablespoons beet juice (from 1 small can of beets)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat until smooth. 


Library Lion Pasta

This craft was inspied by Library Lion. To learn more about the book and to see all our Library Lion activities, click here.

Have a roaring good time playing with your food when making this Library Lion Pasta. Basic pasta-and-tomato sauce is transformed into something special when forming the lion's mane. 

After the pasta is topped with the sauce, let young readers spoon it around a toasted sandwich round. Add features with any spare ingredients you have on hand. 

Library Lion Pasta

Library Lion Pasta

Ingredients for Pasta

  • 12 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 1 jar tomato pasta sauce
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and top with pasta sauce. 

To Make a Lion

  1. Toast a sandwich round. Lightly butter (this would also make good garlic bread). Place sandwich round in the middle of a large plate. 
  2. Spoon pasta around outside edges of sandwich round to make the mane. 
  3. Get creative when making the features on your lion. We used sliced olives for eyes (from a veggie pizza in the fridge!) , a sundried tomato for a nose, chow mein noodle wiskers, pieces of string cheese for the mouth, and slices of baby carrots for the ears. 

 


No-Cook Chocolate Valentine Hearts

This recipe was inspired by The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond. To learn more about the book and to see all our The Day It Rained Hearts activities, click here

 

These easy, chocolatley treats are sure to satisfy a Valentine sweet tooth, in a healthier way than the usual fare. Sweetened with dates (one of my favorite ingredients since discovering them during our Eating the Alphabet project) and made of just 5 ingredients, these are a sweeter way to show someone you care. 

Speaking of the usual Valentine fare, why not use some those conversation hearts for art supplies

I halved the original recipe, but you can double it for giving as a Valentine gift or a party (although they do contain almonds, so beware of nut allergies). 

The great thing about this recipe is that kids can do practically everything to make these, expect use the food processor. Once the chocolate paste is made, you basically have edible chocolate play-dough. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Have fun patting out and cutting with small cookie cutters, or roll into balls or abstract hearts!

No Cook Chocolate Valentine Hearts

No Cook Chocolate Valentine Hearts

 

No-Cook Chocolate Valentine Hearts

Adapted from Family Fun, February 2013.

Makes about 20 treats. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole pitted dates (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  1. Place dates, almonds, coconut, and cocoa powder in a food processor. Process until almonds are finely chopped (it will be loud!). 
  2. Pour in water and pulse until a paste forms. 
  3. Keep a small dish of water nearby to keep finger from getting sticky. Remove blade from bowl of food processor. There are several options for forming treats: a) Simply roll into small balls. b) Pat out some of the paste on your work surface. Dip a roughly 2-inch heart cookie cutter in the water and cut out a heart. Remoce the excess around the cutter before lifting and gently releasing the heart. c) Place some dough inside the cookie cutter and press down, then remove from "mold". 
  4. Enjoy! These will keep in the fridge for about a week.