Extra Yarn Yarn Soup

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

It's a Snow Day today, and the picture outside my window is not unlike that of the snowy town featured in Extra Yarn. Snow Days (capitalized, of course, to emphasize their excitement) mean only one thing: Tomato Soup (with maybe a grilled cheese) and hot chocolate. Today, that tomato soup takes form in Yarn Soup. 

Yarn Soup might sound odd for the name of a soup, but if you can have Stone Soup, why not Yarn Soup?  It's easy to imagine that the strands of spaghetti swimming around with all the other usual soup ingredients like carrots, peas, and corn, are magically transformed into bits of yarn. This would be especially fun, and more like the yarn in the book, with some tri-color spaghetti.

There isn't really much for kids to do during the making of this soup, but it comes together so quickly that they won't mind watching. The fun in this recipe is all in the eating. How would you eat this soup: fork or spoon? 



Yarn Soup


  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 ounces dry whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 12-ounce package mixed vegetables (we used the mix of peas, corn, carrots and green beans, but use your favorite)
  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Finely chop onion and saute in hot oil until softened, 3-4 minutes. 
  2. Stir in tomato juice and water and bring to a boil. 
  3. Add spaghetti and vegetables. Return to a boil and cook for about 13 minutes, until pasta is tender. 


A (Veggie) Ball for Daisy

The art activity was inspired by A Ball for Daisy. To learn more about the book and to see all our A Ball for Daisy activities, click here


This week's recipe was inspired by Daisy's favorite toy (her ball), and one of a child's favorite finger foods: meatballs! You might have noticed a general lack of meat-based recipes on Off the Shelf, as both the authors are vegetarians!

You'll never miss the meat with this recipe, which combines sweet potatoes, carrots, and your favorite greens, held together with homemade breadcrumbs. They have a slight taste of stuffing, which is always good in my book!  

Making the recipe with your young reader provides so many opportunities for using the senses and developing fine-motor skills, such as mashing the sweet potatoes and tearing the greens. As always, let young readers do as much as possible! It won't be perfect: messes will be made, things will be spilled, sweet potato might make its way into your hair, but that’s part of the experience and delight of cooking! 


Sweet Potato Veggie Balls

Sweet Potato Veggie Balls

Daisy's Veggie Balls


  • 3 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 of a medium onion
  • 1 cup greens (we used spinach)
  • 1 carrot (no need to peel)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons nuts (we used pecans) (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 large slices whole wheat bread

Parent Prep

To make cooking with your young readers more fun and less stressful, complete these tasks before your little chef is in the kitchen. 

  1. Cook sweet potatoes, either in whole (pierced with a fork a few times) in the oven or microwave, or cubed and boiled, until very tender. Allow to cool completely. 
  2. Toast bread slices until medium brown in a toaster. 


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Measure 2 cups sweet potato flesh and place in a large bowl. Have young readers "mash" sweet potato, with hands or a wooden spoon. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just easily mixable. 
  3. While young reader is mashing, finely chop onion. 
  4. Have young reader tear greens into very small pieces. If they are still big, just run your knife through them a few times.
  5. While young reader is tearing greens, shred carrot and add to the sweet potatoes. 
  6. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute chopped onion until soft. Add greens and stir until wilted. 
  7. To the bowl with the mashed sweet potato and shredded carrot, add nuts, eggs, soy sauce and stir to combine. Add cooked onions and greens and stir well. 
  8. Have young reader tear toasted bread slices into pieces, and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Process into bread crumbs. 
  9. Stir bread crumbs into veggie mixture until mixture is no longer wet. 
  10. Form into 2 inch balls and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 50 minutes, until dark golden brown and cooked through. 

Imogene's Baked Doughnuts

This recipe was inspired by Imogene's Antlers. To learn more about the book and to see all our Imogene's Antler's activities, click here

In Imogene's Antlers, our heroine finds many ways to celebrate her new-grown appendages, including swinging from the chandelier and loading the antlers with candles to practice her piano. My personal favorite occurs as the cook fills the tines with fresh doughnuts and sends Imogene out to the garden to feed the birds!

Here's a recipe for baked doughnuts that does not require a doughnut pan. The dough is easy to mix up and knead with the aid of a stand mixer, and two rising times allows plenty of time for a Imogene's Antlers re-read or the antler-ing of your young reader

Imogene's Antlers

These are also good the next day: the doughnuts will absorb the powdered sugar and almost form a glaze. And if they get too stale, I'm sure your neighborhood birds would be happy to assist in eating them. 

Imogene's Baked Doughnuts

Young Readers int the Kitchen

Kids can help measure ingredients, roll out dough, cut out doughnuts, and coat baked doughnuts in powdered sugar (and lick extra powdered sugar off their fingers). 


Imogene's Baked Doughnuts

Makes about 8 doughnuts

adapted from 101 Cookbooks


  • 2/3 cup milk, 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Place yeast and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Pour the warm milk over the yeast and stir to dissolve
  2. Stir in melted butter.
  3. Add egg, flour, nutmeg and salt and stir to form a rough dough.
  4. With the mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix dough for 2-3 minutes onmedium speed. Check dough's consistency: if it feels very sticky, add a bit more flour; if it is very dry, add a bit more milk. 
  5. Using the mixer, knead for 2 more minutes. 
  6. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise 1 hour, or until doubled. 
  7. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. 
  8. Cut our doughnuts with a 3- to 4-inch round cookie cutter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut out the hole with an at least 1-inch cutter: if the hole is too small it will close back up when baking!
  9. Cover again and let rise for 30 minutes while oven is heating to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  10. Bake for 6-8 minutes until just golden on the bottom. 
  11. Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl. While doughnuts are still warm, coat in powdered sugar. 


Snowman Pizza

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

Although I am a devoted fan of summer sunshine and warm temperatures there is no denying the magic feeling that fills a day when snow starts to fall. My inner five-year old comes out to play, full of childish joy as I repeatedly go to the window to be sure the white fluff is still falling. Yes it means shoveling the drive, messy floors from wet paws, and a muddy yard when the sun comes out again, but there is a certain giddiness and excitement that never fails to envelop me as the world is transformed by falling snow and thoughts start to turn yet again to the age old question of “Do you think there will there be school tomorrow?”

Here's a treat to celebrate those snowy days. Making the pizza crust from scratch is a great project for those days when you are cooped up in the house (but is still easy enough to make any day, trust me). Use the collage illustrations of Snowballs as inspiration for decorating your snowmen! 

Snowman Pizza
Snowman Pizzas


Snowman Pizza

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup water, 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pizza Ingredients

  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • sliced baby carrots, spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes

To make the crust

(You can also skip this step and use 1 pound store bought pizza dough):

  1. Place yeast in a medium bowl. Add water and stir to dissolive yeast. 
  2. Add flour and salt to yeast mixture and stir to four a shaggy dough. 
  3. Pour out contents of bowl onto a clean work surface. 
  4. Knead dough until very smooth, incorporating all the loose flour from the bowl, about 5 minutes. If the dough feels very sticky, add a teaspoon (and up to a few tablespoons) of flour and knead until smooth. 
  5. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a flour-sack towl or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm spot for about 1 1/2 hours until dough has doubled. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

To make the pizzas:

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Divide dough into four pieces, two large and two small. Roll each piece into a circle, approximately 1/4 inch thick, and place on a alarge baking sheet, one large piece for each body and one small piece for each head. Brush each crust lightly with olive oil. 
  3. Stir together ricotta and garlic powder, and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Spread ricotta thickly over each crust and top with mozzarella. 
  5. Decorate! We used sliced mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced carrots, and leaves of baby spinach to make the features on our snowmen. Feel free to use whatever ingredients you have on hand to decorate your snowmen. 
  6. Bake for about 8 minutes, until cheese has browned and is bubbling. 

For step-by-step photos, check out our How to Make a Snowman Pizza Snapguide

Beginner's Yeast Bread

The recipe was inspired by Dream Snow. To learn more about the book and see all our Dream Snow activities, click here


Many recipes featured here on Off the Shelf involve some sort of baking, from Jamberry Crumble Bars, Honey Whole Wheat Muffins, Red White and Blue Cornbread and Pooh's Honey Oat Quick Bread. However, I have never had much luck with yeast breads; it seems like the dough would never rise! So when looking for a recipe to go with Dream Snow I was excited to find this post with a simple bread recipe

Beginner's Yeast Bread

Beginner's Yeast BreadBeginner's Yeast Bread


It was just as the post said, easy, delicious, and it didn't take all day! So, below I will give you the basic rundown of how I made this bread. If you want more details and troubleshooting, I recommend that you travel over to the Simple Homemaker!

Yeast Bread

Beginner's Yeast Bread


  • 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)

Note: I used my stand mixer, but the original recipe gives directions for making it all by hand. 

  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 water mixture. Turn the mixer on low speed and knead for 4-5 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Divide dough into two pieces. Pat out into a rectangle, then fold into thirds lengthwise, or roll up into a log. Repeat with other loaf. Place the loaves, seam sides down, on a lightly greased cookie sheet. 
  5. Lightly grease the tops of the loaves. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a flour sack towel. 
  6. Let the loaves rise for 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Our kitchen was rather cold the day I made this, so I placed it in the powder room with the door shut. It warmed up very quickly in there, and was the perfect place for the dough to rise. 
  7. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove plastic wrap or towel, and bake for 12-15 minutes. It is done when you tap a loaf and it sounds hollow. 
  8. Allow to cool slightly, slice, and eat!

Yeast Bread


Grilled Gingerbread Sandwiches

This recipe was inspired by Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby. To learn more about the book and to see all our Gingerbread Baby activities, click here. 

Sure, you could make any regular gingerbread cookie, soft and round or crispy and gingerbread man-shaped, to celebrate Gingerbread Baby, but why not try something completely new? Like a sweet, grilled gingerbread sandwich, filled with peanut butter and peach jam? Sounds good, right? 

We started with a basic gingerbread loaf. You could use any recipe for gingerbread loaf that you like; even a mix would work. After chilling the bread to firm up a bit, slice and spread with peanut butter and peach jam, then grill until filling is melty. 

Grilled Gingerbread Sandwiches



  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk  together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. 
  3. In a separate medium bowl, stir together buttermilk and vanilla until combined.
  4. Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add molasses and combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. 
  5. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add 1/3 of flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add half of buttermilk and beat until combined. Repeat with remaining flour and butter milk, ending with the third flour addition. 
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean and cake is pulling away from sides of pan. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Gingerbread Sandwiches

Makes 1 sandwich.


  • 2  1/2-inch slices gingerbread
  • peanut butter
  • peach jam
  • butter or margarine
  1. Spread both slices of gingerbread with desired about of peanut butter. Spread one slice with peach jam. Sandwich two pieces together. 
  2. Spread outside of sandwiches with butter or margarine. 
  3. Spray covered skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium low until cooking surface is warm. Turn heat down to low. Cook sandwich, flipping halfway through, until both sides are golden brown and filling is gooey and melty. 
  4. Serve with a cold glass of milk, or a hot mug of cocoa!


Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

This craft/recipe was inspired by Bear Has a Story to Tell. To learn more about the book and to see all our Bear Has a Story to Tell activities, click here.



Here's a great project for chilly afternoons when you and your young readers are cooped up in the house. Treat your backyard birds to birdseed treat and help them prepare for winter, just as bear helps his friends get everything ready for their hibernation. 

It seems a little early to pull out the Christmas books (don't worry, they're coming!) but we still wanted to make these festive, so we made them with holiday cookie cutters. Tied with a red ribbon and wrapped up, they make a perfect present for anyone on your young reader's giving list. 


Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

Homemade Birdseed Ornaments


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups birdseed
  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, corn syrup, and water until smooth. 
  2. Add birdseed, and mix until coated and the birdseed is sticky.
  3. Tear off a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. For easy transport, place on a cookie sheet. Select several cookies cutters: the best for this project are medium to large (around 4-5 inches across) and don't have lots of small projections, as these will easily break off the finished ornaments. In the photo above, the candy-shaped treat broke where the "twist" would be on a real piece of candy.
  4. Place cookie cutters on waxed or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  5. Fill cookie cutters with birdseed mixture, pressing firmly. Keep a small dish of water handy while filling molds; if the birdseed mixture sticks to your hands, simply dip fingers in water before handling. 
  6. Use a skewer to make a hole near the top of the shape. 
  7. Allow to dry for 10 hours or overnight. 
  8. Carefully remove ornament from cookie cutter mold and feed string or ribbon through hole, tying a loop to hang from a branch.


Hare's Wheat Muffins

The recipe was inspired by Bear Says Thanks. To learn more about the book and to see all our Bear Says Thanks activities, click here

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving spread was always the bread basket, usually filled with warm buttery yeast rolls. These muffins are almost as good as those yeast rolls, but easy and quick enough to make any day.  

With a slightly nutty taste from the whole wheat flour, and just a bit of sweetness from the honey, they would fit very well with all the trimming on the kids table on Thanksgiving!

Bear Says Thanks


Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can help measure the ingredients and mix together these super simple muffins. 

Basic Wheat Muffins

  from The Kitchn

 Makes 12


  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. 
  3. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, honey, egg, oil, and vanilla. 
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. 
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin wells. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just lightly golden. 

Need something to keep kids busy while you are cooking your feast? Try making homemade butter to go on your muffins!


Gopher and Mole's Warm Honey Nuts

The recipe was inspired by Bear Says Thanks. To learn more about the book and to see all our Bear Says Thanks activities, click here

 In our house, the day before Thanksgiving is almost as exciting as the day itself. Cooking preparations are underway and the the smalls of Thanksgiving fill the house. 

To make sure young readers feel apart of the kitchen excitement, here are some recipes they could help prepare, inspired by the offerings Bear's friends brought to their feast in the cozy cave. Young readers will puff up with pride when they see an offering they have helped prepare as part of the Thanksgiving spread. 

First up, warm honey nuts. Chex Mix has always been a holiday tradition with us, and my favorite part is the nut. I usually pick those out and eat them first. This sweet and salty mix makes a wonderful snack before the Thanksgiving feast!

Warm Honey Nuts

Bear Says Thanks
Warm Honey Nuts

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can help stir together the nuts and honey before spreading on baking sheet. 


Warm Honey Nuts

Makes 1 1/2 cups. 


  • 1 1/2 cups mixed, salted nuts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (or 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) honey 


  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place nuts in a mixing bowl and drizzle with honey. Mix thoroughly until nuts are coated in honey. 
  3. Spread nuts on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through, until golden brown. 
  4. Allow to cool slightly before serving. 


Knight and Dragon Kabobs

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

While not dragon-fire-roasted, we're fairly sure these tasty and nutritious fall-flavored kabobs are on the menu at the K&D Bar-B-Q. We hear they're a bit hit with the vegetarian knights and princesses (and of course young readers)!

Roasting in the oven makes these a perfect snack or side, even in the colder months when it's too chilly to grill. A simple yogurt dipping sauce is easily mixed together while the kabobs are baking. 


Sweet potato apple kabobs

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can thread potato and apple pieces on to the skewers, and measure and mix up the yogurt dipping sauce. 


Knight and Dragon Kabobs


  • 2 small or 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 large apple
  • Cinnamon Yogurt Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. Wash sweet potatoes and apple and dry. Prick sweet potatoes several times with a fork, and place on a microwave safe plate or bowl. Microwave on high 2 minutes. Allow sweet potatoes to cool until they can be handled comfortably. 
  3. Core apple. Cut potatoes and apple into roughly 1 inch cubes. Thread sweet potato and apple cubes onto skewers(we used about 5).
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn oven up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 more minutes, until tender and slightly browned at edges. 
  5. Remove sweet potato and apple pieces from skewer before serving to children. Serve with Cinnamon Yogurt Dipping Sauce.

Cinnamon Yogurt Dipping Sauce


  • 1 5.3 ounce container nonfat Plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Stir together all ingredients until combined.