Do you know the Muffin Man?
Yesterday we made muffins! Now that the children are bringing their own lunch to school, we thought we would spice up the snack menu a bit. This means trying to limit servings of over-processed crackers and cereals and doing more homemade and wholesome foods. Over time, we hope that snacks become a time where children participate more in the preparation of their food, and where we can offer new and exciting treats. Looking at the snack menu this week, one can see how the snack menu has already evolved drastically! Goodbye monotony, hello...
How is it possible to do baking projects like this with twelve children, you ask? Don't they go crazy in their chairs just watching the teacher do all the work?
Well, first of all, they all know that eventually they will get a turn doing something, even if that something is simple pouring in the vanilla or measuring out the baking powder (they are excited even by getting to scoop out baking powder and leveling it off on the leveler that comes in the container!). That is usually motivation enough to sit and watch. Sometimes when we're done mixing they get to taste the ingredients. Because most of our projects are vegan (they don't contain animal ingredients of any sort), they can even taste things like cookie dough and cake batter without the risk of ugly things like salmonella. (Well I guess that's not entirely true now, is it, in light of recent spinach, peanut butter, and celery recalls?)
Another thing that keeps kids focused: it's an optional activity. If and when the sitting down gets to be too much, they can leave the project and go play. More often than not, they all want to stick around. What's more motivating than food, anyway?
We also have different ways of making these projects manageable for ourselves. I often tell our student teachers that if they want to do a cooking project they should do it with a very small group of kids.
Another way that I keep kids engaged is that if it's a very wiggly group that day, I give them all something to hold as they wait for their turn. A wooden spoon, utensil, the bottle of vanilla (depending on the kid, of course), or another mixing bowl. Somehow having a prop to hold keeps them more centered.
Leslie had a brilliant way of making the project manageable for herself yesterday. When she brought out the tray with ingredients, all of the dry ingredients were in separate bowls, pre-measured. This way the children could scoop from one bowl to the other without a concern for accurate measuring. She knew that whatever was there would eventually be sifted into the dry ingredients.
[drumroll please] And now, the recipe. Notice it contains no refined sugar. Did they scarf down the muffins anyway? Yes!
Cinnamon Swirl Muffins
Adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds*
1/3 plus 1/2 cup nondairy milk**
2/3 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare silicon muffin liners or grease a muffin tin. We also used paper liners and they worked fine. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl. Pour wet into dry and stir just until thoroughly moistened. Scoop batter into muffin cups and stick them in the oven.
Bake for 17-22 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
*You can probably substitute the flax seed meal with an actual egg or two. Add the egg to the wet ingredients and adjust liquids accordingly.
**You can substitute 1/3 cup of the milk with dairy or nondairy yogurt, which is what the original recipe calls for.
Yields 12 regular-sized muffins, or more if you make them smaller.
Thanks, Leslie, for doing our first baking project of the new year!
Here are some more muffin recipes from Te's family...they bake them in tiny silicon baking cups and then send the whole muffin (baking cup and all) into Te's lunch. These baking cups come in many different shapes and sizes and can be found here and other retailers.
Applesauce Oat Bran Muffins from eat me, delicious
Chocolate Chip Granola Bites from another lunch