Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dad's Worksheets

Well, we've been putting a lot of time and energy into helping Doodle with math. She was doing OK most of this year - getting B's for her grades. Then 4th quarter hit and WHAM! nothing but F's on her tests. It was heartbreaking! Plus, she wasn't progressing on her Rocket Math - you know, those darn timed math tests that really have no basis in the real world. As frustrating as these tests are as a parent, it's a necessary part of first grade, so we went on the hunt for a good tool to help Doodle out.

In my quest, I found this amazing website from a Dad who was trying to help his daughter out. It's called Dad's Worksheets and you can find it here: Dad's Worksheets. The worksheets available on this site emulates the Rocket Math curriculum that Doodle's teacher uses in class. For Doodle, she just needs to get 20 problems done in a minute to move on to the next level. I say just, like it's no big deal. In fact, it's a huge deal to Doodle. She has spent the majority of the year trying to get off of level A. It seemed insurmountable to her.

So, we printed out the worksheets and practiced every single night. After some concerted efforts, she was able to rise to level B! It also took some bribery of a large stuffed bunny from the local store - but she did it! Then, she did it again! She passed level B in a very short period of time! This time motivated by the promise of a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Hey - whatever it takes! Now we are working on level C with hopes of surpassing before school ends on May 17th. I'm sure she will do it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Doodle loves cookies. I mean LOVES cookies. She really could live on cookies alone, if I let her. I make them because, selfishly, they make an easy snack to send to school. However, I also know that if she has too much sugar and not enough protein, I'm in for a rough evening when I pick her up from daycare. She is not a girl who can handle sugar without protein. So, I buy a pea protein powder from Kirkman Labs that I sneak into almost everything I bake for her. I love Kirkman Labs because I know they are all about pure ingredients that don't contain any of the common allergens. Kirkman is also a huge proponent in using diet and supplements to cure autism. So, I buy many things from them and the protein powder helps me sneak protein into cookies without Doodle noticing. A win-win!

Since we went egg-free in our household, it's been difficult to make a decent sugar cookie. The dough just seems to crumble which makes for a bad sugar cookie experience. Well, I finally figured out the missing ingredient - apple sauce! I added apple sauce to my latest batch of cookies and they turned out wonderfully - no more crumbly dough. Here's the recipe:

Vegan Sugar Cookies

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 T pure vanilla
1 T egg replacer
3 T warm water
2 heaping T apple sauce
1 1/4 cup Sweet Rice Flour
1 1/2 cup Sorghum Flour
1/4 pea protein powder (use extra sweet rice flour if you don't have this)
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine shortening, sugar, agave nectar, vanilla in a large bowl. Beat generously.
2. In a small bowl whisk together egg replacer and warm water until frothy. Add to sugar mixture and beat. Stir in apple sauce.
3. Combine sweet rice flour, sorghum flour, protein powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt in a bowl. Gradually add to sugar/shortening mixture while beating with a mixer. Mix well.
4. Form dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. Sprinkle some sweet rice flour on a large, clean surface and roll out dough with a rolling pin. Cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Repeat step 5 as necessary.
6. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking rack. Frost with your favorite frosting once cool.

I store the cookies un-frosted in the freezer and take out one at a time for school snack. I add a bit of frosting, before sending to school, that I keep frozen in our freezer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes

My niece was telling me about the vegan carrot cake she made for my sister's 45th birthday in March. She said "It's GOOOD :) (yes 3 O's good)" and that's a direct quote! Well, I had lots of desserts planned for Easter that were not conducive to Doodle's diet, so I thought I would adapt the recipe shared by my niece and make it Gluten Free. The original recipe can be found here: Vegan Carrot Cake. I chose to make the cake into cupcakes, so I could freeze some and use them for school snacks.

Here's the adapted recipe:

1 cup Sorghum Flour
1 cup Sweet Rice Flour
1 cup Sugar
1/4 Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt

2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3 cups Shredded Carrots
3/4 cups Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup Raisins
1/2 cup Coconut

1. Mix the sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
2. Add shredded carrots and oil and mix well with a spatula.
3. Add orange juice and mix well with a spatula.
4. Add raisins and coconut and mix well with a spatula.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners and scoop batter into liners. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle of cupcake comes out clean.
6. Cool on baking rack - frost with favorite frosting. (I cheated and used store bought!)

These cupcakes were delicious - Doodle even agreed to share one with the Easter Bunny, who thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Math Madness

Well, we are on the downhill side of first grade - where has the year gone? It seems that time really does fly when you have kids in school. This year, that has truly been the case. Every year that Doodle starts a new grade, I worry about how she will keep up with her peers, will she make friends, will she fit in on the playground, can she keep up. This year was no exception.

Doodle, of course, has surprised me and done exceptionally well in school. She really loves it. This year, however, she has met her arch nemesis - Math! She has struggled all year, but still scored well on most of her tests and came home with B-, B, and B+. It seemed she was improving, that is, until this quarter hit. She has brought home 2 F's in a row! On her quarter review test, she missed simple things that she had mastered months before. I think that I was more devastated than she was when she brought home the test. My heart just breaks that she has to struggle so hard in this subject. 

So, as with most things, I'm on a mission to make it better. I felt like we had tried most things: flashcards (didn't help), online games (she liked, but didn't help make progress), a Toy Story math book (helped some), and I even resorted to bribery. So, I decided to get out my Cri-Cut machine and make my own version of flashcards. First, I cut out some tags, then glued numbers to the tags and different colored stars representing the numbers to give her visual cues. I started real simple: 1+2, 3+1, 4+1, just to help her get through her Rocket Math timed tests. Then, I created tags with numbers from 0-9 with touch points that represent the number and help her count. I'm teaching her to use the number to help her figure out the math problem. The number 3, for example, had three different points, so she can use the points to count and come up with the answer.  This seems to be helping.

Also, a friend suggested we try hide and seek math. I hide 5 flashcards and she has 5 minutes to find the flashcards, bring them to me, and give me the answer. She really likes this game and it seems to be helping. I imagine, however, that we will continue this routine right through the summer months so we don't take a step backwards. I know second grade will be even more challenging with math.