Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Easy Baked Jack-O-Lanterns

(43 Months)

I love Autumn.  Crisp Fall apples, the mouthwatering scent of pumpkin bread baking, pumpkin apple muffins, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin spice lattes...  mmm...  Last year we were lucky enough to visit my sister's family during the Fall (I miss you all so much).  They took us out to an apple orchard and the three little ones picked their first apples off a tree together.  Little Miss and Wild One still talk about how much fun they had with their aunt, uncle and cousin "Buddy".  Here's our adventure.  Look how little they were.

Buddy and my brother-in-law.  I miss you!!!!!!!!

I've been wanting to make baked cotton balls for a few weeks now.  When I saw Asia's baked Jack-o-lantern on Fun At Home With Kids, I knew we were going to get messy in the kitchen soon.  This is an easy and fun project for the kids to work on.  Little Miss and Wild One helped mix the flour and water solution, combined the colors, and squished the flour solution onto the cotton balls.

After Wild One finished with the orange cotton balls, he was done.  He said he didn't want to get his hands dirty anymore.  Oh well.  Little Miss kept working at it, she loved that she was working on this almost independently, with no help from Mommy.  By the way, did you notice in the above pictures that she is tilting the mixing bowl as she mixes?  That's how we mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients when we are making batter for cupcakes, muffins, pancakes, waffles.....  She even said, "we lift the bowl to mix the wet into dry ingredients."  I love that girl!

Here's the recipe:
We first made a huge batch of plain colored flour/water solution in a large bowl.  For the two Jack-o-lanterns we used 3 cups of bleached all-purpose flour and about 2 1/2 cups of water.  Next, we whisked the flour into the water until there were no more lumps (it's going to be thick and goopy, perfect for little ones hands to squish).  Then, we took about 1/2 cup of the faux paint for the green cotton balls and ladled it into a small mixing bowl.  We used about 3/4 cup for the black cotton balls and ladled it into a medium mixing bowl.  We left the remaining flour/water in the large bowl for the orange cotton balls.  I love how Asia incorporated scent to her faux paint.  We mixed in 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the black paint* and 1 tsp of pumpkin spice to the orange paint, before adding in the cotton balls.  Little Miss and Wild One loved the delicious scents. Bake it at 300 degrees for 80 minutes (on tinfoil for easy cleanup).  It took our creation about twenty minutes to cool down.  This was perfect timing to work on before lunch, then let it bake and cool to be ready for after nap (if they nap).

With the left over faux paint, we added in some extra cotton balls to smash!  I'm so glad we did, because they had so much fun using the hammers to whack the baked cotton balls.  They were so surprised that the soft, fluffy cotton balls baked into almost a rock!  Then, I told them that we are going to go outside with some hammers and smash them.  "Can I use Daddy's hammer?"  Once that first baked cotton ball was smashed and they saw that the inside was still white and fluffy, they were hooked.  They began smashing one after another.  "Mommy, can we do more please?" Even Grandpa got into the act.  "Mommy, can we do more please?"

*I first tried making the flour/water black with food dye.  It kept turning green or brown.  After a few tries, I remembered that I had black liquid watercolor.  We tried that and it still didn't turn out black.  However, after it was finished baking it did turn black.

The kidabunks loved this project.  Little Miss loved every part of it, mixing, squishing, creating and smashing.  Wild One's favorite part was mixing and smashing.  I love that I have a beautiful keepsake that will hopefully last past this season.  They already asked if we can make more (baked) cotton balls.  Fun and easy.  

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