“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs!

Reading Group: 5 – 8 years old

What would you do if one day the sky started raining hamburgers, snowing mashed potatoes, and blowing in gusts of chicken noodle soup? What if the clouds above were made of fried eggs?

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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett (with illustrations by Ron Barrett) (1988) tells such a tale. The story is set in the town of Chewandswallow: a place where no one needs grocery stores because everything they eat comes right from the sky!

A typical day in the town of Chewandswallow.

A typical day in the town of Chewandswallow.

To go with “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, I decided to make some hand-packed, oven-baked turkey meatballs. Delicious!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ Fast and Friendly Turkey Meatballs

These meatballs are lovely because they they’re nice and crispy, but you don’t have to fry them in a lot of heavy oil to get that texture.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (454 gram) package ground turkey (I decided to use ground chicken instead)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil and place it in the oven while it’s pre-heating.
  2. In a medium bowl, use your hands to mix together ground turkey, egg, and breadcrumbs. Spoon the meat with an ice cream scoop and form it into golf ball-sized meatballs. Place the balls roughly 1-inch apart in the hot baking dish. Press down on the balls to slightly flatten their bottoms.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, flip them over, and continue baking for 5 to 7 more minutes (or until somewhat crispy on the outside).

Try sprinkling the meatballs with a little bit of cheese for an extra kick! Or, throw them on a tiny bun with a little lettuce and tomato to make wee turkey burger sliders.

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What do you think? Would you still eat these meatballs if they came out of the sky and you had to collect them off of your front lawn?

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“Harold and the Purple Crayon” and Grapey Grapes!

Reading Group: 5 – 8 years old

It’s been nearly 30 years since I first read this book and I still smile whenever I think about it.

"Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson

Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) tells the story of an adorable little boy and his imagination. One evening—after thinking it over for some time—little Harold decides to go out for a moonlight stroll with his purple crayon.

When he sees there’s no moon in the sky for his moonlit stroll, he decides to draw one.

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Harold keeps walking, drawing anything and everything into his walk.

He decides to make a forest (but only with one tree so he doesn’t get lost)…

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…and a sail boat…

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Eventually he gets a little hungry. He draws a picnic lunch and, when he can’t finish his food, he draws some hungry friends so the food doesn’t go to waste.

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To go with “Harold and the Purple Crayon”, I searched for the most purple snack I could think of: frozen grape-dusted grapes!

Harold and the Purple Crayon’s Frozen Grapey Grapes

Hands down, frozen red grapes are one of my all-time favourite snacks. I buy a batch, wash them, and stick them in the freezer to snack on all day long. For this snack, I thought adding a little bit of sugar would be a sweet way to kick them up.

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What You’ll Need:

  • One bunch red grapes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grape Jell-O powder

Instructions:

  1. Place grapes in a large bowl and fill with water until covered. Soak the grapes for 20 minutes to thoroughly wash them. Rinse well. Spread the grapes on paper towels to let them dry.
  2. Remove grapes from their vines and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze grapes for a few hours until frozen.
  3. Place grapes in a large zip-top bag and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of grape Jell-O powder. Shake the bag until grapes are thoroughly covered. Serve in ramekins or small bowls.

Frozen grapes are also great for keeping a glass of juice nice and cool without watering it down.

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What do you think? Would Harold love these extra-purple grapes?

“Green Eggs and Ham” Green Eggs and Ham!

Reading Group: 5 – 8 years old

Many readers celebrate Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham (1960) as one of the greatest storybooks ever! It’s easy to read and, even better, it’s also super fun to re-read over and over and over again.

"Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss

“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss

“Green Eggs and Ham” tells the tale of a no-nonsense narrator…

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…and pesky little Sam-I-Am—who simply won’t leave him alone!

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In the story, Sam-I-Am won’t stop asking the man to try his plate of green eggs and ham. The man says no. Sam follows him everywhere and does everything he can to get the man to try them.

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But the man still says no!

 

Sam-I-Am’s Green Eggs and Ham

The snack to go along with “Green Eggs and Ham” felt pretty obvious! This recipe actually marks the first time I’ve ever made eggs. I’m happy to say that it was pretty simple! The eggs in “Green Eggs and Ham” are sunny-side up, but I decided that kid-friendly scrambled eggs might be a better choice.

Green eggs and ham!

Green eggs and ham!

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 drops blue food colouring
  • Salt and pepper
  • A smidgen of butter
  • 1 package sliced ham
  • Sliced hard cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Crack the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 to 3 drops of blue food colouring (You’d think green food colouring, right? I thought so too, but then I was reminded of the rules of primary school art class: yellow (yolk) + blue = green!). Whisk together until well blended.
  2. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Melt a small wedge of butter in the pan.
  3. Pour the green egg mixture into the pan. Cook slowly. Let the eggs set a bit in the pan and then stir them with a wooden spoon. Wait until the eggs look clumpy, but still shiny and then transfer them to a plate. They’ll keep cooking even after they’re removed from the heat.
  4. Serve with pieces of hard cheddar rolled in slices of ham.

To simplify this snack, I decided to use pre-packaged sliced ham instead of the minced ham recommendation in the original recipe. Then I rolled the ham around a thin slice of cheese to make it extra delicious.

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What do you think? Would Sam-I-Am love these green eggs and ham? What about the man he pesters? Would he gobble down this recipe?

 

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“The Stinky Cheese Man” Oven-Baked Mozzarella Sticks!

Reading Group: 5 – 8 years old

Sometimes you just want a little attention—but that can be hard to find if you’re super stinky!

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“The Stinky Cheese Man” from the collection “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” by Jon Schieszka and Lane Smith (1992) is a funny little nursery rhyme that tells the tale of a lonely old lady and a lonely old man.

One day the lady feels so very lonely that she decides to make a friend made out of—you guessed it!—stinky cheese! She gives him two olives for his eyes and a slice of bacon for his mouth and sticks him in the oven to cook.

The Stinky Cheese Man

The Stinky Cheese Man

When the old lady opens her oven door, the Stinky Cheese Man runs away, singing:

“Run run run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m the Stinky Cheese Man!”

The only problem is that the Stinky Cheese Man is so stinky that the old woman doesn’t want to follow him! So he just keeps on running, looking for someone who wants to chase him!

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To go with “The Stinky Cheese Man” I decided to find a recipe that featured the Stinky Cheese Man’s delicious cousin: Gooey Mozzarella Man.

 

The Stinky Cheese Man’s Oven-Baked Mozzarella Sticks

I absolutely love mozzarella sticks. I mean, who doesn’t? And who knew that they were so easy to make?

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What You’ll Need:

  • One package of mozzarella string cheese
  • ½ cup of flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder (optional…because I hate onion)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Marinara or ranch sauce for dipping (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray heavily with cooking spray (i.e.: Pam). Set aside.
  2. Cut mozzarella sticks in half and freeze until hard (about 30 minutes).
  3. While the mozzarella freezes, take out three medium-sized bowls. Put the flour in the first bowl and the slightly beaten egg in the second. Whisk the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt in the third.
  4. Toss the hardened mozzarella sticks in flour to coat, then in the egg mixture, and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Dip the coated mozzarella sticks back into the egg mixture and again into the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Freeze sticks another 15 minutes. This keeps the cheese from melting too quickly when you bake them.
  6. Place the mozzarella sticks on a single layer on the prepared (heavily sprayed) baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn the sticks and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes until golden, crispy, and delicious-looking. Allow the mozzarella sticks to cool slightly and then serve with ranch or marinara dipping sauce.

 

The key to this recipe is freezing the mozzarella sticks before baking them. This lets the cheese soften when it bakes, but it doesn’t melt too much.

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Unlike the other books we’ve read, I think we can say that the Stinky Cheese Man would not like this treat! Honestly, I’m sure he’d be a little upset about us eating cheese. But these mozzarella sticks are so delicious that I’m sure he’d understand! What do you think? Would the Stinky Cheese Man feel okay with us eating these gooey mozzarella sticks?

“Where the Wild Things Are” Popcorn Trail Mix!

Reading Group: 5 – 8 years old

When you’re a kid, it’s hard not to feel powerless every once and a while.

"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are (1963) tells the story of kid trying to handle his feelings of helplessness. Max is a rambunctious little boy with a wild imagination and, as a result, gets into trouble sometimes. One night, after Max misbehaves and is sent to bed without supper, his bedroom transforms…

Illustration by Maurice Sendak

…and soon he’s on a boat…

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Illustration by Maurice Sendak

…and then he finds himself where the wild things are!

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Illustration by Maurice Sendak

“Where the Wild Things Are” remains one of my favourite books from childhood. The story is easy to follow and the drawings are funny and expressive.

When on the hunt for a snack to match Maurice Sendak’s story, I thought it would be fun to put ourselves into Max’s shoes.

Then I thought:

What might Max eat on his voyage?

“Where the Wild Things Are” Popcorn Trail Mix

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This versatile recipe is very easy to modify!

The amazing thing about trail mix is that you can really put whatever you want in it. Raisin-hater in the crowd? Not a big deal. Peanut allergy? We’ve got you covered.

For this trail mix, I used this article from health.com as inspiration and came up with this simple, tasty treat.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 parts sliced, toasted almonds
  • 2 parts dried cranberries
  • 1 part salted popcorn
  • 1 part dark chocolate chips

Toss the ingredients in a small bowl and serve. The dried fruit and chocolate add a sweet element to the mix, while the almonds and popcorn give it a crunch!

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To switch it up, try replacing the roasted almonds with pecans!

What do you think? Would Max approve of this trail mix?

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Farewell, Max!