These bite-sized cakes explode with fall ingredients like cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup and pumpkin. Canola oil’s neutral taste allows these warm flavors to shine.

Mini Pumpkin and Date-Nut Cakes with Maple Glaze

Ingredients

Mini Cakes

Canola oil spray
1 cup granulated sugar 250 mL
¾ cup canola oil 175 mL
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin purée 250 mL
1½ cups all-purpose flour 375 mL
2 tsp baking soda 10 mL
1½ tsp cinnamon 7 mL
1½ tsp allspice 7 mL
1½ tsp nutmeg 7 mL
½ tsp ground cloves 2 mL
½ cup chopped dates 125 mL
½ cup chopped toasted pecans 125 mL

Maple Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar 250 mL
1/3 cup maple syrup 75 mL

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
2. Spray 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) cake pan with canola oil.
3. In large bowl, beat together granulated sugar and canola oil until fluffy. Mix in eggs and pumpkin purée until well combined. Mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. When fully combined, stir in dates and pecans.
4. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake cakes for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Let cake cool completely in pan. While cake is cooling, make maple glaze.
5. To make maple glaze: sift confectioner’s sugar into small bowl, pour in maple syrup and whisk vigorously with fork until smooth. Add additional maple syrup if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
6. Cut cooled cake into 36 small squares. Remove cake squares from pan and dip top of cakes into maple glaze. Place on rack and let glaze harden.

Yield: 36 mini cakes.

Tip: Serve on a cake stand for a pretty presentation.

*Recipe and image courtesy of CanolaInfo’s “Skinny Mini Holiday Desserts” Recipe Collection.*

There is nothing better than the smell of homemade granola wafting from the kitchen, infusing your home with delicious-ness!

Pumpkin Granola

Ingredients

3 cups old fashioned oats or gluten-free oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup chopped or sliced almonds
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup dried cranberries (or raisins, your preference)
¼ cup roasted sunflower kernels

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, almonds and walnuts.

In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, pumpkin puree and vanilla. (Here’s a tip when measuring sticky ingredients like maple syrup, honey, molasses, etc. Spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray first. The syrup will pour out easier.)

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture and stir until coated well. Add the cranberries to the mixture and toss again.

Spread the granola onto the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes total. (I stir every 10 minutes.) After 20 minutes, add the sunflower seeds and stir again. Finish baking for the remaining 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer sheet to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 2 weeks. Pour your favorite flavor of chilled SoL over a bowl of pumpkin granola and enjoy.

*Recipe courtesy of SoL.*

This is not just your every day, average french toast! Spice up your morning with this flavorful, Fall-inspired version that is dairy-free, nut-free, and peanut-free.

SoL Pumpkin Pie French Toast

Ingredients

2 eggs
¼ cup SoL, any flavor
¼ cup pumpkin
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla
Butter
8 slices of bread (“Mom” prefers stone ground whole-wheat bread)
Maple Syrup

Preparation

In a bowl, beat eggs and SoL together. Stir in pumpkin, pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides. Add butter to hot griddle, place the bread on the griddle and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup.

*Recipe courtesy of SoL.*

Are Your Kids Money Smart?

When a parent is thinking about all of the wisdom that they can impart into their children, one thing that they should definitely put on the top of their list is teaching kids how to be smart when it comes to money. That’s because there’s absolutely no way around the fact that, for the rest of their lives, money is going to be a factor: when it comes to their college education, buying a house and car, retirement and all of the seasons of life in between.

So, in thinking about if your own children are money savvy, we have provided a few helpful tips that can prepare them for a successful future, while giving you peace of mind in the present:

Open up a savings account. Honestly, you are never too young to have a savings account. Therefore, once a child enters elementary school, it’s time to start talking to them about it. Of course, you want to present the conversation on a level that they understand. So, for starters, consider keeping a piggy bank in their room and telling them that once it’s full, most of it will go into savings but some of it they can use to buy things that they want now. This will not just introduce them to the concept of spending, but also about the benefits of delayed gratification as well.

Make them earn “it.” It’s rare that anyone in this life gets the (tangible) things that they really want for free. Therefore, it’s a good idea that when you child has a wish list of their own that you don’t merely give them what is on it, but that you come up with ways for them to earn those items. Maybe it’s by doing chores around the house. Maybe it’s by facilitating your own book list for them to read. Maybe it’s by having them help some of the elderly neighbors (if their old enough). We’ve all heard the saying “You’ll appreciate it more if you have to earn it yourself.” That’s not a fictional statement. There is actually plenty of truth to it.

Educate them. There are plenty of educational tools out here that will help to teach kids about money. There are board games such as The Game of Life, Monopoly, Pay Day, Money Bags and The Allowance Game. There are online games that they can play as well including OrangeKids.com, PiggyBank.Disney.Go.com and JumpStart.org/Reality-Check.html. There are plenty of books that are available including Extreme Economics, Financial Peace Jr. and Money Matters for Kids. Yet, perhaps one of the absolute best ways to teach your children is by example. When you go to the grocery store, take them and some coupons along with you so that they can see how it pays to clip some. When you’re surfing online, show them websites like FreeSamples.org so that they can see that it’s possible to get some things without paying a lot of money for them if they’re simply patient enough to look. Hold a yard sale and have them help to plan it so that they can understand how to use the resources that they already have to make money. A lot of adults today are in debt simply because they weren’t given the proper money tools as children. Don’t let your child grow up to be one of them.

Here’s an exciting way to enjoy any leftover pumpkin this season! This creamy smoothie is dairy-free, nut-free, peanut-free, gluten-free, and egg-free.

SoL Pumpkin Smoothie

Ingredients

½ cup pumpkin
½ a banana
1 cup SoL, any flavor
1 cup ice
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp honey

Preparation

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and mix well. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

*Recipe courtesy of SoL.*

The Rewards and Benefits of Music Education for Kids

It is a sad fact that arts programs of every stripe are often the first to get the axe at public schools when funding is cut. Art and music are viewed by many as nonessential, and from a purely academic sense this is true. Few occupations require a background in these areas, unlike language and mathematics, which are essential to all kinds of professions. And yet, there are so many benefits to be gained by not only exposing children to music, but also educating them through vocal or instrumental instruction (in other words, offering band, orchestra, or choir lessons). While many schools still provide students with the opportunity to take such classes, it is incumbent upon parents to ensure that children become involved in musical courses. And when schools don’t offer instruction, parents need to find other ways to provide their kids with this useful tool. Here are just a few reasons why your children will continue to reap the benefits of such instruction now and in the future.

For starters, experts agree that students who appreciate music tend to be better able to focus on cognitive tasks. This could be due to the fact that an early and ongoing education in music helps the brain to develop in a number of ways. Studies have shown that kids exposed to musical instruction tend to display increased language and reasoning skills when compared to children who have no musical background. These kids are also more likely to harbor the ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. And recent studies have indicated that there may even be some kind of connection between music and the development of spatial awareness, which means that it could help just as much in the arena of mathematical abilities as verbal ones (although further research needs to be done to quantify such a relationship).

In addition, musical instruction can help students in the academic arena. Starting kids with an instrument or vocal lessons from a young age can teach them discipline and problem-solving skills, amongst other things. Regular practice sessions can familiarize them with the learning and performing format present in most classrooms. And learning about their instrument of choice will help them to become confident in their abilities to succeed and to solve problems. They’ll discover that hard work can help them to reach their goals, and that issues with their musical endeavors have answers that can be found and corrected. An instrument that doesn’t sound right can be tuned, for example. These lessons may help them to focus in class, have the confidence to participate, and even enjoy greater success when it comes to exams (since they are already comfortable with performing).

Of course, you don’t need a masters degree in music education to know that music can also open an entirely new world for kids, one in which you don’t need to speak another language in order to communicate with people and cultures around the world. Music can expose children to ideas and sounds they never dreamed of. And it can help them to establish their own personalities and ideas while offering them a unique means of expressing themselves. In short, musical education opens all kinds of doors and offers kids many opportunities they might not otherwise enjoy. So as a parent, you should try hard to ensure that your kids have music in their lives, even if that means teaching them yourself.

Healthy, Tasty Desserts Ideas for the Holidays

While holiday memories often center on family meals, including special, traditional desserts, many families may be concerned about the extra calories—but there are some smart and simple ways for families to overcome this challenge.

To preserve your traditions and help your family’s waistline, you may want to consider making some swaps that will still satisfy your family’s sweet tooth but offer more nutrients and fewer calories, less saturated and trans fats and added sugar.

As you plan your holiday get-togethers, consider these tasty dessert ideas:

Pile on the fruit. Fruit by itself makes an excellent dessert. Try placing a bowl of clementines or apples on the holiday table. The fruit looks beautiful and is easy to eat, even for children. Offer a fruit basket to friends instead of a plate of holiday cookies. Make a winter fruit salad with your traditional meal.

Update family favorites with healthy add-ins. If homemade breads are your family’s treat of choice, try baking with whole wheat flour or adding in healthful options such as bananas, blueberries, cranberries, apples, walnuts and pecans. Just be sure to use nuts in moderation since they are high in calories. Try the healthy Banana Nut Bread recipe from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/ heart/other/syah/banutbre.htm.

Make it a mini. You may have noticed that food portions have grown quite a bit over the past few decades. Fortunately, you don’t need to eat a large dessert to enjoy it. Consider serving bite-sized desserts instead of full servings. Mini pies, cake pops and one-bite cookies are all ways you can control your family’s portion sizes. Just remember, just because they are smaller in size doesn’t mean you should eat more of them.

Learn More

For more ways to encourage healthy eating, as well as increasing physical activity and reducing screen time, visit We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition)® at http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov. Developed by the National Institutes of Health, We Can! provides parents, caregivers and communities with free tips, tools and guidance to help children maintain a healthy weight.

*Article and image courtesy of NAPS.*