We were invited to a dinner with some of TheRoomDad’s coworkers, and TheRoomDad offered to bring dessert. That is code for, “My wife will make something.” My first thought was to bring Banana Peanut Ice Cream Sundaes. The sundaes are always a crowd pleaser, and it is easy to assemble the dessert on site. Then, I remembered another group dessert recipe that my mom served when we were all visiting her awhile back.
I abandoned the ice cream sundae idea and decided to make a Cranberry Ice Box Dessert. It is made ahead of time and sits in the refrigerator overnight before serving. It works well for a crowd, and the flavor is a little different from the desserts I might typically have at a dinner party (no chocolate). The dinner guests loved it, and I had requests for the recipe, so here it is.
2 c. chopped fresh cranberries
1 large banana, diced
2/3 c. sugar
2 c. crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (or chopped pecans– or a combination)
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
Mix together cranberries, banana, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 1/2 to 2/3 of the crushed wafers in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan.
Cream butter and confectioners’ sugar together and beat well.
Spread the butter mixture over the crumbs. This step is tricky! The crumbs move as you try to spread the frosting-like mixture. I drop little dabs around the pan and then use a spatula and my fingers to gently spread as evenly as possible. the crumbs will mix into the butter mixture a little.
Top the cookie crumb and butter spread with the cranberry and bananas mixture. Sprinkle the nuts over the fruit layer.
Spread the whipped cream over the fruit and nuts. Cover the whipped cream with the remaining cookie crumbs (and maybe a few more chopped nuts).
Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours.
It is hard to find fresh cranberries at the grocery store if it is not Thanksgiving. I bought a 10 oz. bag of frozen cranberries from the frozen fruit section at my grocery store. I chopped the cranberries in my Cuisinart after letting them thaw most of the way.
If you want to use a 9″ x 12″ dish, up the ingredient amounts a little. I needed the larger size for our group last night. I used the entire 10 oz. bag of cranberries, 2 medium bananas, 1 whole box Nilla wafers, a few extra tablespoons butter and ~1/3 c. more powdered sugar, 2/3 c. chopped nuts, and 2 c. whipping cream.
What started as an “early finisher” activity for students five years ago has turned into one of my signature projects in the fourth grade. Each year, my students prepare a letter to a favorite book author as one of our first writing assignments. They start by hunting down contact information for the author (research skills!). Then, they brainstorm reasons they like a particular author and his/her book(s). We review business letter format, and the students draft a letter to the author. After editing, the students prepare their final draft, and we mail the first wave of letters.
From that first letter drop, we might receive a reply within a few weeks or wait close to nine months to get a reply. After we walk through the process of creating an author letter, students continue to write letters when they have free time. We send and receive letters all year.
I wrote a post a few years ago about this project but since we received our first author reply this afternoon, I got excited and thought I needed to blog about the project again. It is one of the best ways I have found to motivate reading with my students! It is easy to write a book author, but if you want a higher reply success rate, I have some suggestions.
Newer authors have websites with an e-mail address and are more likely to send a personal reply. We e-mailed Jody Feldman, Jonathan Auxier, Tracy Barrett, Erica Kirov, and a few others. In most cases, we received replies within three days. The replies were unique and specifically responded to the letter written by the students. Some authors even gave new book suggestions, which built excitement among the students to pick up an unfamiliar book.
Other authors provide a snail mail address on their website. These replies take longer– sometimes up to three months, so be patient. Kate Klise has written us back for the past four year and each letter contains different content.
Mega authors like J.K. Rowling and Sharon Creech are overloaded with letters and are less likely to reply to fanmail personally. They will send a generic reply if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter.
If you can’t find contact information on the author website, locate a mailing address for the author’s publishing company. Mail a letter to the author c/o the publisher. Publishers will forward all mail to the author. We mailed a letter to John Christopher via his publisher. We did not realize that the author had passed away, and his daughter actually replied to our letter several months later!
To download free student materials for this activity from my TpT store, CLICK HERE.