I went to high school with a guy named Rhett…Rhett was a nice guy, and a good guy, and had a phone number I will never forgot. To make sure that number doesn’t become the next 867-5309, I won’t share all of it with you, but the last four digits spelled out S-N-O-B. For some reason, that stuck with me.
Anyway, a week or so ago, he told me that he had finally gotten around to checking out my blog. ‘Bout time, Rhett! Where’s the love?
So Rhett says that it would be cool if I did some easy recipes for kids. His 5 year old daughter, Nola is apparently a budding chef, loves to cook (baking especially), and sleeps with her cookbooks! How cute is that? I love this kid! I bet the stack of cookbooks by my bed is taller than she is.
Ironically, today is also Rhett’s birthday, so it all kind of came together in some sort of cosmic coincidence that this post will hit today.
Nola, tell your daddy Happy Birthday for me, and I hope you enjoy these recipes!
If you haven’t ever cooked with kids, you are missing out on one of the simple pleasures in life. And if it’s your own kids you aren’t cooking with, you may also be robbing them of some very valuable lessons.
Yes, it’s true that cooking with kids isn’t tidy. Early-humans in the kitchen are much like chimpanzees at the zoo. They tend to get very excited, and stuff goes flying everywhere. Luckily, it isn’t the same kind of stuff that goes flying when the chimps get excited. You just have to trust me here if you don’t know what I am talking about.
If you are an anal-retentive neat-freak in the kitchen, like I am, you will have to make some attitude adjustments before inviting the kinderfolk to pull up a stepping stool next to you. If I am preparing a meal with full-grown family members, even in their home, I will follow them around with wet rags cleaning up after them. One of my sisters will cut tomatoes in one spot, and then move to a clean spot to cut onions, leaving behind juice and seeds in her wake. This is not acceptable to my uptight sensibilities, and just seeing it makes my eyes bleed. Thusly, I will follow her around ad nauseam cleaning up the damage path.
But with the little people, it’s different. Not only do they just not see messes the same way we see them, they lack the manual dexterity and experience to stir a batter without flour flying across the room. When you cook with kids, you have to go into it knowing that there will be powdered sugar on the rug, and spaghetti sauce on the ceiling. You have to know not to wear white, or anything that you love. Enter this project dressed as you would if you were going to repaint your bedroom. If even a quarter-sized patch of white lace is exposed, that is the precise spot where the flying mustard will land. I am pretty sure that Murphy’s Law was written after cooking with kids.
Once you get into the proper frame of mind, and get comfy with the idea that there will be a rather large clean-up effort, then you are ready to have fun. Lots of it. Kids are a riot. Especially if you ask them questions all along, like what they suggest you put in the tacos, or do they know where chocolate comes from. Of course, these are just questions—you don’t want to actually put the suggested fruit snacks in the tacos.
Once you are dressed for battle, and have a game plan, and understand that nothing will actually go as planned, you are ready to proceed. Make sure as you cook with your little chef, that you make sure they are learning all of the important lessons in life.
Everything I ever needed to learn in life, I learned in the kitchen.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
When you see a lovely salad filled with red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, you see beauty. Kids just see vegetables. When you see a pancake with a bacon smile and blueberry eyes, and a strawberry nose, you see silly. Kids see the greatest artistic work they have ever seen. This perspective will help you understand each other when your sweet baby girl comes home in ninth grade with pink hair. And maybe she will understand a little bit more why you wear those “comfortable” shoes.
Sharing is Caring
When anyone was sick, my Granny made them soup. She never told me “Chrissy, when you are a grown-up, and someone you love is sick, you must make them soup.” But I learned the lesson anyway. Your little protégé will also. He/she is paying much more attention than you will ever imagine when you take cookies to the new neighbors, or a pan of lasagna to the lady whose husband just died. Having your kids help you make those things, and talking about why you are making them, will help your little people grow up to be generous, caring adults.
Respect Each Other’s Differences
Not everyone eats their hamburger the same way. Some like mustard, some like mayo. Some like double meat, with cheddar, some are single with American. My husband likes mustard on his Chic Fil A. I think that’s gross, but I wouldn’t try to convert him to my ketchup-eating ways. It’s the same with politics, religion, and Sunday afternoon football. You have to respect everyone else’s choices, even if you don’t agree with them.
The cultural lessons that can be taught in the kitchen are vast. When you cook ethnic food, your little ones can learn a great deal about the cultures that produced them, if you share your knowledge. Whether this leads to discussions about the Irish Potato famine, or the influence of the African people, via slavery, on Southern cooking, take full advantage of these teaching opportunities.
Do For Yourself
The satisfaction of growing your own vegetables is not only its own reward, but the results are tastier and healthier. Home grown is better for the environment, and saves you money. Same goes with churning your own butter, baking your own bread, and working to support yourself. The less reliant you can be on other people, the government, or the “grid”, the better.
Kids learn this sort of satisfaction by cooking. If you have a finicky (spoiled) eater, have them cook with you. A child who will not normally eat vegetables will often do so when he/she helped prepare them. The pride in their contribution will make them want to taste it, and will increase the chance they will give it a fair chance before turning up at the green beans.
Always Remember to Put The Lid Back On The Blender
If you are going to go about stirring things up, make sure you know how to limit how far the resulting mess will fly. Be proactive. Plan ahead and take all standard precautions, lest you be scraping blackberry smoothy off the ceiling. In this case, blackberry smoothie might refer to the result of spreading gossip, speaking a painful truth to someone, or being the bearer of bad news. It could also just refer to blackberry smoothie on the ceiling. Either way, it’s a valuable lesson.
Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 20 cookies
- 1 cup peanut butter (your choice)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 20 foil-wrapped chocolates (like Hershey’s kisses), optional
Preheat oven to 325*
Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a fork. Take tablespoon size bits of dough and roll into balls. Place on a cookie sheet at least 2″ apart. You can either use a fork to flatten the cookies, or press a piece of chocolate into the center if you want to have chocolate centers. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.
Nutella Brownies, 2 Ways
- 1 cup nutella
- 2 eggs
- 10 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350*
Line a cupcake pan with cupcake papers. Mix all ingredients with a fork in a mixing bowl until all ingredients are mixed in well. Use a tablespoon to drop 2 spoons of dough into each cup. You should have enough dough to make 12 brownie cupcakes.
Bake for 18 minutes
For peanut butter cup brownies: make some of the peanut butter cookie dough in the above recipe. Drop a tablespoon of cookie dough into each brownie cup before baking.
Ice Cream in A Bag
- 1 pint whole milk
- 1/2 cup chocolate, banana, or strawberry milk powder
- supplies: 2 large ziplock bags (gallon sized), 1/2 cup salt, 6 cups ice
Mix milk and flavored powder and pour into one ziplock bag. Zip the bag shut, pressing out most of the extra air. Place into the second ziplock bag. Pour the ice into the second bag, and pour the salt and one cup of water on top. Seal the zip top on the outside bag too, pressing out the air. Hold the bag from the top of the bag, over the sink, and shake for 10-15 minutes, until the milk is like soft-serve ice cream. Open the outside bag, and remove the bag with the ice cream. Scoop out and eat right away.