cooking with kids

Banana Applesauce Cupcakes

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One of the greatest pleasures in life is cooking with children.

Children are enthusiastic, creative and joyful abut anything they've cooked or baked.

These cupcakes are a melange of my grandchildren's ideas about what to make for dessert. It had to be dairy free. We had a few bananas and some leftover applesauce that we wanted to use.

The cupcakes were yummy. Even the adults thought so.

Decorations, including the one lone banana slice in the center, by the kids, of course, .

 

Banana Applesauce cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whisk the ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Place the sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the ingredients at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the bananas, apple juice and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Spoon equal quantities of batter into the muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 12

frosting

  • 1 cup margarine, shortening or mix of coconut oil and margarine 
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • apple juice as necessary

Place the margarine, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl (or use an electric mixer) and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick to spread as frosting, mix in a teaspoon or two of apple juice.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

 

Child’s Play: How a Young Cook Makes a Perfect Meal for Meatless Monday

And so, another generation of passionate, creative cooks.

Recently I spent some memorable time with one of my grand daughters. She cooked almost an entire dinner for herself and siblings as I watched. I encouraged her to use her judgment about flavors and amounts. She was thoughtful, asked questions and was unafraid to follow her senses and taste buds rather than someone else's recipe.

At each step of the way she got off the stool she needed to reach the pan so she could write down what she did.

In the end: Rice and Beans with Roasted Brussels Sprouts for 4.

First, I must say, she knew to wash her hands before cooking. She also used disposable gloves when she tossed the Brussels sprouts in olive oil.

I watched her pour olive oil into the pan and toss a bit of chopped onion in to see if it sizzled because I had told her that's when the oil was hot enough for the rest.

She added chopped onions and made a decision about how much was enough. About 1/4 cup.

I told her how to rinse the beans, and why, and watched her do it.

She added the beans and some crushed tomatoes and when she said she didn't think it was tomatoey enough I encouraged her to add more. And she did.

She wondered about spices. I suggested either chili powder or cumin and she asked "why not both?"

Indeed. I told her to add both, starting with 1/2 teaspoon each.

When she tasted she said it needed more chili powder. And added some. And salt. To her taste.

As the beans cooked, she cut the Brussels sprouts, placed them on a baking tray, tossed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and placed them in the oven.

The only thing I cooked was the rice. 

Everyone gobbled up this magnificent feast. The perfect meal for a meatless Monday or whenever you have yen for a scrumptious vegetarian dinner.

I left smiling. Still am.

 

RICE AND BEANS 

1 cup brown rice

1-3/4 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1-1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt to taste

 

Place the rice and water in a saucepan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 35 minutes or until the grains are tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. While the rice is cooking, pour the olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Spoon the rice onto plates; top with some of the rice and beans. 

Makes 4 servings

Banana Chocolate Cake

My grandson wanted to bake a cake with me. I think he actually liked the licking-out-the-bowl part the best and I actually was most thrilled that he came up with the idea about combining banana bread and chocolate cake.

I looked through my recipes for endless variations of banana bread. And chocolate cake. I fooled around with them, combining this and that from several of the recipes and came up with the one here. It's dairy-free, so his sister, my 3-1/2 year-old grand daughter, could eat some too. And we added some chocolate chips, just for good measure.

He did like the licking-out-the-bowl thing.

He also told me the cake was too dry. But I think that was because the temperature indicator on my oven has been cleaned so often for so many years that the numbers have disappeared and I can only estimate the proper cooking temperature. I do have an oven thermometer but that also needs "updating." so I don't know if the cake baked at exactly the right temperature.

Also, I forgot to set the timer.

Anyway, everyone else declared the cake delicious. Even my grandson said it was and would want it again when I finally decide what oven I want to get to replace the old one.

So here it is, the creation.

Banana Cocoa Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the shortening and sugar at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the bananas and blend them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes 16-18 servings

 

 

How to Substitute Ingredients: a Lesson for Kids and Everyone Else

Children learn a lot when they cook, and not just about food. You can ask the youngest ones to hand over the red pepper, not the green one. You can show them that a pie tin is round, a loaf pan is a rectangle.

Older kids can hone their measuring skills. Some begin to understand the difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2, what a dozen means, why a cake rises.

Recently my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, learned another important cooking lesson: when and how to substitute ingredients. 

We happened to be baking Jam Cookies. 

I didn't have the chopped dates called for in my recipe. So we changed those to dark raisins.

I didn't have dried apricots, figs or cherries, so we used dried cranberries instead.

They wondered whether they could include chocolate chips.

Of course! Just throw some into the bowl.

Finally, we used a mixture of orange marmalade, rhubarb and apricot jam because I didn't have enough of any one kind except raspberry, which I couldn't use because of allergies.

The recipe worked.

But more than that, the cookies were absolutely delicious. Even the adults gobbled them. The children were happy, they learned more than they realized.

They want to cook with me again. I love that.

Jam Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup golden or dark raisins or chopped dates or a mixture
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries or other chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Cut the butter into chunks and work into the dry ingredients (with fingers or process on pulse in a food processor) until the butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the raisins, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Press the mixture evenly inside the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 24

 

 

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Chocolate Roll with Jam and Strawberries

So you think chocolate is delicious?

Okay, I grant you: chocolate is delicious.

But in my opinion, the most delicious thing in these photos isn’t the dessert, it’s the kid. My grandson, age 2-3/4.

Here he is putting the final touches on a chocolate roll cake. I prepared the batter. He licked the bowl.

These photos are proof of how easy it is to cook with children, even one who is 2-3/4. Remy was able to spread the strawberry jam on the baked cake. I sliced the strawberries. He placed them over the jam. 

He did a pretty good job don’t you think?

We rolled the cake together and plopped it onto a big serving dish.

Okay, the cake has some cracks in the surface. That sometimes happens to rolled cakes. So we covered it up somewhat: I held the strainer filled with confectioner’s sugar and he tapped it with a spoon, causing the white sprinkles to come down like snow and give a nice finish to our work.

No one cared that the cake didn’t look perfect. The time we had together was perfect.

Delicious.

You can do it with a kid in your life using my recipe. It would be a good Mother’s Day project. 

 

Chocolate Roll with Jam and Strawberries

 

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

3 tablespoons cold, strong coffee or orange juice

5 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup strawberry jam

1 pint strawberries, sliced 

confectioners' sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 15-1/2”x10-1/2” jelly roll pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving several inches hanging over each of the short edges. Lightly grease the portion of the paper that fits inside the pan. Melt the chocolate and coffee together in the top part of a double boiler (or a bowl that fits into a saucepan) set over barely simmering water. Mix the ingredients well and remove the top part of the pan from the heat. Let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed (or use a hand mixer), beat the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and blend it in thoroughly. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. Mix about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture until the mixture has an even color. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to make it even. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven. Cover it with a slightly dampened kitchen towel. Let cool. Loosen the cake by pulling the overlapping ends of parchment paper. Invert the cake onto a clean sheet of parchment paper or kitchen towel (use the towel if you will be filling the roll later; keep the cake rolled inside the towel and set it aside, then unroll the cake to proceed).

Spread the jam evenly over the top of the cake. Top with the strawberries. Roll the cake starting on the long side. Place on a serving platter, seam side down. Dust (using a strainer) with confectioner’s sugar. Makes 8-10 servings

 

9-Braid Challah

It’s been a crazy week at my house. For various reasons my kids and grandkids have been here, on and off, for a week.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, despite the chaos, the noise and the clutter. I should tell you that at one point my two-year old grandson Remy looked into my refrigerator fruit bin and said “this is a mess. Grandma!”

Who cares! I love when they all come and we have dinner together and plates clatter and dishwashers dishwash and there is plenty of conversation and also lots of leftovers.

At one point, my grandson Zev, age 11, who bakes challah with me all the time, suggested that instead of the traditional 6-braid challah, or a bakery-style 4-braid challah or even an easy 3-braider, we do a 9-strand version. That is, braid three strands, like a classic braid, three times, and then braid those three braids together. That would make it a 9-strander, for sure. With that wonderful lumpy, bumpy surface that makes challah look so appealing.

Had to try that. So we did. The pre-baked challah looked perfect, and very interesting.

Alas, we didn’t braid the three 3-braiders tight enough and the bread opened up on top as it baked.

Still, it looked good to us. And even better, it tasted as wonderful as our usual challah.

And best of all, we had a good time working on it together.

Challah

For instructions on how to make a 6-braid challah, see: http://ronniefein.com/post/18188044789/baking-challah-i-posted-my-recipe-last-week-and

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
8-8-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
1 teaspoon water
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir, set aside and let rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt. In a small bowl, mix 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the lukewarm water. Add to the flour mixture. Add the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. Using the kneading hook, knead for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to make sure the dough is not sticky. NOTE: you can make this dough in a food processor (halve the recipe). Cover the bowl of dough and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 30 minutes or until doubled. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut dough in 3 or 6 pieces depending on whether you are making one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of the pieces. Braid the strands. Place the braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg with the teaspoon of water. Brush this over the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes for large loaf, 22-25 minutes for smaller ones (they should be firm and golden brown).

To make a 9-braider: cut the dough into 9 equal pieces and roll each piece into a very long strand. Braid three strands at a time into a traditional braid, then braid the three braided strands.

Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake

"This is just like room service!"

That, from my almost 6-year old grand daughter Lila (who apparently already knows about room service!?!) after I let her have her dinner in the family room and watch TV.

This is something I didn’t allow my own two daughters.

But honestly, after 35 years I was a little out of practice. And, like bike riding, you may not forget how, but you also may not race through the streets or peddle yourself up a steep hill quite as often or as easily either. 

So, when the kids came for a visit, sans parents, from Friday through Sunday, there were occasional, let’s say, concessions. If my daughter Gillian, their Mom, is reading this now, I say, don’t worry. These kids are terrific and 2 meals in front of the TV won’t harm them.

As you can see from the photos we did lots of stuff like draw, have a pedicure, blow bubbles outside, ride bikes, have a fashion show. We also frosted a birthday cake for their cousin Nina’s birthday party on Saturday (although the top decoration, an Ariel rice-paper scene, was store-bought).

The little one, Remy, age 21 months talks a blue streak although sometimes it’s difficult to understand his pronunciations. However, one of the new words he learned this weekend was “chocolate cake,” which he mentioned to his parents as soon as they walked in the door Sunday night.

"Tzockickcake!" he told them, with his tongue literally licking his lips.

When a kid is this young you can’t depend on “what happens at Grandma’s stays at grandma’s.”

I had baked the chocolate cake for a Hadassah Tea and was cutting it into slices. There were a few not-so-lovely pieces that I didn’t include on the platter I sent over for that event. Remy had a small sliver of the leftovers. He liked it, that’s for sure.

Can’t say I blame him. Smart kid!

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending each one in. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the yogurt, until the flour mixture and yogurt have been used and the batter is well blended and smooth. Gradually add the boiling water, beating slowly, for 2-3 minutes or until the batter is smooth and well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Makes 12+ servings

Best Picture Ever; Yellow Cake

Cooking with kids is a world of opportunities. Yes, yes, yes, we’ve all read about how it helps build creativity and teaches them the value of experimentation. How it helps teach basic math and measurement skills and maybe even encourages them to taste something new. 
 But it’s also a thrilling lesson in human dynamics for grownups. 
 Consider this photo of Lila and Nina, my two grand daughters, making cake batter with me. Do I need to tell anyone what’s going on here? 
 Who’s older? Who’s neater? Do they like what they’re tasting? Have they listened to their parents’ lesson about not eating from the same fork (spoon, spatula) as someone else? 
 It’s like when you read a book to a kid and not just read the words but also talk about the expressions on the characters’ faces. 
 As they say, a picture tells a thousand words. 
 They liked the cake. Yellow cake. Here’s the recipe. 
 Yellow Cake 
 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure after sifting) 
 1 tablespoon baking powder 
 3/4 teaspoon salt 
 1-1/2 cups unsalted butter 
 1-1/2 cups sugar 
 4 large eggs 
 1 cup whole milk 
 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until thoroughly blended in. Combine the milk and vanilla extract. Using about 1/3 of the ingredients at a time, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture, blending each addition in before adding the next batch. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost with your favorite frosting. Makes one cake, 2 layers.

Cooking with kids is a world of opportunities. Yes, yes, yes, we’ve all read about how it helps build creativity and teaches them the value of experimentation. How it helps teach basic math and measurement skills and maybe even encourages them to taste something new.

But it’s also a thrilling lesson in human dynamics for grownups.

Consider this photo of Lila and Nina, my two grand daughters, making cake batter with me. Do I need to tell anyone what’s going on here?

Who’s older? Who’s neater? Do they like what they’re tasting? Have they listened to their parents’ lesson about not eating from the same fork (spoon, spatula) as someone else?

It’s like when you read a book to a kid and not just read the words but also talk about the expressions on the characters’ faces.

As they say, a picture tells a thousand words.

They liked the cake. Yellow cake. Here’s the recipe.

Yellow Cake

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure after sifting)

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until thoroughly blended in. Combine the milk and vanilla extract. Using about 1/3 of the ingredients at a time, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture, blending each addition in before adding the next batch. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost with your favorite frosting. Makes one cake, 2 layers.