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Friday, January 9, 2009

Foodie Friday - Kids in the Kitchen

There are all kinds of different things that people do for stress relief or to relax. For some it's reading, which I don't really get. For others it's exercise, which I REALLY don't get. For me, it's cooking.

However, for me it ceases to be stress relieving and enjoyable when you throw a certain 7 year old and 3 year old into the mix.

Isn't that just like our kids? To want to be right in the middle of what we're trying to do. To take what we like to do to get away from them for a few minutes and immediately express interest and want to be involved.

Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I typically do more baking than I would normally. So, there were a lot of opportunities for the kidlets to plead beg whine ask to help me cook.

My typical response has several stages:

Ignore the request. Maybe they'll just forget.

Change the subject. "So, what did you do at school today?"

Throw them off with a topic that they don't know anything about. "So, what do you think of the most recent 'bailout' package?"

Try to talk them out of it. "You dont' want to cook. It's no fun. Wouldn't you rather go play with your toys?"

Finally I think about how they enjoy it, feel a sense of accomplishment in it and the fact that cooking is a legacy I want to leave them with after I'm gone. I, then, give in and regroup to include them in the process.

So that begs the question: How do you involve your children in cooking?

Here are a couple of ideas:

Counting. Involve them in counting... anything. Count the number of eggs, cups of sugar, or tablespoons of vanilla.

Pouring. Let them pour things into your mixing bowl. I am personally not willing to let them measure yet, mainly because I want it to taste good, but I definitely let them pour what I have measured.

Stirring. Not emotionally gripping, but actually stirring. Give my kids some eggs and a whisk and those eggs will be scrambled before you can say, "Hey, can you whisk those eggs for me?"

Timing. They set the timer on the oven like champs.

Other. Some recipes just lend themselves more to little hands helping. Monkey Bread is one of those recipes that has several tasks that kids can do on their own.

The recipe I have (given to me by my friend Valerie) uses 2 cans of canned biscuits cut into quarters. So I let each child help me with one can. Sarah is to an age that I could set her up with the biscuits and a pizza cutter and she did it all. With Nathan, I cut all the buscuits and he rolled them in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.


Monkey Bread

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 (7.5 ounce) cans of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut biscuit dough into quarters with scissors or pizza cutter. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Roll dough quarters into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar combination until completely covered placing into a greased 12 cup fluted tube pan (or bundt pan). Halfway through, drizzle 1/4 cup of the melted butter. Top with remaining biscuit quarters and drizzle the remaining butter on top. Top unbaked loaf with remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. Beat softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until well blended. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk, beating until desired consistency is reached.

After removing from the oven, let loaf stand 5 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Spoon glaze on top while loaf is still warm.


Almost invariably, when we are finished, I am not relaxed, and in fact, I'm usually a little frazzled. However, they enjoy it so much and have such ownership in having helped make whatever it was, that I know that involving them was the right decision.

So what about you? Do you involve your kids very much when you cook? Do you enjoy it?


Angie said...

Our kids do get to cook- most often only on special occassions though. It is stressful for sure, but one day they will know how to cook and I can sit back and watch (...and eat!) The girls also are old enough that they know how to help with the clean up too so that makes it easier. They love to wash dishes almost as much as they love to cook! (Our days are limited on that one :o)

Melissa said...

Donna, just recently discovered your blog via Big Mama and I'm loving what I've been reading here!

Had to comment because I do a lot of cooking and baking also. I've had my kids in the kitchen with me from the point they showed an interest. Is it stressful? Oh, yeah. Have they ever ruined the taste of something because they added a little too much or little of something? No way. My kids (10 and 6 now) have actually made a cake on their own with me only doing the oven part! My 6 year old son is an ace egg cracker and my daughter has even done a little cake decorating with me.

I guess what I'm saying is, go for it. You'd be surprised what they're actually capable of at an early age. And that confidence in them translates into confidence in themselves very quickly. Now if I could only get them to clean the kitchen as thoroughly as I'd like when the cooking is done!
Melissa K

Stacy said...

I bake with my kids. They love it. Even the littlest, 18 months, is getting involved now. But don't think I am wonder woman. I premeasure everything and put it into individual bowls that way they aren't getting bored while I measure out a cup and a half of this and a teaspoon of that. It goes quicker and keeps their attention because they are constantly pouring something in. I will admit clean up does take longer but I'm not so frazzled by all their monkey business while I measured things so it works out for me. My favorite part is watching them infront of the oven window watching what ever it is bake. And seeing their little faces light up when we eat it and I tell their Dad they helped make it. Such pride.

On a side note I love your blog name. Once while a friend and I were talking about making Chicken Noodle Soup I blurted something out about how I used an "actual chicken" instead of the canned broth that she used. Oops! I am sure my facial expressions had more to do with the look of pain she gave me when I said it. Sometimes things just fly out of my mouth. That's been my new prayer that I will "be slow to speak". Hopefully this will keep me out of trouble.