Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cooking with Kids

My Wee One loves to cook.  Well, let's rephrase this... she loves to cook with Momma.  She will often tell me, "I help you," then happily push a chair to the counter to take part.  However, when I ask her to help me she squeals with delight and enthusiastically runs to wash up and begin.

I too love having Wee One help but mealtime prep isn't always a kid-friendly time for help.  Be it hot ovens, flaming stove tops, or sharp knives, there are a number of safety hazards I must consider in order to protect my budding chef.

Here are my tips for cooking with kids:

  1. I often ask my girl what she would like to have for ____________  (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack).  I offer 2 - 3 options based on the ingredients we have on hand.  She is a more enthusiastic participant when she gets to choose and likes what we are preparing.
  2. I make sure we wash our hands together to stress the importance of food safety.  It is never to early to start!  This cute video teaches kids about proper hand washing techniques.
  3. We put on our super cool aprons to protect our clothes.  She LOVES her apron from Williams Sonoma.
  4. I try to introduce my kids to a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, grains and dairy products.  I also use REAL food, rather than engineered/convenience products, and talk about the growers who produced the food.  As an Agricultural Educator, I think of this as another opportunity to teach my kids about agriculture.
  5. I pull out all of the ingredients and utensils needed to prevent a lot of running around the kitchen.  This allows me to stay focused on my girl.  As she grows, I will have her read the recipe to me as I gather to further integrate her into the process.
  6. I keep the environment happy and light.  Will things get messy?  You bet!  Will we end up having to re-count or re-measure?  Yep!  Just laugh and make sure you schedule plenty of time so the rest of the family isn't waiting to be fed.  I also provide lots of feedback and positive conversation to prevent frustration and stress.
  7. I also use the time to teach and reinforce practical math, listening and processing skills.  Since my girl does not yet know how to read, I read the directions and then ask her what we need to do.  I also have her count as we add 1, 2, 3... of something.  She loves participating and I love teaching.
  8. All chopping with knives, bringing things in and out of the oven, and most stovetop cooking are done by me.  If something can be cut using a butter knife or plastic knife (ie. chopping strawberries), it is delegated.  As she grows in skill and confidence, she can begin to take on more of these responsibilities with adult supervision.
  9. I have Wee One help plate before we serve.  This way, she can take even more ownership over the meal AND sees the end result of her efforts.
  10. In our family, we make sure we praise Wee One's efforts while enjoying the dish.  Everyone takes turns thanking her for her delicious efforts.  She eats her meal with a smile, often cleaning the plate!

A particular favorite of my girl's is Breakfast for Dinner.  Mini German Pancakes with Fresh Berry Compote is always a hit and she can do virtually all of the prep!  We serve them with bacon to make Daddy happy.  Who am I kidding... we serve them with bacon to make EVERYONE happy!!

Mini German Pancakes with Fresh Berry Compote
1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Zest from one orange (1 tsp +/-)
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease two muffin tins well and set aside.

Using a blender, add the first 6 ingredients and blend until smooth.  Ask your little helper to man the machine and tell you when all of the flour has been incorporated.  Add butter a little at a time to temper eggs.

Evenly distribute batter to muffin tins (slightly less than half full).  Hint:  using an emptied and cleaned plastic catsup bottle to fill the tins, makes this job easy for little hands.  Bake for 15 minutes or until puffy and golden.  Remove from tins and serve pancakes while still warm.

Fresh Berry Compote
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
Juice from 1 orange
2 tbsp water
Sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries - a couple of tablespoons to 1/4 cup)
2 tbsp cornstarch

Add berries to saucepan with juice and a little water.  Turn on medium heat and cook until berries begin to burst.  Blend sugar and cornstarch together so no lumps remain.  Add to the pot and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to allow mixture to thicken a bit. Serve over Mini German Pancakes and top with fresh whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A Peppa Pig Birthday!

When the Wee One proudly announced she wanted a Peppa Pig birthday party, I was less than excited.  In fact, I tried to encourage her to choose a color-themed party since they are much easier to produce.  For as long as I can remember, I have considered character-themed parties to be tacky.  Who wants a plastic bag filled with little junk which breaks within moments of getting it home?  Don't get me wrong, I have seen some character parties done well but there are soo many which are hosted exclusively by the Wal-Mart party aisle or Oriental Trading Company.  They lack soul!  Additionally, I had no idea where we would purchase anything with Peppa's sweet picture since her merchandising is not currently sold in the US.

What was this Momma supposed to do?  Break the heart of her soon to be three year old?  Not on your life! With a little determination and the help of a Cricut, Google Images, and my talented family we set out to create a homespun Peppa Pig 3rd Birthday Party.

The invitation... 

(Hint:  Must be read with a British accent!)  I asked Wee One what Peppa would like for her to do at the party.  She said, "Umm.... eat chocolate cake and... jump in muddy puddles!"  An invitation was born.  I do not possess special design skills so I used Microsoft Word to create the invitation.  It worked... people showed up to the party!!

The decorations... 

I used the Cricut to cut out letters then mounted them to card stock.  I hung twine and attached each item with a wooden clothespin.  The addition of the precious characters added charm and delighted the Wee One as she did a lot of smiling and giggling.  It was also fun to introduce our extended family to this special family. 

Fun scenes from the show.  Everyone loves jumping up and down in muddy puddles!
 The all-important stars of the show!

The cupcake picks... George DID make an appearance!

The cake... (Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake of course!!)

As a family, we do not care for fondant so we knew we would be creating a frosted cake.  Additionally, we had just returned from a week at Bible Camp so designing an elaborate cake was out of the question (too tired).  I printed these images onto card stock from Google Images and mounted them onto sandwich picks with hot glue.  They are double sided.

And we just HAD to make cupcakes... (Orange swirl with buttercream)

Orange Swirl Cupcakes / Cake

Yellow Cake Mix (your favorite)
1 - 4oz box orange gelatin
1 tsp orange extract

Prepare cake mix according to package instructions.  I like to substitute milk for the water and butter for the oil.  I also add an extra egg if I am feeling saucy.  These substitutions create a richer, less "mass-produced" tasting cake.  Once mixed, reserve 1 cup of the batter in a bowl and add the rest to the cupcake papers.  (Works well as a bundt cake too!)

To the reserved batter, add the gelatin and extract.  Mix well.  Place a dollop of orange batter onto the plain batter of each cupcake and using a skewer, swirl in.  If you are preparing a bundt, place in four dollops on top of the plain batter and swirl using a butter knife.

Bake according to package directions.  Cool completely then frost!

The games...

Pin Peppa in the Puddle...
I printed Peppa onto card stock and cut her out, one for each player.  I added double stick tape to the back.  I added a "muddy puddle" to a sheet of blue poster paper and each participant took a turn.  As you can see, the kids did VERY well.  :-)

Feed Peppa Grandpa Pig's Tomatoes (toss game) --
We used a thick science project board and my sweet mother painted Peppa on the back side.  We cut out the mouth and used little red balls as the "tomatoes."  It was a HIT!  After two weeks, my daughter is still playing the game! 

The favors...

A Peppa Pig coloring book!  I found the images online and added them into a Word Document.  I then copied them, one per party guest and one for each child in her classroom.  Everyone also received a box of Crayola Crayons!

And chocolate coins!!!  I printed the tags onto card stock.  I got the cellophane bags at Target and the chocolate coins at Rite Aid.