cooking with kids

‘Tis the season… Pumpkin Bread

by Caroline

This time of year, I start baking even more than usual  and Eli doesn’t want to eat anything but another quick bread, be it apple, pear, banana or pumpkin. So I get him to bake with me, which he is happy to do, wielding his whisk with great care. I also try to adjust the recipes a bit to make them more nutritious; he thinks he can live on bread alone, and with this and some milk or yogurt on the side… Well, I still want him to eat green vegetables. But this is pretty good.

I started with a recipe from Gourmet magazine which hasn’t turned up on line yet; I cut the sugar, replaced the white flour with whole wheat, and replaced some of the oil with ground flaxseed. It’s light and delicious.

2 c whole wheat flour

6 T ground flax

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground allspice

1/4 t ground cloves

1/4 t ground ginger

1/4 t salt

2 large eggs

1/3 c water or milk

1 c brown sugar

1 c pumpkin puree

3 oz vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 c chopped toasted walnuts (optional; I leave them out because the kids don’t like them)

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 9 x 5 inch baking pan with parchment.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, then whisk together the remaining ingredients in a second bowl. Add the wet to the dry and whisk until blended and smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Baked goods with flax in them tend to brown pretty quickly, so if your bread is getting  dark and the loaf isn’t cooked through yet, just cover it lightly with foil and continue baking.

You Say Griddle-, I Say Pan-…

By Lisa

My offer was innocent enough, and both kids leapt at it, but there was a semantic conflict that nearly brought down the house.

“I want pancakes,” Finn shouted.

“I want griddle cakes,” Ella countered.

“No,” he protested. “Pan. Cakes.”

“They’re Griddle Cakes,” she insisted.

“I. Want. Pancakes.” Finn stomped.

“Finn! They are the same thing!. They are GRIDDLE CAKES!”


At which point I held up the griddle, and Ella said, “Finn, pancakes are griddle cakes.”

He looked at the familiar evidence: the yellow melamine mixing bowl, the whisk, the griddle on the stove, and the tears stopped. He laughed.  “Oh! Not I know that pancakes are griddle cakes.”

I grew up eating pacakes on Sunday mornings, which my father made from Bisquick, and which I don’t buy.  I have tried recipe after recipe, mix after mix and never quite found the perfect formula until Ella brought home from the library the excellent Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts, a nonfiction story about how Fannie Farmer got her start.

The recipe is a dream:  simple, straightforward, failproof, and it makes the perfect pancake.  The griddle cakes, as we now call them, because that’s what Fanny called them are not to thin, not too thick, easy to cook, easy to eat. WIth Grade B Maple Syrup, you may well rediscover the family breakfast table.  While I do keep a box of mix on hand for emergency dinners, it gets used maybe once a year.

In the book, Fanny teaches her young charge how to cook many things, including griddle cakes, so of course Ella, now 6,  has taken this lesson to heart, and so has Finn, age almost-4.

We had few extra frozen blueberries stashed, which we sprinkled on her griddle cakes, and Ella remembered  to watch the griddle cakes until they were bubbling and dry around the edges, and then she carefully slid the spatula under the disc and… flip! the perfect pancake.

She stood on a step stool, and I was close by, talking her through the steps, what was to safe to touch, what not. She does have basic knife & kitchen safety skills, so I felt relatively okay about the safety aspect of the experiment.  I was less okay about what would happen if the pan–I mean griddle cake collapsed in a gooey mess. But the recipe is, as I said, a dream.

But then Finn wanted a turn.

I took a deep breath. I said okay.  I tried to help him, but he is stubborn.  I showed him how to flip the pancake a few times, hand over hand. Then I showed him what was very, very hot.  Then I stepped back.  He, too, has been in the kitchen a lot with me.   Kory stood just behind him.

And just to prove that you, too, can make the perfect pancake, my not-quite-4-year old really did flip his own griddle-pancakes.

Of course, the real cooking was nearly as big a hit as the eating, and soon Ella was clamoring:

“It’s my flipping turn!”

And so, for your eating and flipping pleasure:

Fannie Farmer’s Griddle Cakes

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Sift together all dry ingredients into a large bowl. This is an essential step. We just use a sieve, and work over the sink for easy clean up.

2. In a glass measuring cup beat the egg.

3. Add milk to the egg.

3. Pour egg and milk mixture slowly over dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate.

4. Add butter.

4. Cook batter on a hot griddle. Don’t turn the griddle cakes too soon! Wait until they are bubbling all over the center and a little dry around the edges.

Lemonade for Change

By Lisa

Ella is much more a child of Silicon Valley than either Kory or I.

As soon as the weather turns warm, she begs for a lemonade stand.

She’d be outside three days a week if someone would sit with her, and while she’s constantly got a plan to buy a Barbie Peek-a-boo or some such Pony-&-Rainbow-pink-bespangled-toy, mostly she saves her money.  She has, however, also had Lemonade Stands For The Greater Good and raised Lemonade Money for Sea Turtles. This has resulted in all sorts of good things like literature and calendars and personal letters addressed to her about the turtles and what She Can Do To Help Turtles and thus the earth. This has meant an ongoing campaign in our house for fewer plastic bags, etc.  It really has helped her global awareness in a local sort of way.  She can go in our back yard, pick lemons, make lemonade, sell lemonade to her neighbors, send the money to the Nature Conservancy, get a really nice letter back, and feel like she’s really made a difference to a turtle or two. It does help that she’s seen one or two in Hawaii. The lesson here is that as far as activism goes, here at least, I am sure that Maria Montessori was right.

So, it was quite natural, I tell you, for Ella to want to sell Lemonade for Obama.

We bought red and blue cups, napkins, and a tablecloth, a blue star balloon.  We had lemonade and cookies for the kids and my homemade limoncello for “major donors” (which was everone).  Ella and Finn spent Thursday night making signs. I sent out word through Facebook and email, we set up shop in our carport. You can read about the recipe below, over which Ella has always had complete control, and the full cost of the even on my personal site.

I had suggested, in the expediency of time, that we use frozen lemonade, but Ella demurred, “That WON’T be as special,” she said.  That point certainly was not up for debate.

Ella’s Lemonade

1. Fresh squeezed lemons :

We juice a lot at once, and freeze the extra in ice cube trays, so we can make the lemonade quickly from the cubes whenever we like.

2. Simple Syrup

Boil 2 parts sugar & 1 part water until the sugar dissolves, we make a lot and store it in the refrigerator so we always have some on hand.  You can use it to make all manner of cocktails as well as lemonade.

3. Distilled Water

This can be from your refrigerator, your tap, bottles..whatever you like.


In a large pitcher mix approximately 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts water, 1 part syrup to taste.  If I make it, Ella will always correct me to make it perfect.  The trick is to have the cool simple syrup on hand. You can add some bubbly water for fizz if you like.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

posted by Caroline

If you settle Eli for a nap, he’ll want to read a book first.

So you’ll bring out one of his best-loved books.

When you’re finished reading the book, he’ll want another.

And another.

When you say they’re all gone, he’ll ask you for a sip of water before sleeping.

So you refill his water bottle and he has a long drink.

Having a long drink makes him realize he needs to pee, so you walk him to the bathroom.

When he’s in the bathroom, he’ll see his bathtub Titanic, which will remind him of the lake he dug in the sandbox at preschool this morning.

So you talk all about preschool, where his friend made sand-cinnamon muffins. “Speaking of muffins,” he says, “I want to make muffins!”

So you offer to make some, but only after he naps.

So he settles into bed thinking about muffins, and wakes up ninety minutes later saying “Muffins! Let’s make some!”

So you get out the ingredients, and your muffin tins, and less than an hour later you eat muffins topped with your friend’s homemade strawberry jam. Yum.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven to 400; line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups (this is an excellent job for a preschool helper)

Whisk together in a large bowl (the larger the bowl, the less chance your helper will scatter flour on your floor):
2 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
½ t salt
1 t cinnamon
6 T flax seed meal

Whisk together in another large bowl (again, the larger the bowl the better for your  young helper):
2 large eggs
1 c milk
2/3 c brown sugar
6 T melted butter or vegetable oil
1 t vanilla

Add to the flour mixture and stir together lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Perhaps take the spoon out of your helper’s hand now so that the batter doesn’t get overmixed. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one or two muffins comes out clean, 12-15 minutes.

Take the muffins out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool. While they’re cooling a bit, put 1 T of butter in a heatproof dish, and let it melt in your cooling oven. By the time the butter’s melted, the muffins will be cool enough for your helper to brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Eat with jam, or not.