cooking with kids

Feeding the Animals

by Caroline

All of these posts are always about feeding animals, of course, but today I’m not writing about the one who complains about quesadillas again or about whom I wonder if he’ll ever eat a cooked vegetable again.

Today, I am writing about my favorite creature of habit, our hamster, Waffle, a sweet, fluffy little critter that has become a quiet and unobtrusive member of the family. She eats like a bird — literally, a mixture of nuts and seeds (although her habit of stuffing them, six or seven at a time into her furry, elastic cheeks is not very bird-like.) We augment with fresh vegetable scraps –apple peelings and the ends of carrots — and she holds them delicately between her paws and nibbles them, a tiny compost machine.

It never occurred to any of us to do more for her (and honestly, I might have shot down any requests for more elaborate hamster meals, given the energy it takes just to feed the other animals in the family) but then a friend gave the boys this:

And we were all so charmed, we did this:

Making one raw vegetable pizza and one parsley bouquet:

And Waffle took it all apart and ate it like this:

Project Baklava

by Caroline

Quick: name a Turkish food.

If you said falafel, go read my post about the falafel in Paris and then come back. We did eat falafel in Turkey occasionally, always part of a meze platter; we never saw it offered on its own in a sandwich.

We prepared for our trip to Turkey by eating at Turkish restaurants and cooking from a Turkish cookbook, including baking two different kinds of bread: simit and pide.

We did not prepare for Turkey by seeking out, making, or eating any baklava, because we figured it would be a) an easy sell for the kids and b) ubiquitous in Turkey.

So of course, somehow we didn’t eat any. And then when we came home, the kids complained. So we made it at home.

They continue to complain because we didn’t make the phyllo by hand, but until someone buys me a bigger kitchen and a pastry sheeter, I’ll continue to buy phyllo from the grocery store. Because with store-bought phyllo, making baklava is easy enough for the kids to do while I just hang out snapping pictures:

I read many different recipes for baklava, from Joy of Cooking to Gourmet to my Turkish cookbook, and it can get rather complicated if you let it, but really all you need is phyllo, melted butter, nuts, and simple syrup and/or honey. We made one with some rosewater for flavoring, which tasted too much like potpourri, and another with a little cinnamon and orange zest, which we liked much better. Explore recipes, play with ingredients, and chop, brush and layer your way to a tasty dessert.

Homemade Nutella or, Because it’s there

by Caroline

I guess I feel about recipes the way some people feel about mountains. It’s there in front of you, so why not give it a shot? There is really no pressing need to make nutella (you could push it and say there’s no pressing need to eat nutella, but I won’t go so far), but when you find a recipe that looks so easy, and promises a result so delicious, why not? Besides, it’s summer. And in summer, we say yes.

1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-11 minutes, or until fragrant. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skin; use your fingers as they cool and do the best you can — it won’t all come off. Let the nuts cool.

Grind the nuts in the food processor until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue blending until smooth and spreadable.

This keeps at room temperature for three days, apparently, or in the fridge for two months, but we wouldn’t know.


by Lisa

I had bought some old fashioned Valentines for the kids–you the kind, with tabs and wheels and adorable kids and kittens and doililes and flocking–but they both took one look at the book and balked. No way was Ella giving those out to the boys in her class. Finn felt pretty much the same.  And, so, over the last month, they painstakingly crafted their own valentines. Ella made 3 dozen felt fortune cookies and inserted “fortunes”  like, “If the unicorn you see tomorrow is wearing a hat, you’ll have bad luck” and “If you wear mismatched socks on Friday, you’ll make a new friend.”  She packed them in mini-takeout boxes.

Finn designed and drew a notecard…

& over the course of 2 days painstakingly cut out his notes with a pair of broken pinking shears…

Ella helped him decorate little red bags….

& I made 6 dozen marshmallows. Which is easy, unless you have a lousy hand mixer…in which case, it is a labor of love…

but they helped with the fun part…

&  set up an assembly line, &  packed bags and boxes with pink peppermint marshmallows & much affection…

and all manner of things…well, on this day, with this project…they were well.

Pink Peppermint Marshmallows

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
  3. Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.  Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F.
  4. With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add  peppermint and food coloring until desired color is achieved and blend, about 30 seconds longer.
  5. Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. Turn our on a large cutting board sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar
  6. Coat a pizza roller or sharp knife with nonstick spray and cut  marshmallows into desired shape.  Sift powdered sugar over marshmallows and toss to coat.

The Boys’ Granola

by Caroline

For years, I was unwavering in my granola routine. I started with the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast and while over the years I abandoned certain ingredients (the applesauce, the ginger) and eventually all measurements, the granola still remained essentially Nigella’s recipe and my daily breakfast.

But then there was that new granola I started to make, which renewed the boys’ interest in (and taste for) granola. Except Ben was picking out the pumpkin seeds and Eli was picking out the pistachios. So I invited them to make their own.

A lot of this granola-making exercise for kids is simply teaching them about the process: assembling the ingredients; learning how to open bags of nuts and seeds so they don’t explode all over the kitchen; remembering to finish measuring the dry ingredients before measuring the sticky liquid ingredients; getting comfortable with leaning a little ways into the hot oven to stir the pan of baking granola; cleaning up afterwards (the first time the boys did this, I had to leave the room while they cleaned because they are simultaneously so deliberate and ineffective).

But the more exciting part of this, clearly, is cooking something to their own tastes, and I love giving the boys that opportunity. Ben’s granola is a bit sweeter than I like, and Eli’s a little paler (he always eats a bowl unbaked). But they are making granola. We eat it every morning. The last time they made a batch (our third time in what they’ve now dubbed GranoLab) was the most pleasant half hour I’ve had in the kitchen with my children in a long time.

Ben has updated his recipe twice since I first drafted it here on the blog and continues to tinker with it every time, measuring carefully. Eli, like me, just eyeballs the ingredients. Either way, the method is the same: combine the dry ingredients, stir in the liquid ingredients, spread into a baking pan and bake at 325 for 20-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted brown to taste.

Ben’s Recipe

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sesame sends
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup pine nuts

Eli’s Granola

3 cups oats
a sprinkle of sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds

Brown sugar
Rice syrup
Vegetable oil