Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Little About Valentine's Day...


When the kids are in the kitchen it's a great time to teach them multi-tasking... cleaning up while goodies are baking... and reading while a special dish is baking... and sharing a little history about the time of year and the holiday that you're celebrating with food.

And, so... Valentine's Day is coming up pretty quickly and I wanted to give you a little thumbnail sketch about Valentine's Day. Come back soon as I'll have some fun recipes for you and the kids...

A Little About Valentine's Day...

Long ago Valentine’s Day was called “Bird’s Wedding Day”. It was then believed that birds selected their mates and began breeding the second week of the second month or February 14th!

The celebration of Valentine’s Day began many years ago with the custom of the Feast of Lupercalia in ancient Rome. This Feast was a celebration of fertility and was celebrated on February 15th. One of the ancient customs of this festival was a love urn. On this special day in February, young maidens wrote love messages and placed them in the love urn. The young, unmarried men then drew the messages from the urn and courted the young girl whose message he received.

As the story of Saint Valentine goes, there was a man in ancient Rome named Valentine who was a physician practicing medicine out of his home. Valentine was a kind hearted man taking great interest and care in his patients prescribing medicines of herbs and roots.

At that time in history, religion was a very controversial issue with many being persecuted for their beliefs. However, Valentine was a very spiritual man with religion being a significant part of his life. In his medical practice, Valentine would often offer prayer for the health of his patients and loved ones.

As the story goes, there was a jailer for the Emperor of Rome who had a blind daughter. The jailer heard of Valentine’s healings and brought his blind daughter to him for treatment. Valentine examined the small girl and prescribed some ointment for her eyes. The jailer faithfully continued to bring his little girl to Valentine for treatment with no improvement.

One day Roman soldiers arrested Valentine, destroying all of his medicines. Admonishing him for his religious beliefs, Valentine was taken to jail. When the jailer learned of Valentine’s arrest he was distressed but could do nothing! Valentine knew he would be executed and requested a paper, pen and ink. Valentine wrote a note and handed it to the jailer requesting that the jailer deliver the handwritten note to his blind daughter. Valentine was martyred on February 14, 270 A.D.

The jailer’s spirit ached as he arrived home. He handed the little blind girl the note from Valentine with the handwritten message, “From your Valentine”. Upon opening the note, the little girl found a yellow crocus tucked inside—at that moment a miracle occurred and the little girl saw beautiful color for the first time in her life—her eyesight was restored!

February 14th was named Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 by Pope Gelasius I. In the sixteenth century the paper Valentine appeared with sentimental verses. By the late 1800’s delicate lace papers accompanied sentimental verses for Valentine’s Day. Today all types of Valentine cards are exchanged showing love and affection of February 14th.

May the true miracle of Saint Valentine’s Day bless you! 

As Spring brings the little crocus popping their heads through the snow, may it be a reminder of the little girl in ancient Rome and bring a new meaning to your spirit and your heart of Valentine’s Day—Will you be my Valentine?

Note:  This is an excerpt from one of the Little Books of Tea that I wrote... 18 Little Books... soon to all be on Amazon in ebook format. I'll let you know when all 18 Little Books of Tea are available for download... they are fun and quick reads with great recipes!

Happy cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Instant Strawberry Hearts for Valentine's Day!

A great snack for the kids to create almost by themselves... it's a Valentine Muffin!

You'll need:
English muffins of your choice
Cream cheese (plain or strawberry would be "berry cool")
BIG strawberries

Let's do it!

The adult helper can split the English muffin in half and the kids can place them in the toaster or the toaster oven. Let the muffins cool slightly to touch.

While the are cooling a bit, the kids can rinse their BIG strawberry and pat it dry with a paper towel. Then let them use a "child safe knife" and cut the strawberry in half forming a magical heart!

Spread cream cheese on the muffin and place the "heart berry" in the middle. For extra pizzzazzz of the day, you might have some small heart-shaped paper doilies in the pantry. A perfect way make this snack a true Valentine celebration by placing the doily on the plate (let the kids do it!)... and then placing the Valentine muffin on the doily.

Who said that special treats have to be difficult?
Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, February 10, 2014

Washington's Birthday Cherry Brownies

President's Day has become one of those "floating holidays" and we combine all of the past President celebrations on that day... however, I'm an old-fashioned girl and I still like to recognize Lincoln on his birthday and Washington on his birthday.

So, here's a a really easy way to make Washington's birthday special for the kids. While you're making these special Cherry Brownies, you might want to do a little research and give the kids some of the fun history of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Have fun with this and Happy Birthday, President Washington!

Washington's Birthday Cherry Brownies

1 package (21.5-ounce) brownie mix
1 cup cherry pie filling (canned)
1/4 cup oil (canola or your preference)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, dump in the brownie mix. Measure and add the oil. Break eggs in a separate small bowl or cup. Add eggs. Stir well. Add cherry pie filling and stir until blended into brownie mixture.

Note: Reserve some cherry pie filling to use as a topping on the brownie, if desired.

Use a 13" x 9" baking pan. Grease the bottom only. Note: If you prefer a spray oil that will work or have the kids put a small amount of oil or butter on a piece of waxed paper and let them rub it all over the bottom of the pan... this on is much more fun!

Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to over bake and dry out the brownies! Insert a toothpick to test.

While the brownies are till hot from the oven (yes, the adult helper needs to do this!)... sprinkle the top of the brownies with the chocolate chips. Spread them around and they will melt.

Top the brownies with fresh whipped cream, or... if you want it to be very special, serve the brownies warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and top with a small amount of the cherry pie filling. Stick a small American flag in the middle for a real George Washington birthday celebration!

Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, May 20, 2013

Get those little gardeners ready!


Are you ready to begin planting? You say, you don't have space for a garden... got a windowsill? Kids love this planting project... and love watching things sprout and grow. So let's get to it!


For our first spring gardening project we're going to do something that brings almost immediate gratification to the kids to "see something growing!"

We're going to sprout some sprouts of alfalfa seeds!


Here's what you'll need:
Alfalfa seeds
Clear glass quart jar
A square of cheesecloth that will cover the top of the jar
A strong rubber band that fits the top of the jar tightly

Make the first part of this project an after dinner deal and just before the kids go to bed... the alfalfa seeds need to soak overnight. Have the kids measure out about 3 tablespoons of seeds.

Put the seeds on a baking sheet and show the kids how to "sort seeds"... as you know, any time you cook beans, you need to pick out the less desirable ones... same with alfalfa seeds. Also, there just might be some dirt and small rocks mixed in. This is a great exercise for the kids in math... learning about "measurements"... and following directions and doing things the way they are supposed to be done... "sorting the seeds." And they will love it!

After the seed sorting is done, put the seeds in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Yes, the kids can do this!

Put the rinsed seeds in to the jar and add enough water to cover them. Tell the seeds "good night," letting them soak until the kids get up the next morning.

After breakfast, it's project time! Pour the seeds out of the jar back into the strainer and strain them. Then rinse well with cold water. Place the seeds back in the jar. Cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.

Turn the jar upside down and kinda shake the seeds around making sure they are pretty dry. If you leave too much water on the seeds, they might rot... however, I'm sure the kids will make sure they are well-drained!

Before bedtime, fill the jar with fresh water (you don't have to remove the cheesecloth) rinsing the seeds again. Turn the jar upside down draining the water off. Again, shake the seeds.

Repeat this procedure every day, morning and night for 4 or 5 days... the kids will magically see tiny green leaves and white shoots appear! They will be thrilled!

The sprouts will be ready to eat within 5 or 6 days... maybe sooner if you live in a warmer climate... where the sprouts are in your kitchen can have an effect on how quickly they grow as well.

So.... happy sprouting... come back soon and I'll have some "sprout recipes" that the kids can actually use what they have grown in a recipe and eat it! What fun!
Gleeful Gardening,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spring is time to play in the dirt...

I love playing in the dirt just as much as kids do... I love spending time in the garden... I've always been the happiest when my hands are in the dirt! I have garden gloves but they always seem to end up on the ground or the table on the porch :-)

Since Spring is here, let's make some "Dirt Cups" for a great Spring snack! The kids are gonna love it!

Here's the recipe:
2 cups milk
1 (4-serving size) instant chocolate pudding
1 (8-ounce) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (1-pound) package chocolate sandwich cookies
8 (9-ounce) plastic cups
Gummi worms and frogs to decorate

1. Crush the chocolate sandwich cookies & set aside
Note: The kids will love to do this if you put them in a zippy bag and give them a wooden mallet or a rolling pin!

2. Mix milk and pudding in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk until well blended. Let stand for 5 minutes. Yes, the kids can do ALL of this! Remember, you're their "assistant!"

3. Add whipped topping and half of the crushed cookies.

4. Place 1 Tablespoon of the cookie crush in the bottom of each plastic cup.

5. Fill cups about 3/4 full with pudding mixture.

6. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie crush mixture.
Note: Make sure the cookies are crushed to look like "dirt!"

7. Chill about an hour.

8. When ready to serve let the kids decorate with worms and frogs!

Don't be surprised if dirt cups become one of their favorite treats.
Getting Kids into the Kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let's Build an Easter Bunny Cake!

This cake has been a long time favorite for the Easter table centerpiece! 

The only thing that has changed seems to be instead of using a basic white cake mix, there are all kinds of cake mix choices out there... why not try a carrot cake (the bunny would like that!)... Anyway, I've made these directions pretty generic so you can let the kids get creative... so here we go...

This recipe makes two bunny cakes... here's what you'll need:

1 box of cake mix of your choice
2 cans frosting
Coconut
Jelly beans
Green food coloring (for grass)
Ingredients to make box cake
Pink construction paper (for the ears)

Let the kids do as much as possible on this... all but using the electric mixer :-)

Preheat the oven to the requirement on the box. Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions. Pour into 2 round 8-inch or 9-inch layer pans. Bake according to the package directions. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans and then allow to cool completely. 

While the cake layers are cooling either cover two pieces of cardboard with aluminum foil or find  2 flat plates to place the bunnies on. You can also go ahead and cut out the pink bunny ears from pink construction paper.

All righty... let's build bunnies! Here's your road map...

Cut one layer in half. Put halves together with frosting. Stand cake upright on cut edge. Using a sharp knife (adult helper here, please)... cut a V-notch about 1/2 of the way up the semi-circle. Use the cake notched cut out pieces to attach with toothpicks for the tail. The area below the notch will will form bunny's head. The 2/3 area above the notch will shape the bunny's rounded back. Frost with remaining frosting from first  can of frosting.

Generously sprinkle with white coconut... the kids love this part! Use jelly beans for eyes and nose (the nose has to be pink :-)! Place the pink construction paper ears in the bunny's head.

Place coconut in a jar with a drop or two of green food coloring and shake it up, baby! Voila... you've got grass to spread around the bunny! Add some jelly beans to look like eggs in the grass.

This old recipe seems always to please. The kids will be so tickled with their Easter Bunny creation! Isn't it just the best, getting kids into the kitchen?
May you and your family have a blessed Easter!
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shake it up GREEN!

Hey, all my little leprechauns... Being "green" is not as hard as it sounds and celebrating St. Patrick's Day is always fun! So let's celebrate the "wearing of the green" with Slurpee Shamrock Shakes!

This very easy one needs adult supervision for operating the blender... but let the kids dump the ingredients in and scoop the ice cream!
Don your aprons for the green "splatter factor"... or, you could be really wearing green!

Oh, and I suggest that you allow each child to make their own shake... it will only take a few more minutes.


Ingredients for one shake:

1 banana (not a green one, no pun intended)

2 cups milk

1/2 cup green mint ice cream.


Have the kids peel the bananas and break them up in pieces... dump them in the blender. Let the kids measure out the milk... good practice for them... and a little hint here... use a large, 4-cup clear measuring cup... it will help prevent spills and also teaching the kids to shoot for exact measurements. And, they can see what they're doing!


Now, let them scoop out the ice cream and smash it into a 1/2 cup measuring cup... yes, let them cheat just a tad with a bit extra... and plop the ice cream in the blender.
The adult helper is always in charge of the blender and can allow the kids to push buttons (your call on this one... but safety is always first)!

The shake only needs to be blended and it will take about a minute (depending on your blender)... you want it smooth and creamy. If the kids like thicker shakes then let them put in more than 1/2 cup of ice cream.
If you have any green sprinkles around... pour the shake into a glass and top with green sprinkles... it's magical... watch out for the leprechauns!

Happy Saint Paddy's Day and Happy Cooking!

Jan McCracken, Kids Culinary Chef

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lucky Leprechaun Cookies

These cookies are easy peasy and, of course, they're GREEN!

Here's what you'll need:
1 package instant pistachio pudding mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 cup Bisquick mix

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

And... let the kids do the rest! Mix all of the ingredients together and let them stir till their little heart's content :-) I've said it before... kids do love to stir things up!

Roll dough into 1-inch balls between those little hands! Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and and gently flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass or if the kids would rather make hash marks on the cookies, use a fork (dip it in ice water if the forks sticks to the cookies dough).

Bake about 8 minutes until just golden..,. maybe 10 minutes (depending on your oven).

Have a St. Patrick's Day Tea Party!
Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little St. Patrick's Day History...

What's all the fuss about St. Patrick anyway?

“Well he was not a leprechaun who drank green beer or had a blarney stone or a pot of gold,” explains historian William Federer, who wrote St. Patrick: The Real History of His Life, From Tragedy to Triumph. “He was actually a missionary and he converted 120,000 druids from paganism to Christianity.”

Who was St. Patrick really?

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

Patrick preached about Jesus Christ, spread Christianity across the British Isles, and spoke out against slavery. Some historians even call him the world’s first abolitionist!

I love a parade...

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army

And then there's the Chicago River...

Chicago is also famous for dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week!

Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only forty pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only several hours. Although Chicago historians claim their city 's idea for a river of green was original, some Savannah natives believe the idea originated in their town.

What about corned beef and cabbage?

About 41.5 billion pounds and 2.6 billion pounds of U.S. beef and cabbage, respectively, were sold in 2007. Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick's Day dish. The corned beef celebrants eat on St. Patrick's Day may very well have originated in Texas, which produced 6.8 billion pounds worth of beef, while the cabbage most likely came from California, which produced 581 million pounds worth, or New York (580 million pounds).

And, a little Irish Soda Bread for ye?

Irish Soda Bread gets its name and distinctive character from the use of baking soda instead of yeast as the leavening agent.

How 'bout those Shamrocks!

There are 4 places in the United States named Shamrock, the floral emblem of Ireland. Mount Gay-Shamrock, W.Va., and Shamrock, TX, were the most populous, with 2,623 and 1,841 residents, respectively. Shamrock Lakes, Ind., had 162 residents and Shamrock, OK, 125.

Emerald Isle, North Carolina?

Yep! Who wudda thunk right here in the good ol' USA is Emerald Isle, NC, with 3,686 residents!

Irish Americans

A total of 4.8 million immigrants from Ireland have been admitted to the U.S. for lawful permanent residence since fiscal year 1820, the earliest year for which official immigration records exist. By fiscal year 1870, about half of these immigrants were admitted for lawful permanent residence. Only Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Mexico have had more immigrants admitted for permanent residence to the United States than Ireland.

Wearing of the Green Goes Global

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

Patrick's mission in Ireland is said to have lasted for thirty years. It is believe he died in the 5th century on March 17, which is the day St. Patrick's Day is commemorated each year.

The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in America in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first official St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades.

Have a great St. Patrick's Day and give the kids just a little history of the "green day" while you're stirring up something special and green in the kitchen today!

Getting Kids into the Kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Friday, February 8, 2013

How do you say Happy New Year in Chinese?

The kids will have fun learning a little Mandarin Chinese and 
greeting  their friends and family with Happy New Year...

 Here's how to say it in Mandarin Chinese 
which literally means, 
"Congratulations, may you be prosperous."
"Xin [sing] Nian [nee-an] Kuai [kwai] Le [ler]"

The Cantonese, "Gong Hey Fat Choy" is the most popular and probably the easiest for the kids! 
Even though the pronunciations are a little different, both are written the same way 
in Chinese characters.

Here's the Chinese Symbol for Happy Chinese New Year: 
 (恭禧發財)
Please keep in mind that there are more than 150 dialects in China so there are many different greetings that mean the same thing. When I was in China, people in Northern China didn't understand people from other provinces in China! 

The kids might also have a lot of fun trying to draw the Chinese characters for "Happy Chinese New Year"... just do a search online and print out the characters. If you have a light box, it's really fun for them to trace them and then go over the characters with a colored marker! All great learning experiences as we teach our kids to take a glimpse into other cultures and learn what little friends around the world are celebrating.

May you all have a happy and prosperous Year of the Snake 2013!
Gong Hey Fat Choy!
Jan McCracken, Kids Culinary Coach

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chinese Noodle Cookies...


These are sooooo easy and the kids will love them.

Celebration of looking forward to a year of prosperity, food is very important on Chinese New Year... these are drop cookies but because of the Chinese noodles, they resemble "nests." The Chinese prepare some foods in the resemblance of nests as a sign of prosperity for the New Year! Be sure to talk about these fun little bits of history when you're baking the cookies... the kids will love hearing about new things!

Here's what you'll need for the cookies (please substitute the "chips" for your favorite whether it be white chocolate, milk chocolate... whatever the kids choose):

1 (12-ounce) bag butterscotch chips
1 (5-ounce) can chow mein noodles
1/2 can dry roasted peanuts
2 cookie sheets
Waxed paper

Line both cookie sheets with wax paper; set aside.

Melt the butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl until smooth or in a bowl on top of a simmering pot of water. Fold in the chow mein noodles to coat completely.

Gather scant tablespoons of the mixture and drop onto the prepared sheet pans. Refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes.

Have fun cooking for Chinese New Year with the kids!
Jan McCracken, Kids Culinary Coach

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Auspicious Fortune Cookies!


Fun for celebrating Chinese New Year! 

Fortune cookies are fun to make and a sure way to get the creative juices running in the kids as well as some good laughs making memories in the kitchen.

Chinese New Year is all about “good fortune” for the coming year so what better way to celebrate than to make your own fortune cookies!



Here’s a recipe that will make 12 fortune cookies:
1 egg white
Tiny amount of vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar 

Have the kids write their fortunes on strips of white paper (pieces about 4 inches x 1/2- inch).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside.

Adult helper, please beat the egg white and vanilla until foamy but not stiff with an electric mixer. Have the kids do the measuring and left them sift the flour, salt, and sugar and fold gently. Then they can fold the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Kids love learning the "folding" skill!

Place a teaspoonful of the batter onto one of the prepared cookie sheets, and tilt the sheet to encourage the batter to form into a nice round shape about 3 inches in diameter. Repeat, leaving at least 2 inches between the cookies, and sticking to no more than 2 or 3 per sheet as you will need to work with them quickly while they are hot. DO NOT let the kids work with the hot cookies!

Put the first sheet into the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, watching carefully, until the cookie has turned a golden color around the outer edge of the circle (the center should remain pale.

Note:  Have the kids sit on the floor and watch the cookies closely as they can easily burn on the edges! They will love it! 

Remove cookies from the  oven and very quickly lift one of the cookies with a spatula and turn upside down onto a wooden board. Adult needed here, please! 

Place the fortune in the middle of the cookie and fold the cookie in half. Place the folded edge across the rim of a cup or glass and pull the pointed edges down, one on the inside of the cup and one on the outside. Stand the folded cookies in the cups of a muffin tin or egg carton until they cool so that they hold their shape. 

Be sure to mix the cookies up for the kids to make their choices. If you want more cookies, just double the ingredients!

May your Year of the Snake be blessed and propserous,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Celebrating Chinese New Year can be a blast for kids as well as a grand learning experience!

They can learn the appreciation of  Chinese history as well as a lot about the culture while having a great time. Chinese New Year is sometimes called Spring Festival and is the most important of all holidays in China. There are special foods that are eaten during Chinese New Year and I'll be back with some recipes for you and the kids to prepare for your celebration!

It would be fun for you to do a search for Chinese animals for the kids to look up their year of birth and match it with their Chinese animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This is not like fortunetelling and can be a fun-filled research exercise for the kids as they learn about ancient Chinese history.  

The zodiac sign of the Snake symbolizes traits such as gracefulness, intuition, introspection, materialism and intelligence. 


Chinese New Year welcomes the Lunar New Year this year on February 10th. The dates of Chinese New Year change every year. The Snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac which consists of 12 Animal signs.  

Happy Chinese New Year!
Come back in the next few days for some fun recipes for celebrating and head to the kitchen with the kids!
Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Slushies!

Kids adore fancy glasses and if you pop one of those little umbrellas in "anything" they are thrilled... add a garnish of a slice of fresh pineapple or a strawberry on the side of the glass and... wow... they feel very grown up!

So let's make New Year's Eve special and get the kids back in the kitchen. Here's what you'll need for a tasty and fun slushie..

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 pint pineapple juice
3 ripe bananas 
Ginger ale
Little paper party umbrellas
Fresh strawberries or fresh pineapple for garnish (or a skinny orange slice)

Combine ingredients in a pitcher. Freeze until mixture is slushy, stirring with a wooden spoon. 

Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons (or more) into a party glass and add ginger ale... bubbles are fun for New Year's no matter your age!

Add some fun New Year's hats and noisemakers (from the $ store) and you have celebrating kids!
2013 Blessings and Happy, Happy New Year,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ho Ho Ho... Reindeer Cookies!

Something easy for the kids to do on Christmas Eve!

Do these look like a ton of fun or what? The kids are gonna love 'em! Let's put these reindeer together... 'Tis the season to get kids cooking!

1 (18-ounce) refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough (you can use sugar cookie dough if you'd rather... the peanut butter just makes them "look more" like reindeer)
38 small pretzel twists
48 brown M&M's
24 red M&M's

Put the cookie dough in the freezer for about 15 minutes before calling the kids into the kitchen (just so the dough is good and firm).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chilled cookie dough on a piece of waxed paper and the adult helper needs to cut the roll into 24 slices. Place the slices on a large ungreased cookie sheet.

Now for the fun... let the kids "pinch" the cheeks of each reindeer making an indentation on each side that makes a reindeer face! Carefully place 2 pretzels at the top of each slice to form the reindeer antlers. Create the eyes and red nose (it must be Rudolph!) with the M&M's. The kids will love this part!

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until just golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.
P.S. Santa might enjoy a couple of these :-)

Merry, Merry!
Happy Christmas Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fudge-Filled Cookie Cutters!

All righty... these are so much fun to make and easy, peasy! More great gifts that the kids will be so tickled to give with a big grin and "look what I made!" 

You can pull out your own favorites fudge recipe but I've got a "Peppermint Fudge" recipe here for you that looks soooooo festive and tastes yummy... Does this sound like Christmas or what? Just imagine "this fudge" in the cookie cutters at the top of the post... pretty cool, huh? Let's get started... first of all buy Christmas cookie cutters... they are on sale every where right now. You can even find some large copper ones at some of the dollar stores. Or, you can buy a couple dozen of different shapes and sizes too! And the plastic red and green ones look great too! So many choices :-)...
Here we go...
2 (10-ounce) packages vanilla baking chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (add more if you want it more minty!)
1 1/2 cups crushed candy canes
Just a quick dash of red food coloring
Let the kids... Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the inside of the cookie cutters with non-stick cooking spray. Line the cookie cutters up on the parchment paper and set aside. 

Let the kids do the measuring and crushing of the candy canes (they love doing this)! Combine the vanilla chips and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan. We need the adult helper to cook over medium heat. Stir frequently until almost melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. When chips are completely melted, stir in the peppermint extract, food coloring, and crushed candy canes. 

Remove from heat and pour into the cookie cutters and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now the kids can place the cookie cutters in plain or decorative Christmas cellophane bags and tie at the bottom.

If you use clear cello bags, let the kids decorate them with Christmas stickers... again, I encourage you to let the kids use their imagination and creativity... ALWAYS!
Merry, Merry!
'Tis the Season to Get Kids Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Christmas Dough Ornaments...

Most of the kids will be out of school as of Friday and goodness knows there's probably still lots to do! If you want something to keep those little hands busy this weekend, let them make dough ornaments in all shapes and sizes!

Even though the tree has more than likely been up and decorated for weeks, the kids will love making these Christmas treasures. They can be personalized and even used as "special" gift tags for Christmas gifts. You think Grandma and Aunt Mary wouldn't love one too? And, with the New Year coming they can make some with a New Year theme... they can be hung like suncatchers in their bedroom windows, given to little friends with a few cookies in a little bag for a "Happy New Year" wish... maybe a new tradition will be created.

These easy little ornaments bring out the creativity in everyone and add to the whimsy of celebrating this blessed season. 

Another great idea is to hot glue a silver safety pin to the back (with assistance from the adult helper)  for a little gift. All, adding that very special "it's homemade" touch!

Let's get started...

Here's the easy recipe:
1 cup salt
1 cup water
2 cups flour
Christmas cookie cutters (plus trains, teddy bears, New Year's, Christmas Story... anything in the "favorite" department)!
Pins for back
Hot glue gun

Suggestions for decorating: Glitter of all kinds (kids love glitter); puff paints; 3-D paint; acrylic paints; silver and gold stars... check your craft bins!
Note: Have the kids write their names and the date on the back of each creation!

Mix all ingredients together. Consistency will be pretty stiff. Add extra flour or water if needed. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut and shape ornaments. Lift onto a cookie sheet with a cookie spatula.
Straightened paper clips work great for poking eyes or adding details. Either take a toothpick and make a hole in the top of the ornament before baking so a red ribbon can be strung through or insert a small loop of flexible wire into the top before baking. Ribbons are great for attaching to Christmas gifts!

Bake at 325 degrees for several hours or until hard. Cool on wire racks.

Paint with acrylic paints. When dry, spray with an acrylic sealer or melt paraffin in a double boiler and dip the ornament in it.

These are great fun... let the kids use their imagination and roll candy canes or add special touches to their Christmas creations. This will keep them busy for a couple of hours while you get some "other stuff" done!

Merry, Merry!
'Tis the Season to get kids cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Surprise Snowballs!

The kids are gonna love these... 

They are so much fun to make and really fun for the kids to share with their friends... 

Have them offer a Snowball cookie to their friends when they can watch the friend... wait for it... bite into it... Surprise!

Let's get started!

Here's the ingredient list:
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugr
2 cups white flour
6-ounce bag of chocolate kisses
2 candy canes, crushed
Powdered sugar for dusting

Yield:  24 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar with mixer until smooth (adult helper needed here, please... do not leave children alone with an electric mixer!). Slowly add flour, mixing well.

Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling have the little elves remove the foil from the chocolate kisses (24 of them). Also, place the candy canes in a zippy plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin... the kids really like this part!

Remove dough from the fridge and roll into 1-inch round balls... an easy way to do this is rolling the dough in palms of hands. The kids love getting their hands into it! The balls don't have to be perfect at this point.

Insert a chocolate kiss into the center of each ball making sure it is completely covered by the dough. If necessary, do another quick roll between palms.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes (be careful not to get too brown or burn!)
Note: I almost always us parchment paper... it is definitely cookie baking BFF!

Put down waxed paper under a cooling rack to catch excess powdered sugar and candy cane sprinkles. Either sift powered sugar over the top of cookies or roll cookies in the powdered sugar. Sprinkle the tops with the crushed candy cane peppermint. Gently have the kids push the cane cane sprinkles with their little thumbs into the cookies so it doesn't fall off!

These are great little gifts. The dollar store sometimes has clear little plastic boxes that would hold maybe 6 cookies... tie with a bright red Christmas bow and attach a candy cane!

Are we having fun yet? Merry, Merry!
'Tis the Season for Getting Kids Into the Kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach