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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Window Pane Christmas Cookies...

{Photo Source:  Kraft}
The kids will literally sit on the floor with the oven light on and watch these cookies bake as the candies melt. Let the magic begin as dough is transformed into cookies with colored window panes! The kids are gonna love it!

Here's the ingredient list:
18 red and green clear hard candies
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
Sifted powdered sugar 

Cookie cutters of the kids' choice Note: You'll need a large cookie cutter and a matching smaller cookie cutter for some cool Christmas trees, bells, stars... let them use their imagination.

Line cookies sheets with foil and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Have the kids put the red and green candies in separate small "heavy" plastic zippy bags. Crush candies, leaving them coarse. Place each color in a small bowl.

Now let's mix up the cookie dough...

Let the kids measure the ingredients using several measuring cups (just like on the cooking shows)! And, please stop the mixer and let them dump ingredients into the mixing bowl. DO NOT keep the mixer running while those little fingers are near, please. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds (an adult helper is needed here, please). Add granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat mixture until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally (if the kids want to scrape, please stop the mixer). 

Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in fourths. 

Now the kids can jump in... the kids will love trying to roll out the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll a portion of the dough 1/4-inch thick. Using 2-1/2- to 3-inch cutters in desired shape, cut out dough. Place cutouts about 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Using smaller, 1/2- to 3/4-inch hors  cutters, cut out two, three, or four shapes from each larger cutout. Note:  The key here is to not let the kids cut out too many shapes so the dough won't hold together... I know, details!

Fill cutout openings with crushed candy. Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (have the kids watch carefully so they don't burn). Cool completely on foil. When completely cool to the touch carefully peel foil away from cookies. 

The kids will like this part... using a small brush, dust the edges of cooled cookies with powdered sugar. Makes about 4 dozen. These make great gifts and the kids will be SO proud of them!
Merry, Merry!

'Tis the Season for Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Cookie Pizza!

{Photo Source:  Cooking Channel}
This Christmas Cookie Pizza is  quick, fun and festive! Merry, Merry! 

Note:  The photo is not an "exact" of this recipe... just a visual to get you going :-)

Warning:  Do not serve this right before bedtime :-) This is a very special treat and loaded with sugar but, hey.... 'Tis the season for "Cooking with Kids!" This one will bring rave reviews and wide eyes from the little chefs in the kitchen.

If sugar is allowed at the school Christmas party, this is another kid's culinary delight that will bring... yup, I made it with a bit of a swelling chest and a smile. On a serious note, you'll begin seeing that when your kids cook, their self-image and self-confidence builds... we'll get "serious" after the holidays... Let's get to the kitchen and create!

Here we go... you'll need two ungreased 12-inch pizza pans. You can buy the disposable ones if you don't have them in your pantry (ALWAYS check the $ store first)!

1 (18-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
Please note: You can substitute chocolate chip or your choice of cookie dough
2 cups (12-ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated milk!)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups red and green M&M's

Optional: Hot Fudge Topping

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

The kids will have a blast pressing out the dough onto the pizza pans!

Bake from 10 minutes or until just a light golden brown (will depend on your oven). Remove from oven and set aside.

Have the kids measure the remaining ingredients and dump it into a medium-sized saucepan. The adult helper will melt the chips with the condensed milk, stirring constantly. When melted, pour over the baked cookie pizza crusts.

Have the kids sprinkle the mini-marshmallows and the M&M's evenly over the crust.

Return to oven and bake 3 or 4 more minutes until the marshmallows puff up and are just lightly toasted (watch the marshmallows closely as you know, they just keep cooking when you take them out of the oven). If you need more sugar, heat some hot fudge topping in the microwave and drizzle over the pizza at serving time... and, a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream melting over all would make it the biggest "sugar delight" allowed for a very long time :-) !

Let cool and cut into "pizza wedges" for serving. Tah Dah... 'Tis the Season to get Kids Cooking!
Happy Holiday Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Santa Tip... 'Tis the Season to Get Kids Cooking!

Santa Tip!
Let the kids do as much as possible! Baking and Christmas cooking is "hands-on fun!" The adult helper needs to be at the helm with anything electric... like the mixer... however, let the kids measure everything out and dump it in the mixing bowl. Stop the mixer and scrap the sides... this is a good time to taste the dough... one of my favorite things!

Even the youngest kids can help stir up batter and do a bit of measuring and they will be thrilled!

Some kids are great "egg breakers" and after they've broken the eggs in a small bowl, do the old-fashioned thing of handing them a salad fork and whipping them up a bit... .is it really necessary to the recipe? Maybe not... but it sure makes them feel important and a real part of the process... and that's what counts!

This is a great time to be able to show kids the "right way" in the kitchen... you'll find them SO eager to learn. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect!

Let them stir and roll out dough, shape and press dough flat with a glass or a fork... bring out the cookie cutters... and then the frosting and decorating is the icing on the cake (pun intended)!

'Tis the season to get kids cooking! Merry, Merry!
Happy Holiday Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Very Merry Red Velvet Whoopie Pies!

Red velvet cake is one of my long time favorites. I have made them from scratch for years! But there's been an amazing addition to boxed cakes... Yep, there is now red velvet cake mix and it's delish and very moist! 

And... Whoopie Pies are one of the hottest new things for a sweet tooth! Here's, quick, easy, festive and yummy.

All you need is a whoopie pie pan... Hint:  Use your 40% off or 50% off coupon at Michael's and get a great Wilton whoopie pan that you'll use over and over!

Pick up a Red Velvet cake mix (I know Wally World carries them)... you'll need oil and eggs to make the batter. And get some peppermint ice cream and some candy canes for garnish. 

Follow the directions on the cake mix... please let the kids get out all the "stuff" and do the measuring and dumping of ingredients. And the adult helper should operate the electric mixer as in ALWAYS!

Bake as directed in the whoopie pan at the correct oven temperature. Do not over bake! Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack.

While the whoopie pies are cooling, place 3 or 4 candy canes and place them in a heavy duty zippy bag. Let the kids pound them with a small rolling pin or rubber mallet (they really love this part)!

Let ice cream sit on counter for at least 5 minutes to begin to soften so it will spread easily. Spread ice cream on one side of a whoopie pie and then top with the second one. Put crushed candy canes on waxed paper and roll the whoopie pies in the crushed candy cane peppermint on the ice cream for a very festive touch!

Either wrap in waxed paper or put in individual zippy bags until the kids devour them! Enjoy!
Merry, Merry!
Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Finger Painted Christmas Wreath Cookies!

 {Photo Source: Betty Crocker}
Finger paint with frosting... it doesn't get much more fun than this!

If you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe and want to go to the trouble of preparing it, then please do... If not, use a roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough.

Make sure the cookie dough is very firm... pop it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before beginning to work with it. Be sure to check as you don't want it frozen just really cold!

Place dough on waxed paper and slice in rounds. Use a small cookie cutter (actually a bottle top will do) and cut out the middle of the wreath. Have the kids cut this center of dough in half with a plastic knife and place the 2 halves at the bottom of each wreath. Shape the halves slightly forming what will look like a bow on the wreath.

Bake according to your own recipe or according to directions on the cookie dough package. Don't overbake.... let the cookies get golden and just begin to brown!

Remove immediately from the cookie sheet to a wire rack for cooling (If you leave them on the cookie sheet, they will continue to brown). Cool for about 30 minutes until completely cool. 

While the cookies are cooling, stir up the "finger-paint icing." 

Here's what you'll need:
1 tub of Vanilla (white, white) Rich and Creamy frosting
1/4 teaspoon green food coloring
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
1/4 cup red hots

Reserve 1/2 cup of the frosting (just white) in a small microwavable bowl and set aside. Let the kids spread the remaining white frosting on the cookies.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the reserved frosting into another small microwavable bowl. Microwave each bowl of frosting uncovered on High for only about 5 seconds until just warm. Stir until frosting can be poured. Stir in the green food coloring into one bowl and the red into the other bowl.

Now for the fun! Let the kids use their fingers to create the wreaths by dipping one finger into the warm freen froting and lightly pressing onto the wreath part of the cookie. They can slightly swirl it so it looks like the greenery on a wreath.

Note: The color will appear watercolor-like and a bit transparent.

Create a red bow by dipping another fingertip into the warm red frosting and lightly coating the bow part of the wreath cookies. 

Note: A "light touch" is the secret to making these cookies really special!

If the frosting gets too stiff in working with it, simply pop it back into the microwave and re-heat. 

Press at least 4 red hots onto the wreath to look like red berries on the wreath.

The kids will love these and they taste great too! 
Merry, Merry! 
'Tis the Season to Get Kids Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gingerbread Garlands from the Kitchen!

The kids are gonna love making these gingerbread friends! And they can hang them on the Christmas tree, on the mantel or even the staircase. Let them use their creativity and imagination to create gingerbread friends that all look alike or let each one take on their own personality...

The secret to making this garland is a simple plastic straw! Just make a small hole in each of the gingerbread hands before baking. After the cookies have completely cooled and the kids have decorated them, let the icing dry at room temperature. Use narrow, red satin ribbon to space the cookies as far apart as you wish... Just run the ribbon through the holes in their hands then knot the ribbon so they will stay in place and trim the ends with scissors... Voila... a gingerbread garland!

So let's get baking! We're off to the kitchen!

We're going to use the mixer on this little project so the adult helper will need to assist! Oh, and by the way, if the kids would rather make snowmen or Christmas trees, just use another cookie cutter!

Here's the ingredient list:
1/2 cup shortening (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

You'll need:
Large mixing bowl
Mixer on stand
1 1/2-inch cookie cutters
Cookie sheet
Wire cooling rack
Prepared icing in tubes
Candies for decoration (optional)

Let the kids put the shortening in the mixing bowl and get their little noses right up close and personal to the bowl. As the "adult helper" mixes the shortening for about 30 seconds, explain a little about kitchen safety in using the mixer.

Let the kids measure out the dry ingredients, showing them how to scrap off measurements with a knife so they are exact. Note: you can spread waxed paper on the counter or table top they are working on and there will be less mess to clean up!

Okay... let the kids add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Beat until all ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer and let the kids scrap the bowl with the spatula. Then beat in the molasses, vinegar and egg until combined.

Now, it's going to get interesting. Stop the mixer and let the kids put in like a half a cup of flour and beat. At some point the dough will be very thick and you will have to finish by hand stirring the remaining flour into the batter.

Let the kids divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours (Yes, you can do this the day before and refrigerate the dough overnight... but if you do that, let the dough sit on the counter for about 10 minutes until it's workable).

All righty... now the fun begins! Man your rolling pins, troops! Grease the cookie sheets and set them aside. And, I suggest that you divide each half of the dough in half again so there is a smaller piece of dough to work with.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Let the kids sift flour to lightly flour the surface of choice (those plastic cutting rectangles are great). Place the gingerbread dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle just a tad of flour on top. Show the kids how to roll the rolling pin off to the side in flour.

The dough should be rolled out to approximately 1/8-inch... just a little reminder... we're not shooting for "perfection" here... this is supposed to be a learning adventure and most of all, fun!

Now grab those cookie cutters and let the kids cut out those Christmas shapes... again, perfection is not the goal. You may need to help them get them onto the cookie sheet. Leave about an inch between each cookie. Don't forget to take the straw and make holes in the hands of the gingerbread guys and gals or other Christmas critters!

Bake at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes... watching closely until the edges are lightly browned... yes, gingerbread burns easily... the kids will love keeping a close eye on their creations! When you take the cookie sheet out of the oven, leave the cookies on the sheet for about one minute. Then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

While the cookies are cooling, have the kids clean up the work surfaces and get the dishes cleaned up. By that time the cookies will be ready to decorate with icing, candies, Christmas sprinkles... whatever the little ones desire! Then string the red ribbon through the holes and secure with a knot and hang these festive little creatures.

The kids will be so proud... chalk up another "look what I made!"
'Tis the Season for getting kids into the kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Cook

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Recipe for Christmas Joy!

Merry Christmas and God Bless you every one! 

Here's a special little recipe for stirring up some Christmas Joy... Let's remember the "Reason for the Season" as we have fun here at KidsCooking411 with some wonderful recipes coming your way.

To set the Christmas spirit in motion, here's a Recipe for Christmas Joy (please feel free to add any of your own special ingredients :-)...

1/2 cup Hugs
4 teaspoons Kisses
2 cups Smiles
4 cups Love
1 cup Special Holiday Cheer
1/2 cup Peace on Earth
3 teaspoons Christmas Spirit
2 cups Goodwill Toward Man
1 Sprig of Mistletoe
1 medium-size bag of Christmas Snowflakes (the regular kind won't do!)

Mix Hugs, Kisses, Smiles and Love until consistent. Blend in Holiday Cheer, Peace on Earth, Christmas Spirit and the Good Will toward Men. Use the mixture to fill a large, warm heart, where it can be stored for a lifetime... the shelf life is FOREVER :-)

Serve as desired under mistletoe, by the Christmas tree... or just when the mood strikes! Be sure to sprinkle liberally with special Christmas Snowflakes of Love.

It is especially good when accompanied by Christmas Carols, family get togethers, connecting with old and new friends... and even sprinkled amongst unsuspecting strangers!

Serve cheerfully to one and all.

May you have the Merriest Christmas Ever! 'Tis the Season and I'll have some really fun recipes for cooking with the kids beginning this weekend so please stop back by!
'Tis the Season to get kids cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Frosty Pumpkin Pies!

Talk about Thanksgiving FUN! The kids are gonna love making this pie and will be SO proud when it comes time for serving family and friends.

So get the kids in the kitchen and grab your aprons and your spatulas!

Here's what you'll need:
Pre-made graham cracker pie crust (or let the kids make it from scratch... your choice)
1 cup plain canned pumpkin (this is the real pumpkin not filling)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 quart of vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)

Note: While the kids are getting prepared and getting their aprons on you might want to set the ice cream out on the countertop so it can begin to soften.

All righty... here we go... man your mixing stations!

Using a large bowl (or dividing between a couple of bowls... depending on the number of kids cooking)... soften the ice cream... Do this with a large spoon or large spatula... yes, the size of the spoon or spatula is "relative" to the size of the child's hand! Set the ice cream aside (we don't want soup... just "softened").

Combine the pumpkin, sugar and spices together. You have a choice here... you can use an electric mixer and closely supervise it's use or you can let the kids stir it up! Kids would rather stir it up!

Make sure the ice cream is well mixed and softened. Then add the pumpkin mixture to the ice cream... yep, just dump that pumpkin stuff in there! Now, stir, stir, stir until very well blended... you'll be able to tell because it will all be the same color! As the "adult helper" if you need to give the mixture a few shots with the electric mixer when the kids have stirred their little hearts out... just do it!

Now let the kids spoon the mixture into the pie crust. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Pop the pie into the freezer for several hours until it is firm.

When it's serving time, remove the pie from the freezer and let it thaw for a few minutes. Let the kids add a dollop of whipped cream on top of each piece and have the kids serve the pie to the guests... they will be so proud... and so will you!

Happy Thanksgiving Cooking with Kids!

Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tasty Pilgrim Hats...

These tasty Pilgrim Hats are easy breezy and 
really fun to make! 

While the kids are gathering the ingredients and making the treats why not take turns telling stories about the Pilgrims. It doesn’t matter if the little ones don’t get the history just perfect… it’s their perceptions of what Pilgrims and Thanksgiving means to them that’s important and precious!

Have some fun with these…

Ingredients you’ll need:
Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Oreo cookies
Candy corn or yellow jelly bean
Yellow or orange fruit roll-up
Chocolate frosting (a store bought can will work just dandy)

Decide how many Pilgrim Hats you want to make and then have the kids take the foil off of the peanut butter cups and set aside.

Separate the two halves of the Oreo cookies… you’ll need only the half without the icing so you can be gobbling up the other halves while you work! Or, set them aside and read the PS for a later project.

Take a small spoon of frosting and place it in the center of the plain chocolate cookie half.

Turn the peanut butter cup upside down and stick it in the center of the cookie in the dab of frosting. Then, frost over the entire cookie and the peanut butter cup so chocolate frosting covers all and is smooth.

Slice a thin strip of the fruit roll-up and wrap it around the base of the peanut butter cup, forming a band around the Pilgrim Hat. I think it’s more likely that you have some candy corn around rather than yellow jelly beans… so slice off the yellow part of the candy corn and dip it into the frosting. Stick the yellow slice onto the band of the hat, forming the buckle.

These are so cute displayed on a platter for a special Thanksgiving treat for the kids with some hot chocolate.
Having fun in the kitchen with kids,

Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Old English "Sallet"... History & Cooking!

This recipe comes from a very old book that was read by the Pilgrims. It's a recipe for a great "sallet" or salad as we call it today.

It's fun for the kids to learn just a little bit of history along with the fun of cooking!
Here's the list of ingredients:
1 cucumber
Raw spinach
1 red onion
1 Tablespoon mint  (chopped)
1 teaspoon sage (chopped)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup raspberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Measuring cup and measuring spoons
Cutting board and knife
Salad Bowl
Salad tossing fork and spoon

Do some of the ingredients look a bit strange for a salad today? Let the kids know that there were nuts and fruits available in the wild as well as fresh sage and mint.

Okay, let's make this "Sallet!"

Have the kids peel off enough leaves of spinach, lettuce and cabbage to fill about half of the large salad bowl of choice. Wash and drain the leaves well in the colander.

Put the greens in the big salad bowl and toss together with the salad fork and spoon.

Now it's time to ask for your adult sous chef's help. Ask your grown-up helper to please chop the onion, cucumber, wanuts and almonds.

Add the freshly chopped ingredients to the salad greens. Toss again.

In a smal bowl, mix the sugar, oil and vinegar mixing well. Pour mixture over salad, toss and serve.

Wasn't it fun learning about something the Pilgrims ate while actually making it yourself? 

More Thanksgiving recipes are coming soon so stop back by!
Happy Thanksgiving Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkins are On Sale!

It's Fall Fun!

All righty... Halloween is over but the pumpkin patches are still bursting with pumpkins. It doesn't matter why... the main thing is that fresh pumpkins are ON SALE!

Note: If you don't have a pumpkin patch near you... the grocery will work!

Okay... you have picked out a pumpkin and the kids are going to learn some old-fashioned "punkin' stuff!" A lot of kids these days think that pumpkins are just for carving... not! Let's get started... we're going to make homemade Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

You'll need:
  • a cookie sheet
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • the cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds
First of all, cut that pumpkin open and clean out all of the seeds. Yep, let the kids use their hands. Cut the pumpkin itself into slices and pop them in a zippy bag (or two or three, depending on the size of your pumpkin!). Put the pumpkin in the fridge for "more with pumpkin" coming later...

Stop and preheat the oven at 250 degrees so it will be ready when the seeds are!

Using a colander (or two) let the kids go to the sink and wash the seeds really good. Then have them pat the seeds dry with paper towels (if it were me, I'd let them use old terry kitchen towels as they work much faster and aren't as messy!).

Let the kids put a light coat of vegetable oil on a cookie sheet. An easy way to do this is to have them measure out a small amount of oil in a small (as in very small) bowl. Show them how to dip a folded paper towel into the oil and smear it all over the pan. Is that fun or what? And it doesn't make a mess!

Now it's time to spread the pumpkin seeds evenly over the cookie sheet. Make sure that there aren't big clumps of seeds... hey, keep your hands off the cookie sheet... let the kids do it! (Yep, this is the hard part :-D... )!

If they want salted seeds, then have them measure out the salt and sprinkle the seeds with salt. Otherwise, they can put the seeds in a paper bag after they are roasted, add the salt and shake it up!

Bake the pumpkin seeds for about 15 minutes. As the "adult helper" you get to stir the seeds so they don't burn and put them back in the oven. Watch them closely... the kids will be prompting you... for another 10-15 minutes until the seeds are golden brown. They're done!

Cool the seeds for a great, fun and very healthy snack. The kids are going to want to share them with their little friends and you can be sure they'll be saying, "look what I did!" The pride in preparing healthy food will become addictive for your child... could there be a better addiction?

Happy Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Don't Eat ALL of That Halloween Candy!

Create some "ART" with your Halloween Candy!

Keep candy out of your kid's tummies and stay away from all of the sugar that you know is not good for them!

Use the "stacks of sweets" to create fall and Thanksgiving art!

Grab a cardboard box and jump online and go to:

This is a FREE site where you can download coloring pages. There are a bunch of different turkey ones. So let's get started... the kids are gonna love this!

Here's what you'll need for this project:
  • A pattern of a Thanksgiving turkey (or anything else that strikes your fancy!)
  • Can of white frosting (cheapest you can find!)
  • Leftover Halloween candy
  • A butter knife or spreader (one for each child)
Trace the pattern of choice onto the cardboard and cut out. Keep the pattern nearby so the child can have a "visual" of what the little artist is about to create (the cardboard won't have all of the markings on it... it will be... well, just a piece of cardboard)!

Remove all wrappings from the candy and put all of the candy on a cookie sheet with sides so it is spread out but not all over the table!

Spread frosting on the cardboard cutout... are we having fun yet? Let that frosting be lumpy... lumpy is creative and fun. Now... just add candy!

If you really want to "plan" with your kids... you could create an entire Thanksgiving or fall scene with pilgrims, turkeys, pilgrim hats, Plymouth Rock... the list is endless... the kids will help you with the creativity!

Have fun and let them "lick the glue"... the icing!

Creatively Crafty,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Candy Corn Cupcakes

More Halloween Cooking Fun!

Candy corn is an all time favorite... yum! Kids love making these cupcakes... let's head for the kitchen!

Make sure you have these supplies before you begin:
Mixing Bowl
Mixer (a hand mixer is preferable)
Measuring cups & measuring spoons
Paper cupcake cups
Muffin pan that bakes 24 cupcakes or 2 that bakes 12 cupcakes
Wire rack
Small icing spatula

Special ingredients:
Yellow cake mix
Creamy vanilla frosting in the can
Orange food coloring
Candy corn
Black licorice twists

For the cupcakes:
Yellow cake mix
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups water
3 egg whites (or egg white substitute)

Ready for some real Halloween cooking fun? Here we go...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and pop those paper baking cups into the cupcake pans. Have the kids dump the yellow cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Add the water and the egg whites. Use the hand mixer to blend. The beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. If you want to have the kids use spatulas... skip the mixer and show them how to scrape the sides of the bowl as the go and whip up the cake mix by hand!

Fill the cupcake paper by using a measuring cup with a spout so the kids can pour equal amounts in each cupcake paper, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and check. Bake a couple minutes longer if center doesn't pop back when you put your finger on it.

Please, the adult helper Sous Chef ALWAYS should put things IN the oven and REMOVE them from the oven. Cool on the wire rack for about 15 minutes (or whenever the cupcakes are cool enough to remove from the pan). Place the cupcakes individually on the wire rack until completely cool.

Using a small bowl, scrap the vanilla frosting into the bowl and add the orange food coloring. If the kids want a brighter orange... add more food coloring! Now comes the really fun part... let the kids use a small, icing spatula and frost the cupcakes... they don't have to be "perfect," okay?

After all the cupcakes have been frosted decorate them with candy corn and licorice... let the kids use their imagination and make pumpkin faces with the candy corn and the licorice for a mouth. Or they might want to use the licorice for the eyes... this is where the creativity and real fun comes in... try really hard not to "interrupt" their creativity! Most of all, have a dandy, candy corny Halloween!

Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach & Adult Helper Sous Chef

Friday, August 10, 2012

S'mores Chocolate Pancakes for Saturday Breakfast!

One more S'more for National S'mores Day! I hope you have had as much fun as we have with this sweet holiday! 

Here's a great Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast... when you have a day to wake up slow and not have to be out the door in a hurry! The kids will love these S'more Pancakes! Here you go and happy, S'more!

Chocolate Pancakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk

Marshmallow Syrup
1 cup marshmallow creme
2 Tablespoons water
Graham cracker crumbs (topping)
Mini-chocolate morsels (topping)
Whipped cream (optional topping)

Get out a large bowl and let the kids measure all of the dry ingredients and dump them into the bowl. Grab the whisks and let them whisk away!

Let the kids break the egg into a small bowl and whip it a little (this is another thing kids love to do and learning how to whip, not stir, it is a bit challenging for them but it's great for the motor skills... so keep encouraging them).

They will love this next part... it's almost like a mini-science project! Have them take a wooden spoon and make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Melt the butter in the microwave. Add the slightly beaten egg, the melted butter and the milk in the well. Whisk all of the ingredients together until mixture is well combined and smooth.

The adult helper should lightly grease a griddle or a skillet. Make sure the griddle or the skillet is hot before cooking the pancakes.Use a 1/4 cup measure and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot surface in rounds. Let pancakes cook unti bubble begin to form in the batter and flip the pancakes. Cook until lightly browned on both sides.
Note: Since they are chocolate, keep a close eye so they don't burn or dry out.

Stir the marshmallow creme and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High for one minute (just until it will pour).

Top the pancakes with the marshmallow syrup, graham cracker crumbs and chocolate morsels. For an extra special topping a squirt of whipped cream makes it very special and makes everyone want s'more!

Keep cookin' with the kids and be sure to stop back for s'more great recipes and fun at KidsCooking411!
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Icy S'More Shake...

We're having a great time celebrating National S'mores Day! On a hot day, how about a cool version of S'mores? You got it! And I tried this out on my grandkids and they did a bang up job both preparing the Icy Shake as well as slurping it down :-)

What You Need:
1 cup chocolate ice cream
1/2 cup light cream
3 Tablespoons marshmallow crème
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mini marshmallows (garnish)
Crushed graham crackers (garnish)
Mini-chocolate morsels (garnish)
Whipped cream (optional)
Creamy peanut butter (optional)

Make It:
Get out the blender. Let the kids measure and pour the chocolate ice cream, light cream, marshmallow crème and vanilla extract in a blender Blend until smooth.

Pour into glasses and top with marshmallows. If you want the marshmallows toasted, then place them under the broiler for 20-30 seconds only (yes, the adult helper needs to do this, please).

If you opt for the whipped cream, then add a squirt or a dollop and then garnish with crushed graham crackers and chocolate morsels.

Note: Make this a really special treat and use special tall glasses.  Put a shallow line of creamy peanut butter on a piece of waxed paper. Roll the lip of the glass through the peanut butter and then roll it in graham cracker crumbs. The kids will love it!
Makes 2 shakes

I'll be back with s'more a little later...
Happy cooking with kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Take Along... S'mores Trail Mix!

Happy National S'mores Day! I'm going to be posting several recipes today in honor of this special "sweet day!" :-) 

I think this recipe is the easiest one that I've ever posted! With that said, I think that it might become a special treat for the kids to take along for a snack at school or on a play date!

What You Need:
15 ounces Teddy Grahams
16 ounces miniature marshmallows
12 ounces mini-chocolate morsels
Note: Make as much or as little as you like on this one... it's just the combo that is "s'more!"

Make It:
Let the kids dump everything in a BIG bowl and stir it until it's well combined with a BIG spoon. Then have them use individual zippy's, enough for just one serving.

Note:  If they want to give this away to friends and playmates another fun step would be to let them decorate the little zippy's!

Happy National S'mores Day!
Keep on Cookin' with the kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ooey Gooey S'mores Bars

I hope you and the kids are having fun celebrating S'mores this week! Here's a quick and easy recipe with all of the magical ingredients of S'mores!

What You Need:
1 (1-pound 1.5-ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix (I use Betty Crocker®)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 squares)
1 cup butter or margarine
3 cups milk chocolate chips
4 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows 

Make It:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. About 12 squares of graham crackers will make about one cup of crumbs. Have the kids place the graham crackers in a zippy bag and roll with a rolling pin until they have fine crumbs. Kids love rolling, stirring and whisking!

Use a large bowl and let the kids dump in the cookie mix and the graham cracker crumbs. Whisk dry ingredients together until well blended (or until the kids are tired of whisking)!

Place butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave.  Stir the melted butter into the dry ingredients a soft dough forms. Let those "little hands" press into an ungreased 13x9-inch pan until flat (it doesn't need to be really smooth).

Bake about 18 minutes or until graham cracker crust is set. Remove from the oven (adult helper needs to be very close here)... immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over crust (depending on the age of the kids, determine who does this step). Let stand 4 or 5 minutes or until chocolate starts to melt. Using the back of a large spoon, spread chocolate evenly over crust.

Set oven to broil. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top of the chocolate. Broil about 6 inches from heat for only about 20 seconds... watch carefully as you want the marshmallows to just be toasty and they will continue to cook a bit when removed from broiler).

Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm.

If you want to have a super sweet treat, serve with a scoop of marshmallow ice cream (vanilla works too)!
Makes 24 bars

Ooey Gooey Yum!
S'more Fun Cooking with Kids!
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fudgey S'more Monkey Bread!

Let's continue our S'mores Celebration with really ooey gooey and yummy recipe!

Are you ready to get messy? The kids will love it! Make sure they have on aprons or chocolate-proof shirts!

What You Need:
13 refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (Note: This will require 2 cans/one w/8 biscuits & one w/5 biscuits... Grands Homestyle is what I used)
1/2 cup butter
13 large marshmallows
1/2 cup hot fudge ice cream topping
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon dark baking cocoa
Butter for greasing pan

Make It:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a Bundt pan and set aside. Cut all 13 biscuits into quarters; set aside.

Use a large microwave-safe bowl. Let the kids put the  butter, marshmallows, hot fudge topping and vanilla in the bowl. They can put the bowl in the microwave and set it. (Let them do as much as possible, okay?) Microwave (uncovered) on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring once, until melted. Using wire whisk, stir until smooth.  Note: Please do not let the kids stir the hot ingredients! Set aside to let it cool a bit (the mixture needs to cool enough so it is safe for the kids to work with).

Meanwhile, let them combine the sugar and the cocoa in a medium bowl stirring until well blended (Kids love to stir and whisk!

Spread out some waxed paper for the kids to work on (you won't be sorry)!

At this point, I would advise the adult helper to place 1/4 of the biscuit pieces into the chocolate mixture and gently fold in to coat with chocolate. The add another 1/4 of the biscuits and repeat.

Now hand over the tongs to the kids... they are gonna love this... Remove the biscuits from the chocolate, using tongs,"patiently" letting excess chocolate drip off. Drop each biscuit piece, one at a time into sugar mixture. Spoon the sugar over the biscuit to coat. Then layer the biscuits (one at a time) in the Bundt pan. Repeat until all of the biscuits have been sugared and layered in the pan. If there is any sugar mixture left, sprinkle it over the biscuits.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until biscuits are a deep golden making sure they are not doughy in center. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Now the adult helper can place plate upside down over the Bundt pan and carefully turn plate and pan over. The kids eyes will be big and round! Remove pan and immediately scrape any remaining topping in the pan onto the top of the bread. Pull apart warm bread and serve with milk! YUM!
Makes 12 servings (yeah, right)! 

S'more getting kids into the kitchen!
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Celebrating National S'mores Day!

Hello my little foodies, moms, grandmoms and anyone else that follows along with KidsCooking411...

We're celebrating this week and invite you to join in the fun! I'm Jan McCracken (most of you already know that) and I write KidsCooking411. Getting kids into the kitchen at an early age is one of my passions. Another passion is authoring cookbooks!

Friday is National S'mores Day (August 10) and so we're celebrating S'mores with a new S'mores recipe (without the campfire) every day this week at KidsCooking411. Fun stuff, right?

The other celebration is the release of my brand new Kindle cookbook that just went live on Amazon, S'mores Galore Ooey Gooey Recipes (No Campfire Required). It's a fun and yummy read with over 30 recipes with a twist on the flavors and magical ingredients of that campfire favorite, S'mores (see the new cover below). Jump over to my website to read more about the book:
Let's head to the kitchen and whip up an easy dessert to begin our S'mores celebration!

S'more Summer Parfaits
What You Need:
1 (3.9 ounces) package instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
2 cups cold milk
2 cups coarsely crushed graham crackers (about 24 squares)
1 cup miniature marshmallows
4 tablespoons mini-chocolate morsels
Whipped cream 

Make It:
Crush your own crackers as it saves a ton of money! Store bought crumbs are expensive. And besides, the kids will love rolling over them in a zippy bag with the rolling pin :-) This recipe will require about 24 squares or 12 whole graham crackers... give or take a couple.

This is a super easy recipe and with a little supervision and direction, I think you'll agree that the kids can pretty much do all of this one on their own! 
In a bowl, whisk together the pudding mix and cold milk for 2 minutes. Allow to stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set.

Use some parfait glasses or Mason jars and layer the ingredients as follows: Begin with 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of pudding, 1/4 cup marshmallows and 1 tablespoon chocolate morsels.

Top with the remaining pudding. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

At serving time, add a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs and a few chocolate morsels.
Makes 4 servings 

A cool S'more treat! Be sure to stop by tomorrow for another S'mores recipe!
S'more Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tin Can Ice Cream!

In the good ol' summertime... 

Tin Can Ice Cream is so much fun for the kids on a hot summer day! If you have kids over to play, or even a birthday party, a scout or church outing, it can be a really fun participation sport!

Here's what you'll need:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nuts, fruits, chocolate chips, cookie crumbs, etc. (optional)

In addition you'll need:
A 1-pound coffee can with a tight-fitting lid
A 3-pound coffee can with 2 tight fitting lids (one for the top and one for the bottom)
Rock salt
Crushed ice

Put all ingredients in a 1-pound coffee can; secure the lid with duct tape. Place the can inside of the 3-pound coffee can. Pack (as equally as possible) the larger can with crushed ice around the smaller can. Pour about 3/4 cup rock salt evenly over ice. Place lids on top and bottom of 3-pund can and secure well with duct tape. Make sure that can rolls evenly back and forth across cement.

Roll back and forth for 15 minutes. Open the large can and dump the ice and the water water. Important Note: Don't dump this salty water on your grass... It will kill the grass in the spot where it is dumped!

Wipe the small can dry and open the can. Stir the cold, ice cream mix, scraping the sides of the can well. Place small can back into the large can and once more add ice and rock salt, packing well. Repeat rolling for another 10 minutes. Be careful when removing the small can and be sure to wipe it down. Take special care around the lid area as you're opening it... you don't want the salt water to get into your ice cream.

Getting kids into the kitchen cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach