Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Build Some "Leap Day" Cookies!

You know I like to make and bake stuff from scratch with kids... but it's a "school night" and I wanted to share something with you that is quick and easy for celebrating "Leap Day!"

Let the kids build these cookies and do a little more research on Leap Year and Leap Day with a cup of hot chocolate or hot tea and share this Leap Day Cookie! Here ya' go...
  • Body and  Head:  4 Oreo cookies
  • Feet: 2 Keebler Vienna Wafer cookies
  • Eyes: Sugar gummies – you can use an icing tip bottom to cut them out in a small, perfect circle and two green candies from a candy necklace (you can use anything else that works… chocolate chips are dandy...  the holes in the candies form the candy necklace just make it more realistic :-)
  • Tongue: a red Chicklet
Getting kids into the kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

It's Leap Day... "Leap Day" Babies!

Leap Day babies... not Leap Year babies.
Anyone can be born IN a Leap Year.
Leap Day babies were born ON Leap Day.
There's a big difference there!
If you were born on February 29
You are a “Leap Day” baby.

Happy Leap Day... a "jump into the kitchen recipe" is coming right up!
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Easy Shamrock Cake!

It doesn't get much easier to create a party atmosphere with a special cake than this easy "Shamrock Cake" for St. Patrick's Day!

The picture to the left is of a lucky 4-leaf clover so you have a choice... will it be the real luck of the Irish with a lucky 4-leaf clover or a shamrock?

Whatever you and the kids decide, you'll need either 3 or 4 heart-shaped pans... 3 for a shamrock cake or 4 for the clover cake. I've seen small heart-shaped pans at the dollar stores... so have a look... don't make this an expensive activity... that's not our goal. And, the pans can't be too big or you won't have enough cake batter! The ones I've seen are smaller and the new silicone ones. The perfect size for this project!

You can choose your favorite homemade cake recipe or buy a white cake mix... OR, for a special treat, the kids really like the "confetti cake" mix. If you haven't tried the confetti mix, watch your grocery ads as they go on sale a lot so you could pick up a couple... and, it's a very moist cake.

All righty... so here's the road map to your St. Patrick's Day cake... Let the kids prepare the cake mix (or their favorite cake recipe). Note:  Wally World has gotten into the "specialty cake mixes lately and I picked up a "green" Confetti Cake mix with matching icing... very cool for a St. Paddy's Day "cake project" :-)

Equally divide the batter into 3 (or 4) heart-shaped pans... Bake according to the directions and let the little heart cakes cool. Meanwhile, let the kids be stirring up make their favorite (and easiest) icing recipe. Tint it with green food coloring, of course (unless you're using a specialty cake mix)!

Now, join the heart cakes together at their tips, forming a shamrock or the lucky 4-leaf clover! How easy was that? Let the kids get icing all over them and lick it off and frost the cake green... the shade is only left to the kids' imagination!

Add to the fun and decorate the cake with little gold coins scattered across it or little store-bought shamrocks. There's tons of ideas for decorations and if you just turn the kids loose in the dollar store, I'm sure they'll find more than enough decorations.

Get ready for rave reviews on your St. Patrick's Day creation! Most of all, have fun!

Getting kids into the kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach for Kids

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For the LOVE of Cooking with Kids!

It's Valentine's Day and it's all about LOVE... I encourage you to get your kids into the kitchen cooking... I'm working on a new e-book about Cooking with Kids and will keep you posted on the progress... meanwhile... here are some encouraging words to Get Your Kids into the Kitchen!

My very best wishes for a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with love and hopefully some fun in the kitchen cooking with the kids :-)

Kids have a natural interest in foods and that leads them to being drawn to the kitchen!

Think about it... what is one of the major toys that parents purchase soon after little ones can walk? A little stove! And then the toddlers want a set of dishes... a table... some little pots and pans... and most of all... a spoon to "pretend stir" in a big bowl!

I encourage you to take advantage of this "natural interest" of children whether you be parents, grandparents, a favorite aunt, a childcare giver, a vacation Bible school leader... the list of possibilities to teach children cooking is endless!

The lessons easily taught and learned by children at an early age are not only management skills in food preparation but more importantly nutrition. Also, studies show that kids that cook at an early age are better students! There are so many things woven into food preparation and cooking like math... developing measuring skills... science... what happens when you stir some baking soda into a cup of buttermilk? Wow... it's a science project! Motor skills and coordination... Following directions... it's all in the "recipe!"

Yep! Cooking with Kids is definitely a "Recipe for Success!" With childhood obesity soaring, little ones learning at an early age about foods and being involved with cooking their own food carries over into their adult lives!

What a great gift you can give the kids in your life! And it's just steps away... in your kitchen! If you're totally intimidated by this concept... just relax... come back and visit often as I'll be calming those seas of doubt for you with projects that will delight the entire family!

Happy Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach & "Adult Helper Sous Chef"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine Sweetheart Pancakes

I borrowed this recipe from Penny Whistler... I substituted her ingredient of "sugar-free Jell-O" for the real Jello... I'm not a fan of filling kids with aspartame or other sugar "substitutes"... we need to control their sugar in other ways... but that's for a different day... not Valen-TIMES :-)

Here's what you'll need for the pancakes:
1 (3-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O
1 1/2 cups prepared pancake batter
1/2 cup mashed banana

Non-stick cooking spray
Garnishes at the whim of the kids!

Let the kids stir up the pancake batter. Add the gelatin to the batter and let them stir, stir, stir, mixing all ingredients together well. Stir in the mashed banana.

Cook pancakes in a skillet lightly sprayed with vegetable oil spray over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side, until lightly browned (but still pink). Serve immediately. Garnish with anything red or pink... or maybe a dollop of whipped cream... have the kids add a little red food coloring for a sweet pink flair.

P.S. To turn these puffy pink pancakes into heart shapes, either make pancakes in rounds and cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter or swirl the batter from your spoon into a heart shape right into the pan.

Makes 12 pancakes!

Happy cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine Cookie Pops

Cookie and cake pops seem to be all the rage with the kids these days... the great thing is that they are as much (or more) fun to make as they are to eat!

These are easy and quick to bake which leaves plenty of time for the kids to have fun creating with icing and decorating their treasures. Here's what you'll need for making these special Valentines:

1 (18-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookies
20 flat wooden sticks with round ends (these will be in the Wilton aisle at Walmart, Michaels, JoAnn's)
1 1/4 cups vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
Miscellaneous  small candies, candy decors and nonpareils
Red ribbon, string, paper hearts or whatever the kids want to decorate their special treast
Roll of cellophane (maybe with Valentine hearts?) to wrap cookie pops

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cookie dough slices about 2 inches aparte on an ungreased cookie sheet. Please have the adult helper do the slicining of the cookie dough and let the kids place them on the cookie sheet... no, they may not line up exactly... no worries, they will bake just the same...  :-)

With guidance from the adult helper, insert the wooden sticks one inch, overlapping wooden sticks as necessary.
Bake the cookies 12-16 minutes and watch them until they just turn golden... don't let them burn! Let them cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes and then remove from the cookie shhets to a wire cooling rack. Let them cool completely for at least 15 minutes.

While the kids are anxiously awaiting with icing nad decorations, let them get creative with red and pink consttruction paper or doilies to put on the sticks.

Have the kids spread frosting on only one side of each cookie and decorate till their little heart's content (they love this part)! If they want to cover the cookies with Valentine cellosphane for gift giving, then place the cookies back on the cooling racks so the icing can dry.

Add the finiishing touches of wrapping the cookie pops in the cellophone and tie with red or pink ribbon. These are great teacher gifts or for a special friend at school, for grandma... Kids are always so proud of the things they stir up in the kitchen!
Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach