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