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

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
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

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: 
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