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Posts tagged ‘cooking with kids’

criss cross applesauce

People always act like it’s so great when one parent is at home with the kids. But listen, it depends on the parent. I have friends who stay home with their kids and are always posting pics of them doing fun crafty activities. If I stayed home with my kids, they’d end up watching TV like 12 hours a day and eating mountains of Hot Pockets.

But I still have to amuse them on weekends. And when it’s rainy outside, as it often is in Portland, it can get really ugly. That’s why I like to cook with them. They fight over who gets to stir and who gets to lick the spoon, but better that than them “playing ninja,” which as far as I can tell, involves Tate kicking Finn, and Finn putting Tate into a retaliatory headlock.

The thing about cooking, of course, is that it always seems to take so long when you need it to go quickly, and to go so quickly when you need it to go slow. When I bake with the boys, I’m so desperate to prevent flour from flying all over my kitchen that I end up speeding through it. And then I’ve burned no time off the clock at all.

That’s why I’m so glad that Finn is old enough to cut with a knife. Cutting stuff takes a long time. Even better, Finn loves nothing more than cutting things with a knife, and would do it for hours if I let him. A block of tofu can eat up fifteen minutes, if you plan it right and make a math game out of it. A bowl of strawberries—maybe 30 minutes (you have to cut off the tops, and then halve the berries).

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But tofu and strawberries is kids’ stuff compared to cutting apples for homemade applesauce. First of all, apples have a nice, satisfying consistency for cutting. They aren’t too hard, like carrots, or too wet, like citrus. Secondly, you need a shitload of apples for applesauce. I cored and sliced the apples and passed them to Finn, who cut each slice into thirds and then tossed them into the slow cooker. It took him 45 minutes to fill the slow cooker.

He did eat enough apples during the cutting process that he blew chunks at a Blazers game later that night, but I don’t like to think about that. Instead, I choose to think about this: 45 minutes is two episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And at the end of it, we had jars of rich, sweet applesauce, made without an ounce of added sugar. Sometimes I have this parenting thing so dialed that I think that I should have had ten kids.

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Slow cooker applesauce

Apples (how many is going to depend on the size of your slow cooker). Mine’s a 7 quart and I used 8-10 large honeycrisps

Juice of one large lemon

1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches is good), optional

Ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger to taste

1. Core and divide each unpeeled apple into six or eight slices. An aside: is there any kitchen task worse than peeling apples?  No, there is not.  Have your kid lay each slice flat on his cutting board and cut it into thirds. Toss the apples into the slow cooker.

2. Add lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 hours, or until soft enough to mash.

3. Remove cinnamon stick. Mash the apples, or blitz them for smoother texture. Stir in ground spices to taste. I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

4. Store in fridge up to a week, or give it away in jars. Or pack for your kid’s lunch with a container of greek yogurt and another container of granola.

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super crunch

I grew up taught that teachers are to be revered, and heavily gifted at appropriate times during the year.  My kids, however, go to a Montessori school where students are highly encouraged to make, not buy, any holiday gifts for the teachers.  I appreciate the idea that making their own gift teaches my kids both self-sufficiency and the satisfaction that comes from making something with your own hands, your own eyes, and your own heart.

That said, it goes against the very fiber of my being to believe that anyone would actually desire goods made by the nasty hands of a five or two year old.  My kids came out of my body and it’s still hard for me to eat something that has come from one of their hands.  Finn has had the same stamp on the back of his left hand (faintly visible in photo below) for approximately 9 days, which indicates both the relative infrequency and lack of vigor of his hand-washing.  As for Tate, if you ask him where his nose is, he will demonstrate, by pushing the index and middle fingers of his right hand up both nostrils.  I don’t know where he learned that, but it has proven powerfully difficult to un-learn him.

What to gift, that you can make with the kids in your life, and that others might actually enjoy receiving as a gift?  Granola.  Everyone loves granola.  Even if you don’t love granola, chances are you’ll still eat a bowl or two if it’s put in front of you.  People regularly eat bad granola, and hardly seem to notice.  But I’ve been making my own for a few months now, and the difference between homemade and store-bought–even the fancy organic type–is truly eye-opening.  You can tweak granola to suit your own preferences; for example, my friend Monica has a killer recipe for raw granola.  The best part is, granola is truly easy and fun to make with children.  There’s a lot of scooping and mixing, and if you throw in too much of an ingredient or too little, no one’s going to notice.

The recipe below is based on Ina Garten’s recipe from the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook.  After at least a dozen batches, I think I’ve come up with a pretty addictive mix.  Certainly good enough to gift, or so I’ve been promised by friends who have asked for seconds.  I’ve adjusted the proportions and added candied ginger, because my husband loves a gingery granola.  I hope you’ll use this as a starting point to come up with your own favorite mix.  And I’d love to hear about your favorite granola ingredients.

Granola with Candied Ginger

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup dried cranberries (or dried blueberries, or dried sour cherries, chopped)

2 cups dried apricots, chopped or slivered

1 cup candied ginger, chopped

1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3-1/2 cup honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set rack in middle of oven.

2. Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and pumpkin seeds together in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the oil and honey in separate bowl.  Pour mixture over the oat mixture and stir with wooden spoon to coat evenly.

4. Spread onto 13 x 18 inch baking pan with shallow lip (like a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides).

5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, checking at the following intervals, to stir occasionally and check browning: 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes.

6. Remove the granola from the oven when golden brown, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the remaining ingredients, combine so ingredients are distributed evenly.

8. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

*Notes: this is generally a low-maintenance recipe.  The only high-maintenance part is the baking, because granola browns very quickly, especially towards the end.  Ina Garten’s original recipe called for 45 minutes of baking, but in my oven, 28 minutes is about perfect.  The original recipe also calls for more oil, but I think it’s unnecessary, and will make the granola brown even faster.  If you are not a fan of ginger, this recipe is still scrumptious without.  For gifting, I put granola in canning jars and finish with ribbon and a fun gift tag, like these from Jigsaw Graphics