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Cooking with Kids

January 24, 2013

DIY Pizza Party at The Happy Place

DIY-pizza-party-fixings

The Thump-thump-giggle-gigglers stopped by for the day recently and when I mentioned that dinner was "DIY Pizza" there was (literally) dancing in the seats. I guess that means your very own, very special, just for you and nobody else pizza with EXACTLY what you want and plenty of it is a hit with kids of all ages.

Go figure.

Pizza dough and sauce were both made the day before and kept in the refrigerator overnight. Meat that needed precooking, like sausage, was also prepared ahead of time.

This time around, one of the kids was drafted to wash the vegetables and then they all sat around the table and cut them. This got competitive which made all that slicing and chopping go by pretty darned fast.

For each pizza, cut a piece of parchment paper. Roll and stretch the piece of dough into the desire size/thickness. Each person prepped their own crust, allowing for variations in thickness. Then the fun begins... (bunch of photos after the jump)

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May 19, 2012

Food Revolution Day: Make Your Own (Lower) Sugar Chocolate Milk

Chocmilk3
See that innocent looking glass of chocolate milk? It's public school enemy #1, at least according to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Seriously, they declared an entire week to fight against flavored milk in schools and it often seemed to be the defining issue in the school lunch debate.

This seems, to me, like an odd focus. Flavored milk doesn't even make my top ten list of problems when it comes to school lunches. Bad policies, processed commodity food, budgets and staff stretched to the breaking point, a lack of creative thinking at the highest levels, and kitchens without actual cooking equipment...those strike me as the real enemies.

Flavored milk, not so much.

Still, Oliver's enthuiasm about feeding kids better lunches is laudable, even if his approach sometimes seems to be more showman than scientist and I am sometimes left questioning WTF this or that stunt or statistic was about. I have both questioned and snarked while watching the spectacle, wishing all the while that we'd see more serious work from Oliver...less reality show and more reality.

Today makes me happy.

Food Revolution Day, Oliver's latest endeavor, is a day of food-focused activity designed to get people talking, teaching, cooking, and eating good, healthful food. It's about home cooking, getting in the kitchen with your family (If you need a cookbook, might I suggest mine) When I heard about that mission—and nary a word about banishing flavored milk—I couldn't help but jump in with both feet and a bit of a 'tude...

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November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Note to Parents

Thanksgiving preparation is in high gear across America this evening. Most of those people are also on twitter so my twitterstreams are full of people, many of whom are parents—mostly moms, but that's another rant—working to get the pies baked, clean house, cook some side dishes and do something with kale. (Seriously, every fourth tweet is "Sous-vided bacon-wrapped kale infused with baby, free-range...") I am getting hungry reading and knowing that there is turkey tomorrow isn't helping much at the moment.

But that's not why I am here. I want to talk to the parents...

I keep reading a variant of "Kids SUUUUCK! Can't get anything done. Crap! I'll wait until they go to bed."

What the hell, y'all?

You had children so they could participate in your family life, right? So let them.

When it comes to helping with party prep (and general household chores) I believe in No Child Left Behind, aka Being a Slavedriver. No wait, make that SLAVEDRIVER. It's a job title more parents should embrace from time to time. Your kids will thank you when they are all grown up and coping with the activities of daily living without undue vapors.

  • Tweens and older are treated like almostAdults when it comes to work.They are fairly independent, getting some directions to get started but no hovering like I might with a smaller child.
  • School-age kids are extremely helpful sous chefs. They can read recipes, gather and prep ingredients and do a lot of the actual cooking.Teach them to work with heat and blades safely and
  • Kids love to stir things. If all your stirrables are simmering away, give the toddler a bowl with a fistful of rice and dried beans and ask them to stir that.
  • Small kids can do a lot of stuff if you give them a nudge and a wee bit of direction. Get them to pick up toys and other clutter, collect dirty laundry, wash vegetables, shell beans, set the table, load/unload the dishwasher and a thousand other things.
  • Taster. This one is a double hit because your child is busy and happily eating (mostly) healthy treats. Do it right and you don't have to make them dinner tonight. Triple win!
  • If all else fails, give your monstrrr a stack of paper napkins and ask them to fold them in Thanksgiving shapes. Praise whatever they do.
  • Babies are tougher but I decided their job is to be adorable and provide toes to be nibbled. If you have a better job for them, please share it in comments.

How are the kids in your house helping? Give other parents a hand by sharing your secrets in comments.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

December 21, 2009

How-to Shape Christmas Tree Bread

I really dislike posting a recipe I have only made once. What seems to be a simple bit of culinary magic one day may fizzle on second try. Even well-tested recipes can run into problems when moved from one region of the country to another: the moisture level of flour changes noticeably from a wet climate to a dry one, for example, and altitude screws with baking and boiling, not to mention your alcohol tolerance. (My brother-in-law who works as an EMT a mile up in the mountains tells great stories.)

There are, however, a few writers whose recipes I trust enough to go with a single pass at a recipe when I am short on time and I turned to one of them for the sweet roll dough I used for the tree. Modifications were made, of course: I zested an orange, toasted and ground cardamom, sprinkled in cinnamon, and tipped in a splash of vanilla; milk became buttermilk; sugar was reduced a little bit - there was a LOT of sugar. Ten minutes after I put it in the oven the house was filled with a heady mix of spices and I was regretting not putting an extra 'tasting' loaf in the oven. (After I took photos, I tore into a golden ball of dough; I can report the flavor lived up to its aroma-vertising.)

The crumb, sadly, did not. Dense and chewy, not tender and light. Totally wrong.

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November 24, 2009

Welcome, Friends of the Wine Whore!

picture yourself writing a book

The thought of inviting your kids into the kitchen may make you want to curl up on the couch over at the Wine Whore's, not to be seen until the munchkins have mastered something simple: an omelet, maybe, or at least how to wash a dish. It's really not that scary, though. Truth be told, it's often a lot of fun. I laugh more when I am cooking with a child; that must be a good thing.

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September 10, 2008

Dish up literacy! Dine out for a good cause

Eat out on Thursday, September 18, at a Dish Up Literacy restaurant and they will donate a at least 20% of their proceeds to help provide new books and reading resources to children in need.  Dish Up Literacy, a benefit for Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program, allows diners to put books in the hands of kids simply by going out to eat.

There are a number of great restaurants participating: Julia's, Macrina Bakery, FX McRory's, Ten Mercer and others.  If you aren't in Seattle, there are options for you, too. One of my favorite local breakfast cafes, The Place Family Restaurant is even involved. Must be my excuse to eat Northwest Eggs Benedict (made with crab cakes instead of Canadian Bacon).  Check out who's participating at Dish Up Literacy.

August 11, 2008

The hands of a child

I need to do a quick bit of data collection for the project that shall not be named and hope that some of the parents out there can give me a hand. I need to know the size of kid's hands at various ages/sizes. If you have a few minutes, would you please consider giving me a hand. Well, one of your kid's hands.

Here's what I need to know:

  • Length from wrist to middle fingertip
  • Width across palm, without thumb
  • Age of child
  • General size for age (short/average/tall)
  • General build/weight

bonus points
I am also trying to get an idea of the volume of a fist. My preferred method for assessing this is pretty accurate and just messy enough to be fun for small people. Fill a deep bowl with water, leaving it in the sink. Have your child make a fist and stick it into the water up to the wrist. (see why it is in the sink?) Remove the fist from the water and refill the bowl with water from a measuring cup. How much water did it take?

Alternatively, with hand in a fist, measure around the widest part and from wrist to wrist (over the top). But really, that's not as much fun as the water.

Comments on kitchenMage are moderated so if you'd like to help out while not publicly divulging this data, just say so and I will note the numbers and delete the comment without it seeing the light of LCD display. If you prefer to drop me a note, it's kitchenMage(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks!

April 09, 2008

Quick question for the vegetarians, vegans and the like...

I am in the middle of writing a cookbook and would like to include some tips for parents of children who have declared they will no longer eat food with faces. Whether it's nutrition, the meatless recipe that you cooked 3-4 times a week at first, or the delicate handling a child who seems to be rejecting your lovingly prepared meal, parents need help with this. So, two simple questions:

  • If you could some advice to the parents of a newly vegetarian/vegan child, what would it be?
  • What is the worst thing you can do if your child decides to eat a meatless diet? (Personal experiences from hell are welcome.)

Thanks for your contributions, everyone.

February 19, 2008

Quick tips to make you a better cook

A new cook has so many things to remember. All those terms (in French, no less); which tool to use for which task; how to take a whole, raw ingredient like a pineapple and turn it into pineapple slices; the difference between coarsely diced, finely diced and minced.

Lately, I have been recognizing how lucky I was to learn my way around a kitchen surrounded by a largish family of people offering tips along the way. I always had someone to ask leading questions ("The rice will be ready in half an hour, do you think the chicken should go in the oven?"), whisper reminders and correct bad technique. I have been saved from a large number of disasters, and the related discouragement, over the years by a well-placed bit of advice.

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January 18, 2008

Berry Marshmallows with Chocolate recipe

marhmallows-cut-chocolate

The first week of January is the time of year for lofty goals and noble aspirations and the food world is no exception. Food-related resolutions seem to fall into two categories: Proscriptive and prescriptive. There are far more of the former and they mostly take the form of "I will change my diet by not eating sugar, fat, HFCS, bread, chocolate, and so on." There are, to be fair, some positive "I will eat..." resolutions out there (mine is to grow some vegetables along with the herbs in my garden) but most of them are framed in the negative. What a way to start the year, with a list of things you are going to deny yourself!

Far more fun are the prescriptive resolutions. I particularly like "I will make ____ for the first time." and the ones that start "I will learn to..." If I was forced to make New Year's resolutions - and thankfully, I am not - I would fall into this camp so I have a soft spot for them.

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