There's no better way to have fun in the kitchen then to spice up your recipes with a couple of kids -- especially grandkids.
That's exactly what I did when I was sent a copy of Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook, a TIME For Kids book. I called my daughter and asked to borrow my grandchildren for the weekend.
Before they came, I flipped through the book, and picked out a few recipes that I thought would be easy enough for a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old to tackle, then I purchased all the ingredients. We were going to make chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, and for dessert, chocolate chip cookies.
Unfortunately, before my daughter dropped them off, they stopped for lunch -- chicken fingers. When I told them we were making chicken fingers for dinner, my granddaughter, Gabby, wrinkled her nose and announced, "We had chicken fingers for lunch!"
They usually love sweet potatoes, but weren't interested in making those either.
That left the cookies -- no complaints there.
With just a little help from me or my husband, Gabby was able to read the recipe. She and Gavin took turns adding the ingredients and with my husband's guidance, each of them was able to hold the mixer.
No one got bonked on the head, and the only noses that were broken were the ones I drew on each of the two eggs that they each got to break before adding them to the batter. (This was something I did with my kids when they helped in the kitchen.)
Overall, it was fun, but it could have gone much smoother.
My first mistake was in not letting them look at the cookbook themselves and decide what they wanted to make and eat. Had I done that, they may have been more invested in the process. My second mistake, was in not noticing the book is geared for children 8-12, which already had me at a disadvantage.
In reading through the Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook later, however, I was impressed not only with the recipes, but also with the amount of information the book provides as sidebars. For example, next to a recipe for "On Top of Old Smoky Spaghetti and Meatballs" is this little tidbit:
"Feast on This: The average person in North America eats about 15-1/2 pounds of pasta per year. The average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds of pasta every year."
The recipe also explains that meatballs are an Italian-American invention and that before coming to the United States in the mid-1800s, Italians ate meat only a few times a month. Since meat was so plentiful here, they incorporated more of it into their diet.
I did not know that.
In addition to the "Feast on This" trivia, the book includes suggestions under the "Try This" sidebar, such as growing your own herbs in the kitchen or how to store cheese properly.
Under "Know Your Ingredients" you can learn how granola was invented or which vegetables include disease-fighting phytochemicals. There is also a "Top 5" sidebar, where children can learn who produces the most olive oil or grows the most broccoli.
The book features 80 recipes in five categories: Breakfasts, Lunches, Sides and Snacks, Dinners and Desserts. Each recipe is identified as "simple," "moderate" or "difficult."
While the chocolate chip cookie recipe claims to be difficult, it wasn't. It is more likely designated that way because a mixer is required as well as a hot oven. With proper adult supervision, all of the recipes seem easy to achieve.
In addition to being kid-friendly, the recipes also appear to be adult-friendly. Just a couple are the kind that only a child would be tempted to eat, such as a green tinted, whipped topping-covered banana on a bed of crushed cookies ("Simon the Centipede") and popcorn balls bedecked with candy corn and Teddy Grahams.
In most cases, only the names are childish, which for a cookbook geared for kids, is just fine. For example, "Tangy, Cheesy Broccoli Trees" may sound appealing to a child, but the ingredients -- broccoli, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan and toasted pine nuts -- also sound good to me.
I plan to tuck this little treasure of a cookbook away until my grandchildren are a bit older, and I look forward to having them join me in the kitchen again, where we can stir up more memories along with some delicious food.
Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook retails for $19.95 and is available at bookstores nationwide.
Choc Chip Cookies
Makes 60 cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 (12-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate morsels just until combined.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely (about 15 minutes).
Nutritional information: Calories, 103; Fat, 5 g; Saturated fat, 3 g; Monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g; Polyunsaturated fat, 0.21 g; Protein, 1 g; Carbohydrate, 14 g; Fiber, 1 g; Cholesterol, 13 mg; Iron, 0 mg; Sodium, 70 mg; Calcium, 5 mg.