Let’s face it: Kids are obsessed with us when we cook. They’re peering over the baby gate, rounding the bend at top speed to careen towards the oven, or smashing a little fist into the dough you’ve set out to rise. Even to a toddler, cooking looks like an art project with a snack-oriented result. To them, it’s a win-win.
Since little fingers are going to eke their way into what you’re cooking anyways, why not invite them to the party? Here are five surefire hits.
Remember that homemade granola can be as easy as owning a good nonstick sheet pan. This excellent baking project is customizable (whatever nuts, dried fruits, specialty honeys or syrups your kid covets) and very satisfying to mix together in a big bowl. If your child is old enough, they can even peer in to watch it crisp up under the broiler. For younger kids, do the bulk of the work prior to the morning you want granola. (All the better to dunk them into the bath just before bed and keep the crib oats-free!)
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: There is nothing like a pie. For kids, this recipe is like a greatest-hits of interesting gadgets. The food processor makes a fantastic buzz and you can watch the dough spin. (Mom or Dad will enjoy how easy cleanup is!) Dough can be fussed with and kneaded and then flattened out with a rolling pin. (Heaven to a toddler!) Trimming and crimping and adding pie weights? All fun stuff. And best of all, of course, is tasting the macerated fruit both before it goes in and after it emerges from the oven, bubbling and glorious.
Strawberries are in season in much of the nation. Make jam! You don’t need pectin, and although canning tongs are very handy, they’re also optional. In this video, you’ll learn the secret (and delicious) ingredient in homemade jam. Want to cut straight to the yummy recipe? Go here. Pro tip: Have plenty of pretty jars handy, and double the recipe. (Your holiday gifts? They’re about to be done. Imagine that.)
One-a-penny, two-a-penny. Every kid has heard of hot cross buns! And find us one that won’t enjoy the instruction to “punch down the dough.” This recipe is as simple as a good stand mixer. The dough comes together in minutes; kids can help you shape it into 12 equal balls. (This is also a good project for two kids, as they can collaborate on this part!) Once the buns have risen, they get an egg wash (for that golden hue) and a drizzle of icing once they’re out of the oven. Traditionally eaten around the Easter holidays, hot cross buns are delicious for anyone, anytime.
Keep it simple, silly. Apple sandwiches shellacked with peanut butter and dotted with raisins and granola deliver produce, protein and heartiness in one fresh bite. We like Granny Smiths, which have that crispness you want in something that’s frankly a tiny bit decadent. Kids can core the apples, apply the toppings, and dig in fast, without waiting for something to bake through. This is what we feed our offspring when they’re just off the bus or back from camp, ravenous. Feel free to do the same!