BY SHARYN JACKSON, STAR TRIBUNE
MINNEAPOLIS — My 2-year-old, Milo, has recently begun stringing short sentences together, and my favorite of his newfound phrases is this declaration of pride: “I did it!” That’s what he said when he helped me make pizza dough by kneading the flour, water, yeast and oil with his chubby little toddler hands. Later, he sprinkled cheese over the dough, and waited (OK, impatiently) while the pie baked and then cooled. Sure, he tried to nibble the raw dough a couple of times, and downed a handful of mozzarella before I could stop him. Otherwise, our little kitchen adventure went pretty smoothly.
When he finally got to eat a slice of homemade pizza, he used another of his new sentences: “I made this.”
Nothing has ever tasted better. With schools and most day cares closed, and many parents working from home during a shelter- at-home order, sometimes the easiest way to get food on the table and entertain our kids is by cooking together.
“The kitchen is a really powerful place to learn, but it’s also a really positive place to parent,” said Kelly Montoya. She’s the founder of Little Sous, a subscription service that sends cooking kits with recipes and kitchen tools to children ages 5 and up.
Montoya has seen subscriptions climb since the coronavirus started keeping families home mid-March.
In these extraordinary times, people are searching for a way back to something elemental, like food, Montoya said.
“We’re all learning right now there are things we’ve taken for granted,” she said. “It’s inspiring a whole deeper level of thought and connection as a society to the things we care about but have been moving too fast to enjoy.”
Cooking with kids accomplishes much more than allowing parents to multi-task while feeding the family. It helps kids master a new skill, practice math and chemistry, feel pride in a finished product and learn about hand-washing and food safety.
It can even help with picky eating.
“It’s hard to not at least be curious about what something will taste like, especially if you’ve had a hand in creating it,” said James Rone, who encourages Minneapolis high-schoolers to explore global cuisine in cooking classes at the Project Success Institute. (Rone, the institute’s program manager, is now livestreaming the class every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Instagram.) Best of all, cooking together during quarantine gives busy families a chance to view mealtimes with a little more reverence. Instead of a quick stop for fuel before the next thing, meals can be a treasured part of each day.
EASY TRAIL MIX
Makes a lot.
Note: This recipe does not require knives or heat.
Ingredients are customizable; use whatever you like or have on hand. From Alli Hearne.
3 cups cereal Crackers (such as Ritz), broken, about 1 sleeve Graham crackers, broken, about 1/2 sleeve
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix.
CHOCOLATE BROWNIE COOKIES
Makes 12 cookies.
Note: From “My First Cookbook,” by America’s Test Kitchen Kids.
Vegetable oil spray 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons Dutchprocessed cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, measured separately 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 1 egg
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spray parchment with vegetable oil spray.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, combine butter and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Heat in microwave at 50% power until melted, about 2 minutes. Use rubber spatula to stir mixture until smooth.
Add brown sugar and egg to melted chocolate mixture and whisk to combine.
Add flour mixture and use rubber spatula to stir until combined and no dry flour is visible. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
Measure 1 heaping tablespoon of dough and drop it onto baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough (there should be 11 more tablespoons). Leave space between dough mounds. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Use your hands to roll each dough mound into a ball, then place back on parchment-lined baking sheet.
Gently flatten each ball (if dough is sticky, use wet hands).
Bake until edges of cookies are just set and centers are still soft and starting to crack, 11 to 13 minutes.
Let cookies cool completely on baking sheet, about 30 minutes.
Note: You can swap any kind of juice and fruit depending on your tastes. To help a young child measure juice, put the measuring cup in a pie pan or baking pan, put the juice in a small pitcher, and let the child pour it into the measuring cup from the pitcher. If spilling occurs, it goes into the pan. To help a young child peel a banana, cut it in half crosswise, then make a slit all the way down the side of the skin.
Repeat on other side, and give the peel a little tug to start.
Bananas are safe for even the youngest child to cut. Use a serrated dinner knife or a plastic picnic knife, and put a piece of tape on the handle so your child remembers which end to hold.
From “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,” by Mollie Katzen.
2 cups orange juice 1/2 cup plain yogurt 1 tablespoon honey 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 small banana, sliced 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
Place the orange juice in a bowl.
Add yogurt, honey and lemon juice. Whisk until it is all one color.
Split banana slices and berries among the serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the fruit.
Makes 1 large pizza or 3 to 4 small pizzas.
Note: Pre-bake crusts for 5 minutes if adding soggy ingredients such as fresh tomatoes or extra sauce. From “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: Edible Edition,” by Liz Lee Heinecke.
2 teaspoons yeast 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon olive oil Choice of cheese, sauce and toppings
Add yeast to 1 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix flour with the salt, then stir in the oil and the yeast mixture to create the dough.
Briefly knead the dough and then put it back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel and let it rise for 30 minutes.
Punch the dough down and preheat an oven or grill to 400 degrees. Flatten and stretch the dough.Add your toppings and bake in an oven or on a grill