Almost exactly a year ago, my life changed when Jake bought me the America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook for my birthday. Before then, I kinda-sorta-liked-to-be-in-the-kitchen-I-guess-I-mean-I'll-cook-if-it's-my-night-but-don't-expect-anything-fancy. I liked to cook, I did, but it was never something I would have volunteered to do, not when I had an awesome cook right in my house with me. (I mourned the fact that "Honey, you love to cook so much and I just don't want to take that time away from you" only lasted me about three years in our relationship.)
But then, I got The Book. And all of a sudden, the world opened up to me. Wait a minute, I realized, I can make butter? Ricotta cheese? Peanut butter? Graham crackers? Jam?!?! That last one in particular kept me busy quite a bit, and since The Kid came berry-picking with us several times last summer, it only seemed natural to teach him a little bit about where his food came from.
TOTAL DISCLAIMER HERE.
I'm completely learning along with him. I did pick berries once or twice when I was a kid, but I grew up in the idyllic suburban 1980s, believing (but not really really) that my chicken came from styrofoam packages, that my carrots came pre-peeled. My mom is a good cook, but she was scarred at a young age when her cousin took her to see chickens get...um...prepared to be food. And so it was never something that I was really exposed to at all.
While I'm disclaiming, I'd like to point out that my search for vintage pictures of moms with their sons in the kitchen turned up practically nothing. Plenty of drawings of women teaching their daughters to cook, and serving their sons food, but nothing with moms teaching their sons to cook. Pouring milk while at child height was the best I could get. Gender roles! (OK, I'm done.)
And so, since Jake is in the kitchen a lot, I was starting to spend a lot of time there, and he was picking some of his own food, The Kid started asking toddler-type questions about what he was eating and how it was made.
And we started involving him in the cooking. By now, he makes up his own recipes in his play kitchen (the other day, he taught me how to make "Rice Cheese," which involves more flour than I would have imagined), consistently wears his chef costume which we originally got for Halloween, and is a fantastic egg-cracker, with help, of course. Two-years-ago-me would never have believed you if you told her, but one of my Very Favorite Things to Do is to cook with my boy. And we do it nearly every weekend.
My goal is to branch out from sweets, but man sweets are fun to make! I've been reading a bit about the benefits--beyond having fun and bonding--to cooking with your kid, and I especially like the article here. The Kids Cook Monday has some great resources too, and I'm excited to look into more of them.
For now, we're relying on the devils we know, and churning out cookies like fiends. And since Jake bought an insane amount of carrots this week, we made Carrot Cake Cookies, adapted from the recipe in one of our favorite books, Sesame Street's Yummy Cookies: Baking with Kids. Those Sesame Street folks know a thing or two about childhood education. They're soft, cake-like, totally delicious, and you can pretend they're healthy. (They're not totally unhealthy...) The recipe is after the jump!
Carrot Cake Cookies
(Adapted from Yummy Cookies: Baking with Kids)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrots, about 2 medium carrots (I grated them while The Kid was "resting" in his room, but that's the only prep I did by myself)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Makes about three dozen cookies.
- Preheat the oven to 350, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. The Kid is not allowed in the kitchen when the oven is open!
- Measure out the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt), and mix them together in a medium bowl. The Kid scoops; I swipe!
- Mix the butter and brown sugar in a mixer--we use our KitchenAid--on medium speed until it's creamy.
- Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat until everything is blended. The Kid likes to find the speed number and slide the lever.
- Add the flour mixture in three increments. I usually have to remind The Kid to start the mixer on a very low speed; otherwise, he turns it way up and flour POOFs all over the place. I feel like Lucy when that happens.
- Stir in the carrots, walnuts, and raisins.
- Scoop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheets. Place the cookies about two inches apart. The cookies don't spread much, but they like their space.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
- Cool the cookies for a minute on the sheets, then put on wire racks to cool completely.