I love to bake with the kids, even though it means I have to take a deep breath and let everything be very messy without worrying about it," says Diane Fine, a mom of two in San Francisco. "The table, the chairs, the floor, the walls, and most parts of the kids end up very messy. But we have a great time."
That's the thing about cooking as a family. There's some pain -- the mess -- but there's a lot to gain. One mother who regularly makes dessert as well as
lasagna with her two kids (they each get their own mini-lasagna pan) reports that her four-year-old "is very clear that things taste better if he made
them." Along with the pride of creation, baking gives kids a chance to see -- and taste -- cause and effect in action (if we put these two ingredients together, what will happen?). Plus, it's inexpensive entertainment, and afternoons spent in the kitchen of childhood become cherished memories of adulthood.
Now, what to cook? If you're not much of a chef, baking is the ideal way to introduce kids to the kitchen. Baked goods need more child-friendly mixing
than adult-necessary chopping, and the kids are sure like the results. For a healthy alternative to baking cookies or a cake, try this simple banana bread. If you don't have any ripe bananas, place two fresh bananas in a paper bag in a dark drawer for several hours and they will ripen. Hint: Instead of tossing browning bananas, throw them in the freezer and defrost in a bowl on the counter for several hours before using for banana bread.
To maximize family participation, take out all the ingredients and measuring spoons and cups first. Bigger kids can help measure and pour ingredients
into the bowl and everyone can help stir. Of course, only an adult should use the oven. And don't stress about the mess. Clean up can be part of the family tradition.
(family recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
- 1 1/2 cups flour (white or half white, half whole wheat)
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1-2 eggs
- 2-3 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange or lemon rind
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and egg and mix until most flour lumps are gone. Add banana pulp and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
For added zing -- and a dash of color -- mix in orange or lemon rind. For a sweeter banana bread add chocolate chips (to avoid overloading on the
sweetness, remove two tablespoons of sugar from the measuring cup before you add the sugar). For more crunch, add nuts.
Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350° for one hour. Cool before slicing.
Eat plain or topped with butter, cream cheese or jam.
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