Tag Archives: baking with kids

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Banana Nut Maple Mini-Muffins (Simplified)

6 Mar

(Don’t forget to vote for my Watermelon Mojito story for a #2015EDDY award for food and beverage writing. Vote daily till March 15. Thanks!)

Today was yet another snow day in a winter that has been the coldest in decades and during which we’ve been snowed on an awful lot. Most of us are well sick of the disruption and the winter coats and gloves and hats and the shoveling and the slush.

The bakers did very well!

The bakers did very well!

But there are small pleasures with unexpected days off…like sleeping in and — if your seven-year-old shuts up long enough to allow you to complete a thought or a blog post or pay a bill or anything for the love of God — finishing little tasks you wouldn’t have time for otherwise. And then there’s baking, because the best defense against the bad weather blues is a house that smells like sweet, warm, doughy things.

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that's part of the charm of home-made!

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that’s part of the charm of home-made!

So I decided to try a simpler version of our Banana Walnut Maple muffins with my little man and his friend from across the street after they’d been playing in the snow for a couple of hours (remember when you considered that kind of thing fun?) and I had actually completed one report.

Cute, no?

Cute, no?

It was a great success, both the making and the fragrant baking and the tasting, plus being able to send the neighbor home with muffins for her family and having muffins for the guy on the corner who cleared the driveway with his snow blower and for the sweet couple in their 90s across the street. Mini-muffins go so much farther than standard size muffins!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

Banana Walnut Maple Mini Muffins II (simplified)

2 Cups all-purpose flour (or 1 Cup all-purpose and 1 Cup whole wheat)

1.5 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

4-5 overripe bananas

1 Cup light brown sugar

¾ Cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ Cup maple syrup

¾ Cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375˚F and grease or line with cups 2 standard muffin tins (12 muffins) or 4 mini-muffin tins (48 muffins) plus be ready to do an additional six standard muffins. This makes a lot.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. In another, mash the bananas, then add the sugar and mix well with a fork. Add the melted butter, egg, vanilla and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the nuts and maple syrup gently with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill about halfway.

Bake 12 minutes for mini-muffins and 20 for standard muffins. Allow to cool for a minute before planning them on a rack to cool further or just serve warm. These store well in an airtight container for about three days and also freeze well. I take them out of the freezer and pop them into my son’s lunchbox frozen and they are good to go by snack time.


Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake – A Crowd-Pleaser, Homemade or Not!

11 May

It is spring and the rhubarb is out and the strawberries are actually in season (even though the season is in California and not here just yet) so it’s time to make fresh strawberry rhubarb jam and smear it over everything you can! So welcome to Strawberry Short Cut.

Mind you, I did it the long way. We were invited to our first barbecue of the season (Thanks to the Orr-Ciarlo’s for a wonderful evening!) and charged with bringing dessert. Me being me (and having made strawberry-rhubarb jam recently), I thought it would be a great idea to do a pound cake berry pile-up topped with whipped cream. And then of course I had to make the pound cake myself…and then wouldn’t it be fun to have the kids make the whipped cream?

And it was. So…here’s how

Make or buy strawberry rhubarb jam (What is rhubarb? you ask? Click the image for my easy Strawberry Rhubarb Jam recipe — no pectin required– and a run-down on Rhubarb  – one of Hot, Cheap & Easy’s top posts ever! ).

We're jammin'. we're jammin', hope you like jammin' too

We’re jammin’. we’re jammin’, hope you like jammin’ too

Make or buy pound cake

Homemade pound cake - click image for recipe!

Homemade pound cake – click image for recipe!

Buy some strawberries (if you can’t afford or find organic, make sure to wash thoroughly and take out the white core — I have heard tell that that is the part that holds a lot of residual pesticides), core, slice and marinate in a teaspoon of sugar (or not)


Whipped! Click for easy recipe!

Whirl up some fresh whipped cream (don’t buy this if you don’t have to…fresh is much, much better, so, so, easy, and so entertaining for the kids!!! They  all had a turn at the non-electric hand beater  –there’s no school like the Old School)

Then pile them up in bowls and enjoy the prettiest, sweet-tartiest, creamiest, lightest, fruitiest, just-rightiest dessert spring has to offer!

Strawberry Shortcake...a crowd pleaser!

Strawberry Shortcake…a crowd pleaser!

Blueberry-Strawberry Mini-Muffins

25 Mar

Another Perfect Mom Moment gone astray. I had the blueberries. I had the jam. I had the flour, the sugar, the butter, the cinnamon, the eggs. I had the kindergartener signed on to the project. But oops (oops being a euphemism for the words I actually used when I realized), I did not have the yogurt for our favorite blueberry-lingonberry mini-muffins.

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

Usually we do blueberry-lingonberry muffins with yogurt – light and lifty


But, snow falling on the first day of Spring told me that baking had to be. So Iron Mom took over from Perfect Mom (who I don’t like very much anyway) and made from lemons lemonade. Or in this case, a different muffin. As Temple Grandin’s mom used to say, “Different, but not less.”

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

Continue reading

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Baking with Kids!)

7 Feb

My intentions were good. But the road I am on took a turn that was paved completely with…Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was supposed to take Leandro and his buddy, Scott, to the gym with me for their regular weekly play date, where they could scramble in the habitrail (like McDonald’s Play Places without the Happy Meals), watch movies, draw, or just run like the demented maniacs they are after a day cooped up in school. Meanwhile I would do a virtuous hour on the treadmill, go home and make dinner.

It started so innocently...making trail mix!

It started so innocently…making trail mix!

But between one thing and another, we did not go. I attempted to recuperate from said setback by having the boys make their own trail mix for snack. Craisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and…semi-sweet chocolate chips. Just enough virtue. But mischief was lurking… Continue reading

Cranberry-Nut Mini-Muffin Scones

24 Jan

Nothing like getting halfway through a baking recipe and realizing you don’t have one of the critical ingredients.

Leandro and I were experimenting with a new muffin recipe on the eve of the spring semester and I had laid out all the ingredients beforehand (a critical strategic move when baking with a four-year-old boy and a secret pleasure because I pretend I am on my own prepped and pretty cooking show).

Then the “1/2 Cup milk,” bit, which I swear was not there when I was playing next Food Network Star in my own head five minutes previous, suddenly loomed into view. Milk!?! I hate milk! Leandro hates milk! Ick! We never have milk in!

And baking? Well I suddenly hated baking too, because it is so precise, so unforgiving, so anal, so not me….

But, Leandro and I do like yogurt and we always have plain nonfat organic on hand for my breakfast and his dip for apple slices. So, seeing as we were well into the process of these muffins (which started with a recipe from Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread by — I kid you not — Crescent Dragonwagon, an Arkansas chef and innkeeper), I bunged in 1/2 Cup of yogurt instead and hoped for the best.

The result was some really fun mini-scones. They were nubbly and attractive, studded with ruby cranberries. Instead of my usual muffin sponginess, the texture had that dense fluffiness that makes scones so lovely with tea or coffee, punctuated with nutty bits. The craisins took on an orange-y candied peel flavor that was perfect for a winter day.

Leandro did not like them at all. “I told you not to put that smelly powder (nutmeg) in,” was his shrugging response.

My colleagues, however, were a different story. I brought them in for a first-day-of-school snack for our kitchen and they moved quickly and got lots of compliments. So….as they used to say in hockey “kick, save, and a beauty!” I guess I like baking again.

Here’s the recipe…enjoy!

Cranberry-Nut Mini-Muffin-Scones

1 ¼ Cup unbleached all purpose flour

½ Cup sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 Cup nonfat plain yogurt

½ Cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ Cup dried craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (you may sub 1/4 cup walnuts with ¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease or line with paper cups 48 mini-muffin tins.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar to taste, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a second bowl, whisk together milk, butter, egg and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine gently into a soft dough (crumbly is fine) with as little handling as possible. Gently fold in cranberries and nuts.

Use a spoon or fingers to fill muffin cups a half to two-thirds full. Bake until lightly golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool for a minute, remove and then cool completely on a wire rack. Will keep three days in an airtight container; no refrigeration.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Easing into a delicious autumn)

11 Sep

The start of the school year makes me think of cozy sweaters, red wine and apples. There are good things about the end of summer and those are three of the best.

It is also the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and a little comfort food is in order.

Continue reading

Banana Bread – Share the Love (Easy Family Baking!)

28 Mar

I’ve never been much of a baker – I’ve probably mentioned that I am no good at following instructions – but this banana bread is very forgiving of people who are more “more or less” than precise.

It’s very child-friendly. Leandro and I put it together often and he takes slices to school to dip in yogurt. I especially like to double it (using about 8 bananas total) and slice up some for his caregivers and my colleagues – everyone feels appreciated and esteemed when they are on the receiving end of home-baked loaves of something. I get a lot of requests for this recipe, so here it is! It also freezes well; check the bottom of the recipe for storing instructions.

Easy, Moist and Yummy Banana Bread

4-6 overripe bananas*

1 Cup sugar (1/2 light brown and ½ white works well, but any combination will do; we’ve used a bit of dark brown as well)

2 eggs, beaten

½ Cup vegetable oil

2 Cups flour (up to one cup whole wheat, but beware stone-ground as it may be too coarse)

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Mash bananas in mixing bowl. Add sugar, eggs and oil, one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Sift dry ingredients together (I use a big strainer) and add to banana mixture. Pour in greased 5×9 loaf pan (or 8×8 oven dish) and bake 55-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

*We eat a lot of bananas here, but sometimes I buy too many and they get overripe, even for my son, who likes them sweet and eats the dark spots. Or he just wants half of one and I don’t want the other half. Any overripe or half-bananas get thrown into a plastic freezer bag and when I have approximately six, I make banana bread!

Storage notes: Banana bread should be cooled completely before slicing (I know, fresh-out-of -the-oven warm is so cozy! But it slices much better later on). It stays fresh tightly wrapped out of the fridge for two or three days. The refrigerator isn’t great for it, but you can warm it up a bit before serving. To freeze, slice first, then wrap in foil or plastic wrap and then place in a freezer bag. It’ll keep for at least a month and you can take out a slice at a time when you need a treat.

Tapas, interrupted, to do some baking with the boy!

19 Dec

I have said I am not much of a baker, but I got inspired to try with my niece, the incomparable Sofia, when she was little, figuring kids will love to cook if they can make their own desserts. It was good fun.

Now I bake pretty often with my own son, Leandro. You have to be ready for a bit of a floury, batter-splattered mess, for tussles over the right time to help, for wandering attention. The pay-off is a delicious-smelling house, not-too-sweet treats for the week and, I hope, a kid who knows his way around a kitchen in the future.

And, of course, the blessing of achieving something together (and not planting him in front of the T.V. in order to get something done).

We most often make mini-muffins – four trays of 12 will suffice for a standard 12-muffin recipe. Then we have 48 little muffins which we divide and deliver to various neighbors and friends (he is very proud to tell people, “I made these for you.”) and I pack three at a time in his lunch box. I also pack three at a time in my own gob, but nevermind…The downside of mini-muffins is washing the tins by hand. Let them soak first!

Here’s our simplest, entry-level recipe for banana muffins. See notes for baking with kids at the end!

Basic Banana Muffins

6-ish overripe bananas

¾ Cups sugar (regular or light brown are fine)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1.5 Cups unbleached white flour

1/3 Cup (5 and 1/3 Tbsp) melted butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Mash bananas in a big bowl (they don’t have to be smooth). Add sugar and egg. Add the melted butter (not too hot, or there will be lumps when it hits the cold batter). Separately, combine the dry ingredients, then add to banana mixture and combine until thoroughly wet and then stop! Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake for 12 minutes (15 minutes for regular size). Makes 48 minis; 12 regular. Will keep for three days out of fridge, a week in.

NB: 1. Lay out all your ingredients and equipment before calling the kids to help! 2. Grease muffin tins before getting started. 3. Aprons are a very good idea. 4. This is the time to remind them about thorough hand-washing and no coughing into the batter! 5. By all means let the little ones try to spoon the batter into the tins. It will be a mess, I promise you, but the muffins come out fine and it does wonders for their fine motor skills, their concentration and their feeling of accomplishment.

On bananas: Keep a ziploc bag in the freezer for overripe bananas or bananas that don’t get finished (trimming off the bit end, of course). DO peel them first. When you have six or thereabouts, you are ready to make bananas muffins!

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