Kitchen Science Class

Lots of kids have combined vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano erupt. It’s a good introduction to learning about chemical reactions, but in the end you’re just left with a plaster of Paris volcano and the by-products of the experiment: sodium acetate, carbon dioxide and water. Our experiment uses the same reaction and produces the same byproducts, but our experiment is deliciously edible! We made Lava Candy. You can do this at home too- it involves cooking sugar, so adults need to stick close by and lend a hand. 

We heated sugar, corn syrup and vinegar in a pot and cooked it on the stove until it reached 310°F. After removing the pan from the heat we stirred in baking powder and watched the sugar mixture foam up. We then poured the mixture onto a lined and greased cookie sheet and let the candy cool and harden. When you break the candy in pieces you reveal all of the holes created in the sugar by the carbon dioxide that was created when the vinegar and baking soda reacted.

A chemical reaction often will produce changes in color, will give off a smell or release light or gas. It often require heat or produces heat. A chemical change occurs when 2 or more things are mixed together and produce something that is different on a chemical level. Using the example of our baking soda and vinegar experiment: the chemical way of writing baking soda is NaHCo3 and vinegar is CH3COOH . When these combine, there are three biproducts: sodium acetate (CH3COONa), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). Nothing was added or lost to the chemical equation, but on the other side of the reaction, there was no longer baking soda or vinegar. We practiced this simplified version of balancing equations by subbing in skittles for our elements: carbon, oxygen, sodium and hydrogen.

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We also learned about physical reactions, best demonstrated by our Mentos and Diet Coke experiment.


The explosive eruption looks at first glance like a chemical reaction- it looks similar to the vinegar-baking soda experiment, after all. But if we think back to the earlier list of signs- is there any change in color? No. Does it create a smell? No. Does it require heat or give off heat? No. So all that’s left is: Does it give off gas or light? Definitely not light, but what about gas? The vinegar-baking soda reaction gives off carbon dioxide. The Mentos geyser is also powered by carbon dioxide, so are they actually the same? The answer is no, although carbon dioxide is the force behind both reactions. Unlike the volcano. carbon dioxide was already present in the soda before the Mentos candies were introduced. All the Mentos are doing is helping the carbon dioxide escape from the soda. The force of so much carbon dioxide escaping from the soda at the same time and such a narrow opening cause the soda to shoot up into the air. It’s a physical reaction.

Can a physical reaction be harnessed in baking? We made popovers to find out!

Popovers begin in a blender. A thin crepe-like batter is blended up and forced full of air bubbles. The batter is poured into a hot pan, where the batter begins to set immediately. The pan is placed into a hot oven where the air bubbles in the batter begin to expand and trapped inside the batter that has begun to set in the heat of the oven, it begins to expand- kind of like a balloon. If we look at our chemical change check list, there is a change in color, there is a smell, and it required the taking in of heat. So a chemical change has occurred. However, the expansion of heated air is a physical reaction. So in this experiment we observed both physical and chemical reactions.

Cheese Bread

Making bread can seem like a daunting task- blooming yeast, getting temperatures right for rising dough, how many times should you punch the dough down? Is it going to take all day to get a loaf of bread? It definitely doesn't seem like the right choice for baking with a kid. So I have a  work around for you. This week we made a  cheddar quick bread that is fantastic!

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Mixing up the dough is very quick and does not require any special equipment. And you can cut down on baking time by making the loaves small. In class we mixed in cheddar cheese, but you can use any kind of cheese that you like. You could add in chives, or crumbled bacon too. It's very customizable- in fact you can even make this bread cheese- free if you’re not into dairy, so even the cheese is optional.  Just remember- if you change the size of the loaves, bake time will change. Our tiny loaves took 30 minutes but a full sized loaf would take about 45-50 minutes. 

So while the bread was baking, we made some butter to spread on it. Have you made butter before? It's simple! Agitate heavy cream until it passes the whipped cream stage and turns into butter!

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The kids took turns shaking a mason jar full of cream and a pinch of salt until it turned into butter. It takes about 20-25 minutes of shaking, so it's good to have some friends to share the work. At home you can speed things up by using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, but if you're looking for a job for a group of kids, let them shake the butter for you. They'll love it! 
(p.s. remind them that a glass mason jar needs to be treated with some care!)

Muffin Making Mania

Blueberry Muffins were abundant last week. Our recipe includes a crunchy topping of lemon zest and sugar that really make these muffins incredible! The kids were divided into groups and really had to work together to make their muffins turn out spectacular. In addition to learning to read a recipe, measure out ingredients and learn baking terminology, they are also practicing communications skills, team work and math skills. I think they *might* be having fun too!

A New Batch of Kids, and a Batch of Cookies

I began teaching Spring after school enrichment classes today. I will be wheeling my kitchen supplies to 2 local elementary schools for weekly baking classes until the end of the school year!

I bought this 3 tiered rolling toolbox to haul all of my kitchen supplies back and forth. Its inaugural trip today went pretty well. I did still need a bag of a few odds and ends, but I made it from my car to the school with no mishaps!

For our first class we made chocolate chip cookies. The kids were ecstatic and did such a good job of working together and following directions!

First they read through their recipe, divided up jobs and mixed the cookie dough.

Next they scooped out cookies onto the trays, we baked them and...

They were delicious!

After School Programs

We are going to be taking Kitchen Explorers on the road! In order to better connect with kids around the city, Kitchen Explorers will now be offering classes at schools around Seattle in after school enrichment programs. We are all booked up for the Spring session, but if your school is looking for fun baking classes, contact me about getting on your schedule for Fall 2018. 

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The Lunchbox

My kids don't like cafeteria lunch. It all started with what I can only assume is an urban legend. When my son was a 3rd of 4th grader he came home from school with a story that was absolutely true! Someone heard that someone saw that someone bought pizza for lunch and the lunchroom staff had forgotten to remove the plastic wrap before heating the pizza. The pizza was covered in melted plastic! And now neither of my kids will eat school cafeteria food. 

With all of the nation-wide concern about the nutritional quality of school cafeteria food I am not too worked up about the fact that my kids won't eat it. However, occasionally I wanted to simplify my day by just having the kids buy a lunch but they were totally against it. My first work around was buying Lunchables, those prepacked cracker and cheese monstrosities that no child should ever eat. We kept a few on hand for days when I didn't get a sack lunch packed. Not surprisingly, the kids turned on those pretty quickly. I mean, they are gross! So the next obvious step was for them to pack their own lunches. This was not a popular idea with the under 18 crowd in our household. There were actual tears, which makes them really sound like terrible little humans, and I promise you, they aren't! 

Time heals all wounds, and now that they are 15 and 11 they make their own lunch daily with narry a peep. And this is the reason behind my last class: Lunch Box. How can you make your children enthusiastic about packing their own lunch? It turns out I made my daughter much happier about the whole ordeal with cookie cutters. She wants all of her food in a fun shape. And I let the kids make Jell-o. 

I know we recently discussed kids' love of cracking eggs and pasta making, but let me tell you- it was utter joy and squeals of delight when I announced we would be making Jell-o.

Having been raised in a very Jell-o centric household, I have eaten 1 million Jell-o variations. While I must admit to not caring that much for Jell-o (mostly because I am now an adult, I assume), if I am going to eat Jell-o I want it to be filled with berries or mandarin oranges. So we took tiny containers, filled them with fruit, poured Jell-o on top and put them to set in the fridge. 

Since I knew the Jell-o wouldn't set during class time I had Jell-o activity #2 all ready to go: Jell-o Jigglers. Have you tried them before? Let's just say the texture isn't for every taste. But guess what? Kids  ❤ 💕 💘 💖 💜 them!

And since you don't want your kids' lunches to be solely Jell-o, we made veggie dip and cut our veggies with the cutest little shape cutters.

And finally, the kids made a sandwich or cheese and cracker stackers for the lunch. We cut out the sandwiches with cute sandwich cutters that make my daughter 67% happier about making her own lunch. 

Make Pasta With Your Kids

Kids love making pasta. Maybe because it's kind of like playing with play dough? Definitely because it calls for cracking eggs. I've told you this before- kids love to crack eggs! Do you have a pasta roller tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? If so, you're ready to go!

There are many variations of the basic recipe. I like the America's Test Kitchen version, which is as basic as you can get: Flour. Eggs. (And 1/2 teaspoon of water if you must!).  Many basic recipes call for a bit of olive oil or salt. You can also add herbs to the dough. Find a recipe that you like best, dust off your pasta roller and make some pasta!

Here are my tips for pasta making with your kids:

1.  Pasta making is kind of a one-on-one (possibly two) experience. One adult and one kid make a great team! I make pasta occasionally with my 2 kids- I pretty much stand to the side and tell them what to do, but let them work together because three is kind of a crowd when rolling pasta. 

2. Find a stress-free time. Maybe a weekend afternoon or during a school break, find a 2 hour window that doesn't necessarily end with people expecting a meal. That will keep expectations low!

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3. Use a food processor instead of mixing the dough with a fork. It looks amazing when you see chefs on T.V. making fresh pasta like that, but people, sometimes you just end up with a pile of smoosh. Use a food processor. You still get the fun of kneading the dough into a smooth ball. 

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4. If your dough is sticky at all it will gum up your pasta roller. Dust sticky dough with flour. Until it stops sticking. 

That's about it! Your pasta dough can be made into any number of final product-  I think starting out with fettuccine is a smart idea. You can make a quick sauce while the pasta is resting then buon appetito!

Winter Session

Winter Session is under way and we have some really fun classes lined up! Next Wednesday and Thursday is our Lunch Box class. I was inspired to hold this class because I have spent the last school year and a half trying to convince my daughter to pack her own lunch. We are now up to about an 80% success rate. With elementary school starting so early, I want every second of sleep I can find. That means I want school lunch packed and in the fridge the night before. And why can't an 11 year old do that on her own? Answer: She can! And an 8, 9, or 10 year old can too if s/he has some guidance. So. Sign your kiddo up today and I will give them fun ideas for packing a bento style box full of yummy and healthy foods for lunch. And then you might get an extra 10 minutes of sleep in the morning!

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Our other excited classes are: mini pies, kitchen science, valentine treats and pizza! Don't miss out, sign up for the remaining classes today!

Holiday Treats Round Up

Between the kids being on break, everyone getting sick, Christmas, family visits, post-Christmas travel and wanting to attempt relaxing a bit in the middle of all that, I am just now getting around to posting about our Holiday Treat class. It was epic and messy! We spent 2 hours frantically making fudge, cookies, candy bark, caramel corn and hot cocoa mix- there was barely a spare moment. The kids were amazingly hard workers and giggled their way through, so I can only assume they had fun. 

The next day I did it all again with a new group of kids. 

The treats turned out really good! Here's a quick run down for you on each and a link to the recipe.

The fudge is easily the simplest recipe around! Essentially you microwave chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk together and stir. Then pour the melted chocolate mixture out onto a lined tray and top (or don't) with whatever you'd like. Refrigerate, cut and eat. It will firm up enough to eat within 20 minutes or so but it will be more like the consistency of the more complicated fudge recipes after several hours of refrigeration. We topped ours with mini dehydrated marshmallows and candy cane crunch so that it had a hot cocoa vibe. The upside is it's cute and tastes good. The downside is the candy cane crunch turns runny after a day or two and then isn't quite so appetizing.  So just eat it all right away!

Requiring more adult supervision is the caramel corn recipe.  I make this every year to give to my neighbors, but I make it with tons of nuts as the original recipe was written. The orange zest is the clincher in this recipe! Give it a try with nuts, if your so inclined. It's divine. 

I was surprised by how much I loved the white chocolate cranberry cookies. Once again, it must be the orange zest that hooks me! I want to try these with some oatmeal in them too. Also with cocoa powder so that the cookies are chocolaty and the chips are white chocolate. And maybe with dried cherries instead of cranberries. Options!

Trickier than I thought- mostly because of the chocolate melting- is the candy bark. We tried two different approaches- swirling the two chocolates together and layering one on top of the other. Now that I have done both here's what I will do next time: Melt the dark chocolate, spread it very thinly on the lined tray, refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Melt the white chocolate, pour on top of the dark chocolate and spread very thinly on top. Then don't use pretzels and m&ms for the topping. It tastes great but it's not a great fit for the breaking into pieces part. The candy and pretzels popped right off the chocolate when broken into bite sized pieces. Maybe the fudge should have the pretzels and m&ms and the bark should have the candy cane crunch. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Last, the messiest one of all- home made cocoa mix. For these jars sent home, made in my kitchen and not yours, you're welcome! To cut down on the mess, help kids with the measuring of the powdered ingredients and maybe use a funnel to transfer the mix into a mason jar. This makes 4 servings of cocoa mix but it doesn't leave a ton of room in the jar for the toppings and also it was really hard to keep the toppings separate from the mix. The plastic wrap that we used as a barrier between the two was more successful for some kids than others. It isn't really necessary. It can all be layered together. Or the toppings can be bagged and given on the side or in their own jars. It's more for the aesthetic of the gift than the functionality. The instructions call for 1 cup of hot water and 1/2 cup of cocoa mix. That seemed a little over the top to me, but that's for real. There is a ton of powdered milk in the recipe so using hot water is just fine (as opposed to heating up a cup of milk) but don't skimp on the mini chocolate chips. They really make the cocoa yummy. I would love to hear back if you try any of these recipes! 

Fondue with kids

We have added 30 minutes to our class time. That means we can do things like make cheese and chocolate fondue, prep things to dip in to them, eat them, and clean up all without rushing like maniacs!

I have found that kids like cheddar cheese fondue better than traditional Swiss fondue, so that's what we made in class this week. I adore any kind of melted cheese so I will add 2 recipes for you to try at home. DISCLAIMER: the Swiss fondue recipe is still not totally traditional. It is made with apple cider instead of white wine and kirche. Hey, I cook with kids! But I had to at least acknowledge that any Swiss person worth their pocket knife would complain if I didn't add that disclaimer. 

And one more thing- we ended the meal with chocolate fondue. I must tell you- this is not Swiss. It's an American thing. But it's a delicious American thing. It's too simple for me to type up a formal recipe. I'll just tell you what to do: In a glass bowl mix 12 oz of your favorite chocolate (chopped into small bits or just use chocolate chips) and 1 cup heavy cream. Place the bowl on top of a sauce pan filled with water. Place the sauce pan on the stove and bring the water to a strong simmer. The heat from the boiling water will melt the chocolate without burning it. (This is a double boiler) Stir to combine the heavy cream and dip things into it.

Ta-da!!!

Holiday Recommendations

If you're looking for recommendations for the little chef in your life I have some suggestions for you! I was asked recently about cookbooks for kids. Here are my thoughts as of today:

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My first recommendation is William-Sonoma's  The Kid's Cookbook. (I can't tell for sure, but it looks like the one I have was updated and is now The Cookbook for Kids.) It's a pretty comprehesive book and I like that mine has the spiral binding, so the book lays flat. Cookbooks that flip pages while you're trying to cook and look at instructions make me crazy! It has clear instructions, a list of all the equipment needed for each recipe and a section at the beginning with some basic technique instructions.

Next is  Cooking Class by Deanna Cook- this book has clear step by step instructions. a good variety of recipes, starts with easy things and moves to more complicated recipes, and has the spiral lay-flat binding that I like! My favorite thing about this cookbook is the step by step instructions are illustrated with photos. I find that extremely useful! (The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School cookbook has this as well and I love it! In case you're looking for a good grown up cookbook!)

kid chef bakes  by Lisa Huff is also well thought out cookbook (there's also kid chef  by Melina Hammer but I don't have that one). The thing I like best about this one is the beginning of the book is presented as cooking lessons with a technique to learn and a recipe to make while practicing. On the down side it does not have the step by step photos nor does it lay flat. 

One non-kid cookbook I recommend is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. This is one of the very first cookbooks I ever received- I think it was probably a wedding gift. I didn't begin cooking until I was in college and I was too broke to buy cookbooks then! While I think there is benefit in cookbooks aimed at kids who are interested in cooking, I don't think they should feel they aren't ready for a regular cookbook. This is a very easy to use book, it has reliably good recipes for essentially everything. It's not fancy- it doesn't call for specialty ingredients nor does it take shortcuts with a lot of prepackaged foods. It has recipes labeled as 'fast' and 'easy' (I'm kind of giggling about that now that I type it out) but it's helpful to know which are the good introductory recipes.  

My last recomendation is the book I use for our kitchen science classes. It's called Amazing (mostly) Edible Science. This isn't a cookbook for every day recipes- but it's got some fun recipes for things like edible finger paint and some basic molecular gastronomy along with more usable recipes like pizza and popovers. And then explanations of the science behind the cooking. It's a fun one to have around. 

Save this one for Summer

Today I am contemplating wearing fingerless gloves while I type! The wind is blowing, I really need to go get the oil changed in my car, but I don't want to leave my house. It's too cold! (note: it's not that cold.) So why am I thinking about Gazpacho? Why aren't I telling you about some kind of soup made of tomato but hot? I don't know. Oh, wait I just figured it out! There's a gazpacho recipe in my mother-in-law's cookbook on the page just before the spicy sausage soup. Flipping through the book I saw it and it stuck in my head. Aparently I am highly suggestible.  

Do not make this recipe now, but remember it for next summer.  It's amazing! It's called Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz and it's from the America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook. They really don't want you to have this recipe for free- their site is behind a paywall. I am too lazy to type it out for you, but I found someone else who already had, so follow this link! I will asuage my guilt by plugging their cookbook. This is a cookbook worth owning! I have shelves full of cookbook and many of them are there so I can read through the recipes and marvel at them. I am not actaully going to spend the time and money required to craft those restaurant dishes. I will go to the restaurants and let them cook for me. However, the Cooking School Cookbook is a great source of well thought out, reliable recipes that I know will turn out delicious. It's not for your kids, it's for you. Even if you're not much of a cook, it's for you. 

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So this gazpacho recipe- I think you need to make at least a double batch. It's kind of a long process to make the soup- there's draining and straining and pureeing and then you have to refrigerate it until well chilled before serving. Once you go to all of that effort, you are going to want left overs! The good news is you can make it well in advance of when you want to eat it, so plan accordingly and once the weather heats up, make this gazpacho!

A few Soupy ideas

A few weeks back the mom of one of my students asked me for soup recipes that are dairy free. This is the time of year when we all need to have a soup recipe or two ready to go, so here are some of my favorites:

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First up is a recipe from my mother-in-law. She gave all of her kids/in-laws a family cookbook years ago. It's a white binder with recipes inside page protectors. Many of those page protectors are now splashed with food- especially the pizza page! So this is a spicey sausage soup. The name of the recipe is

Spicy Sausage Soup

2 lbs bulk spicy sausage*

1- 28 oz can + 1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

4 cups diced potatoes

3- 16 oz cans small red beans

1 quart water

2 large onions, diced

1 large green pepper, diced

*(I like to buy the bulk sausage from Central Market in Shoreline. I get half Spicy and half Sweet Italian. I use it in lots of pasta dishes too)

Instructions: In a large pot brown the sausage. Add onions and peppers. Cook until soft. Add garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes. 

This soup is fast and super easy. You can make tons of substitutions. Add macaroni noodles instead of potatoes, add a different kind of bean, use a different kind of sausage. Leave out the green pepper, use beef or vegetable stock instead of water. It's also the kind of thing that's great to make ahead and reheat. It just tastes better the next day! Also, this recipe makes a very large pot of soup. Half the recipe if you're making for a small group, or if you don't want to eat it over and over again!

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My next suggestion is Tyler Florence's Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup. This recipe includes instructions for making your own chicken stock. If you're not up for making your own stock, there are plenty of good stocks available for sale. (Just don't use boullion cubes!) This is a great way to use up the left over chicken from a rotissery chicken! If you don't have a rotissery chicken and you're not going to make the stock I would recommend roasting 2 chicken breasts (skin on, bone in will give you the best tasting meat) ahead of time. 

The best thing about this soup is the array of toppings you can add in! While you can use corn chips instead of frying your own tortilla strips, I would say this step is absolutely worth the extra time! I buy small corn tortillas, slice them very thin and then fry them and pile them high in my bowl of soup. I also love to dice up a ripe avocado and put that in my soup bowl as well. Other add ins are shredded cheese and sour cream (unless you don't eat dairy), cilantro and a squeeze of lime. 

Give these a try and tell me what you think!

Gearing up for the new session!

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging during the Thanksgiving holiday. I posted on social media proof that I really made an effort to include my kids in Thankdgiving dinner prep. I did chase my son out of the kitchen after dropping my heavy duty mandolin on the floor and putting a dent in the hardwood! But then I felt bad, appologised and let him come back to sharpen the carving knife. It turns out that was a mistake, but he didn't hurt himself or others, so we will call it a minor mistake. 

Now that Thanksgiving is over we have 2 stand alone classes coming up: Fondue on December 6th and 7th and Apple Sauce and Cheese straws on December 13th and 14th. Following that we have two Holiday Treasts classes planned during the Winter Break. There are still a few spots for both days- Tuesday December 19th and Wednesday December 20th. These classe are 10:00-11:30 am and your little chefs will bring home a plate of treats along with a jar of hot coco mix all ready to be gifted to friends or family. 

I am also looking ahead to Winter Session, which will begin January 3rd and 4th. Today I have been test baking mini pies. How long does it take to make a tiny pie in a muffin tin? Come and find out! Promo Code EARLYBIRD is still available until December 1st. Hurry today to get 20% off tuition for Winter Session.

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A show for those who like both food and science

There 's a Netflix show I just started watching called "Food: Delicious Science" that I thought I should tell you about. There are two hosts of the show and they do a bunch of short segments about different aspects of eating and science. While your kids might not be interested in watching an episode straight through- each one is about an hour long- they might enjoy watching a few of the segments. I highly recommend this show for kids who are curious about the science behind food, eating and how our bodies respond to the food we eat. 

 

 

Family Togetherness and Thanksgiving Prep

Kids helping out in the kitchen can be a blessing and a curse. If you're tight on time or super focused on an important meal, directing children and supervising tiny fingers isn't helpful. However, when they want to help it's difficult to turn them away! Thanksgiving is the worst best time to be all together in the kitchen! I usually make my family clear out all together and then spend two days in the kitchen alone. I will allow one or two trusted adults into the kitchen if they can share the work load with me and not ask for directions or too much advice. Really, it's not a super family filled way to spend the holiday. So this year I want to try to involve my kids more. They are 11 and 15 so this should be no problem, right? 

The question remains- How do you integrate your kids into the cooking traditions and not bring more stress on yourself? I don't know the answer. But here are a few ideas I want to try this year- I would also love to hear what you do to help your kids get involved!

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Idea 1 Ambrosia Salad: This is a traditional side dish in our house, passed down from my husband's family. Kids love it, adults usually like it more than they want to admit. It's suuuuuuper sweet and not at all healthy. But it's a holiday and this dish is really easy for kids to mix up with minimal supervision. This is not an exact recipe. It's more about eyeballing ingredients. Begin the day before you want to eat this salad. In a large glass or plastic bowl combine 16 oz container of sour cream and about 1/2 a bag mini marshmallows and 1/2 bag of shredded coconut. (You could use unsweetened coconut but why?) Mix well and cover the bowl (with plastic wrap or a lid or whatever you use to cover things.) Refrigerate overnight to allow the marshmallow and coconut to sweeten the sour cream. Just before serving open and drain 1 can of pineapple tidbits, 2 can of mandarin oranges. Stir into the marshmallow/coconut/sour cream. If you want you can drain a small jar of maraschino cherries and add those too. 

Idea 2 Rhodes Bake and Serve rolls: Do you make dinner rolls from scratch for Thanksgiving dinner? If you do, I applaud you. You are a true hero. I use my mom's famous recipe. Frozen dinner rolls from Rhodes. This is a great short cut and you can leave it (almost) entirely up to your child, even a pretty young one- Here's what you do. Check the packaging of the rolls to make sure you leave plenty of time for the dough to rise. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or rub the inside of each cup with butter or shortening. Open a bag of Rhodes Bake and Serve rolls. Drop 2 frozen dough balls in each muffin cup. Lightly spray a bit of plastic wrap, cover the rolls and place in a nice warm spot. Let the rolls rise- Bake according to instructions. Many kids could do all of this except maybe the oven part.

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Idea 3  Potatoes: My first suggestion is make sure your peeler is a good one- while a sub-par peeler is a nuisance for grown up hands, you might find yourself saying "Here just let me do it!" as you watch your poor little kids struggle with a peeler that snags and stutters along a bumpy potato. At my house we really make a lot of potatoes so 2 or 3 or 4 people all peeling potatoes together is a great idea. If you're peeling together and you have a kids who has some good knife experience, you can cut together too. That way you can keep 1/2 to 1 eye on the tiny fingers and 1 1/2 to 1 eye on your own fingers while you cube potatoes. Remember, they need to be about the same size to cook evenly, but you're about to smash them into bits. They don't have to be pretty. And then your little chef can help with the mashing part, however you choose to mash. I like a potato ricer (as stated yesterday). That can be a 2 person job if your bowl needs steadying. My mom whips her potatoes with a hand mixer. Many kids can take on that job. If you're a hand masher with that wavy thing, kids can help with that too.

Idea 4 Snapping Green Beans: I love to make green beans with shallots, bacon and almonds as a Thanksgiving side. While I am frying up bacon and shallots I can ask one of my kids to snap off the ends of the green beans. Easy, requires no equipment, they can do this while I am facing the other way- no fingers at risk here.

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Idea 5 Decorating (aka setting the table): When my kids ask if they can help me and I say "Yes! You can set the table! That would be such a great help!" they get really annoyed. So what if I call it 'decorating'? Will that fool them? It could include making hand turkey place markers or maybe balloons and streamers? I'm not too sure right now, but the kitchen and dining room in my house are open and so we would all be together while this is going on. And that's the point! Get us together without annoying, well, me. I was going to say each other. But really I am interested in how I can have them with me but not annoy me. Is this going to work? I'll let you know!

 

 

Thanksgiving Treats

A week ago I asked the students what kinds of Thanksgiving foods were their favorite. The consensus was: Mashed Potatoes. We decided that our lesson would be learning to make mashed potatoes and our celebration would be decorating cupcakes. 

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We started out peeling Yukon Gold potatoes. Our first discovery? The peeler is important! For reasons of practicality we have very affordable peelers in our classroom but let's say they don't give you the smoothest peeling experience. But our students persevered and we ended up with 6 well peeled potatoes. 

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Ending the class with potato cutting gave us a good review of our knife safety. Remember 'The Claw". Keep those fingers curled away from the knife blade! 

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Cutting the potatoes into a uniform size will help them cook through evenly. You don't want smaller pieces turning into mush while larger pieces are still raw in the center. 

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We forced the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer. While it requires a little more muscle than other mashing techniques, I love the texture it gives you- there are no lumps and no danger of turning your potatoes into  gluey-textured mush. After ricing mix in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/3 cup warm whole milk and salt to taste.

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Next we whipped up some yummy gravy and after eating our favorite side dish, we moved on to dessert.

These turkey cupcakes are simple to assemble using frosting, candy corn, milano cookies, orange m&m candies, and chocolate covered sunflower seeds. We used candy melt to affix the candy to the cookies. Happy Thanksgiving! Join us for more classes in December and don't forget- Winter Session starts in January. Wednesday and Thursday classes available. 

The end of the Session

I feel like November is a universally hectic month. In addition to the holiday preparations and feeling like I should go to bed at 5 pm because of the setting sun, I have two kid birthdays in November. One down and one to go! I'll probably post something in the next few days about my daughter's birthday- I got her the tiny oven used in the Tiny Kitchen videos and I probably won't be able to resist making a few tiny things!

Today is the last day of the Fall Session. I have had such a great time teaching your kids! We have made some delicious food, learned some new skills, and laughed quite a bit. 

There are a few more stand alone classes coming up in December, so make sure to check those out. Winter Session begins in January. There is a Wednesday class and a Thursday class. Don't forget that there's 20% discount for signing up in November. Use the code EARLYBIRD at checkout. Also I want to remind you that paying online requires a paypal account but if you would rather pay by cash or check, email me and I will give you instructions. 

 

Muffin class

We made two flavors of muffin this week, based off of the same basic recipe. We made Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins and Blueberry Muffins. One thing we learned that might be useful for you at home- even though they are the same basic recipe, the blueberry muffins take slightly longer to bake! We had some slightly under cooked muffins on our hands, but guess what? The girls ate them so quickly I didn't even notice until class was over and I ate one myself!

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The blueberry muffins have a sugar and lemon zest topping that gets crunchy as the muffins bake. It's delicious!

We mixed up our two batches of muffins and got them in the oven in good time. In the time we had while the muffins were baking we tasted some new foods. Tune in tomorrow to see how the girls liked trying new things!

Butter+Cinnamon+Sugar+Muffins=Doughnut Muffins

So, As I was saying- Doughnut Muffins. Essentially you take a muffin, dip it in melted butter and then roll it in cinnamon and sugar. I can't exactly put into words why this makes the muffin taste 1,000,000 times more delicious, but it does. I haven't tried doing this with every muffin but I have made Martha Stewart's Pumpkin doughnut muffins as well as a spice doughnut muffin and I think I can safely say the process would make you very happy with almost any muffin.

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