Friday, March 04, 2011

the joy of cooking

So don't laugh, but in a few weeks I have to go into Cal's classroom to give a cooking lesson.  Me.  Giving a cooking lesson.


I didn't volunteer for it, exactly, but Cal's going to be "Person of the Week" at the end of March, and each Tuesday, a parent of the Person of the Week has to come in and give a cooking lesson in which the kids can participate, and which teaches something about the basics of measurement and timing and...I don't know, hygiene?  Anyway, I'm one of the last parents in the class to come in for this cooking lesson (I was originally scheduled to do this in October but I couldn't accommodate it into my work schedule on such short notice so I traded with someone else) and I have no idea what to cook.  The other thing is that I think everything that seems easy and reasonable (little pizzas, smoothies, muffins, what have you) have already been done, like a thousand times over.  Could I still just do another smoothie?  Sure.  But I want it to be special!  I want to impress the five year-olds!  They are the arbiters of cool!

So here's what I know about the cooking thing.

1.) It has to be a preparation process in which the kids can meaningfully participate.  And for clarification, this is a kindergarden class of 23 kids.  No high flame wok grilling of vegetables fine-diced on the spot, in other words.

2.) It has to be something involving measurement.

3.) Actual cooking with heat can be involved, although it doesn't have to be.  For instance, if I were going to make pizzas (done, done and done by, like, three other parents) there's an oven in another building where I could take them after assembly.

4.) No nuts.  There are all these nut allergy kids in the class and I want them to live.

5.) Nothing too hard to do.  By necessity, I will be post-call that morning (it's the only way I can get the morning off without actually being on vacation), and I fear my fatigue-addled mind might not be able to handle more than, say, five ingredients.

Does anyone have any cool ideas?  I mean, I guess I could just make cookies or something, but I'm sure that's been done before too, and then all the other wholesome moms will think I'm poisoning their kids with refined sugars and whatnot.  Why can't I be a wholesome mom?  You know, like randomly incorporate bulger wheat into things.  Or someone who knows what agave nectar is.

Actually, I don't want to be a wholesome mom anymore.  Someone just tell me what I should make that the kids are going to love.  Make me into a classroom hero, guys.  The comments section is open for ideas.


  1. How about sandwiches? Easy to make, relatively healthy, no heat involved. You can have the kids measure out mayo or something. And to make it healthy--use wholewheat bread, Boston lettuce or some other darker lettuce, cheese, etc.

    While I'm at it- why not grilled cheese? It would involve counting rather than measuring (slices of bread, slices of cheese, etc), but it's still fun, delicious, easy and popular.

  2. These muffins are delicious. The kids might have fun mashing up bananas. You could use frozen mixed berries should you not have access to fresh blueberries.

    I was going to suggest homemade nutella but DAMMIT NO NUTS.

  3. Anonymous8:49 PM

    California rolls. Like sushi...only easier.

  4. I used to do dirt cups with my students in special ed. Everyone gets to crush Oreos in a baggie. Measure out a cup of crushed cookies. (measuring and fine motor) Press into individual cups. (sensory) Add gummy worms. (counting) Messy, easy and fun.

  5. things that were made when I was a kid in class:
    1) rice krispy squares +/- mulit-coloured marshmellows
    2) pancakes. yum. needs some kind of grittle though
    3)freezer cookies (no baking required)
    4)no bake cheesecake
    5) s'mores

  6. Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream! Always a hit and super cool...

  7. Anonymous8:58 PM

    --Measure out the ingredients
    --Count out the (ready made) skins
    --Each kid can measure out the tablespoon or whathaveyou of filling that'll need to go into the skin
    --Each kid can fold and press their own dumpling
    --Then boil/fry the dumplings. Voila!

  8. Anonymous8:59 PM

    How about dirt cups like these - - you please the kids and the health nuts b/c it uses "healthy" fats for the pudding! Also, I think using the food processor would win you points with the kids :)

    Or no bake cookies, like these:
    They are delicious and easy!

  9. Elizabeth9:00 PM

    Granola bars. Nut free of course!

  10. Anonymous9:03 PM

    How about granola/fruit/yogurt parfaits? They can mesure the ingredients into their cups?

  11. Anonymous9:05 PM

    Make kabobs with fruit and string cheese - they can make patterns (math). Strawberry, grape, cheese chunk, strawberry, grape, cheese chunk.

  12. You're a Chinese woman in the South, unless Cal's school happens to be next to some secret Asian ghetto that no one outside Atlanta knows about, I'm gonna guess anything Chinese will be pretty unique.

    When I was a kid, one of our family kitchen activities was making won-tons/gyoza. My mom would prepare all the stuffing (shitake mushrooms, ground fish/pork, scallions etc.) buy a pack of dumpling skins from the local Asian market, then we'd sit around the table trying to think of the silliest ways we can wrap them up. All you need to do afterward is throw them into some water to boil.
    The measuring requirement can probably be achieved by having them figure out how much of each ingredient they need to mix together to make x dumplings.

    A simple Google search will give you any of a dozen traditional and non-traditional recipes to choose from, you just need to decide which one will best suit a kindergartner's pallet.

  13. Fruit skewers - each kid can thread their own fruit onto a stick, and mix a couple of tablespoons of yogourt with a bit of cinnamon or fruit preserves for dip.

  14. wenda9:15 PM

    I do like the granola idea and after it is baked it can top some tasty vanilla ice cream....

    or..quesadillas, just some cheese and fixins on a george forman,,not much fuss..

    deviled eggs..let the kids spoon the muck into the egg halfs..

  15. wenda9:18 PM

    or do a quick google of kid friendly receipies...

  16. nachos

    w/ stuff already chopped

    waffles in a waffle iron

  17. Robin9:24 PM

    Instant pudding. For 23 kids you'd need to make several batches but that's okay, fortunately instant pudding comes in many different flavors. You could have the children assist in measuring out the milk (2 cups per box) and pour the pudding into either bowls for the children to take turns whisking OR (my preferred method), measure out the milk and pudding into plastic containers or glass jars with tight-fitting lids and have the children take turns shaking the pudding to mix it.

    Then after a minute or so of mixing, pour the pudding into plastic dixie cups, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup per child. So four to six servings per box. (Fractions!)

    The kids can eat it almost right away because it thickens within minutes.

    Plus, it's PUDDING! Full of milk (skim, 2% or whole) and good for you. Avoid the pistachio flavor, go for chocolate, vanilla, banana, butterscotch, and Jell-O's newest flavor, Cookies N' Cream.

    Oh, and yeah, they make sugar-free pudding, too, for those parents whose precious little snowflakes can't have sugar.

    If you want to fancy it up, add fruit to garnish the top: mandarin oranges, bananas, strawberries, etc.

  18. I was gonna say sushi, but someone beat me to it!
    Pictorial instructions, basic measuring and lengths, timing for cooking the rice... maybe stick to vegetarian so avocado, cucumber, bell peppers, sesame.

  19. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Spaguetti is super easy.

    You'd have to bring boiled spaghetti first, I guess...which is eeeasy.

    Then, just mix with marinara or your favorite sauce..

  20. Betty9:32 PM

    Pizza lollipops would be so fun and easy... I made them for adults and they loved them!

    You can just buy premade pizza dough, and the kids lay out the sauce and pepperoni. Roll and voila!

  21. What about fruit kabobs? Bring in lots of different (pre-cut) fruit and possibly some marshmallows. Have them string th fruit onto kabob sticks then make/pour a 'dipping sauce' (like chocolate sauce or similar). Easy/no cooking/few ingredients/the kids will go nuts for them.

  22. OK, I know these are cookies and you are hesitant about cookies, but these are REALLY EASY. And they are delicious:

  23. Anonymous9:39 PM

    back in the day, i volunteered as an "assistant" at my city's parks/rec cooking class for kiddos (they were mostly ages 3-5). one of the fun recipes was making pretzels - they can have fun making the shape, and isn't there some story about the pretzel representing friendship or something?
    also, my fave was oven-fresh brownies a la mode - hot and cold and creamy and fudge all at the same time!

  24. oh sorry, I just realized they have to chill for 2 hours though :(

  25. Jennifer9:43 PM

    Granola bars! I have a great recipe I'd be happy to send you. They are delicious and also healthy; they even have wheat germ in them! Lots of stuff to measure and mix, so good for kids to help. My 3-year-old loves to help me make them.

  26. Anonymous9:49 PM

    you could impress them by making homemade stovetop mac & cheese, you know, like the stuff from the box, but better...

    it's alton brown, but it's a recipe made for kids, so i'm guessing some of the eyebrow raising ingredients (specifically the hot sauce) aren't actually detectable, but add to the flavor. and could also obviously be left out.

    it's got more than 5 ingredients, but the recipe seems pretty easy, if you've got access to a hot plate to boil water and whatnot. and i think it could impress the shorties.

  27. rice krispy treats ftw

  28. You would need to multiply the ingredients to make enough for class, but this one looks like fun -- Mini Apple Pies:

  29. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Fruit pizza: sugar cookie dough (homemade or from a tube) baked on a pizza pan, topped with cream cheese with powdered sugar, and various sliced fruits.

  30. Anonymous10:08 PM

    I remember doing this as a kid! Someone made stew (probably not a great choice since it has to cook forever and requires sharp knives and what not) and another one I remember is a parent who made flat bread on a skillet and talked about (I think it was native american?) culture. If you can make pancakes you can make flatbread and apparently, since I remember it 20+ years later, it must have been pretty impressive!

    Have fun cooking for the kiddos :)

  31. Anonymous10:20 PM

    You can make butter and bring in some bread. Have the kids measure some cream + salt in 2 containers w/ lids...pass around the class from each side of the room and let the kids shake it until it changes from cream to butter, then everyone gets some bread/toast to butter. You could even add food coloring before shaking and they could learn basic yellow + red = orange,, green butter! yum!!!

  32. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Ice cream in a bag is surprisingly fast, involves measuring, and has the potential for a science lesson. Most importantly, it would make you the cool mom. Sorry, couldn't resist.

    A quick google search should give you everything you need...

  33. Anonymous10:51 PM

    I second the idea of nachos. Chips, black beans, cheese, guac, salsa. They can measure the ingrediants (just make up some amount that looks reasonable , I.e. Half cup beans). You can microwave or put in oven. Hmmm. I might need to make some NOW.

  34. Maybe cupcakes are over done, but you could make vegan cupcakes. What kid doesn't love a cupcake? It's kind of cool to show kids that you don't have to use eggs or cream to make cupcakes. I'm not sure if they're old enough to understand the coolness of it, but I think it's really neat. And you can be all special, healthy and popular!

    The cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World has an amazing recipe for smores cupcakes. It's really easy and the kids will LOVE them. The recipe doesn't include chocolate chips, but I like to put chocolate in the cupcakes to make it more smore-like. I like to put 5 in each cupcake--counting! The kids could put some in each cupcake before baking!

    And if you're feeling fiesty or if you don't want to push a vegan agenda, you could make two batches of cupcakes, vegan and regular (eggs, milk, butter, etc).

  35. Anonymous11:19 PM

    I agree with Anonymous at 10:25 with the ice cream! It's super, super easy and you could have kids work in partners (cuts the work in half AND b/c their hands will get cold they'll want to take turns anyway). You could bring sprinkles and chocolate sauce for toppings!

  36. Anonymous11:27 PM

    i recently realized that most youngsters have never experienced the fancy treat of my youth, Ants on a Log. celery could me measured as could the cream cheese mixture and the raisins can be counted. another Idea: public libraries have back issues of parents magazine. there are a bajillion ideas in there for edible junk.

  37. You could have pre-done cut veggies (celery, baby carrots, green beans, etc...) and lead the kids in making a dip for the veggies. No baking involved! Very little prep work! Sour cream + herbs (of your choice) + a little salt = dip. You can choose the herbs (based on what's on sale, what seems to taste good, what might go in a "recipe"), and then measure them out with the kids (even if the amount is "how much is in the jar"). (Also, YDFM has cheap herbs, if you want to make them measure it all.)

  38. Apparently French kids all learn to make yogurt cake, which has a cool twist on measuring: you can use the yogurt container to measure the rest of the ingredients.

  39. I didn't read through all the comments, so apologies if someone has already suggested this, but how about mini cheesecakes?

    You give each kid a paper muffin liner and put a round vanilla wafer in the bottom. Then, you mix up exactly five (see, I listened) ingredients that have to be measured and put a scoop of the cheesecake mixture over their vanilla wafer. (You can use an ice cream scoop to do this quickly and hygienically.)

    There are different versions for either bake or no bake--whatever you want. Then, you top with a spoonful of pre-made cherry or strawberry pie filling (or fresh fruit and agave if you want to be badass by making the kids love you and SHAME THE OTHER MOMS with your fresh fruit). Anyway, it's simple and there are no nuts!

    Two recipes: (Ignore the instruction to crush the vanilla wafers...I'm telling you, just drop one in the paper liner)

    No bake:

    Good luck!

  40. Anonymous12:32 AM

    I love the idea of the ice cream in a bag. I remember doing it in elementary school lab class.

    You can also add some condensed milk instead of the sugar and it tastes great.

    Plus, its such a great teaching activity. And what kind of kid doesn't like ice cream!

  41. Anonymous1:22 AM

    I second (or third?) the dirt in a cup idea. Easy and quick to make, and the kids will have a blast making it, from smashing the Oreos to eating. I work in with kids (kinder to 1st) and they love the simplest things, as long as they have fun, you will definitely win!

  42. courtney2:04 AM

    connect recipe to a book that's age appropriate-- for example, Thunder Cake (including lesson plan thanks to Scholastic) -

    Or another good one- Jalapeno Bagels (the book's title)- don't actually bake the bagel, but chango bars, a sweet treat--

  43. Anonymous4:21 AM

    What about Vietnamese rice paper rolls? You could bring in the filling components already cut, and use bottled sauce. Dipping rice paper into warm water and assembling the rolls is great fun...and maybe a little different.

  44. Chocolate crackles! Seriously, kids live for these things. They can be decorated with some hundreds and thousands while the mixture is still wet as well.

    I'm not sure if these are a uniquely Australian treat - but they are SO EASY to make (and as an aside, keep nurses on night shifts off your back when you are a poor helpless intern ;) )

    Copha btw is a vegetable shortening made from coconut oil. I understand it's really hard to get in the US and other shortenings don't work very well - so if you can't get it, try making them with Mars Bars :D

  45. Anonymous5:28 AM

    we made sherbet in school- just get baking soda, citric acid and icing sugar for flavouring.
    science lesson as well

  46. Jello Shots!! (you can use 7up in lieu of etoh - at least for the yungins')

  47. Vegetable soup. Feed the masses with 3-4 ingredients and stock. Precise quantities not all that important.

  48. Everything I was going to suggest has nuts in it.

    That said, I'm a special education teacher and you all have given me ideas to last the rest of the year!

  49. I taught the kids to make "goop" when they were that age. Unfortunately it's not edible. So what about edible playdough?
    A plus would be anything they can mix the ingredients together in a baggie then remove. Clean and fun for them to watch the colors mix.

  50. Rocky road... melt chocolate and butter, put in marshmallows, smushed up biscuits and dried fruit. Om nom nom...

  51. Anonymous9:37 AM

    trail mix (MandMs, pretzels, Goldfish crackers, etc). Easy to measure/eat/serve.

  52. Anonymous9:39 AM

    spread a tortilla with cream cheese, top with cut veggies/cheese/etc. Slice into pinwheels.

  53. Anonymous9:43 AM

    soup? Broth with cut veggies.

  54. Anonymous9:46 AM

    7 layer cookie bars. Super easy to make. Just need an oven to "bind" everything together. Of course, you can skip the nuts. Basically, you melt butter, put a layer of graham cracker crumbs, top with choc chips/MandMs/coconut/raisins/etc and pour condensed (not evaporated) milk on top.

  55. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Dr. Seuss's green eggs and ham. We made that in kindergarten.

  56. OK, so I am going to second two things that have been said already:
    Easy Apple Pies! When I was a school nurse, one day the kids in 1st grade made these and the whole school smelled sublime, then, my sheer magic, one of the kids felt the urge to bring me one as a gift! It was awesome, easy and delicious.
    Second - one time my kids made "Stone Soup" - based on the folk tale. You could read the book and then make it! The kids were told a few days ahead of time to bring in 1/2 a cup of "any" vegetable. These were then added to the hot broth that was supplied, cooked, and voila...Stone Soup!

  57. Anonymous9:50 AM

    grilled cheese cut into shapes with a cookie cutter

  58. Anonymous9:55 AM

    apple sauce

  59. Anonymous10:00 AM

    fondue. pretzels, cheese, fruit dipped in chocolate, you can sprinkle sprinkles on top.

  60. Anonymous10:06 AM

    hot chocolate. warm up the milk, add chocolate syrup top w/ whipped cream/choc chips.

  61. Anonymous10:09 AM

    punch, 7 up, juice, sherbet.

  62. Anonymous10:23 AM

    banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (no sugar, no flour, no butter)

  63. Anonymous10:24 AM

    apple slices with caramel syrup

  64. Anonymous10:28 AM

    hummus with pita chips. both are easy to make or you can buy the pita chips. you can also dip veggies and crackers.

  65. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I know you said pizza has been done before. However, you can use various bases like french bread, sourdough bread, pitas, etc. So if you want to do pizza, just pick a different base.

  66. rice pudding:

    - try substituting 2/3 of the milk with coconut milk
    - have fun with toppings! if nuts are out, you could use raisins or chopped fruit

  67. i was going to suggest some kind of vegetable soup (what? it's a great one for measuring) but then i thought about it and now i just think that 'teaching' 23 kids to cooks sounds really terrifying. can't wait to read your report...

  68. Nacho Dip!

    Cream cheese spread on the bottom. Salsa in the middle and top off with sprinkle cheese. You just need to buy a few bars of the cream cheese, a big jar of salsa and a few packs of mozzarella cheese. I get fancy and buy the "Mexican" mixture. Oh, and the nacho chips to dip with! Hygiene = NO DOUBLE DIPPING!

    After it's all layered in a baking pan, pop it in the oven at about 325 until the cheese has melted on top and VOILA deliciousness. The kids can measure out cheese or something. Obviously you can add anything else to the mixture that you want that could involve measuring. Super easy and SUPER YUMMY!

  69. You could think outside the box a little and make play-doh or silly putty...

  70. I agree with ice cream in a bag though I was going to suggest the coffee can method. We did this when my son was in preschool and the kids had a BLAST rolling the coffee cans back and forth.

  71. I'm sure it's been suggested already, but I'd just go with either guacamole (Bittman cookbook) and / or mango salsa (Moosewood cookbook). Both reasonably healthy, pretty tasty, and easy. You can chop everything except the avocados in advance.

  72. I'd make a dip/salad dressing and serve pita chips or vegetables. The "wholesome moms" won't have anything to complain about and I'm always surprised how easy it is to get kids to eat veggies when they have a dip. As an added plus, they are soooo easy!

    Beyond Easy White Bean and Pesto Dip (scroll done for recipe)

    Bean Dip aka Crack


    Homemade Ranch Dressing

  73. Megan3:47 PM

    In case you want to do cookies, I've made the roll-out cookies (from the Joy of Cooking, funnily) with a large group of kids before. I put them in groups of 5-6, and each group made a recipe. It was easiest with young kids to have them use their hands to mix the ingredients. Then, they would make shapes with the dough by hand (no cookie-cutters). (Although the best way to use cookie cutters with a large group of kids is to have them flatten the a little of the dough at a time with their hands--just enough for one cookie at a time, rather than trying to roll it out by hand.) It wasn't the most sanitary, but I figured the baking would kill all of the germs. A few times, we used food coloring. One group would dye their dough one color and trade half of it with another group.

  74. Anonymous4:02 PM


  75. Anonymous4:03 PM

    pigs in a blanket

  76. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Apple crumble. Uber easy. I first made it around age 5 in primary school in the UK. The rubbing in of the butter and flour to form 'breadcrumbs' was fun! And the final result - delicious!
    Still loving making (and eating!) it now.
    Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

  77. Anonymous5:09 PM

    The first thing I thought of was some kind of chicken salad. You can pre-prep or buy chopped ingredients. The kids can still measure out cups of celery and mayo. Scoop it into a pita pocket with a leaf of lettuce, and you look like a pro!

  78. I have a sour cream apple cake that is to die for and really easy with jobs that can be split for groups of kids. Pampered Chef have child safe knives for the apples that are inexpensive too. Let me know if you want the recipe. It is heavenly and easily big enough for the class to share :)

  79. Anonymous6:41 PM

    burritos are super easy to make - get some whole wheat tortillas (available cheap from costco) and whatever filling you want - beans, cheese, etc. pop in microwave, done!

  80. I like the yogurt parfait idea: layers of yogurt, strawberries (or other fruit), granola. Healthy, yummy, stuff to measure, no cooking involved.

  81. Outre9:19 PM

    Chicken lettuce wrap.

    Cubed (or other small shapes) marinated chicken, kids can chop various veggies in strips, make sauce and separate and cut the lettuce leaves into good sizes.

    Pretty easy to make (parents could use any marinade/salad dressing of their choice) and fun to eat :)

  82. You know those sports cups that have the little wheel inside- to mix up protein shakes? I've seen them at the dollar tree. You can use a couple of those cups to make some instant pudding. The kids can take turns shaking. Then you can pour the pudding into a muffin cup with nilla wafers or graham crackers, and banana or strawberry slices.

  83. Anonymous10:59 PM

    Also, little apple pies, made with pre-made crust! Kids could peel the apples, you could toss together with sugar/cinnamon. They could fill the pockets and you could bake? Like half-moon pies, hand held.

  84. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Italian ice (although you may have to make some in advance since it takes some time to freeze)

  85. Anonymous9:46 AM

    root bear/coke float

  86. peanut butter and jelly sushi

  87. oh, except the nut allergies... maybe use apple butter or something instead

  88. If cupcakes haven't been overdone, you can make rainbow cupcakes! All you need is a box of cake mix (funfetti works great!), the ingredients on the box, and some food coloring. Divide the batter into 5-6 bowls, add food coloring, and then layer the batter into a cupcake pan. They are cute and fun, and could integrate regular cooking measurements plus colors and patterns! Plus they bake in 20 min if that isn't too long. Good luck!

    Also, what is the plan for the Iowa Writer's Workshop? Early registration closes tomorrow...

  89. I'll be there hopefully late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Hoping to have some kind of event Friday evening, but will let you know...

  90. Anonymous7:05 PM

    red velvet cheesecake pops!

    1. these are beyond absurdly delicious and awesome looking
    2. it's all in little spoon measurements so you could have the kids measuring the 1/2 tablespoon of dough and making the balls which you bake nextdoor OR come in with premade red velvet balls and a cheesecake and have them go through the fun ball making experience.
    3. spheres are a geometrically relevant shape...
    4. unless the author from steamy kitchen (jaden hair) has kids in this class, i'm kinda willing to bet you'll hit the originality mark.