Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My mom taught me a lot of things, but cooking wasn’t one of them. (Sorry, Mom!) But every year at Christmas time, we would spend a day making and decorating Christmas cookies.
I can still picture the well-loved metal cookie cutters, the Christmas-colored frosting, and the assortment of sprinkles and silver balls that I’m sure I managed to get all over the table and floor. Those cookie making days are treasured memories for me, ones that always bring a smile to my face when I think of them.
Cooking with kids is certainly no easy (or neat!) feat. As I said, I didn’t help my mom cook very often, so I wasn’t really even sure how to go about doing it.
But it has always been really important to Levon that our kids grow up cooking with me, so I’m doing my best to learn! And I’m finding that even though it’s a little more difficult, a bit more time-consuming, and a LOT messier, cooking with Aidan is also more rewarding.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned while cooking with my son:
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Tips for Cooking With Kids
- **The best tip I have ever read:**
Measure out the correct amount of your ingredient into a small bowl, and let your child scoop from that bowl into the final mixing bowl. This has been a HUGE help while Aidan is still little. He gets all the fun of dipping and scooping, but we also end up with the correct amount in whatever we’re making!
- Be prepared.
Get all the ingredients and tools out before you enlist your child’s help. Small children are short on attention and patience, and if they have to wait while you fetch ingredients, they WILL take it upon themselves to “help” (a.k.a make a giant mess).
- Do it together.
If they’re not quite ready to dump ingredients or stir, have them place their hands over yours while you perform the actual work.
- Talk to them.
I like to keep a running commentary with Aidan while we cook. I explain what I’m doing, show him how to do certain tasks, and talk about what steps come next. I know he doesn’t understand most of what I’m saying, but it’s planting seed of knowledge in his head. It’s never too soon to start teaching! Plus, he loves to talk with Mommy, so keeping a conversation going keeps his interest and focus on the task at hand. I have found that if I don’t keep him busy in a controlled way, he will find ways to keep himself busy … and those aren’t usually the activities I want. 🙂
- Get in the right frame of mind!
Be prepared for extra mess, allow for extra time, and lower your expectations for both taste and presentation. 😉 So what if your cookies are flat or your cake is lumpy? It’s the experience and memories that are important. And don’t worry about the mess. Just let it happen and clean it up together after!
Thinking about all those cookie making sessions with my mom made me eager to start making my own Christmas cookie memories with Aidan. Over the course of a couple days last week, we made chocolate crinkles, gingersnaps, and pretzel turtles. It was messy, sure, and I can’t guarantee that all the ingredients were added with much precision. But Aidan had a blast, and I enjoyed watching his joy. It was hours well spent. Not only did we get some delicious treats from our efforts, but it was a wonderful opportunity for valuable quality time.
Here are the finished products:
If you’re interested in making the cookies for yourself, here are the recipes:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
- In a large bowl, mix sugar, oil, vanilla, and chocolate. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with butter or cooking spray. Place powdered sugar in small bowl. Shape dough into balls and drop into the powdered sugar. Roll in sugar to coat. Place about 2″ apart on the cookie sheet.
- Bake 10-12 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg with electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 375. Lightly grease cookie sheet with butter or cooking spray.
- Place granulated sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough by rounded teaspoons into balls. Dip tops into the sugar. Place balls, sugared sides up, about 3″ apart on a cookie sheet.
- Bake 9-12 minutes or just until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
I got these recipes from my Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook. If you’re looking for a cookbook full of Christmas goodies, this is it! It’s full of appetizers, main dishes, cookies, breads, desserts, and really cute homemade gift ideas.
It also has a Holiday Survival Guide to help you plan, organize, and prepare your holiday parties. I love this book!
Here are a few other fantastic resources for Christmas cooking:
Top-Rated Holiday Cookbooks
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays
- Taste of Home Christmas: 465 Recipes For a Merry Holiday
- Fix-it and Forget-it Christmas Cookbook: 600 Slow Cooker Holiday Recipes
- Gooseberry Patch: Hometown Christmas
- Taste of Home Holidays & Celebrations
What about you? Do you have a favorite holiday cookbook or resource to share? How about your best tips for cooking with kids? Share in the comments below!
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