Cooking with kids Family

Cooking with kids: Chocolate Chip Graham Cookie Bars – Magic!

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars - Magic!

Here’s a great recipe, for when you need something quick and chocolaty, warm and sweet. Great for when it’s -10 degrees out, with over 2 feet of snow on the ground outside. Like today.

The kids and I made Magic Cookie Bars last week, and were less than thrilled with the results – they were too crumbly (not enough of a base) and too chocolaty (really, it can happen).

So we switched things up a bit, and came up with a new, improved Magic Cookie Bar recipe – “Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars”. I think you’ll like them – I know we do.

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars

½ cup butter, melted

2 packs of honey graham cracker crumbs

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Spread over bottom of pan evenly.
  3. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over entire pan. (Get the edges, too!)
  4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.
  5. Sprinkle nuts over everything.
  6. Press down – you could use a fork, but I grab a sheet of wax paper, spray with cooking spray, and then use that to press down. (Easy and fast!)
  7. Bake 25 minutes until lightly browned.

This recipe is great to make with kids! It makes hardly any dishes, and even little ones can help out:

  • They can put the butter in a bowl, and melt it in the microwave. (Careful! Will be hot!)
  • They can crush the crackers: Put the 2 graham crackers packs in a gallon Ziplok bag, press the air out, then have them gently jump on it to turn them into crumbs. They can pour the crumbs in the bowl, and stir.
  • They can pour the sweetened condensed milk, and sprinkle the chocolate chips. They can use the chopper to grind the nuts. (Not too fine, please!)
  • They can press down firmly, using the sprayed wax paper.
  • They can set the timer.
  • While the cookies are baking, they can wash the dishes in warm, sudsy water.
  • And, then, after a grownup takes the cookies out of the oven, after the pan cools a bit, they can help eat these fantastically delicious, gooey, warm and chocolaty sweet cookie bars.

So, give it a try! Spend some time cooking together with your kids – it’s fun, and it’ll make your house smell great!

What’s your favorite thing to cook together? Share with us in the comments below!

P.S. The original Magic Cookie Bar recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup flaked coconut, so if you have that, feel free to throw it on, too. But, really, who ever has flaked coconut on hand?

Sunflower apron by: NowDesigns.

Original Magic Cookie Bar recipe by: Eagle Brand.

Cooking with kids Crafts Gaming How To What's Hot

What’s Hot: Nerdy Nummies

Yesterday we had reason to celebrate. Son #1 got a big envelope from the college of his choice. He was accepted, and received a sizeable scholarship.

Me: “What should we do to celebrate?!?!”

Kids: “Go out to dinner!!”

Me: “No! We’re poor – we have to save for tuition!!”

My 10 year old daughter: “Let’s make a cake – just like Nerdy Nummies!”

Me: “Huh?”

My 10 year old daughter: “YouTube, Mom, come on…” *commence rolling of the eyes*

Unbeknownst to me, my girl has been watching hours of Nerdy Nummies on YouTube. And, she put it to good use – she made a chocolate cake, frosted it, put frosting in a plastic baggie and decorated it all fancy – all by herself.

Cooking with kids

Cooking with kids: Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s that time of year again – holiday time, autumn harvest, Thanksgiving, pumpkins. Time for baking! This is our favorite Pumpkin Cake – moist, delicious, easy to bake, and ALL the kids will eat it. Frost the whole thing with the yummy Cream Cheese Frosting, or only half, for the folks who like it plain. I also love this recipe, as it only makes a few dirty dishes: 1 bowl, 1 spatula, beaters. Easy peasy.

Have your little ones help with the measuring and pouring. But don’t them lick the cake beaters, due to raw eggs – the cream cheese frosting beaters, they can lick, and lick, and lick.


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups (or 1 small can) of pumpkin

  1. Pull out your mixer, beaters, a large bowl, and a rubber spatula.
  2. Beat together eggs, sugar, and oil.
  3. Mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Then add gradually to egg mixture.
  4. Add pumpkin last, and beat well.
  5. Pour into 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (no less).


1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese (I microwave it for 15 seconds or so)
2 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar (a.k.a. 10x sugar / confectioners sugar)

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese together.
  2. Gradually add in vanilla and powdered sugar.
  3. Beat well.
  4. Frost cake when it is cool (warm is okay, but if the cake is too hot it melts the frosting and makes it look weird).

Photo: by Pumpkin Passion.

Cooking with kids

Cooking with kids: Angel Food Cake

Summertime means easy and light cooking. And of course, angel food cake – light, sweet, fluffy, no fat, delicious with seasonal strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. And a dollop of whipped cream.  This is officially our favorite summer dessert:

Angel Food Cake


1 1/2 cups egg whites (10-12 large)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Step 1:  Separate eggs. Put the egg whites in large mixer bowl. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes. (If your kids are helping separate the eggs, have them break each egg into a small bowl. Then, if the yolk is successfully separated and there is no yolk in the egg white, you can easily pick out any egg shell bits. Then, dump the small bowl of egg white into the large mixer bowl.  You don’t want ANY egg yolk in the egg whites.)

Step 2:  Sift powdered sugar and flour together 3 times and set aside.

Step 3:  Add cream of tarter, vanilla, and almond flavoring to egg whites.  Beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form (medium to medium-high speed). Watch carefully, for when soft peaks just begin to form.

While continuing to mix, gradually add granulated sugar, about 2 T at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. (Don’t over beat.) Remove from mixer.

Step 4:  Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites and fold in gently. Repeat, folding in remaining flour by fourths.

Step 5:  Pour into ungreased 10″ tube pan. Gently cut through batter with a table knife to remove any large air pockets. Level the top.

Step 6:  Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees until golden on top. (Don’t open oven until the cake is done).

Step 7:  When done, immediately invert cake, and cool thoroughly in the inverted pan. Gently loosen sides of the cake from pan and remove.

Now, top with fresh berries and whip cream, and enjoy!

Note:  If you don’t have an angelfood cake pan, you can make this in a 9 x 13″ pan, but reduce cooking time to 30 minutes.

Another Note:  My mixer bowl isn’t very large, so I end up dumping the beaten egg whites in an XL bowl, then folding in the flour. Otherwise, it gets a bit messy.

Photo by DailyCraft(I’d love to get a photo of an angel food cake we make, but, it gets eaten so fast… by my little angels…)

Cooking with kids

Cooking with kids: Chocolate Brownies

I wish I could post a picture of the delicious Valentine’s Day chocolate-y brownies that we made. But, we ate them all. (I lightly sprinkled confectionary sugar over a lacey, heart-shaped doily. It was pretty. Really.)

We’re trying to cut desserts down to Sundays only, but sometimes a little chocolate is absolutely necessary. This easy, delicious, fudgy brownie is made from scratch, and is based off NattybyDesign’s recipe. No more store bought brownie mixes for us! This recipe is simple, and can be made with stuff already in your pantry.

If there’s any leftover – wrap them individually and stick them in the freezer for kid lunches during the week.

Chocolate Brownies

Mix together:
1 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar

Add, then mix:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

With mixer running, toss in:
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flour

Bake in a greased 13 x 9 pan at 350 degrees: for a metal pan, bake for 25 minutes; for a glass dish, bake for 35 minutes.

(I grease the pan by wiping the bottom with the empty butter wrappers.)

Best. Brownies. Ever.

Photo by Roboppy.


Cooking with kids

Cooking with kids: Banana bread (or muffins!)

Here’s a tasty, easy recipe for you to make with your kids for banana bread or muffins.  If you’ve got 3 overripe bananas, everything else you probably already have in your fridge or pantry.  We make double this recipe at least once a week, and it’s a favorite of the kid’s friends.

This is a fun recipe for little ones, as there’s measuring and pouring, mixing, and operating a blender.  (Noisy!)  It’s a good idea to use this opportunity to teach about blender safety.  (Also, no licking batter with raw eggs is another good rule.)

Makes:  3 mini loaf or 6 large muffins or 12 regular muffins.

Equipment you’ll need:

Large bowl
Rubber spatula
Mini loaf or muffin pans


Preheat oven to 350.

Spray your pans with cooking spray/oil.

Step 1:  mix dry ingredients in large bowl

2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Couple shakes of nutmeg

Step 2:  mix wet ingredients in blender

2 eggs
½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Blend; then add one at a time to blender while running:  3 overripe, peeled bananas.

Step 3:  pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Mix.  Put in pans.

Step 4: Bake

Regular muffins – 20 minutes
Large muffins – 30 minutes
Mini loaf pans – 40 minutes

Photo by foodpr0n.

Cooking with kids

Cooking with Kids: Make your own sushi rolls

Tonight we’re having one our favorite dinners – make your own sushi!  We like it because we can each make our own sushi just the way we like it.  There are many different ways to make sushi rolls (also known as makizushi), and after much practice we finally have it down to a science.  Getting take out sushi for our entire family is easily over $100; yet, for $100 we can make our own sushi for five separate meals (around $20/meal).

Because the kids have been on such a big anime and manga kick recently, we’re exploring Japanese culture and all things Japanese.  My son has even started to teach himself the Japanese language; he downloaded an app on his iPod Touch, and I’m finding little strips of paper with katakana and kanji all over the house.  Now, what I’d really like to get is a Japanese wooden table, or maybe a kotatsu, for our living room, for homework and meals.

Making your own sushi is a fun way to expose your kids to a little Japanese culture, involve the kids with a hands-on activity, and you’ll all get a healthy, tasty meal out of it.  Here’s how we make our sushi rolls – fast and easy:

Equipment you’ll need:

Rice cooker (makes it easy, peasy to cook perfect rice; comes with a rice paddle and measuring scoop – around $40)

Bamboo sushi mats (make it easy to roll; we share and take turns with the 3 we have – around $3/each )


Rice – we buy CalRose medium grain rice by the 15 lb bag ($12) at our local asian grocery.  You should plan on making at least 1 cooked cup of rice per person.  It’s usually 1 cup of cooked rice/roll; we make 12 cups of rice for around 16 rolls.  (Sushi rice is also called:  Japanese short grained rice, glutinous white rice, Nishiki or Botan Calrose Rice.)

Rice vinegar – we use Marukan seasoned gourmet rice vinegar (the one with the yellow label and lid).  This way we don’t have to worry about adding sugar and salt to the vinegar and cooking; just pour straight from the bottle.

Nori – we buy Nagai’s Sushi Nori in bulk (50 sheets for $7) at our local asian grocery.  (Tip:  don’t just go for the cheapest nori – get good quality nori, or it may be a choking hazard.)

Nova salmon (this is our most expensive ingredient)
Crabmeat sticks
Cream cheese
Soy sauce (we love low sodium Kikkoman)
Wasabi – be careful…

(Other ideas:  mixed egg, fried; cooked chicken breast/Morningstar fake chicken, shiitake mushrooms.)


Step 1:   Cook rice

Use a rice cooker – makes it so, so easy.  Follow the manufactur’s directions – pretty much just measure and add rice, then water, then hit “cook”.

Step 2:  Add rice vinegar

Turn cooked rice out into large nonmetal bowl.  Add seasoned rice vinegar and gently fold in.

Typical proportion amounts are around 1/3 cup vinegar to 4 cups of cooked rice.  Adjust to taste – start with less, then add more.

Let the vinegared rice cool  – should be only slightly warm when you make your sushi rolls.

Step 3:  Prep your fillings

Cut up all your fillings into small, thin strips.

Mix up your wasabi.

Time to put it all on the table:

Bowl of prepped rice
Plate of nori sheets
Bowls of fillings
Bowl of water for dipping fingers
Tall glass of water holding a sharp knife

Let’s make this sushi!

Unroll your sushi mat.  Lay 1 nori sheet on the mat, rough side up.

Place a little less than 1 cup of rice on the nori, and spread a thin layer of rice to the edges, leaving 1 inch clear on the edge farthest from you.  (Don’t use too much rice – thin is better!)  Use the rice paddle to spread the rice, or if your kids want to spread the rice with their fingers, use wet fingers – so it won’t stick.

Line up your fillings on top of the rice – left to right, in the center of the rice, on the side of the nori closest to you.

Wet your fingers, then lightly wet the 1 inch empty strip of nori on the edge farthest from you.

Roll your sushi – start with the edge closest to you, then roll tightly and evenly away from you, and the wet edge will seal your roll.  You’ll need to press gently but firmly, and even squeeze a little when rolling.  After you start rolling, you’ll need to open the mat and adjust it to keep it from getting rolled into the sushi roll.  Using a sushi mat makes it easy, but is not necessary – sometimes we substitute a paper plate, and that works fine.

Unroll the mat, and place the sushi roll seam side down.  Slice crosswise into 1” rounds with a wet, sharp knife – or fold up the ends and eat like a burrito.

Wasabi:  You can put a little wasabi inside your sushi roll, or spread a little wasabi on your roll then dip it in soy sauce, or mix it with soy sauce in a small bowl for dipping, or skip it altogether.

Serve with soy sauce, and wasabi if you like (we tend to skip the pickled ginger.)  The proper way to eat sushi is with your fingers.  Enjoy!

Photo:  By tucker_zoe.

P.S. Check out this sushi chef’s blog on how to carve a carrot Darth Vader. He also veggie carves Pokemon. How cool is that.

Cooking with kids

Cooking With Kids: Bread machine pizza dough

Pizza dough is crazy versatile, making delicious pizza, rolls, breadsticks, or calzones.  And with a bread machine, it’s easy as pie.  Well, a lot easier than pie, actually.  I had my bread machine for a year before some wonderful friend of mine told me I could use it to make pizza dough.  It’s all in putting the ingredients in, in the correct order.  I *love* my bread machine now.

Kids love eating and making pizza.  They can help by loading the ingredients (supervised, of course), spreading the dough, pricking the dough, grating the cheese, and putting on toppings.  My kids favorite thing is making the twisty garlic knots.  So have fun with it!  Let your bread machine do the hard part, let your kids help, use paper plates, and you’ve got an easy, delicious hot dinner that everyone will love, with easy clean up.  Yum…

Bread machine – load her up!  (follow the sequence, please)

1 ½ cups warm (not hot, not cool) water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar (along the sides)
1 package active dry yeast (make a small well in the top of the flour, like the crater at the top of a volcano, and dump in there)

Set bread machine to Dough (a non-baking setting)

When cycle is finished, let rise 30 – 60 minutes.

Let’s make this pizza!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Pull out 2 pizza pans/cookie sheets, and put a Tablespoon of olive oil in the middle of each.  You’ll need to oil your hands, to be able to handle the dough.

Punch dough down once, then remove from bread machine loaf pan.

Pinch the dough into 2 equal sections.

Plop a dough ball on each cookie sheet.

Pushing down and out, firmly but gently with your oiled hands, spread the dough to make a circle, or square, or heart shape.  (If your child makes a hole, just pinch it closed and direct them to a thicker section.)

Grab a fork, and prick the dough all over a bunch of times.

Bake pizza crusts for 10 minutes.  (I have a finicky oven, so I bake 5 minutes, then switch top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top, then bake 5 more minutes.)

Pull out pizza and place on top of your stove.

Add your toppings!  I always add sauce first, then cheese, then toppings – it bakes better, and kids can see what they’re eating, and pick it off if they don’t like it.

Bake again for 8 – 12 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.

Remove from oven, and let cool on top of stove for 10 – 15 minutes.  Slice, then serve.

Some topping and dough ideas:

Cheese pizza – pizza/tomato sauce, grated mozzarella cheese, pepperoni.

Feta veggie pizza – drained and crumbled feta cheese, grape tomatoes (cut in half), diced red peppers, mozzarella cheese, and a sprinkle of dried basil (even better – wait until after pizza cooks, then tear up some fresh basil and sprinkle it on top).

Garlic knots – pinch off small handfuls of raw dough, then twist into knots, or shape them.  Let them rise (a second time) on the tray for 30 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes or until just golden.  While they’re in the oven, mix up some melted butter, olive oil, chopped garlic, a sprinkle of parsley, and some parmesan cheese.  Brush on the garlic sauce while the rolls are still hot.

Mini pizza’s – same as above, except instead of 2 big pizza’s, keep pinching dough in half until you get 8 pieces, then flatten to 8 mini pizza’s.

Calzones – spread out your dough, then layer one side of each circle with your toppings.  Fold the empty other side of the dough over the top, and crimp the edges with a fork.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes.  Ideas for fillings include mozzarella cheese and pepperoni, or mozzarella cheese and sausage, or an assortment of different cheeses.  Usually you don’t put sauce inside, but warm up a good-sized bowl of sauce and dunk your calzone pieces into it.  (Good sauces include pizza sauce or marinara sauce.)

Photo by Oakleyoriginals.

Cooking with kids

Cooking With Kids: Chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies


I’ve searched for a long time for a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that taste great right after baking and still taste great the next day.  Most recipes are great when eaten warm, straight out of the oven, but the next day they’re dry and crumbly.  Bleah.

This recipe makes cookies that taste unbelievable when warm, and are still yummy and in one piece the next day.  And, they have oatmeal in them, so they’re good for you, right?

Of course, in our house, chocolate chip cookies have a very short life.  But sometimes we like to bake big batches so the kids have some for school lunches.  That’s the goal anyway.

Note: Don’t let the kids eat any of the raw cookie dough.  This is a good time to remind them of the dangers of eating uncooked eggs and salmonella.


1 cup butter (that’s 2 sticks), softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or milk chocolate)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
Add eggs.
Add vanilla.
Mixing on low, add 1 cup of flour, then baking soda and salt, then the rest of the flour.
Using a large spoon, stir in quick oats, then chocolate chips.

Place heaping spoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 12 minutes at 325 degrees.
Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then move them over to a wire rack.

This is where the kids will all come, and want to sample them.  Beware – these babies go fast.

Photo: by BackToTheCuttingBoard.

Cooking with kids

Cooking With Kids: Lemon cheesecake


This is the best cheesecake I’ve EVER made, and it’s perfect for little helpers.  You’ll need to plan ahead for this delicious dessert – if you want this cake for dinner, then cook it before lunch.  This recipe takes time to soften the cream cheese, 20 minutes to make, 1 hr 15 minutes to bake, an hour to cool, then a couple hours in the fridge before eating.  Plus, everything takes longer when cooking with kids, and you don’t want to rush and get stressed out.  The goal is to have fun, and end up with something tasty to eat.


¼ cup melted butter (that’s ½ stick)
1 pack graham crackers (they come 3 packs to a box usually), crumbled
Have your child open the pack of graham crackers and put them into a freezer (sturdy) ziplock baggie (at least as big as quart size).  Squeeze air out of the bag, then have your kid put the baggie on the floor and dance on it, til the crackers are stomped to bits.  (If crumbs start coming out, stop immediately, and get a new baggie.)
¼ cup sugar (for crust)
1 ½ cups sugar (for cake mixture)
3 packages cream cheese, 8 oz each, softened
A couple hours before, pull 3 packages of cream cheese out of the fridge, and place on the counter to warm up and soften.  (If you forget, just unwrap and microwave each pack for 15-30 seconds until soft.)
4 eggs
¼ cup lemon juice, or juce from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


9” springform cheesecake pan; spray with nonstick cooking spray.
3 bowls – 1 small plastic, 1 medium glass, 1 large mixing.
Rubber spatula

Step 1:
Melt butter in medium glass bowl in microwave.
Add graham cracker crumbs.
Add ¼ c. sugar.
Dump crumbs into cheesecake pan, and press down with the back of a spoon evenly until flattened.

Step 2:
Unwrap 3 packages of cream cheese and put in large mixing bowl.
Beat till fluffy.
Add 1 ½ cups sugar.
Add eggs.
Never have kids break eggs directly into the mixing bowl – break eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl.  Pick out any stray eggshells, then they can dump the egg into the mixing bowl.
Add lemon juice and lemon zest.
Add vanilla.
Mix on low.
Pour on top of graham crust in cheesecake pan.

Step 3:
Place in oven at 300 degrees for 1 hr 15 min – I do bottom rack for 1 hour, then top rack for 15 minutes.
After cooking, set on top of the stove to cool, and take a knife and carefully run it around the outside edge of the cheesecake.  This will keep it from cracking as it settles and cools.  When cool, place in the fridge for a couple hours, then enjoy!


Cheesecake photo: by Juanelos.

Lemon photo: by Axhaaarry.