A few summers ago I made a strategic mistake. Hoping to add a little order to our long lazy summer afternoons I gave cutesy names to each day of the week. We had science Monday, art Tuesday, kids cook Wednesday and board game Thursday. The themes were in part an attempt to make sure Max learned something before he started kindergarten in August and also a way to add some accountability to make sure I stuck with it. There’s nothing like cutesy names to help 4 and 5 year olds remember and to nag you into coming up with something fun to do. I imagined the themes would end when Max started school, but here we are more than three years later and we still follow the themes most weeks.
When we began the cooking day, I imagined the kids would take turns planning the menu and cooking several dishes, but that proved too much. We usually end up doing one item. If it’s a hectic week, it can be a simple item. Today it was a recipe they know by heart — chocolate shakes from the Food Allergy Mama, Kelly Rudnicki. Other times it’s cookies or cakes or pies. Sometimes it’s homemade pizza or even side dishes.
The kids have improved a lot. They have mastered some basic skills like pouring wet into dry, measuring away from the mixing bowl not over it, how to start yeast and how to knead. They are always up for using appliances, and I now trust them to operate the hand mixer, start the gas stove and work the blender.
Eventually, probably over another long Arkansas summer, I want to let them plan and execute full meals. It’s going to be particularly important for Max to know how to cook for himself. Right now it still feels like an accomplishment to make a tray of Rice Krispies treats or a batch of granola in the hectic times after school.
Here was one of our more elaborate projects:
Sweet Potato Balls
2 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine like Blue Bonnet Light
1 tablespoon soy milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 to 8 large marshmallows
1 to 1 ½ cups crushed cornflakes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sweet pototoes, 2 tablespoons margarine, soy milk, salt and nutmeg. Divide into six to eight portions. Pat each portion around a marshmallow. Roll in remaining margarine and then roll again in cornflakes. Place in a greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.