This is a half-serious, half-in-jest instruction set on how to have a successful kitchen day with young children.
If I’ve reached a point where the cooking/baking chores are starting to back up, I will declare a “kitchen day” for all of us. This time around, I knew I wanted to make peach freezer jam (they’re in season now), carrot bread (we had a lot to use up!), and — since something about 90 degree temps makes me crave cold chocolate cake with a glass of cold milk — chocolate cake with raspberry filling and chocolate ganache.
It’s best to prep a bit the night before. In my case, I set out different stations, each with bowls for that recipe, with measuring cups and spoons that might be needed. I also got out shelf-stable ingredients and put them in their proper location, and put butter out to soften. I printed out each recipe and taped them to the cabinet door nearest the work station.
Then I spent a little time thinking through in what order we would be performing certain tasks.
You don’t want to need the oven all at one time for three different things that cook at different temps. I do like to keep things moving in and out of the oven, so I can save some energy and avoid preheating more than once.
Start with an empty trashcan within easy reach. If you don’t already have them on, wear some shoes, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
Involve the kids in any step that you can for prep, because once the stove gets in the picture, it’s much harder to involve them. Our jobs on this day included:
Cameron running the food processor, of which he is mildly afraid (I would fall into the “throw the child in the pool so they learn to swim” school here)
Ben peeling carrots
Andrew cutting off the ends of the carrots (with a steak knife, small enough for him to handle properly)
All boys taking turns washing dishes, which is made very easy by the sink of hot soapy water
Mixing, mixing, mixing…everybody loves this step
Here are some of our finished products:
This may seem troublesome to some…it definitely makes a bigger mess than me cooking by myself. Just to be real, here’s what my kitchen floor looked like after we were done:
But consider the alternative: I cook alone, the boys are left alone, and we forfeit time together. They miss out on a chance to develop fine motor skills, math skills, and a sense of how things in the kitchen work. They make a mess in the other room, leaving more work for me after I’m exhausted from working in the kitchen alone.
Besides, tackling a hard recipe like Double Chocolate Layer Cake helps them appreciate beauty in food: