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Archive for the ‘Cooking With Kids’ Category

This shouldn’t be such a hard decision.

Bee has this at the top of her list of gifts she’d like for the holidays.  Our hesitation isn’t because the toy oven has an age recommendation of 6 and up.  No… wait, is it 7 and up?  I’ll go look… hold on… holy cow, you aren’t going to believe this – they have it as 8 and up!?  You should be 8 years old to be able to place your hands carefully near a lightbulb?!

Anyway, no, the reason is that she made pancakes on the stove top just this morning (she’s 4), and has been cooking with me since she could stand.  She helps cook everything already.  It is true that she can’t reach the oven to put things in, or take things out – – but it is also true that the Easy Bake oven says that adult supervision is required (so that oafish 8 year old of yours doesn’t get in trouble with a lightbulb).

She wants to bake independently – and the toy isn’t even recommended for that.  It costs a good 6 bucks every time she’d want to make a cookie-sized little cake (pro-tip, you can make 3 actual cakes for that money).

The marketing and package design are sexist and entirely dismiss boys as a consumer.  Cooking isn’t for girls any more than it is for boys.  That notion is absurd and reflects an ugly history of keeping women tied to the home while men go out and earn – as offensive to the men who would prefer to be caregivers as it is to the women who want to pursue careers.

To some people, that is going to sound unfair. It turns out that (according to the reviews I’ve read) a big audience for this toy is the mothers that wished they had it as a child and now want to live vicariously through their children.  That it doesn’t occur to them to just bake with their kids is odd to me – but I know how nostalgia can be a heavy motivator.  There is the underlying point that their own parents didn’t get the oven for them for some reason.  I’d be willing to bet that ability to afford the toy isn’t the main reason (though it may have been the main reason given) – I imagine that since their own parents did a lot more cooking than parents do today, they had similar reasons for denying this toy to their kids:  they cooked regular food with the child instead.

And there is the problem area.  The “we’ll just cook normal food together, honey” solution didn’t satisfy the children in question (the one’s desiring to live vicariously through their kids today).  Maybe it is a sort of desire to do miniature cooking – maybe the tiny frivolousness of the venture is the main attraction and shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly?  Or – maybe it’s the advertising blitz this toy relies on.  Bee doesn’t watch commercial TV much at all (only on occasional Saturdays does she watch network cartoons) – and yet the commercials she’s seen for the EBO have made a big impression.

I don’t want this to be her Red Rider BB gun – the thing that she sits back and says “yeah, these are wonderful presents, but what I really wanted was that Easy Bake Oven”.  I’ve heard some interesting arguments for allowing your child to pick out trashy toys from time to time, so that they get a sense of self-determination and learn that sometimes things look better than they are – and that mom and dad are sometimes right about something being a piece of crap.

A substitute idea we have had is to get quality kid-sized baking impliments for baking real food in the real oven.  She already has a few – and we’ve seen some good ones out there.  The play kitchen, while not a complete waste of time/money/space has not turned out to be something she’s very interested in.  She wants to do the real thing – and more power to her.

Here is the part we came up with that I think might be brilliant:

Some complaints about the EBO are that it is too expensive, and that you can get a good quality toaster oven for that price.  Do see where I’m heading?  The mini muffin trays and cake pans we’ve seen on the market could fit in a toaster oven (I’ll check on this to be certain, but I know at least a mini cookie tray would easily fit).  We could also use it for strictly practical uses – heating/baking small things at lunch time, etc. (with more energy efficiency).  So – what if we had a chat with Santa about getting a real oven for Bee instead of a plastic piece of crap with a lightbulb in it and decals for temperature gauges and timers?  It wouldn’t cost any more – she could make a wider variety of things – it won’t end up unused in a closet somewhere even if it didn’t hold her interest.  So – a couple of kid-sized pans, good children’s oven mitts, and a run-of-the-mill toaster oven could be ideal.  Rational compromise.

We’ll run it by the man up north.

update:

While you can get a regular toaster oven for less than an EBO – it would be of poor quality or too small a size, so we are 86ing the EBO subject in favor of just using the kitchen as usual.  Some kid-sized muffin pans and oven mitts are in order, though – hopefully they will scratch some of that EBO itch for the Bee.  Also, the notion of losing more counter space was weighing me down.  Maybe the suggestion would work for someone in other circumstances, though – and it seemed like a fun, smart alternative at the time.


stop the press:

Here is exactly what we wanted. Real non-stick cookware, real recipe cards with scaled ingredients.

Li’l Gourmet is the brand – they have some real sets and some play ones, the real ones are right on the money for us.

They also have a cupcake making set, a cake baking set, and others – – each have more decorating accessories than the Easy Bake brand, and they make food with ingredients you have in your cupboard, in actual batches.  The price is lower as well.

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Any parent worth their salt probably practices this age old art with their kids, veggie resistant or not.  But  I’m posting it because I have lots of sympathy for the salt worthless ones that are clambering in the dark.  Also, Bee’s celery eyebrows are something I have to share.

Step One:  cut up a few kinds of veggies (and/or cheese and other nibblables).

Step Two:  lay them all out like an artist’s palate.

Step Three:  Profit Encourage creative making and snacking.

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Missing are the peppers, because she eats them first.

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On a recent rainy day – we wanted to make cookies.  Bee was bonding with Fergie big-time on this particular day, so we decided to make dog cookies (treats, biscuits, goodies).

Web searches turned up too much information – we wanted something simple, and this is what we came up with.  Hopefully people doing a search with the exact term ‘easy homemade dog cookies’ will come across this blog, and save themselves the trouble of sorting through a bunch of overly complicated options.

Easy Homemade Dog Cookies

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

2/3 cup broth (beef or chicken)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients, roll them out pretty flat, cut with shaped cutters (or not), bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes.

We used bone-shaped, and squirrel-shaped cutters.  I made these for Christmas gifts a couple of years back.  The squirrels went over well, because we know people with dogs that are squirrel chasers.

Here’s Bee, making dog cookies.

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We are big fans of beater/bowl/spoon licking when we cook – and it was fun to let the dogs in on the action this time around.  Bee had more fun making these than if we had been making cookies for ourselves (which makes me proud of my little empathetic, good-natured, sweet little girl).

She carefully explained to Fergie and Bosley that they needed to wait for the cookies to cool off – Fergie and Bosley would have braved throat burns, however.  They knew something was up.  Trick now is to not feed them all the cookies in a short time.

The recipe made two and a half large sheets worth (w/ our cutters this was around 3 dozen).

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That great contraption Bee is standing on, again, is called The Learning Tower.

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Here is a shot of the cake Mommy requested required for her birthday earlier this year.  Quadruple layer yellow cake with double batch of homemade chocolate butter cream frosting.

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Festivals Family and Food is another of my favorite books for ideas about family time, and especially the role that the cycle of the year plays in a child’s life.

A child’s days, weeks and years feel much longer to them than they do to us.  Half a lifetime for a 3 year old is 1.5 years – whereas for me, it’s over 17.  For a young person, each season is all the more ripe with new experience – we have the opportunity to help them make the most of this magical feeling.

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This book takes you through the whole year, with emphasis on holidays (of various origin, refreshingly not strictly limited to one belief system – though I would have liked even more diversity) and associated crafts, activities, recipes, old stories and games.  It feels much older than its copyright date.

here is the Amazon blurb:

This family favourite is a unique, well loved source of stories, recipes, things to make, activities, poems and songs. Each festival has its own well illustrated chapter. There are also sections on Birthdays, Rainy Days, Convalescence and a birthday calendar. The perfect present for a family, it explores the numerous festivals that children love to celebrate..

and a couple of reviews:

“It’s an invaluable resource book.” – The Observer

“A lovely book which I feel every young couple should read.” – The Daily Mail

“This is the book I have been looking for… Festivals is beautifully illustrated and produced… I don’t think I have ever seen a book which deals with its subjects so comprehensively.” – Church of England Newspaper

“An attractive book which will have year round usefulness” – Stroud News & Journal

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Chocolate chip pancake making.

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Bee looks like a nut in this shot 🙂

The book is called Pretend Soup. The recipes come in a familiar format, and then the next page features a comic book style narrative art spread – so kids who can’t read yet can make the dish (sometimes needing a little help).

We were replacing (healthy) blueberries with (unhealthy) chocolate chips.

We make the title recipe often (Pretend Soup), but we call it Fruit Soup – Bee loves to make it and eat it up.  All the recipes are vegetarian, and a good way to get your kids interested in veggies.

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Bee is very careful around the stove – I’m imagining some folks being a little freaked out by a 3yr. old so close the cooking surface.  Be not afraid.

I poured the batter – she placed the chips – I flipped the pancakes.

That contraption Bee is standing on?  It was in the first photo also, and I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s called The Learning Tower – and it is the best thing we ever got for her.  Really.  She uses it many times a day, every day.  Check out the link – if you have kitchen counters anything like ours, you may well wonder how you got by without one someday.

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