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Cooking can be fun for children, too

Published 06/06/2008, The Republican Eagle

When I was young, my brother and I always protested on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day - why isn’t there a Children’s Day? And we got the parents’ stock answer: “Every day is Children’s Day.” Didn’t you hear that, too? Well, little did I know (or probably you either) there is one - celebrated on the second Sunday of June. which this year is June 8. Now that I’m old, I have to agree that every day is Children’s Day. I think it is celebrated in churches as church Sunday schools wind up for the school year and children are celebrated for their achievements, but it could be a great opportunity to cook with children and get them started on the greatest pursuit I know. I have several cookbooks in my collection meant especially for children and some that are geared to children’s foods. As one of my books, “Kim’s Cookbook for Young Children,” says, “Cooking is easy to do and there are so many fun things to make you will want to be cooking all the time.” Last weekend, while visiting my oldest son in Madison, I was astounded to find that he has developed a major interest in cooking and was very knowledgeable about many different facets of it. This is a relatively new development, although he has always enjoyed making a few specialties; he is now experimenting with many different techniques and foods. It was very satisfying - after raising three boys that I would never have dreamed would care about cooking. So you never know what you’re starting when you cook with kids. To start with children it is a great idea to make something that is do-able, delicious and fun! Also, if it is possible, a dish that allows them to be somewhat creative. While you are there helping, you can make many things - leave the actual lessons in independent cooking for later. A great starter for any age is cupcakes. Cupcakes are enjoying a surge of popularity right now. There are even special cupcake holders that form a cake with tiers of cupcakes. It’s great for a birthday party because it delivers an individual unit for each person. Also each cupcake can be different. A great idea is to pipe each child’s name on a cupcake and add a small flower or other decoration if there is room. Here’s an easy, classic cake recipe to use as your base: (adapted from “Little Cakes” by Kaye and Liv Hansen) Use paper liners in a standard 12-cup muffin tin. Spray each liner with vegetable spray - very lightly - so that they will peel away from cake cleanly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Ingredients 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour 3/4 tsp. salt 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tsp. warmed milk 2 large eggs 1 stick soft butter 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder Directions Sift into mixer bowl the flour and salt. Add sugar and mix; then add milk, eggs, butter and vanilla. Beat on low speed with whisk attachment for 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Beat at medium low speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add baking powder last and mix on low for 30 seconds. Fill each liner 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan. Cool completely before decorating. Icing 2 sticks butter 4 cups sifted powdered sugar 1 Tbsp. meringue powder 1 tsp. vanilla 1/4 tsp. salt 2 Tbsp milk or half and half In bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar, meringue powder, vanilla and salt all at once and beat at low speed until smooth. Add milk and continue beating until light and creamy. To make a chocolate buttercream, combine 2 to 3 ounces of melted semisweet chocolate at body temperature to each cup of above recipe. Mix until smooth and completely blended. With colored icing and nonpareils and other candies of your choice decorate cupcakes to your and your children’s content and delight. Happy Children’s Day! Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks for and about children: “Little Cakes From The Whimsical Bakehouse” by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen (2008) “Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls” (1957) “Kim’s Cookbook for Young People” from Red Farm Studio (1971) “The Country Mothers Cookbook” by Jane Watson Hopping (1991) “Young Children’s Mix and Fix Cookbook” from Parents’ Magazine (1975)

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