Batter is dripping off a small whisk and down the legs of the kitchen table, but you've never seen your three-year-old grandchild so proud. "Ready to eat our muffins that we made?" asks your beaming grandchild. And regardless of the sticky fingers and the state of your kitchen, you can't resist. You sit down and eat together, proclaiming that they are the most special muffins you've ever tasted. And they are, too, because they were made by the excited little chef sitting next to you.
What is most interesting about cooking to a young child? High up on the list are the tactile experiences, such as kneading and rolling out pizza dough, tearing fresh spinach leaves, or breaking eggs. All the other senses are stimulated, too. It's fun to watch as soup simmers, or a milkshake spins around in a blender, or butter melts in a hot pan. Then there are all the sounds and smells of cooking and fingers to lick. And usually (but not always), children look forward to sampling the finished product. But what fascinates young children above all is performing those ordinary cooking tasks that we adults take for granted. It's a challenge for little ones to pour milk into a measuring cup, squeeze a lemon, mix a batter, or flip a pancake. Managing these jobs gives them a great sense of accomplishment.
Cooking Hints and Safety Tips:
Tools: Citrus juicer (if you'll be making fresh juice); large bowl; whisk; small pitcher; pie pan or baking dish; 1/2-cup measure; 1-cup measure; tablespoon; teaspoon; serrated dinner knife or plastic picnic knife; ladle; soup bowls and spoons.
2 cups orange juice 1/2 cup plain yogurt 1 Tbs. honey 2 tsp. lemon juice 1 small banana, sliced 1 cup berries (any kind, fresh or frozen; if they're frozen, defrost them first, and use all the juice-it'll add color to the soup)
1) Place the orange juice in a bowl. Add yogurt, honey, and lemon juice.
2) Whisk "until it is all one color."
3) Place 5 banana slices and 2 tablespoons berries in each bowl.
4) Ladle the soup over the berries and bananas. Eat!
NOTE: You can add other kinds of fruit as well. Slices of kiwi are especially pretty.
YIELD: About 4 servings
Cooking Hints and Safety Tips:
Tools: Child-appropriate knife for slicing butter; salt shaker; skillet; long-handled wooden spoon; teaspoon; tablespoon; 1/4-cup measure; plates and forks.
2 medium-long, thin carrots, sliced into thin rounds 1 tsp. butter (more or less) 3 shakes salt 1 squeeze lemon juice (from a small wedge) 1 tsp. sesame seeds (optional) 1 Tbs. brown sugar (more or less) 1/4 cup water (more or less)
1) Preliminary: Grown-up boils or steams carrots until tender but not mushy.
2) Add all ingredients to the pan. Turn the heat to medium.
3) Cook and stir over medium heat until the carrots are nicely coated with syrup. Add more sugar and/or water, depending on how syrupy you like it.
4) Transfer to plates. Blow on it until it is comfortable to eat. Eat!
YIELD: 3 or 4 snack portions
Reprinted with permission from Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschool and Up, by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. Text copyright © 1994 by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. Illustrations copyright © 1994 by Mollie Katzen. (Tricycle Press, $15.95). Available in local bookstores, or call 800-841-BOOK.