The holiday season is upon us, and it is time to do some holiday baking. I always associate the holidays with baking. When I was a little girl, I remember baking cookies with my mom. We had a Frosty the Snowman cookie cutter; that was my absolute favourite. As a mom, I wanted to create the same kind of memories with my daughters.
Over the years, we have baked hundreds of cookies that we have given to our family and friends. They may not have always looked Pinterest-worthy, but they were always made with love and laughter. If you want to make memories that will last a lifetime, I've put together my 10 tips for holiday baking with kids.
Start with the right recipe. It is not the time to choose a cookie that has 72 ingredients and 24 complicated steps right out of the gate. Flip through your favourite cookbook, or Pinterest, with your child. Find a recipe that is simple and preferably one that you have tried before. A basic sugar cookie is always a great place to start. Set yourselves up for success.
Plan the baking day in advance so that you can be sure to have everything you need on hand. There is nothing worse than reaching for the egg carton only to discover you have 2 eggs when the recipe calls for 4. Hit the grocery store or the bulk food store in advance of the baking day. Be sure to add parchment paper to your cart. Parchment paper is our kitchen secret weapon, we always bake our cookies on parchment paper, and they never, ever stick.
My number one tip for baking with kids is to get a stool. We have two kids, so we have two stools. Kitchens are not built with children in mind, heck they aren't made with petite women like me in mind. Pull up a stool for your kid and you will open up a whole new world for him. When children can see what is going on and can comfortably reach things on the counter, they will become much more engaged.
Holiday baking is all about having fun. It's time to turn up the holiday Christmas music. Make a mug of hot chocolate and fill the kitchen with holiday spirit. Who doesn't love dancing in the kitchen?
What does every chef need when they bake? An apron. Kids love dressing up, so pull out the aprons and get dressed for the occasion. If you have child sized kitchen tools (whisk, wooden spoon, spatula), grab those too. Having tools that fit your child's hands will make things easier for your child.
Gather up all the ingredients you will need for the recipe and put them on the counter. Depending on your child's age, they can read the recipe and find the ingredient the recipe calls for. Giving your child the responsibility to read the recipe can give your child a big vote of confidence in the kitchen.
Let the kids do the measuring. Worried that the cookies won't come out picture perfect? Know that they probably won't. Working through a recipe is a fun, hands-on math lesson. If you are afraid that the baking powder will end up all over the counter, try this tip. Have your child level off measuring cups and measuring spoons over an empty bowl, not over the mixing bowl. This way any excess ingredients will end up in the trash and not in your cookie dough.
When I bake a batch of cookies I can make the dough and have the cookies baked and on the cooling rack in about an hour. That just isn't going to happen when you are baking with kids - speed is not the point. Take your time and pack your patience. Cracking an egg with a kid can take a few minutes, and that's okay. Patience is the name of the game.
Baking with kids is messy - that is a fact. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be cleaning flour out of crevices in your kitchen for weeks to come. Hey, that's part of the fun.
Holiday baking might spark a new found passion in your child. Holiday baking may lead to baking all year round. Teaching children how to navigate around the kitchen is one of the most important lessons we can teach.
RELATED: 8 Easiest Holiday Cookie Recipes
Do your kids eat differently when they are at other people's houses? After a recent lunchtime playdate at her friend's house, my daughter came home raving about the awesome meatball submarine sandwiches they had. Meatball subs?! A dish I have suggested on numerous occasions, but which has always been met with "No, that sounds gross"? I decided to take advantage of the successful lunch date introduction and get down to making our own turkey meatball subs.
The basis for a delicious turkey meatball sub are two things: turkey meatballs and marinara sauce. Turkey meatballs are a great family-friendly dish, because they are versatile, they are easy to make, and the kids can help make them. The ingredients are simple, and the meatballs can be made in advance, frozen, and then popped in the delicious marinara sauce to warm them through. Add a crusty bun, some melty cheese and you have a quick weeknight dinner, or a busy hockey weekend meal.
These turkey meatball subs are perfect for any busy family - everyone is going to love them.
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano (or dried basil)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 ciabatta buns (or baguette)
1-2 cups grated provolone cheese (depending on how cheesy you want the subs)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 can whole plum tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Use a plastic spatula to mix the ingredients together. Do not over mix. Stop when the ingredients are all incorporated.
Use hands to shape the meatballs. Use a 1 tbsp measure to scoop meat and roll meatball in hands. Place rolled meatball on parchment paper lined baking sheet. TIP - Wet your hands before rolling the meatballs; the meat will not stick as much to wet hands. If you don't like the idea of touching raw meat, use an ice cream scoop to shape the balls and drop onto the parchment paper, or wear a pair of latex/silicone gloves.
Bake the meatballs in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden. TIP - If you wish to freeze the meatballs, stop now and let meatballs cool. Once cooled place the meatballs, on the baking sheet, inside the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to a resealable plastic bag. When you want to use them, drop the frozen meatballs directly into a pan of simmering marinara sauce and simmer for 20 minutes, until meatballs are warmed through.
Kids Can Help - There are a few ways the kids can help with the turkey meatball sub recipe. Let the kids get their hands messy mixing, scooping and shaping the meatballs. When handling raw meat, be sure to have kids wash hands before and after working with the meat. With adult supervision, kids can use a box grater to prepare the cheese and help top the meatball subs.