This past month, I had the pleasure of visiting with my son, daughter-in-law, and my three lovely grand children, ages 10, 8 and 5 years. It was an especially joyful time for me because I don´t get to see see them often. I live at the Mexican border and they live at the Canadian border, about 2000 miles away. While the children are always sweet and loving, they are still a bit shy with me. Thus, as a sort of icebreaker, I wanted to do a one-on-one project with each child. After a bit of reflection, I decided to do a cooking project with the children. My past visits and recent communications had shown me that the grandchildren were way above average, doing a multitude of activities such as soft ball, swimming, gymnastics and community theater. All that was proof of their mental and physical fitness. And I hoped that their days of cooking with Abuela Susan (as they call me) would be ä giant, first step toward "kitchen-fitness".
In preparation for this project, I sent ahead a set of children's cookbooks. A cupcake book for Iris, the oldest, a cookie book for Myra, the second, and a simple snack book for Cruz, the youngest. In my judgement this choice of books would reflect the complexity of the cooking tasks, according to ages. (As related below, my estimation of the relative difficulty of the recipes turned out to be wrong.)
As soon as I arrived, I asked each child to choose one recipe from their book. They seemed eager to get started and, within minutes, selected their recipes. Iris chose lady-like, pink lemonade cupcakes and Cruz chose a fancier sort of grilled-cheese sandwiches, shown crust-less, cut into quarters, and held together with fancy toothpicks. Myra's choice was unexpected. She wanted to make what were the most complicated cookies imaginable. These cookies, called "Treasure Chests", were a quadruple-chocolate concoction with a brownie base, two layers of fudge icing, a chocolate cookie top and MnMs, a child´s version of gold treasure, that fell out of the sides of the "chests". My better judgement should have sent up red flags on Myra's choice but, being still somewhat jet-lagged mentally, I agreed to help her make complicated treat.
The second day of my stay, I went with the family to a neighborhood grocery store and, together, we bought all the ingredients for the recipes. Cruz wanted to make his sandwiches the very next morning. With just a bit of guidance, he was able to do almost all the work. I did the grilling, of course, and he cut them into quarters and placed them on a large platter, toothpicks stuck into each piece. The children and I ate them for lunch and leftovers went kept back for their Mom and Dad. Cruz was very pleased with the favorable comments that were made, and the first project was a resounding success.
Myra was ready to begin her treasure chest making on the third day. The process took more than two hours to complete because everything had to be done in steps. I helped her with the initial steps of measuring and mixing and put the brownies in the oven. We had to wait for them to cool. And much care was needed to decorate the treasures.
results were attractive and had a surprising resemblance
to those shown in the cookbook. These treasure chests definitely had the wow-factor and received family raves.
|Myra's 600-calorie "treasure chests".|
The only unfortunate part of this project was that the children wanted to eat multiples of these 600 calorie creations. I put out one for each of us on a plate and, when I had the chance, hid the rest in two plastic containers in the freezer behind other foods. My idea was to keep them hidden so that each of us could have one the next day. That trick worked, at least partially, and only a few had been stealthily removed from the freezer by the next day.
A few days later, Iris prepared her cupcakes. I taught her how to crack open an egg. She had never tried it before, but, after just one demonstration, successfully opened the remaining two eggs. She also did all the decorating by herself. I just had to oversee her work and helped her with the oven. The cupcakes were quite attractive and good. Also, luckily, they were normal cupcakes so that eating more than one in a day´s time wasn't so much of a worry.
These few days that I spent cooking with my grand kids were priceless to me. It reminded me of my own childhood when my sister and I learned (mostly from our Mom and Aunt Jane) how to make such treats as popcorn, chocolate fudge, cookies and cakes. With these long-ago memories go warm feelings of family closeness and the joy of cooking adventures.
Project "kitchen-fit grand kids" was wonderful fun. And they radiated confidence what with their new skills of grocery shopping, measuring, mixing, pouring and decorating. All-in-all, it turned out to be a perfect way to build a great family learning experience -- and all through the art of cooking.
Yes, it was a bit messy and the finished items were not quite as sophisticated as the pictures in their cookbooks. But the very best thing was that the kids felt they did it "for themselves" and, for all of us - especially grandma, we were building family memories. And that was absolutely worth it.