Tuesday, February 21

Toddlers in the Kitchen


Yesterday a rare thing happened. BOTH my older girls were at a friend's house, and I had just Natalie with me, who is two. Visions of cleaning out our homeschooling room or my overflowing inbox were put on hold when I realized how rarely I get to spend one on one time with her.  I scrapped those plans and decided to have a Nattie Date.

We were having company last night, so what better way for two women to bond than in the kitchen preparing delicious food? My girls have always helped in the kitchen and loved it, from toddler age up, and I think it's a great way to 
   ~ instill in them a love for cooking and helping,
              ~ spend quality time together, and
                     ~ keep them from messing up other parts of the house while you're busy!

We made black bottoms, currently my favorite dessert (click here for recipe or scroll down for my adapted one). They are rich chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling. Ours were mini cupcakes, but you could make them regular sized too. If you would love to have your kids in the kitchen with you but think it sounds overwhelming, here are a few tips:

1) Take a couple minutes to prepare the kitchen. If your kids are too small to help you gather ingredients, have them out at arm's reach before you call your toddler in. My older girls love to help me get out sugar, eggs, etc., but Nattie is too little to do this and lost interest quickly as I ran around. Also, grab a sturdy chair or stool to bring them up to your level.

 2) Prepare your toddler. I love tiny aprons, and so do my kids! If you don't have one, just make sure whatever they are wearing is washable. And of course, have them wash their hands and get their hair out of the way, just as you do.

3) Intentionally find pint-sized jobs. They can't read the recipe. They're too little to measure. What does that leave? Stirring, pouring, kneading, rinsing, sampling (my kids like to sample every item as it goes in!) Sure, it's easier to pour the sugar yourself, but remember, you're setting a precedent of helping and bonding for years to come. Take the extra time and get them involved.



4) Make it fun for both of you by being patient and working together. Remember they're not adults. Don't get frustrated if they move at a different pace or ask a million questions or even get a little messy. It's the experience, not the recipe itself, that is important to come out great. Use the time to review colors, explore textures, etc. Or sing your heart out to some toddler tunes!


5) Always reward a job well done. Natalie loved licking the beaters when we were done! If you don't like this idea, give them a few chocolate chips or a sample of the frosting, but again, let 'em know how fun it is to help.



The cupcakes turned out great with only a few mishaps, and the experience couldn't have been better.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. (hint: if you are making mini-muffins, definitely grease the top of the muffin tin too, these tend to stick when they rise!)
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes for regular sized or 10-15 for minis, until puffed up and barely golden. Yield: about 24 regular-sized cupcakes, or 48 minis (unless you overfill like I do!) Happy baking!



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