Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Toddler Baking Hour

Monday morning I was in the mood to do some baking. I realize Memorial Day is not traditionally a baking holiday, but when the mood to make delicious treats strikes, I go with it.

Madison loves helping me in the kitchen. She's at a cute age where she can be incredibly helpful - when she wants to be.

Sidenote: This stage is both adorable and aggravating. She's becoming very capable, and it's awesome to have that extra set of hands to grab me a diaper for Reagan or fold laundry. Sometimes even when I DON'T need help she's pushing her way right in. However, when she doesn't feel like it, rather than just say no, she pulls the "I caaaaan't" or the even better "you do it".

We made two recipes: blueberry banana bread (I had three brown bananas and 1/2 pint of blueberries that needed to be used up) and what are referred to in our house as "Rachel brownies". They're brownies topped with peanut butter and Reese's Pieces, and since Rachel introduced this particular blending of brownies and peanut butter, they will always be referred to as "Rachel brownies" in this house.

This was our most successful baking venture so far. Here are the five tips that I think made it so successful.

1) Be prepared.

I had everything measured and ready. Madison's first job was mashing the bananas, and she mashed away while I poured the other potentially messy wet ingredients - the eggs and oil - in. Once she'd mashed those bananas into a pulp, I had all the dry ingredients ready to go in big cups to be added. She felt like she was doing most of the baking, and I wasn't worrying.

2) Use the right tools.

Big plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and oversized measuring cups. I measured the correct amount, but dumped it into a bigger cup. Silly, but well worth it.

3) Set a time limit.

Madison would stir and stir and stir forever. She's very reluctant to stop. I finally started setting the timer, and she stirs for 5 minutes, and the timer tells her it's time to stop. That way, it's not me taking her job away, it's the timer saying that job is done and it's time to move on.

4) Wear a short sleeved shirt.

Yeah, we forgot this one. It was chillier than expected this weekend, so the girls had long sleeve pajamas on. We rolled up sleeves and washed hands, but by the end of this experience, Madison's shirt needed to come off. More on that next.

5) Always have something for the toddlers to do.

If I don't have anything for Madison, she'll find something. And Reagan really wanted to be involved, but she doesn't really have the motor skills yet. I know by this point that if there's downtime, there's potential for disaster.

Therefore, once Madison's jobs were done, I moved her step stool over to the sink, piled all the plastic and wooden bowls, spoons and measuring cups in, added some bubbles, and asked her to wash the dishes. I've done this many times, and usually I need to touch them up, but this time she actually had everything perfectly clean. Yeah, it took twenty minutes, but that allowed me to deal with the oven, wipe up the spills on the counter, and all that "other cleanup".

As for Reagan, she didn't really "help" this time, so I set her up on the floor with our oatmeal box. Just a plastic bin with plain rolled oats, measuring cups and measuring spoons. I sit Reagan on a tablecloth with that box and just let her scoop and dump. If she tastes anything, it's no big deal, and if she spills, it's a quick cleanup. Once she got bored with that, Madison had moved on to the sink, so I gave Reagan a towel, a bowl and a spoon, and after she "dried" her dishes, she was happy to play and bang away!

Overall, fun and successful. The brownies were a big hit as usual and we've been loving the bread at breakfast time!

In case anyone is wondering....

Banana Bread

(adapted from My Catholic Kitchen - the first recipe I found on pinterest that seemed "normal")

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil or melted butter
Optional: Your choice of "mix in" (we used blueberries)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
In medium bowl combine eggs, bananas, sugar and oil.
Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once.
Mix until just moistened. (This is where we mixed in the blueberries)
Spoon into greased bread pan.
Bake in a 350 oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

"Rachel" Brownies

Your favorite brownie recipe
peanut butter
Reese's Pieces

Bake your favorite brownies. We use a mix. I like to slightly underbake them.
As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, put six big spoonfuls of peanut butter on top.

Cover the pan with a dish towel.

After 15 minutes or so, the peanut butter will be very melty. Spread the peanut butter to completely cover the brownies.

Sprinkle on the Reese's Pieces. Toddlers LOVE this part. I had to do some major supervision to make sure that the candy made it ON to the brownies and not IN Madison's mouth, so the process isn't documented.

Allow the peanut butter to "set" and the brownies to cool.

Or, you know, just eat them all warm and gooey. No judgment.

What is your favorite way to cook with your kids and keep them happy and the chaos under control?

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