When you see pictures of those old time magazines that have those pictures of the perfect mothers you have to say who are you kidding. They all have those pearls, the heels and the beehives with a perfect hourglass figure with nothing out of place as they whip up some fantastic dish. Of course they have the help of their beautiful, well dressed, stepping stone children who are all smiling and not spilling anything anywhere. I guess marketing experts got the gist that women thought this was a totally impractical picture and changed this somewhere along the way. But in the back of our mind the thought lingers, haunting us (or me at least), why can't I do that?
The truth is, though our picture is less than perfect looking my daughter loves baking and helping me in the kitchen. She doesn't like eating the cookies or cake afterward, just licking the batter or dough. Unless there is chocolate involved. She always goes for chocolate! That's how I know for sure she's my kid. I love baking with her too, but I'm human and I will admit it requires a lot of patience and tolerance. I love that baking provides an opportunity to bond and I can sneak in lessons like review of counting, colors, and shapes. What I don't love is the flour, sprinkles and sugar that go all over the floor, the fact that more than half of my pre-measured ingredients didn't make it into the bowl and I have no idea how much to replace, and that my daughter just snuck away with about a quarter of the dough. I may be a control freak in the kitchen but I'm not one to give up on something because it's inconvenient. In order to make the experience enjoyable for both me and my daughter I had to come up with a plan.
1. Plan ahead. Set aside a time when you aren't stressed, your child isn't tired, and you aren't expecting guests any minute. Seems impossible, I know, but it exists! This way you and your child have less of chance of getting frustrated and smooshing everything on to the floor. (Yes, I know it could be either one of you who does that.)
2. Keep it simple. As much as I love to experiment with 10+ step pastries and cakes the time to make it is not when your kid is with you in the kitchen. The recipe you choose should have 10 ingredients or less and be limited to two or three steps.
3. Pre-measure your ingredients. The best way to be sure that your kid won't spill an entire bag of flour on the floor is to have all your ingredients measured out beforehand in bowls. This way your kid can pour in each ingrediant themselves and be super proud that "they made it all by themselves". It's extra work but it saves a lot of time.
4. Assign tasks. your kid probably doesn't want to see you make a dough and roll out a cookie while they watch. Kids enjoy being involved, and having this opportunity to touch, and explore things. It's how they learn. Assigning age appropriate tasks to your children can help keep them interested and involved and prevents them from doing the things you don't want them to do. Things like turning on a mixer, pouring ingredients, rolling dough, scooping batter, adding sprinkles and "cleaning the bowl" are all fun tasks that allow your child to be involved and safe while keeping you happy. Giving your kid their "own" dough or pan where they can shape or fill in the way they choose is the probably the best for you and your kid. This way they are involved with making their own creation while you make a few of your own. It also allows them to have a final product they can be proud of.
5. Prepare your child. Let your kid know what you are doing. Tell them what you expect of them and prepare them for the steps. For example, "We are going to pour in the sugar now, can you show me which one is the sugar? Good! Pour it in! Now we will mix in the mixer and pour in the eggs. How many eggs do you see? Good! Let's pour it in and we want the whole thing to turn yellow. Tell me when you see that it is yellow!" Walking them through the process helps them understand what they are doing, what they are allowed to do and what they are not.
6. Safety. This is a huge one. Lessons like the oven is hot, the knife is a boo-boo, we don't put our hands in the mixer and don't eat the dough are all super important. It's imperative that your child understands on some level what is dangerous. It is even more imperative that you ensure the environment is safe. Make sure the knives are put away, you don't open the oven door with you child nearby, your child can reach the counter and if you don't have a surface that is their height, the chair or stool you use is steady.
7. Have fun! Sometimes we are so caught up in making fun happen we forget to have it in the process. Enjoy the time with your kid! Take the time to answer their questions and talk with them. It's amazing how much your kids will pick up and remember from time to time! Let loose a little and relax. It should be enjoyable for both of you.
Okay now what does all that have to do with muffins? This recipe is super easy and simple but tastes great. I love that I can stick a batch in the freezer and hand one to my kid or husband as they walk out the door if they haven't eaten a proper breakfast for some reason. These aren't what you would call healthy but they don't have any margarine in them which is always a plus. The blueberry-cranberry addition is pretty much versatile which means you can add anything from chocolate chips to raisins, to berries and nuts! This recipe was great to make with my daughter. She loved pouring in all the ingredients, counting the blueberries, and scooping in the scoops of batter with an ice cream scooper. It made a great rainy day activity and she was so proud of them she offered one to whoever walked into the house that day. The next time we made muffins, she already knew her jobs and was baking like a pro! And me? I actually enjoyed the entire process without freaking out. How's that for amazing?
1 large egg
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup milk or soy milk
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or Fill a standard muffin or 2 mini muffin tins with paper liners.
In a standard mixing bowl, beat the egg, oil and milk. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Add the blueberries and cranberries and fold in with a spatula.
Scoop into muffin tins with an ice cream scooper. Bake for 20 minutes for full size muffins or 10-12 minutes for mini muffins or until a toothpick comes out clean.