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July 2012

Mary's Modern Homemaking

Bring Your Kids into the Kitchen
By Mary Frances
photos by Vicky Vargas

Mary's Modern Homemaking archive


I love the month of July! It signifies summer, children are out of school, and local produce comes into its own. July Fourth is a special day for celebrating our freedoms, especially at family get-togethers, with good food, lots of fun, and the smell of barbecues filling the air.

I remember as a kid spending many Saturdays hitting the local fruit stands. There we enjoyed a fresh peach, juicy tomato, or sometimes a just-picked carrot. That was then. Today's families struggle with how best to spend their time. But as much as the laundry needs to be done, bills need to be paid, and groceries must be purchased, our children still need us.

Children of the information age seem to have little or no idea of how food is grown or where it comes from. Healthy eating might be "pass the Cheetos, please." After all, it sounds like "cheese," so therefore must be part of the dairy food group? Not! We are not only parents but teachers as well. Teaching our kids to eat right improves their health, keeps their weight down, and sharpens their minds.

Maybe your son or daughter shows no sign of helping in the kitchen or even learning how to cook. Sometimes a bit of motivation is all they need. Take him or her shopping—not for a bag of chips or soda but for an apron. If you sew, help them make their own. Don't sew? No problem. Just purchase a plain-colored apron and some fabric paints and let your children decorate their own.

Then buy a box to put their collection of recipes in. Country Kitchen SweetArt has a nice selection of recipe cards and boxes to put them in. Money a bit tight? Simply get a plastic or metal index card box, some index dividers, and 3x5-inch cards, which come in white or a variety of colors. These can be kept plain, or use colored pencils, markers, gel pens, stickers, etc., so the young cooks can create their own decorative recipe cards. Not only is this fun, but it gets them away from video games and too much TV, or off of the computer.

For a really good kids' cookbook, try Tiana's Cookbook from the movie "The Princess and the Frog." This book takes many of the foods served in the movie and turns them into easy-to-follow recipes for children to make. While some recipes need the supervision of an adult, you will find lots that they can make alone or with minimal help.


Here's the cookbook.


Ready, set, go! Now it is time to follow a mother/daughter team as they show you just how much fun it is to cook and bake together. Meet Vicky and Sara. Vicky is my co-worker and mom to nine-year-old Sara. Sara loves school, reading good books, and helping her mom in the kitchen. When I mentioned to Vicky that I needed help with this month's column, she and Sara eagerly volunteered.


Sara and Vicky share a warm bite of Peachy Berry Cobbler


The first meal of the day is called breakfast because it breaks the long fast of the night since your last meal before going to bed. Eating breakfast feeds your brain and gives you the energy needed to make it through the morning. No time? No excuses! With this simple smoothie drink, a meal on the run in a glass, there is always time.

For the one-serving "Swamp-Water Smoothie" in Tiana's Cookbook, blend 1/2 cup each of orange juice, nonfat yogurt, and blueberries, along with a frozen banana. (See cookbook for details.)


Sara enjoys her smoothie.


The very best thing about this drink is that you can make it your way. If you're lactose intolerant, use soy milk or any other milk substitute instead of yogurt. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a high metabolism and can't keep weight on. Try substituting 1/2 cup ice cream instead of the yogurt. You can use any of your favorite juices or fruits to make it your way. Need some added fiber or energy? Add wheat germ or ground-up flax seed. Anything goes here.


A smoothie should look as good as it tastes.


So now these two are ready to tackle the day. Sara is off to school, and Vicky, when she's not headed off to work, takes on the household chores and prepares for dinnertime.

It is after school and Sara eagerly helps her mom with dinner. Dessert is the most important part, of course! Serving up a good, fruit-style dessert is a way to get more fruit into your child's diet but not feel dessert deprived. This duo has chosen to make Peachy Berry Cobbler. It is an excellent choice because, like the breakfast smoothie, it can be made your way.

Peachy Berry Cobbler
adapted from Tiana's Cookbook—Recipes for Kids

1/2 cup butter
3 cups sliced peaches, about 4 peaches, either fresh or from the can (drained)
1 cup raspberries, or the berry of your choice
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk, or milk substitute for lactose-free diets
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Whipped cream or ice cream

1. First put on an apron, then wash your hands! Next, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter, using some to grease an oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Set the remaining butter aside.

3. Combine peaches and berries in a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar over them. Toss gently to coat fruit. Set aside.


Combine sugar and fruit.


4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add remaining sugar, milk, and extract. Stir until mixture is evenly blended.

5. Pour the melted butter into the batter and stir quickly but gently. Pour the batter into the skillet or baking dish. Add the fruit and its juice, spooning it evenly into the pan and lightly pressing it part way into the batter.


Pour the batter into an oven-proof skillet.


6. Bake the cobbler for about 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream or ice cream.

Not only is this dessert good for you, you can make it so many different ways. For more of a cakey cobbler, use your favorite white cake batter or mix, or use frozen buttermilk biscuits if you like. Top with your favorite granola. No matter how you like it, serve it up your way.


That was easy!



Mary Frances lives in Ravensdale, Washington, and loves finding healthy ways to keep her castle clean. She believes that what we clean with can be just as important to our health as what we eat. When she's not cleaning, Mary Frances battles the blackberry vines in her yard. Also enjoy Mary Frances's blog, All American Gal.


Mary's Modern Homemaking copyright 2013.
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