Cooking with kids Archives

Henry and his blue cake

First of all, apologies for kind of being missing in action for the past few months.  It’s been a busy time for us …

At the beginning of June my in-laws arrived for a visit in the US, we met them in Chicago and drove along Route 66 with them for 12 days.  2800-odd miles later and we were home, but with so many great memories of people, places … and the food!  But that will be the subject of another post …

Then we had another few weeks with them at our place, and I was trying to get caught up with work, and I did a LOT of experimenting in the kitchen – lots of new recipes to come when I get the chance to put them all together here.

But this post isn’t about that.  It’s about what happens when the kids see me experimenting and want to be creative as well.  Henry is a classic for this.  When he’s bored (i.e. he’s run out of his allotted screen time, he’s read all the books he’s borrowed from the library and it’s closed), he will sometimes wander into the kitchen and announce he wants to bake.  A cake.

Now Henry hasn’t followed a recipe for as long as I can remember.  He likes making things up as he goes along.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t … This time I showed him a cake recipe that wasn’t really a recipe – it went through what ingredients and how much of each to make a cake.  So he took that on board, and went to work.

Unfortunately, when he first weighed out the flour, he added way too much for the amount of milk, and so he went back into mad scientist/cook mode.  And added eggs, sugar (this time he remembered!), and then got creative and added sprinkles, strawberry lemonade flavor, bananas … and I don’t quite remember what else.

And then he wanted it to be in swirls.  So I helped him to make the swirls in the cake, and also helped with the frosting on top.  The end result:

Now, fortunately, or unfortunately, he made it with full-gluten and full-dairy, so I wasn’t able to partake of any of this delicacy.  But the rest of the family did.  And said it was … interesting.  But it was all eaten within 2 days, so it can’t have been that terrible!

My question is this – what is he going to think of next?  

Loved spending time with him and showing him a few things about baking though.  These are the memories that I’ll keep for a long time.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!

Sarah (and Henry!)

‘Toothless’ cupcakes

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about cooking with kids, but do not fear, the kids and I have been spending a reasonable amount of time in the kitchen together.  Our regular ‘kids cooking’ night has gotten a lot of good feedback – especially when we’ve invited someone around and the kids have to cook for more than just Grant and me.  We’ve had Orange Chicken (recipe coming soon), burgers, and more burgers, trifle, pudding, and so many more meals that I can’t remember.

But this one is special.  As part of the Everything Food Conference, Abby and I bought tickets to the Cupcake Battles show with Justin Willman.  You all remember how keen on cupcakes Abby was around this time last year?  With stunning cupcakes such as the ‘Patience’ lemon blueberry cupcakes, ‘Joseph’ chocolate orange cupcakes, ‘Love’ red velvet cupcakes, ‘Holy is the Lord’ cupcakes, ‘Kindness’ chocolate raspberry cupcakes, ‘Peace’ banana toffee cupcakes, ‘Joy’ almond citrus cupcakes and our all time favorite ‘let there be light’ pineapple polenta cupcakes?

Well during intermission of the show, after they’d had a 40 minute cupcake battle on stage in front of us, Abby had an idea for a new combination of flavors for one to try at home.  Her idea was to develop something that looked like her dragon, Toothless, from ‘How to train your dragon’.  Anyone who has spent any time with Abby will know of her obsession for dragons … so being the dutiful mother that I am, I said we could make them the next day.

Here’s what she wanted:

  • A maple cinnamon cupcake with white chocolate chips throughout
  • Apple cider vinegar frosting (?)
  • Marshmallows dipped in chocolate with green icing for the eyes
  • Piped chocolate wings and tails

I thought it was a little ambitious, but I’ve learned to go with the flow.  And here’s the result:

Ok, so the cupcake looks a little bit sad, but I can kind of see the resemblance to the real thing, can’t you?  The good thing is that it tasted really different.  I wasn’t too sure about putting apple cider vinegar in the frosting, but we balanced it out with a LOT of powdered sugar, so it just gave your mouth a little tingle.  The original cupcake recipe that we based this off of was a Paleo-friendly maple crumb cupcake … but with all the sugar and other stuff we added, these are definitely not Paleo-approved.  I had a little bite, just to see how it tasted, but not more than that due to my special stomach needs and dairy issues.  And I was impressed.  So impressed, that we made a whole tribe of Toothless cupcakes:

What was probably the highlight of the day, though, was when Abby and I were putting all of these together, Abby said that it didn’t matter if they didn’t work because at least she got to spend time with her mother.  My heart just melted … (and all of you should go ‘Awwwww’!).  We had a lot of laughs and fun doing this – thanks for reading!

What is the most fun thing that you’ve made recently?

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Pizza and monster cookies

What do pizza and monster cookies have to do with each other?  Well, that’s the combination that Abby and Henry came up with this week for their turn at cooking dinner for us.

Abby asked me at the beginning of the week what Italian food I could have, being on the Whole30 and such, and I couldn’t really come up with anything.  Even my cauliflower crust pizza is kind of frowned upon by the Whole30 rules – they describe that making technically Whole30 compliant ingredients into things like pancakes, pizza, muffins etc will make your brain think it’s actually getting those sorts of foods.  And hence the habits that you are trying to kick, such as overeating on pizza, fries, cookies etc, are not going to change because your brain thinks – I want pizza (for example) and it gets a type of pizza.  But it’s not as good a pizza as the ‘real’ thing, so at some stage, you are likely to just go full bore and hoe into a gluten/dairy/fatty pizza and all the work you’ve done for the Whole30 will be for naught.

Then she started thinking about what else she could make.  And wanted to make pork buns – well, reheat them from the pre-packaged ones that we found at Costco a few months ago.  Like a dutiful mother, I went to Costco to buy some … and they weren’t there.  Went to a number of other grocery stores and couldn’t find any.  I was going to make some lamb burgers the following day, trialing another recipe and thought I could help Abby make them instead.  So that was the plan … until I took longer at work than expected that day so we didn’t have time to get properly organized.

And then I thought … if I bake a sweet potato, and put the toppings from Abby’s pizza on top, it won’t be anything like a pizza and I can still remain Whole30 compliant.  So that’s what we did.  Abby made her favorite Aussie egg and bacon pizza (basically scrambled eggs with bacon and onions) and put it on some Greek pita bread with cheese and some awesome pasta sauce that I found on special … and that’s what the rest of the family had.  I had the egg/onion/bacon mix on my sweet potato with some salad and it was a great compromise!  Grant put some hickory smoked BBQ sauce on his as well … and he said that it was just awesome!

Now Henry was determined to make cookies.  You see, earlier in the week I had made some white chocolate sugar cookies (recipe here) intending them to be for our weekly Bible Study group.  I made them on Monday for a Tuesday night get-together.  The family had some (I didn’t – yay me!), and then I put them in a container.  Came home from work the following day to find 5 of them missing … out of about 12 that were there at the beginning of the day.  And Henry was home all day with them.  I’m sure you can do the math!

So he wanted to make monster cookies to make up for the ones he’d eaten.  I cautioned him that my recipe made a lot of cookies and maybe we could only do a third of the recipe.  But he was determined to make a full batch.  So I helped him .. and yes, there was a lot of cookies made, in weird shapes and sizes (see the photo), and there was dough eaten by Abby and Henry (not me – yay me again!).  And apparently they were very yummy!

So that’s what the kids cooked for us this week.  Hope you enjoyed reading about their adventures – I had fun helping them out and look forward to the next time they ask me to do so!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Our weekly routine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about cooking with kids.  Maybe you think I’ve forgotten about them?  Well, I haven’t.  And they’ve been cooking up a storm!

You see, we’ve started a new routine in our house.  Once a week, the kids cook us a meal.  One week Abby cooks the main course and Henry cooks the dessert, and the next week they swap.  They get to choose what they want to make (with a little guidance from Grant and me), but the planning and time management usually is left to them.  We’ve had some really good meals.  And I think there was only one that ended up in the trash – which is pretty good considering we’ve been doing this for well over three months now!

But this week, I was asked to help out more than normal, so I thought I’d take photos of what my awesome kids came up with.  This was probably the best meal combined that we’ve had with them cooking and I’m so proud of them.  Note, I only guided them – I didn’t really do anything with them.  Usually Grant and I will hide away from the kitchen while they’re cooking so they get to deal with problems by themselves.  This time, I was in the kitchen with both of them, answering questions.  And generally enjoying spending time with them again.

Henry wanted to make ‘bangers and mash’.  For those who do not have an English background, this is basically sausages, onions, mashed potatoes with gravy over everything.  Henry has made this before on the kids cooking night, but just cooked sausages and mashed potatoes with gravy.  Without the onions.  Or vegetables.  And made the plate look like a smiley face.  Actually, it was classic when he went to start cooking and opened the fridge looking for the mashed potatoes – the look on his face when I told him he’d have to peel, chop and cook the potatoes before mashing them was priceless!  This time around he knew what he was in for, and did the potato preparation, and the onions.  And did really well with the gravy.  He still didn’t cook any veggies for the rest of the family, I just had a serving of roast vegetables in the freezer for just an opportunity for me (recipe here).  So he had fun plating up the food – here’s mine:

The other plates ranged from being a grumpy face, with a uni-brow (with the gravy), smiley-faces etc.  I didn’t get any gravy because it had gluten in it …

And then we came to Abby’s dessert.  Most of the time she’s been making cakes, or cupcakes and decorating them at will.  This time, because I wanted to update the photo of my chocolate chip bread pudding (recipe here), I asked her if she wanted to try it out.  And she did a really great job!  Probably better than I could have done.  

I am so proud of my kids and their skills in the kitchen.  Watch this space for more of their creations – this time I can’t wait until they get to cook for us again!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Empanadas in America

It’s been a while since Abby and I got to spend any time together – not just in the kitchen but just anywhere.  Life has suddenly just got busier for our family – we spent most weekends during the summer paving our backyard (to reduce the amount of lawn we need to mow), and that nearly broke us.  Every single Saturday, Grant and I were out doing something in the backyard.  But it looks great now – and we have vowed the next house we move into will have an established garden!

Abby is growing up … way too fast.  She’s nearly my height now and she can kick my butt in karate (which isn’t that difficult, really!).  I am so proud to have her as my daughter … and I love the fact that she jumped at the chance to spend some time with me again.  

This opportunity was awesome.  An awesome chef (Freyka) at one of my previous cooking classes contacted me and said she was piloting a new class on empanadas and would like me to come and give her some feedback.  I had to think for less than a microsecond before I said a resounding ‘yes! And can I bring my daughter with me too?’.  Abby and I got to spend some time together in the car to the class and back again and some of the conversations we had … lets just say I’m glad we got the time together.

But now to the class:


We were making empanadas, which were right up our alley from the years we spent in Chile.  Three types were on the menu: a Venezualan empanada de viento, which was a cheese-filled deep fried empanada, Peruvian beef empanadas (Peruvian because they were baked – if they were fried they would have been Argentinian) and a Costa Rican pineapple and coconut sweet empanada.  And our challenge was to make them gluten-free and to trial how they would work in a class.


Obviously Abby and I were on the gluten-free team – another team got to make them with all the wheat flours etc – and we were joined by two other awesome people who also have food allergies.  How did we go?  Well, the team making the ‘normal’ empanadas did really well – their empanadas looked like they were supposed to …

Our cheese empanada actually formed ok, but ended up being like little rocks.  Our beef empanada pastry just did not want to hold together and stretch out properly, so we made it into a pie.


And our pineapple and coconut empanadas also had troubles being rolled out so they were formed into little cookies in the base of ramekins with the filling on top.  They tasted pretty good (apparently – I didn’t have any of them because (a) they had dairy in them and (b) I’m starting the Whole30 where I am not eating any gluten/dairy/grains/legumes/sugar… but more on that in a separate post).


We learned a lot at this pilot cooking class – how to make 3 different types of empanadas in the time allotted, and that gluten-free pastry is REALLY difficult to work with.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to assist Freyka in coming up with no-fail gluten-free pastry crusts … I haven’t yet succeeded with a gluten-free pizza crust, which is starting to annoy me!  I do have an empanada recipe on this website (see here), but it may be a little complicated for a cooking class – Freyka, feel free to give it a go!

Anyway, Abby and I had a great time learning stuff about cooking again, and most of all, just hanging out together again.  Thank you to Freyka Nunez del Prado for making this possible, and for Harmons Cooking Classes for providing the location.  Also the awesome people I got to meet at the class – go check out their websites at kiwi and carrots, life made simple bakes and the diy foodie!

If anyone else wants help trying out new recipes etc, I’m happy to oblige – just let me know!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with your kids!

Sarah (and Abby!)


Cupcakes or donuts?

Welcome back to cooking with kids!  It’s been a while, but Abby hasn’t stopped coming up with new and interesting ideas for me to test out in the kitchen.  Sometimes she helps.  Sometimes she doesn’t.   I think her watching of food shows has slowed recently – but she’s still got a few crazy combinations of ingredients and flavors she wants to try.  And that’s where this experiment comes in.  

If you remember, she was really into cupcakes a while ago.  Now, she wants to revisit her ideas for cupcakes and make them into donuts.  Hmmm.  I’m not entirely sure where this is going, but I’ll go with the flow for a while I guess.  This experiment (as written on our family whiteboard in the dining room):

  •  Chocolate donuts, peanut butter glaze with caramel drizzle and chocolate chip cookie.

Yeah, I wasn’t too sure either.  But we were invited to a friend’s house for a BBQ and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to show off Abby’s creativity (cough!).  However, just to complicate matters, our friend is allergic to rice – who knew there were more special snowflakes out there apart from me?  Unfortunately, most donut and cookie recipes that I was thinking of used all-purpose flour.  Which normally wouldn’t be a problem apart from me being gluten intolerant, and most gluten-free flour mixes use rice flour.

Thinking cap on …

And I came up with this:

  • Chocolate donut using my healthy donut recipe (here), includes oat flour, bananas, maple syrup and a whole host of all natural ingredients
  • Chocolate chip cookie using the almond butter cookie recipe (here), includes almond butter, honey, dairy-free chocolate chips and eggs
  • Peanut butter glaze – a simple combination of peanut butter, honey and a little bit of almond milk
  • Chocolate frosting – a mixture of dairy-free chocolate chips and sour cream (leftover from many other experiments!).

Abby had a go at decorating the way she wanted them to look:

2016-07-23 Chocolate donuts

Kind of looked like UFO’s …  I shared a half of the ensemble with Grant and we both felt it was way too much ‘bread’ type stuff.  Very chewy and missed out on all the flavors.  So Abby and I went back to the drawing board and came up with this:

2016-07-23 Chocolate donuts final

Basically we scraped the cookies off the top, with whatever peanut butter glaze came with them.  Then crumbled the cookies and literally stuck the crumbs on the donuts.  A very sticky process, that resulted in many comments from Abby, but much better for the overall taste and texture combination.

And the ultimate test?  At the BBQ, almost everyone that was there took at least one home with them to have at their leisure.  They were a great success – and all without processed sugar (and rice!).  

Unfortunately Abby still wants to try HER combination with real ingredients (read: proper sugar and flour).  I’ll see how long I can delay her (hoping this is just a passing fad …!).

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to comment, share and/or try any of these recipes – I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!

Sarah (and Abby!)

Cooking the recipe book – part 1

As mentioned previously, Abby mentioned that she wanted to cook through my recipe book (a.k.a this website).  It’s taken a while for me to download these photos so I could tell you all about the experiences, but hope it’s worth the wait!

Fortunately for me, my recipe book is organized with breakfast items first, so I wasn’t going through all the sweets and (gulp) having to eat all of the things that we make.  So, we started this quest quite healthy.  I’m not quite sure how long her fascination for this idea will last, but here’s the first installment!

Here are the links to the recipes:

As you may be aware, I love granola.  Grant LOVES my granola because I stuff it chock-full (there’s an Aussie slang word for you all!) with nuts and dried fruit, rather than what you get in the commercial granolas.  To the point that he will eat it as a snack.  Lots of it.  Which is good, because then it gives me the opportunity to try another combination of nuts and fruit etc.  And eat more of it myself as well!  So I have a number of different granola recipes on this website.  The basic recipe is just this:

  • have equal amounts of nut butter or oil or equivalent to the sweetener (i.e. honey, maple syrup etc)
  • add enough nuts and dried fruit that the butter and sweetener mixture is broken up a little, unless you like clumps in your granola (which I do occasionally!)
  • if you want clumps, don’t stir the granola after it comes out of the oven – add the dried fruit right onto the pan
  • if you don’t want clumps, leave the fruit until the granola is out of the oven and stir in at your leisure.

Oh, and the egg muffins were FANTASTIC.  Try using sun-dried tomatoes the next time you try this recipe – they just add a little extra pizzazz!

So, as I said, I don’t know how long this is going to last … but I’ll keep you updated as Abby and I cook our way through my recipe book.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!

Sarah (and Abby!)

Corn vs stomach and monster cookies

Some of you may be aware that I’ve been experiencing some pretty terrible stomach pains over the last month or so – to the point that I’ve had to come home from work on a number of occasions.  I went to the doctor and he gave me a huge list of things to try to calm down the cramps and churning inside … so I’ve done most of his suggestions and I’m feeling better.  The problem is that now I don’t know which one made me feel better!  So much for me being a true scientist – I should have done an on/off experiment to really see the differences!

Anyway, one of the things he thought of was that because of my gluten and lactose intolerance, my system may be more sensitive to other foods.  Like corn.  And soy.  So I tried to go for 2 weeks without either of them, then introduced corn one day, waited 3 days, then introduced soy and so on (see, I did do some planned experiments!).  But I didn’t realize just how prevalent in the US food industry that corn is.  It’s in EVERYTHING!  It’s really difficult to find something that’s gluten, dairy AND corn free, apart from plain meat, fruit and veggies.  Fortunately we haven’t gone down the path of looking at whether I’m sensitive to nuts – I think I’d put up with the pains if it turned out I couldn’t have peanut butter any more!

So the results were that every time so far I’ve had corn in it’s fresh state i.e. corn on the cob, corn kernels etc, the following day I’ve felt really crook.  When I’ve had it just as cornstarch in baking powder, powdered sugar or mayonnaise, there’s been a few twinges but nothing too bad.  It looks almost conclusive, but I’m currently refusing to believe it and am going to keep trying to eat it!

And I can hear you all asking, what does this have to do with cooking with kids?  Well, this week Abby wanted to make cookies with me, not cupcakes, as she is doing a job shadow at a cookie store just down the road from us next week.  And she wanted to make monster cookies.  You know, the cookies that are irresistible to me, both before and after cooking (see here for the never-fail recipe).  I had bought some dairy-free white chocolate chips and peanut butter candies (kind of like a dairy-free M&M) with an Amazon gift card I received for Christmas (thanks Mum and Dad!) and I was waiting for an opportune moment to use them in monster cookies.  And so it arrived … this week.

When we lived in Chile, Abby had this thing about mixing batter with her hands – I think she remembered when I broke the hand mixer making these cookies previously.  Anyway, she wanted to do that again.  And it was our Mummy-Abby time – which usually alternates between watching movies with hot chocolate in our pyjamas, or baking something.  So we combined them this week …

2016-02-24 Abby mixing monster cookies

We had lots of fun making these and trying out all the new dairy-free stuff.  Unfortunately the chocolate also had cornstarch in it, so I was a little bit wary of how I’d feel afterwards, but I’ve only had a few twinges since then (thank you God!).  They were really REALLY yummy, and you really couldn’t tell that they were gluten and dairy free.  Unfortunately not soy or corn free, but that was ok.  And I had some soy milk neapolitan ice cream in the freezer that was just crying out to be made into ice cream sandwiches … which the whole family partook of that night.  It was awesome!

2016-02-24 Monster cookies

End of the story is that my stomach is stuffed and I have to be really careful what I feed into it.  And how much processed food that involves.  I guess my special snowflake-ness just increased again.  But it doesn’t mean that I can’t continue baking and making really yummy food and, the most important, spending time with my awesome family!

Thanks for reading – feel free to comment below about anything!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


‘Goodness’ coconut citrus mini-cakes

It’s been a busy weekend baking at home with kids.  Henry wanted to make his banana cake again with me (read more here) and it was time for another ‘fruit of the Spirit’ cupcake with Abby.  But, as you may have read last weekend, Abby wants to re-visit a number of our successful recipes as cupcakes and make them into cakes.  We made a slow transition to the larger sized cake with mini-cakes this weekend.

So this recipe was originally a coconut citrus cake with a cream cheese frosting, filled with a passionfruit curd with a bubble sugar, blue shark-fin as a garnish.  Needless to say, we had to adapt this slightly!  I found a gluten-free, sugar-free recipe for lemon lime coconut cupcakes here and actually followed it mostly to the letter.  So here’s what ours ended up like.

  2016-01-29 'Goodness' coconut citrus cakes

Not too far off the original!  The recipe said it would make 8 cupcakes, so we made 4 mini-cakes and ate one each.  I used a cake slicer that Henry had given me for Christmas and put some frosting in the middle – looking forward to being able to slice cakes easily in the future as well!  And they tasted great.  Nice and light and fluffy.  We didn’t have exactly the no-calorie sugar stuff it called for, but we did use some of the low calorie Truvia as a sugar substitute, so overall they were reasonably healthy.

Why they are called ‘goodness’ cupcakes?  Well, Abby said we were running out of cupcakes to put fruits of the Spirit, so that’s what these turned out to be.  It may be that because they were so light and fluffy you just want to do some good stuff after you eat them?  I don’t know – all I know is that we had lots of fun making them!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Henry and his banana cake

For those of you keeping up with these posts, you will realize that most of these are all about what Abby and I get up to in the kitchen, for Mummy-Abby time.  Well, Henry surprised me yesterday by saying he wanted to make something with me.  A few months ago he decided to get creative in the kitchen and made a banana ‘cake’.  Mostly all by himself and mostly by making up the recipe as he went (with only a little help from me).  Yesterday he wanted to re-create it.  So how could I say no?

I think his inspiration was the simple pancake recipe that Grant has taught them well (young grasshoppers!) – see here for his ultimate and easy pancake recipe.  And then because Henry has seen me just try new things in the kitchen, he did the same.  I must admit that I had to remind him to add things like baking powder and other baking essentials, but basically he did really well.  I asked him to write out the recipe for me to share on this website – I was going to type it up for you, but thought I’d just post his recipe as it is:

2016-01-29 Banana cake recipe

Isn’t that so cool?  We had lots of fun trying to remember what he did originally – he really liked the ‘custard’ base that he accidentally achieved the first time round.  And he’s adamant that you don’t turn on the oven until you put the cake in – none of this pre-heating stuff for him!  Anyway, here’s what it looked like at the end (and a friendly snap of Henry to show how proud he was of his creation!):

2016-01-29 Banana cake 2016-01-29 Henry and banana cake

It wasn’t exactly the same as the original but it tasted really good – so good I’ve had about 4 pieces of it in the past day!  So proud of him and I can’t wait for the next Mummy-Henry baking time!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!

Sarah (and Henry)

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