Unofficial-Homeschool Cooking Class

You know how when you are under government-ordered lockdown and suddenly have to homeschool your children, and you get so tired of them whining about wanting a snack, and then when you suggest a healthy snack they whine some more because what they want is the individually packaged stuff that’s supposed to be reserved for times when we’re going somewhere, except that now we aren’t going anywhere? Cool, me too.

Well, my version of homeschool for my 6- and 3-year-old includes cooking class several times a week, because they like to “help,” and because we have a few recipes in our repertoire that they love and think are special-treat snacks, but which are secretly pretty healthy. I thought I’d share the recipes online, in case anyone else is in need of something to both occupy their children’s time and satisfy their appetite for snacks.

These are not going to include nutrition facts, because I’m not a food blogger (and do not desire to be), and I’m not a nutritionist. I’m just a desperate mother trying to figure out how to entertain, educate, and nourish her children as best I can during this strange time. And also trying not to gain the “quarantine fifteen” myself.

And the photos, oy. I snapped a few pictures on a fingerprint-coated iPhone 7 in poor lighting and didn’t bother to edit them. If you want beautiful photos of food, go to my friends’ blog, Husbands That Cook. Their photos are gorgeous. They don’t have kids to home school right now, is all I’m saying. They’re probably reading books while sipping their Quarantinis in peace right now. (Reading books for one’s own pleasure! How novel!)

So anyway, these are my go-to tested-and-approved by both mom and kids recipes for making and enjoying together. I’m also including some non-edible recipes you can make with the kids in the kitchen: Play-Doh, salt dough ornaments, and bubble solution.

Healthy-Treat Recipes

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

We make these often, and they last just a couple days in our house, because all four of us love them for a snack. For chocolate chip muffins, they score pretty high on the protein-to-sugar ratio. And if you’re out of flour, like many people right now, these use oats ground in a food processor instead of flour.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (180 grams) “old fashioned” or “rolled” oats 
  • 1/2 cup (45g) quinoa flakes (or use another ½ cup oats if you can’t find these)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full-, low- or non-fat is fine, recipe works with all)
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F (here in the UK, I do 180°C fan, or 200°C).

Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. (I have an American-standard-12-cup muffin tin.)

Blend oats and quinoa flakes together in a food processor until they resemble coarse flour.

Add remaining ingredients and blend together until smooth.

Stir in chocolate chips. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Almond Balls

These are fun for the kids to help shape. E rolls a pretty decent ball now, but R prefers to make “slugs,” which are much less appealing. 

Adapted from Ella’s Kitchen Cacao & Almond Energy Ball recipe.

Ingredients

  • 200g raw almonds
  • 400g medjool dates, pitted
  • 4 T cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 T almond butter
  • 2 T coconut oil

Directions

Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until nicely crushed. 

Add the dates and coconut oil and pulse until fully mixed.

Add the almond butter and cocoa powder, and pulse again until fully mixed.

Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball; repeat. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Jammy Drop Cookies

Also known as “thumbprint cookies,” I got this recipe from another mum in E’s class, and we make them a lot, they’re so easy and delicious. I’ve played around with it a bit, and used date syrup in place of half the maple syrup (because I ran out of maple), and used Nutella instead of jam, and they’ve always turned out great.

E likes strawberry jam, R prefers apricot

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups (160g) flour
  • 3/4 cup (90g) almond meal (or raw almonds, ground in food processor, which is what I usually use)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) light-flavored extra virgin olive oil
  • no-sugar-added jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C / 160°C fan. Line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper, or silicone baking mat.

Place the flour, almond meal, maple syrup, and oil in a big bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine. If the dough seems way too sticky to handle, add a little bit more flour.

Using clean hands, roll a tablespoon of the mixture into a ball, place it on the prepared tray, and flatten it slightly. Press a thumb into the middle of the cookie to make an indent. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Fill each hole with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Move onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Makes approximately 16-18 cookies.

3-Ingredient Banana or Chocolate-Banana Protein Pancakes

I make these for lunch at least a couple times a week. The kids think it’s great to have pancakes, and I’m happy they’re actually getting some protein. We serve with maple syrup or whipped cream or peanut butter (but they usually don’t choose the last one).

Ingredients

  • 1 large banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 scoop (usually 20g) of protein powder, either banana, vanilla, or chocolate flavor 
  • cooking oil

Directions

Place all ingredients in blender (I usually use my hand/immersion blender and the tall cup it came with) and blend till smooth. You could also just mash the banana well and mix together with a whisk.

Heat oil in pan/griddle until nice and hot. Pour the mixture into whatever size and shape pancakes you are feeling that day. Allow to cook for a few minutes until you see bubbles popping on the surface, then flip and cook for another minute or two.

Make Your Own Trail Mix

This has been a lockdown hit with the whole family. We each got a container labeled with our name. I got out all the nuts, cereals, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolate chips, and let the kids choose what they wanted to put into their container (though I did limit the chocolate chips and require that they try some of the nuts).

Now when I hear “I’m hungry, I want a snack,” I reply, in my most benevolent voice, “You may have some of your trail mix,” and they run and get their container, and have been perfectly satisfied with that option. Credit to my brother for the idea.

Less Healthy Recipes

Cinnamon Snails

This is a recipe I remember from my childhood, from some early-1990s kids’ cookbook. It’s not particularly healthy, but it is fun for kids to make, and tasty. All ingredients are completely approximate here—sorry!—but it’s pretty easy to eyeball everything that goes into this recipe, and adjust for how many you are making. I usually do one piece of bread per child.

Ingredients

  • Slices of sandwich bread, unhealthy white works best, I’m afraid
  • Cream cheese
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C / 160°C fan. Line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper, or silicone baking mat.

Melt some butter and pour into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.

Place a slice of bread on a wooden cutting board, cut off crusts, and and then roll with a rolling pin till as flat as possible.

Spread cream cheese on the flattened bread. Roll up tightly from one end, jellyroll style. 

Slice along the length of the roll, to make multiple “snails.”

Dip the snails in the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar. 

Bake for approx. 10 minutes, until slightly crispy on the outside. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before eating to prevent burnt mouths, and then enjoy warm.

Mason Jar Ice Cream

I saw this recipe on Delish.com, which is hosting free kids cooking classes on Instagram every weekday right now, and thought it would be fun to try. It was! And it was surprisingly good, too! The texture wasn’t as creamy as regular ice cream, but it wasn’t bad for something we could make in a jar.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream (U.S.) / double cream (U.K.)
  • 1 1/2 T granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Pour cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt into a 16-ounce mason jar and secure tightly with a lid.

Shake the mason jar until the cream thickens and almost doubles in size, 4 to 5 minutes. It should be opaque and easily coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Freeze for 3 hours, or until hardened. Scoop out ice cream with a spoon and serve with your favorite ice cream toppings.

Homemade Play-Doh

This recipe calls for a tablespoon of oil, and I got out the cooking oil, but then I had the idea to use coconut oil instead, thinking it would make our hands smell deliciously tropical and I could pretend we were on vacation at the beach. Well, that was a fail. The girls complained they didn’t like the smell, and they weren’t wrong. Not sure if it’s the cream of tartar or what, but it didn’t smell like a cabana boy rubbing you down with coconut oil. So we added in a few drops of lavender essential oil, and it smelled a bit better.

I think next time I’ll try baby oil, which should make hands smell nice and feel soft (which we all need with all this hand washing we’re doing), but if your child has a proclivity for tasting their Play-Doh, maybe stick with cooking oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 T of cream of tartar (in the U.K., this comes in little packets. You’ll need 3 of them)
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring

Directions

Mix ingredients together in a bowl and then add food coloring (you will need to be generous for the color to be vivid).

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan, and cook on stove on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it forms a dough (it happens quickly).

Take it out of the saucepan and transfer to wooden cutting board, and knead like bread dough for a few minutes. It can be hot, so be careful! 

As soon as it’s cool enough, get out the Play-Doh toys and let the kids get to it!

Store in an air-tight container.

Salt Dough Ornaments

Who says ornaments have to be just for Christmas? We decided to make Easter ornaments this week and create our own “Easter tree.”

I got the salt dough recipe for this project from This Grandma Is Fun

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • clear glaze finish spray or mod podge (we didn’t have this, and so didn’t use anything to seal the ornaments after painting/glittering. If you have some, use it.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250°F / 100°C fan / 120°C.

Mix first three ingredients together and knead until a dough forms.

With a rolling pin, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Some flour sprinkled on the counter might be needed to avoid sticking.

Take your cookie cutters and cut out your shapes from the dough. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 

Use a straw to make holes at the top of the shapes.

Bake for 2 hours. Watch to make sure they don’t overcook and crack. I baked ours at 100°C fan, and actually needed to put them back in for another half hour, as the backs still looked a bit wet.

Allow to cool and continue to air-dry for a while (we made this a multi-day project, so left them till the next day).

Then paint with acrylic paints, add glue and glitter, make a huge mess in your home, and while you’re on your knees trying to vacuum up glitter, pray for schools to reopen soon.

We made an Easter display by hanging our ornaments on some sticks we found outside on the common, which I stuck into a large vase. Et voila! Easter tree!

Bubble Solution

Actually, we haven’t made this yet, but we will once we run out of the store-bought stuff. My brother made it with his kids as a “science lesson” (works for me), and sent me the recipe he used.

Whisk together:

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch (corn flour in U.K.)
  • 1/2 cup dish soap (washing-up liquid in U.K.)

Get out the bubble wands and have loads of bubble fun!

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