With a few simple ingredients and a little bit of effort, you can turn your kitchen into a home base for summertime fun
The end of the school year brings a mix of emotions: relief from the daily grind of car pools and homework, and the anxiety of entertaining a house full of active kids for the next 10 weeks.
Spending time together in the kitchen is a great way for kids to learn something new and appreciate where food comes from. With tips from local experts, simple recipes and a list of local field trips, your kids can cook, create and concoct for hours of summer fun.
Kids as young as 3 and 4 can cook, says Klarissa Calloway a kindergarten teacher and cooking instructor at Spokane’s Discovery School. (Go to discovery-school.org to learn more about summer cooking camps.)
“We talk about measuring, liquids and solids, setting the table – skills they can use,” says Calloway.
Cooking is also a great way to learn about different cultures, she says.
“Research chocolate or sugar cane on the computer and learn about how different countries use these things,” she suggests. Let the kids pick the subject to research and supply some items to taste-test for fun.
When choosing recipes to try, Calloway suggests giving kids flexibility. “Let them leave out the lettuce in tacos; let them make something they like,” she says.
For younger kids, try to find recipes that don’t involve the stove, like no-bake cookies. Make sure to go over basic safety like how to handle a knife and being careful of hot water at the sink.
Food as art
“Young children will embrace healthy foods, like fruit, vegetables, soups and salads, without needing to be lured by sugar, frosting and gumdrops,” writes Mollie Katzen in her cookbook “Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up” (Tricycle Press, 2005).
Katzen’s recipes are a cross between art projects and cooking, appealing to young children’s sense of curiosity with hands-on recipes for miniature edible people and colorful polka-dot rice.
Older children might enjoy cookbooks based on their favorite literary characters like “The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking” by Carolyn Keene (Grosset & Dunlap, 2005), with recipes like Sleuth Soup.
“The Geronimo Stilton Cookbook: Fun Recipes for Kids and Parents to Cook Together” (Scholastic, 2005) offers instructions for making edible buried treasures and scurrying ladybugs.
“Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by Mary Gunderson (Capstone Press, 2000) is a great way to learn about history through recipes similar to those used by America’s famous explorers.
All of these books can be found at Spokane-area libraries.
Hit the road
Seeing things firsthand gives kids a sense of where food comes from. Here are a few places around the area to explore:
Spokane’s Family Farm - Round up the neighbors and head to this dairy farm 13 miles west of Spokane to learn dairy science, from cow to cup.
Watch milking and bottling, and visit the farm’s donkeys, calves, bunnies and kittens. Finish with milk and cookies and buy a gallon of farm-fresh milk to take home.
Cost is $2 per person ($15 minimum) with an optional ice-cream-making session for an extra charge. Also ask about yogurt-, cheese- and butter-making classes. Call (509) 796-3276 to sign up.
Green Bluff – Go to greenbluffgrowers.com for a fruit and vegetable calendar to see what’s in season at local farms and a list of scheduled events.
Great Harvest Bread Company – Gather a group of friends (eight to 15 is optimal) and head to Great Harvest to learn the secrets of yeast and flour. The kids get to work some dough, tour the store and leave with a treat.
Call ahead for reservations. Liberty Lake: Contact owner/manager Ross Umbdenstock at (509) 891-9336. South Hill: Contact manager Trixie Gant at (509) 535-1146.
Papa Murphy’s Pizza – Pizza-loving kids get a tour behind the scenes and get to make a mini-pizza to take home. Group size and reservation policies vary by location; go to www.papamurphys.com to find the phone number for your local pizza shop and call for details.
Spokane Aquifer virtual field trip - A rainy summer day is the perfect time to learn more about where our water supply comes from. Go to spokaneaquifer.org to take the self-paced virtual field trip. It’s geared toward middle-school kids but can be adapted to all ages.
WSU Creamery – Head south to Pullman and spend the day learning how cheese and ice cream are made.
Ferdinand’s, the on-campus gourmet ice cream shop, is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Enjoy a soda fountain treat and pick up some Cougar Gold cheese to take home.
Check out the observation room for videos and a glimpse of the cheese- and ice-cream- making processes. Call to find out the best times for viewing and to reserve a hosted tour for groups of six or more (509-335-2141).
Oil & Vinegar – This gourmet food shop in River Park Square carries more than 50 kinds of olive oil and specialty vinegars, and lots of samples. Buy a few refillable bottles and fill them up with favorites like blood orange olive oil and sweet fig balsamic vinegar.
While you’re downtown, pick up a loaf of artisan bread at the farmers market and have a dipping party at home. (808 W. Main Ave., 509-838-7115)
P.e.a.c.h. Community Farm – This working farm near Cheney offers wild edible plant walks, goat milking, visiting farm animals and other events geared toward helping kids learn where food comes from.
Visit www.peach local.com for a listing of events and related costs. (509-435-5210)
Here are some simple recipes to get you cooking with your kids.
Plastic Bag Ice Cream
Courtesy of Klarissa Calloway, Spokane’s Discovery School.
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup half-and-half
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rock salt
Gallon and sandwich-sized zip-top bags
Place the sugar, half-and-half and vanilla in a sandwich-sized zip-top bag. Close the bag and put it inside a gallon ziplock filled three-quarters with ice cubes and the rock salt.
Shake and roll the bag for 15-20 minutes or until the smaller bag turns into ice cream.
Yield: 1 serving.
Apple Cheese Pancakes
Courtesy of Alexis Davidson, Discovery School student.
4 eggs, separated
1 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
1 heaping, packed cup grated apple (any kind but Red Delicious)
¾ cup flour (you can use ½ cup white and ¼ cup whole wheat)
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg or allspice
½ teaspoon salt
Butter for frying
Separate the eggs, setting the whites aside. Mix egg yolks and remaining ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.
Fry pancakes in butter on both sides until brown. Serve plain or with maple syrup, preserves, sour cream, yogurt, fresh fruit, or cinnamon and sugar.
Yield: 10-12 pancakes.
Buffalo or Beef Jerky
From “Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition,” by Mary Gunderson.
1 pound buffalo meat or very lean beef such as T-bone, sirloin or rib-eye steak
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Partially freeze the meat for 20 minutes to one hour to make it easier to slice. Heat the oven to 175 degrees.
Cut the meat diagonally across the grain so that each piece is 6 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1/8 - to 1/4-inch thick. Trim remaining fat. Place meat strips, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Seal tightly and shake to coat meat.
Line the bottom of a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Place a wire baking rack on top of foil. Lay meat strips on wire rack. Place pan in middle of oven, leaving door slightly open to allow moisture to escape.
Bake 4 to 5 hours or until meat is dry but still slightly chewy.
Yield: About 4 ounces jerky.
Kirsten Harrington is a Spokane freelance writer and can be reached at kharrington67@ earthlink.net.