Cooking with grandchildren: Make the kitchen a classroom

Cooking with grandchildren: Make the kitchen a classroom

Each year, families spend a lot of time in the kitchen together during the holidays. These moments not only make happy memories, but can be teachable moments as well, where grandchildren can learn valuable knowledge about the world around them.

Cooking and baking can be enjoyable pastimes for grandkids and grandparents who incorporate science in fun, interactive ways, ranging from the basics of measurements to thermodynamics and beyond. 

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Rhubarb sauce and GRAND Social No. 266 link party for grandparents

Rhubarb sauce

When it comes to seasonal treats that spell summer, for me, the letters r-h-u-b-a-r-b — arranged in that order — are among those at the top of my list. (Root beer floats, homemade ice cream, and cherries rank right up there, too).

Brianna's garden has flourished this summer, especially her green onions and rhubarb, so she's given me a decent share of both. The rhubarb was a special treat — as my rhubarb didn't grow well at all this summer — and I immediately simmered up a rhubarb sauce for topping vanilla ice cream (and shared the sight on social media).

 

So delicious, so sweet... and so quickly gobbled up (by me and only me because...

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Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and 9 more goodies I could eat every single day

I recently ate at least one Reese's Peanut Butter Cup every single day for eleven days straight. Most of those eleven days it was more than one.

I blame it on Halloween. And the lack of trick-or-treaters just as much as my lack of motivation to keep my grubby hands out the bag of leftover candy.

food obsessions

See, Jim bought the BIG bag of Halloween candy this year, and when...

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Goodbye, grocery store visits

I did it! I told you I'd do it, and I did: I did my grocery shopping online and had the goods delivered right to my door. Right to my kitchen, in fact.

Let me first be sure to note that this is not a sponsored post. This is me being pleased as can be that I got all this...

 groceries

...without having to step foot in the grocery store, without even having to...

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Pleasing a picky eater—or trying to

Bubby is a picky eater. The pickiest, finicky-est little eater I've ever met. That fact has been on my mind lately as I consider the places we'll visit, the activities we'll do, and the food we'll eat when Bubby and Baby Mac stay at Gramma's house in a couple weeks.

I can come up with places to visit. I have no problem figuring out activities to do. Food, though? Well, that's a whole other realm, one in which I'm not as savvy as I thought I might be.

When I visited Bubby and Baby Mac a few months ago, Megan gave me free reign to come up with the meals on my own, with no dictation from her. She did, though, offer a few chuckles when I told her my menu plans. "Well, if you can get him to eat any of that, I'll be the first asking for the recipe," she said in a knowing tone.

I wasn't offering up weird things. In fact, I thought I'd chosen far more kid-friendly fare than what health-conscious Megan typically offers.

Bubby still hated most of it.

My hot dog loving grandson balked at the pigs in the blanket, tearing off every bit of bread while saying, "I only like my hot dogs plain, Gramma." Bubby also loves ham and cheese sandwiches as well as grilled cheese sandwiches. So I figured we'd have grilled ham and cheese for one dinner, to which he very quickly and very adamantly made it clear he does not love grilled cheese sandwiches anymore. "I only like ham, cheese, mayo on white and not grilled," he let me know.

Considering such complaints, I immediately altered my plans for most meals with Bubby. There were a few things, though, did work, were eaten, were enjoyed. Here's are the minor successes I had and the things I'm considering serving again when Bubby visits this month.

Fish soft tacos. Not what you'd imagine a finicky kid eating. Because Bubby loves fish sticks, though, it was simple enough to bake up some fish sticks, throw a few on a tortilla with some shredded cheddar and cubed avocado and viola! Fish tacos. Sure, tomatoes and lettuce would have been nice, but although Bubby loves avocado, he doesn't care for lettuce or tomatoes. Go figure. At least he ate a couple tacos his way. Success!

Triple P kebobs. What? you may ask. Well, Bubby does like pork and pineapple and peppers. And alphabet activities. So I threw the three foods starting with P on a skewer and broiled them. Then I scooted them off the skewer for Bubby to eat. Turns out he no longer likes pineapple but he does like pork and peppers. (See what I mean? Odd child likes peppers over pineapple.) Sort of success...which was good enough for me.

Grape skewers. Continuing the skewer theme, I'd pinned on Pinterest an idea for putting grapes on skewers and freezing them for a frosty and nutritious snack. We packed them for a picnic in the park. They were a perfect complement to the peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly; crusts cut off!) we also packed. Success again!

Colored pasta. Megan eschews anything with carbs, so Bubby rarely gets pasta. I was pretty sure he'd like to give it a shot—the kid did once upon a time like mac and cheese—and there'd be no denying the allure of colored noodles like ones I'd seen on Pinterest. So I boiled up some rotini, drained and splashed with a bit of EVOO, divided it between baggies, squirted a different food coloring into each baggie, squished the noodles around until fairly evenly coated, then returned all bags to one happy and colorful pot. Success! Bubby liked it, he really liked it. Because he liked it, those colored carbs were served as a side for more than one dinner...plus a lunch. (Though that's one recipe I'm pretty sure Megan hasn't repeated since I left, considering the whole carb thing and all.)

My other culinary successes with Bubby had to do with snacks. He's not quite as picky when it comes to those, so my regular ol' Muddy Buddies recipe was well received. And eaten. Believe me, with cereal as its base, I considered serving up a cup of Muddy Buddies for breakfast. I didn't, though. I promise.

The other sweet treat Bubby (and Mom and Dad) loved? Confetti popcorn! This stuff is so good, my friends. So good that after seeing how simple it is to make and how quickly Megan and Preston Bubby ate it up, I made a batch when I got home. Jim and Brianna ate it just as quickly as the desert dwellers.

I found the recipe on Pinterest and it goes, pretty much, like this: Pop enough popcorn to make about nine cups or so. Add salt if you want, and set the popcorn aside in a BIG bowl. Melt six ounces of white candy coating, such as the blocks you get in the baking aisle, or you can use white chocolate chips. Once melted, pour over the popcorn and stir carefully and quickly to coat popcorn evenly. Once coated, sprinkle confetti/candy topping (for cookies and such) on the popcorn. Then spread popcorn out on waxed paper to dry, adding a little extra confetti if desired. Eat once dried...or while drying, if you can't resist. Yum! Success!

Other than repeating those things, I'm still considering what to make for Bubby while he's here. Megan and I have tried pretty much every kid-friendly food you can imagine plus several non-kid-friendly for good measure. But if you have a secret dish or delight you found works with the pickiest of the picky, I'd love to hear it. I'm hoping to get a few more successful meals under my belt this time around.

Today's question:

Got picky eaters? Got picky-eater pointers? Do share!

Cooking, codes, and ending child hunger

Since becoming a blogger ambassador for ConAgra Foods' Child Hunger Ends Here campaign, I've made a concentrated effort to purchase as many of the specially marked products that have a code that converts to a meal for food-insecure children when entered on the Child Hunger Ends Here website.

The product I've bought most of is the Hunt's Pasta Sauce. Next up would be the Hunt's Tomato Sauce. That's because I have recipes I've made for years and years that use exactly those items. But I was ready for something different this week, in terms of recipes and the specially marked products I was purchasing, so I set about searching for a new recipe that used something other than pasta sauce or tomato sauce.

Of course, my go-to spot for recipes anymore is Pinterest, so that's where I headed. I just so happened to find a ConAgra Foods Pinterest board with several recipes, many of which feature products included in the campaign. One using Manwich (a campaign product) struck my fancy. So I purchased my can of Manwich, entered the code, and made the following for dinner Tuesday night.

Savory Chicken and Pasta Skillet (recipe and photo courtesy ReadySetEat)

2 cups dry small penne pasta, uncooked (2 cups = about 8 oz)

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 can (15.5 oz) Manwich® Original Sloppy Joe Sauce

1/2 cup water

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and pepper.

Spray large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add Sloppy Joe sauce and water; bring to a simmer and cook 3 minutes.

Add cooked pasta to skillet; stir to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.

(Makes six servings.)

The dish was fast, easy, and good. Next time I may add a handful of chopped fresh cilantro to give it even a little more zip—and just because I love cilantro and use it any chance I get.

Next time you're planning dinner, consider meals that include specially marked products from ConAgra for an easy way to join in the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign. Here are the products:

Before or after preparing your dish, be sure to visit www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com to enter the eight-digit code from the package. For each code entered, the equivalent of one meal—up to three million meals—will be donated to Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity.

Then be sure to come back here and share your recipe with the rest of us. Together we can help end child hunger—and change up our recipe repertoires.

Disclosure: I have been compensated for my participation in the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign and all posts, tweets and updates related to the campaign.

Today's question:

Of the participating products above, which is your favorite? And which have you never tried? (I, personally, am a pretty huge fan of Orville Redenbacher, but I've tried all of them—far more often than I should probably admit.)

Ranking the holiday fare

Yay, it's two days til Thanksgiving! Because I'm lazy as <cuss> busy as all get out today and figured you'd be, too, I figured a simple Tuesday post would be best.

My simple plan? To rank the traditional holiday fare in order of what I enjoy most, then request that you all do the same. A simple, silly diversion of sorts. Are you game?

(Oh, and just for the record: The photo above of Baby Mac has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But he's so cute hugging his Papa Smurf that I couldn't resist sharing it.)

Here goes...

Thanksgiving fare traditionally on my table and how I rank my enjoyment of each (with 1 being most favorite of all):

1. real mashed potatoes with turkey gravy

2. stuffing (or dressing, if that's what you prefer to call it)

3. cold pumpkin pie with heaps o' whipped cream

4. turkey—light and dark for the meal, plus some skin; light with lots of salt and mayo on turkey sandwiches the day after

5. cherry pie...chocolate cream pie...and (maybe, as it's a new offering this year) caramel apple pie

6. cheesy corn casserole

7. deviled eggs

8. homemade rolls

9. green bean casserole

10. whole cranberry sauce

Did you notice the omission of sweet potatoes/yams? That's because I don't like them. At all.

Hungry yet? Not it's your turn...!

Today's question:

How would you rank your traditional Thanksgiving fare, in 1-10 order of what you love best?

Thanksgiving recipe swap

With Thanksgiving just one week away, I, like many, have food on the brain: What to make, what to buy, what to serve up to dazzle the guests.

Okay, the "dazzle" part is a bunch of hooey. At least for me. I'm not really looking to dazzle any of the family joining us on Turkey Day; I'm simply hoping to satisfy everyone's cravings for dishes tried and true. Which means I'll be serving up the basics, the goodies I've served up every Thanksgiving for countless years.

Which got me to thinking: Every family has certain foods that are tradition to their clan, often served up only on Thanksgiving. Today I want to discuss those here...including the swapping of the recipes for those so inclined.

So tell me: What dishes have a standing spot on your Thanksgiving table? Which are the family favorites? Which are your favorites? And which are on the table simply because they've always been there, always will be, regardless of the number of friends and family who actually eat them (I'm thinking specifically of cranberries...which I really do like and prefer whole over jellied).

I'll get the ball rolling by offering up a dish that has become tradition in my immediate family, a dish I first made 25 or so years ago and have served every Thanksgiving since, at least when I've been the one hosting the holiday meal. Megan now makes it for her Thankgsiving meals, which warms my heart to see one of my off-the-wall offerings on its way to becoming a recipe of Gramma's passed down through the generations.

The recipe likely once had an official name, but in my family it's known as Mom's Cheesy Corn Casserole. It's been posted in my Grandma's Recipe Box for quite some time, but I'd like to share it again here, for our just initiated (possibly to become annual) Grandma's Briefs Thanksgiving Recipe Swap:

Cheesy Corn Casserole

1 10-ounce package frozen corn, thawed and drained

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

6 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1-2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (yes, 300). Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle half the corn in the bottom, then sprinkle with half the cheddar cheese, then half the Monterey jack cheese. Cover with half the bread cubes. Repeat all layers. Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour over all layers, pressing down the bread to be sure it's all moistened. Dot with butter. Bake uncovered for 90 minutes, or until puffed and dark golden on top.

Makes 8 servings.

(For big gatherings, you can double this recipe, using a 9X13 dish. Photo above is a doubled recipe.)

There you have it: My one and only out-of-the-ordinary, traditional-in-our-house Thanksgiving dish. The rest of the Thanksgiving spread is pretty much what you'd expect...including cranberries, that may or may not get eaten but without which it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving.

Now it's your turn! Let the recipe swapping begin!

Today's question:

What dish is a family tradition on your Thanksgiving table? (Sharing of recipes encouraged and appreciated! If you have the recipe posted on your blog, feel free to include the link. And yes, pie and dessert recipes are welcome!)

Peas, pears, and you must be joking

Baby Mac, at just over five months, eats food now. Real food. Well, real baby food. Gramma—that's me—was fortunate to witness a recent feeding.

His fine dining experience started with peas:

They're not too bad, Gramma.

The second course featured the yummiest of yums, a.k.a. pears:

Oh, yeah.

These ... are ...... the BEST!Then Mom offered a finale of none other than—you guessed it—rice cereal:

You're joking, right?Um, I won't be swallowing this, Gramma.Seriously.Baby Mac did eventually swallow his rice cereal. Or, at least most of it.

Which is far better than his brother, Mr. Skinny Minny Boney Maroney Bubby, currently does with most of his food.

At this rate, the big brother title will soon belong to the younger of the two.

Today's question:

What food would you like to try for the very first time?

Asleep at the meal

Poor Bubby. Is this the side effect of overscheduling and trying to keep up with a Marathon Mommy?

Or maybe the result of unbearably boring dinner conversation?

Or could it be that Bubby is simply taking every opportunity he can to dream about the great fun he'll have when he visits Gramma and PawDad in just nine days?

I like to think it's the latter.

Today's question:

How overscheduled is this weekend for you?

Choices

I was going to write something profound, something memorable for today's post. But soon after waking, I found I had to make a choice: food for thought or food for Jim?

Food for Jim won out.

Why?

Because this is the sad state of my refrigerator today, and I leave tomorrow—without Jim—for the desert to visit Bubby and Mac (and Megan and Preston):

I didn't grocery shop before BlogHer, and Jim survived on what was in a similarly empty fridge. Although I'm pretty sure that's mostly because he ordered take-out every single night I was in San Diego.

But I can't do that to him again.

So unless he's to survive on sun tea, three tomatoes, three lemons, Snak-Pak pudding, condiments, and carrots—well, not really the carrots, as those are the dogs' treats—while I'm away, I need to go go grocery shopping. Today.

Sometimes we gotta make the tough choices in life. This is the one I must make today. And believe me, it's tough because I loathe, loathe, loathe grocery shopping. More than anything. Ever.

And let me make it known here and now that after making this tough choice and visiting the oh-so-loathesome grocery store to buy food to fill the fridge for Jim instead of posting profound punditry for my friends, I will kill Jim if he chooses to order out for every meal again while I'm away. Really. No joke. No codswallop.

Cross your fingers Jim makes the right choice.

Although...if he doesn't...the wrath he faces will surely make for a profound and memorable post for you all to read upon my return.

So go ahead. You make a choice: Which scenario will you be crossing your fingers for?

I'll keep you posted on the resultant state of the refrigerator. And Jim.

Today's question:

What is the state of your refrigerator today?