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Recipes for a cooking experience with my little 4 year old cousin :)

Hello all! I am so excited to hear that my 4 year old cousin, whom I will see during my trip home for the holidays, looooves to cook!
I know she has made chocolate chip cookies and brownies (from the box) but I wanted to definitely make something from scratch with her, and something a little unique or different from chocolate chip cookies/brownies.
Maybe a cake that she can help decorate with homemade icing? Or a different kind of chocolate cookie?
I also thought we could do one savory dish along with the sweet.
Any ideas?
I am brainstorming now, but thought it couldnt hurt to ask fellow chowhounders. :)
I really miss this little girl during the year (I live very far away) so I am looking forward to really having some quality time with her in this way.

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  1. Meatballs are fun- bake them, it's safer than trying to fry them with kids.

    1 Reply
    1. Maybe a fruit cobbler? Or cinnamon buns?

      1. Years back my niece and I made a make from scratch to which we added Tricks cereal. You cannot imagine the excitement she had dumping in that cereal, seeing it come out of the oven and frosting, sprinking and dodadding it and then presenting it to her grandma knowing there was a "surprise" inside.

        She is(gulp) 18 now and STILL likes to talk about it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sal Vanilla

          such a cute story. :) simple pleasures!

        2. Homemade pretzels? Pizza? Cut out cookies that she can decorate? Have fun!

          7 Replies
          1. re: arp29

            If I make pizza is it worth it to try to make the dough with her? Or would that be something she wouldn't really be able to contribute...? I know she's only four, but I'd like her to see that everything we make together is from scratch and not a box or package.

            1. re: eviemichael

              I did pizza with my cousins 6 and 9. I made the dough because they were pretty tired from walking around town. I also rolled it out for them because I only have one rolling pin and specific oven space and time constraints but otherwise I would have let them play with it a little. Then I did a top your own pizza from toppings their mom said they enjoyed. Lots of fun.

              I think meatballs and or homemade pretzels and maybe the cake with decorating would be the most fun. Definitely bake them.

              1. re: melpy

                I am starting to think meatballs and either cinnamon buns or cupcakes might be the best balance between pretty easy and exciting. :)
                Thanks everyone for their input!

              2. re: eviemichael

                When I've done yeasted dough recipes with my little cousins (17 year age gap), we had a blast together. We had the yeast/water/honey/sugar mixture ready and at temperature and we added that to the flour. They stirred the mixture until it became kneadable and then I showed them how to knead the dough and they took it from there. For pizza it was fund to have them shape their own crusts. But also I've done cinnamon rolls where they have shaped the dough to a flat rectangle and I spread the sugar/cinnamon out on the dough and they rolled it out. I cut the dough and they placed it in the glass baking dish. Then they mixed the glaze and pour it on top.

              3. re: arp29

                My now 5yo likes to make pizza.

                If your cousin is an Elmo fan, Elmo's Magic Cookbook is a good DVD. It has several segments "cooking" differnt types of food. Very simple stuff like pizza, sandwich wraps that little hands can mimic.

                1. re: cleobeach

                  Thanks for the tip. Does your child participate in making the dough?

                  1. re: eviemichael

                    My kids have been helping make pizza dough for years. We tend to make it in the Kitchenaid mixer and they have always just dumped in the ingredients. But kneading the dough is also really fun. For kids that age, it's just like play-doh. Then, shaping and topping the pizza. It's always a big hit.

              4. How about decorating a gingerbread house? When my kids were in preschool, they would glue graham crackers to a milk carton and use icing to attach candy. You can also buy a kit with prebaked pieces of gingerbread, frosting mix, and candy. You could preassemble the house and let her go crazy with the frosting and candy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Mimi

                  Depending on how many days you can make the dough and bake it and then assemble and then decorate (one small project each day) the gingerbread house.

                2. i love banana breads or green tomato bread with nuts and choc chips. lots of dumping ingredients in bowls and stirring with a spatula and then pouring in. and everyone loves them for bfast the next day. very satisfying and showing how to eat something yummy that is good for you.

                  1. Stir-N-Roll Biscuits

                    Made with vegetable oil shortening

                    2 cups all-purpose flour
                    3 teaspoons baking powder
                    1 teaspoon salt
                    1/3 cup vegetable oil
                    2/3 cup milk

                    Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

                    Sift together the flour, baking
                    powder and salt.

                    In a measuring cup, pour together
                    the vegetable oil and milk, but
                    don't stir. Pour all at once into
                    the dry ingredients.

                    Stir with a fork until mixture cleans
                    sides of bowl and rounds up into a ball.

                    For drop discuits, drop dough onto
                    ungreased cookie sheet.

                    For rolled and patted biscuits smooth up
                    dough by kneading about ten times, without
                    additional flour.

                    With the dough on waxed paper, press out
                    1/4-inch thick with hands or roll out
                    between waxed paper. Cut with unfloured
                    biscuit cutter.

                    Bake 10 to 12 minutes on ungreased cookie
                    sheet in very hot oven (475 degrees F.)

                    For a higher biscuit, roll dough 1/2 inch thick.

                    Source: Nov 29, 1950 Betty crocker ad

                    1. I remember making egg noodles with one grandma. I loved (and love) all types of noodle and pasta, and this was a ton of fun. My other grandma would let me make a dip for an appetizer. She would put plain yogurt or sour cream in a bowl, and then give me a bunch of jars of dried herbs and spices and I added whatever I thought would be good. Probably some pretty hideous concoctions, but all the grown ups would ooh and aah and I loved getting to make my own creation. My younger brothers loved anything with the blender or food processor.

                      1. Thumbprint cookies were always a hit w kids at chez bc! Lots of fun elements aside from the mixing theres the ball-rolling, dipping balls in whatever coating you want, making indentations and then filling the indent. Lots of room for creativity.

                        On the savoury side, in addition to the great ideas above, I'd add "sliders" - kids LOVE these and you could make them healthier if you used ground chicken or turkey if you wanted to.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Thumbprint cookies is another great idea! Thanks a lot. :)

                        2. Make a marble cake, or a zebra cake -- http://www.azcookbook.com/zebra-cake/ they always fascinated me as a little girl. But I remember that 30+ minutes (baking time) seemed like f.o.r.e.v.e.r , so be sure to have a diversion.
                          And if she's only four, something as simple as hasselback potatoes might be fun

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: blue room

                            Occurred to me that hasselback potatoes involve a skillfully wielded sharp knife! I meant *after* the slicing, she can tuck parsley/chives/cheese/butter in between!

                          2. My 4-year-old likes to make pizza (we have the dough already prepared), "cheese toast" (he puts shredded cheese on bread, carries it to the toaster oven, we put it in & he turns it on to watch the cheese melt), pancakes (he makes the batter & then cooks the pancakes on an electric griddle with our CLOSE supervision).

                            I was surprised at how very little things are exciting to him - like the cheese toast, for example. Even making roll-ups for lunch is fun (spread hummous or cream cheese on tortilla, add a slice of ham or turkey, roll it up & slice with a plastic knife). We also make granola together, using this recipe from Epicurious:

                            I handle the hot pot of oil & honey, or course. I also subsitute rolled barely and kamut flakes for some of the oatmeal, to make it extra nutritious, but it tastes just fine with all oats. You can sub walnuts or pecans for the almonds if you like. If you want to add raisins or dried furit, sprinkle it over the pan after you take it out of the oven. The fruit gets burnt if you bake it along with the granola. We then use the granola to make "sundaes" - a scoop of Greek-style yogurt, some fruit preserves or fruit puree, and the granola on top. Shhh it's a healthy breakfast :-


                            Have fun with your neice!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: gimlis1mum

                              PS Mollie Katzen has a really cute cookbook for kids called "Pretend Soup." All the recipes are given in pictures as well as words so the little ones can follow along.

                              1. re: gimlis1mum

                                I can't decide between meatballs and pizza now. :)

                              2. What about won tons or potstickers? You can make the filling together (and even mix it by hand) and then divide the work to assemble. One person can put the filling in and brush the skins with egg wash and the other person can seal the dumpling together.

                                1. You could try soup -- you can cut / measure ingredients and have her put them in and stir them around. Or, if you're excited about the meatball idea, make spaghetti and meatballs with homemade sauce! The sauce might not involve lots of hands-on cooking for her, but if you're used to jarred sauce it's amazing to realize how simple it is to make the homemade sauce.

                                  My kid loves to scramble his own eggs for breakfast. He also loves to cut things up with his plastic butter knife -- it's probably not a project on its own, but you could make her a sandwich and let her cut it into shapes (or there's always cookie dough).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Pia

                                    When my son was that age he used to love helping to mix things like brownies or chocolate chip cookies and the magic of how baking transformed those things.

                                    Pizza dough can be made in the food processor and mini-pizzas made with it - stretchy dough! Bits of things on top! Magic oven stuff!

                                    Pancakes were another big hit - waiting for the magic holes to appear!

                                  2. I second the rec for Pretend Soup. My niece and nephew love to cook out of it.

                                    For cooking with a 5 year old recently, the one thing I would add is beware of a short attention span and plan for the kid to be hands on. the kid lost interest if it was something she couldn't do hands on. I am sure each kid varies. I was making pie crusts for t-giving pies. The 7 year old did all the measuring. the 5 year old got her own bowl with flour and butter to mush togther by hand, then water. then the dough was mushed flat and cut into pieces and sprinkled with sugar. they loved to make their own cookies while I fiddled with the "real" pie crust.

                                    1. Mickey Mouse pancakes!

                                      1. I remember making peppermint bark with my niece. I melted the chocolate & let her spread it out on the parchment. But the most fun part was putting candy canes in a plastic bag & letting her pound them with a mallet to smash them before we sprinkled them on.

                                          1. Those Oreo truffles that everyone raves about, and I have yet to try. No bake, just a lot of mixing and rolling.

                                            1. Make rolled sugar cookies, or gingerbread cookies but cut out a shape in the center. Put some crushed jolly ranchers or other hard candies (they can be coarsely pounded in ziplock bag which is also fun) in the cut out and you'll have a nice stain glass candy center. If you add a lollipop stick to it, she can have a handle to hold while she decorates it.

                                              For savory, roll a hotdog in a piece of dough and bake. Like this:


                                              You can make the dough and let her help knead.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Actually I just ordered these 5 inch snowflake cookie cutters to make gingerbread snowflake cookies...hmmm...

                                              2. Everybody, thank you so much for these ideas! I'm so looking forward to this, my fiancee is worried that I am starting to think about having children already...:)

                                                I think I am going to go with pizza, but for the sweet I can't decide between cinnamon rolls, thumbprint cookies and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? And that I have been on a diet? ;)

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: eviemichael

                                                  Sounds great. What about monkey bread, along the ideas of cinnamon rolls? My kids had the best time with that and they were able to get messy. Whatever you decide, I'm sure she'll have a great time and great memories.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    I've never heard of monkey bread, i just googled it and it looks yummy. I think you're right, any of these choices at this point will be fine. Thanks!