The Main Menu: Now is the time to have some fun cooking with your kids

Put on an apron and have some fun cooking with kids, writes our food columnist Jan Main.


People are cooking more. They are at home with time on their hands, often with children.

Cooking is an engaging activity for children. While making something delicious, they are learning about reading, measurement, and organization. It’s science and play in the kitchen with yummy results. There are many adults out there too, attempting new recipes and learning skills. Put on an apron and have some fun!

There are numerous recipes out there! Choose wisely. Use one that is well tested, for instance, it has been triple tested like Chatelaine or Canadian Living or it comes from a reputable cook you respect. Does the recipe make sense to you? Don’t waste your time or your precious ingredients on a recipe you cannot understand.

Read the recipe carefully. Gather your ingredients and the tools you will need to make it. You are half way there. Cook and enjoy the results with others. That’s the pleasure.

Crazy Chocolate Cake

This is a version of a cake recipe found in community cookbooks long ago. It is a first baking recipe with tasty results.

Bridget Wranich, Co-ordinator of Fort York’s Food ways Programme, helped her children make this when they were little. Now, as teens they still enjoy making the chocolate cake themselves.

It’s a recipe that can be quickly made with simple, ingredients and basic skills. If desired, sprinkle the cake with chocolate chips while still warm from the oven. Once melted, spread the chocolate with a knife, making fancy swirls – you have frosting. Yum!

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 L) granulated sugar (white sugar)
3 tbsp (75 mL) cocoa
1 tsp (5 mL) each, baking powder and baking soda (makes cake rise)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt and cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup (75 mL) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) warm coffee or warm water
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) Line an 8-inch (2 L) square pan or 9-inch (23 cm) round pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (if using) into prepared pan. Shake pan to level ingredients.

Make three holes in the dry mixture. Pour oil in the one hole, vinegar in the next and vanilla in the third. Pour warm coffee or warm water over all the dry ingredients and stir well with a fork to mix all ingredients.

Bake for 30 minutes until firm to the touch or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a rack but while hot from the oven, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips, allow to melt. Spread making fancy swirls. Cool before cutting into 12 pieces.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

This luxurious, velvety soup tastes rich and delicious with a minimum effort and ingredients.

You can use a blender, food processor or a hand blender to puree the soup once the vegetables are cooked until tender. You can substitute all carrots or all sweet potatoes if you have the one and not the other. You can also use squash or pumpkin in the recipe. Feel free to add fresh ginger or more curry powder if you like more of a kick but taste first before adding!

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery, carefully washed and coarsely chopped
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock
2 cups (500 mL) water
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1-2 tsp (5-10 mL) curry powder and grated fresh ginger (optional)
1 can (354 mL/ 1/2cups) evaporated milk NOT( sweetened condensed milk)
1 1/2 cups of 10 per cent cream or milk can be substituted.

In large saucepan or Dutch oven combine sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, chicken stock, water, bay leaf, cinnamon, salt and curry powder. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook until vegetables are very tender. Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick.

Puree soup in batches in blender, food processor or hand blender until smooth; stir in evaporated milk or milk or cream until well blended. Taste for seasoning and add more if desired.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days; freeze for longer storage up to 2 months. Makes 10 cups (2 ½ L)

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