baking lightly sweet recipe

Cooking with Kids/Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 March 2018

I don’t remember when I started involving Sierra in all the cooking and baking that occurs in our family — I wish I could say there was one recipe, one windy March Moroccan afternoon marked in my memory on which I let her take up a wooden spoon and do her own stirring for the first time. I do know she was always in the kitchen with me in that house, from the time she arrived at 10 weeks until we left when she was almost 18 months old. She’d sit on the counter when she could sit, gnawing on another wooden spoon while I whisked and sifted and made pans of granola. When she was very tiny she’d amaze me with her ability to sleep through the whirring of the electric mixer. And when she ate real food we’d descend from the afternoon nap and go straight to the kitchen with its peach-orange granite counters and clean tiles and window that opened onto the street. We’d sit on the floor and munch banana muffins and listen for the sound of the horse-drawn cart as it jangled by to collect the yard waste. Our next kitchen, in Riyadh, was somewhat more removed from the rest of the house — a house I can best describe as cavernous with strange hallways and a kitchen area more suited to the maid we were supposed to hire — and though we spent a lot of time in there together it was somehow less pleasant. Our house in Australia is an “open concept” which means the living, dining, and kitchen are one big room that looks out to the back patio via large sliding glass doors. I never imagined after the years in our Saudi house that we’d be blessed again with natural light but we’re lucky here. The bulk of our at-home time is spent in this huge living/cooking area and there is a lot of child participation in the meals prepared.

Today I baked with Elspeth for the first time — her first time for climbing up on Sierra’s step stool and stirring cookie batter and getting her wee fingers covered with flour. I will remember this day: March 15, 2018 in Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia, Elsie began what I hope will be a long and happy relationship with the kitchen.

I can’t say cooking with kids is an easy undertaking if you’re somewhat of a neat freak like myself. Flour inevitably powders countertops and floors. Bits of egg shell need to be fished out on occasion. You certainly cannot expect the endeavor to be a quick one, so save any major projects for after bedtime. The batter may be lumpier than you’d like. But it’s a great exercise in letting go — of perfection, of even being able to fully concentrate on a recipe as your attention is diverted by questions, of caring whether the kitchen is a disaster area. It can always be cleaned later but the moments of letting your daughters dig their hands deep into bread dough and roll out pie crust with their tiny rolling pins are the ones you’ll remember long after the bowls have been scrubbed and put away.

Today Elsie and I made cookies for Sierra’s after-school snack and while I’ve been going light on the baking in the new year I figured these were healthy enough that it wouldn’t upset my philosophy of less in 2018 (in this particular case, refined sugar; I used maple syrup). I am basically on this sort of whole foods only diet lately, trimming out anything processed and eating nuts for snacks (I know … who am I?) and these cookies fall neatly in line with that philosophy as well. I love the slight coconut undertone from the coconut oil and would love to drop in a handful of coconut the next time we bake these. I also love the Greek yogurt for a hit of protein and for keeping the cookies from being too dry.

I don’t have any sage words about cooking with kids other than to do it because it’s such a wonderful way to teach them about cooking and all that goes along with it – measuring, counting, patience – as well as a gorgeous way to spend time together doing something productive and hands-on. Even if it’s as simple as Sierra giving the granola a quick stir before it goes into the oven or dumping the pasta in the pot of boiling water rather than a more involved recipe such as the challah we do from time to time, we’re doing it together and learning together, too. It doesn’t have to be a big production; in fact, it’s probably better if it’s not (though a kid-sized apron and/or spoon or whisk definitely adds to the fun). It’s messy but it’s real. Now that little sister’s in on the action it’s about to get even realer over here. I hope we can cook together, as Sierra says, forever.

  • Katie Simpson 18 March 2018 at 12:57 am

    I love this post and especially the photo of Elspeth, that is gold and she looks like she is having so much fun!!

  • Helen Spiridakiss 15 March 2018 at 11:50 am

    Great post! Among other things, so you remember the “Bunny Bread” we would bake at Easter? Or the braided bread we got from a great library book story? Sugar cookies! Elspeth has the widest smile I have ever seen…..she is a happy camper! Go Elspeth! Such great habits and traditions you have started.

  • Nanda Garber 15 March 2018 at 10:30 am

    I love your posts! Please know that you’ve got a big fan out here in the far away Bay Area. xo