Cooking with Kids: Peanut butter oatmeal finger cookies

cooking with kids

I love cooking with my tot and have been exploring the wonders of the kitchen with her by my side for quite some time now. But there are times that I would love for her to get out of my kitchen and do some pretend cooking on her own. But the other day, when she was insistent on making some sort of treat, I caved. Well, yeah, I kinda wanted some sort of treat too.

We didn’t have much for tossing together something super sweet, but did have a few basics that, once expertly mixed together by my tot, would be just fine. And I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter what we make, or how it tastes, she usually eats it if she made it. There are a few things I’ve learned from inviting my youngster into the kitchen:

-The first, and most important, is to NOT worry about the mess. Really. You’ve got to let it go. By containing the potential disaster, you’re able to make clean up less time consuming. I try to have all ingredients, mixing spoons, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and damp paper towels at the ready so I don’t have to leave my tot while she’s mixing.

-It’s probably not going to taste amazing. Even if you measure everything exactly, when cooking with kids, stuff just happens. Your tot may give the salt shaker an extra sprinkle, the oil may be drizzled too long, or something may be forgotten in the chaos. Guess what? Your kid won’t care — she’s excited about the process, and doing some actual cooking. So try not to wrinkle up your nose and dig in, which will show your child that you are impressed with her budding culinary skills.

-Keep it simple. Please. Now is not the time to try making perfectly cooked macaroons or something you’ve never attempted before. Stick with things you’re comfortable cooking and baking so your little one isn’t overwhelmed with the idea of getting in the kitchen.

We made these super easy and wonderfully adjustable peanut butter cookies the other day, and not only are they tasty, they are healthy. So grab your little one and get in the kitchen!


1 cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 cup oats

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Dash of salt

1 cup flour

(You could add chocolate chips, a dash of cinnamon, raisins……)


Preheat your oven to 350˚F.

It’s as easy as helping your child measure and add the ingredients as they are listed to a mixing bowl. Our rule is that there is no taste testing after the egg has been added to any recipe, and to HOLD the BOWL while stirring. I try to stand back and let her at it. Yes, sometimes I need to give a helping hand when measuring and adding ingredients, but letting your child figure it out makes cooking together really special.

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The dough holds together really well, making it perfect for rolling in balls and then pressing flat with your fingers, which is why we decided to call them finger cookies.

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For extra sweetness, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar or drizzle with a bit more honey. Pop in the hot oven for 12 minutes, let cool, and enjoy.


What’s your favorite kid-friendly recipe? Leave a link in the comments below!


Fine art for kids: It’s a wash with Sam Francis

Fine art for kids-Sam Francis

It was a bit rainy here the other day, making it the perfect opportunity for a messy art activity. Because the rain was washing down around us, I decided a wet and wonderful painting was a good idea. We’ve already poured paint with Helen Frankenthaler, so I was on the hunt for a fresh artist to share with the tot. Then I remember Sam Francis and his dripped, splotched, and flicked paintings that he created on canvases. After getting out our handy art book, I located his painting, Around the Blues, 1957/62, and we had a great time checking out all the shades of blue and other colors that were mixed in. And my tot had several interesting ideas on what the painting was depicting — a ring of flowers, a couple of elephants, or, wait, maybe that’s just a bunch of blobs.

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A celebrated American painter from California, Francis explored painting after being injured during World War II, studying art at Berkeley. Influenced by abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Francis’ works are bright, vibrant, full of moving line and washed colors, similar in style with the Color Field movement.

After selecting colors of tempera paint we found in Francis’ painting, I got out an old baking tray and a sheet of white drawing paper. This is a really fun art activity for little ones and older kids, but things can get messy. Thus, the baking tray. Run the white paper under running water and then place in the baking pan. Once the paper is wet, it becomes the base for this art activity. Adding paint to a wet work surface is an art technique call a “wash,”  which creates a smooth or washed out look.

Now squeeze a dab of each color of paint on a folded sheet of paper towel, offer your child a few paintbrushes, and invite her to dab the paper with the paint, watching as it moves and blends with the water. Older kids can experiment with creating abstract forms while younger tots can explore color theory — and simply making a colorful mess.

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Offer your child a spray bottle filled with fresh water to spritz the paper when it starts to dry out. Squeezing that spray bottle also does wonders for budding fine motor skills.

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Encourage your child to tilt and move the tray, watching as the paint swirls and washes with the other colors on the paper.

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Now your child can continue painting, spraying, and tilting the paper until she’s happy with her finished creations. And if you’re feeling really creative, encourage your little one to drip or gently splatter the paint to add extra texture and detail to the artwork. Maybe take things outdoors for this step if the weather is cooperating… We skipped the splattering due to the rain.

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Once the finished Sam Francis’ influenced creation is finished, find the perfect spot for displaying the artwork. We find the fridge to be the perfect spot for our constantly evolving art show.

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The Birch Aquarium

While we were down south, there were a couple of days the weather wasn’t right for hitting the beach, so we explored the area for a few fun things to do. And we found ourselves heading to La Jolla for a stroll through the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego Birch Aquarium.


I enjoyed the informative guides lurking (well, not lurking, but roaming in the darkness of the aquarium) and ready to answer any questions or share fun tidbits of information. We all became quite intrigued with the eels in the above left photo, and were told all about their amazing lives together (yup, that’s a proud mama and papa), how they’ve produced hundreds of baby eels, and are often found nestled together in the tank. But the collection of jellyfish just about put my tot in a tizzy…


Located next to each tank are helpful plaques sharing facts about the fish and other sea life, perfect for us adults that have no clue what we’re looking and then can utterly amaze our not-yet-scholarly tots by reading (without them realizing it) bountiful information about the amazing sea creatures.  And it’s great for older kids, allowing them the opportunity to learn more on their own. We loved this huge tank filled with coastal sea life.


And part of the aquarium is dedicated to educational and interactive learning about the sea and California coastline. Most of it was totally advanced for our daughter, but that didn’t stop her from putting her hands on everything.


But the seahorses stole the show. We were all impressed and amazed by these little creatures. A whole wing is dedicated to educating the public about the lives of seahorses, sharing how the aquarium is helping to nurture and build their numbers, and showcasing the amazing beauty of the cool sea animal.


And we had such a great time, we ended up walking (well, running) through the aquarium one last time at the tot’s insistence to see it all over again. Along with the indoor tanks, the Birch Aquarium has outdoor interactive tide pools, a shark tank (not interactive), and some really cool solar activities for the kids to check out. Perfect for kids of all ages, the aquarium has something for everyone, is easy to navigate, has a small outdoor snack bar on site, a gift shop, and wonderfully friendly staff. If you’re in the La Jolla/San Diego area, it’s a fun way to spend an overcast day.

*If you’re not from the area, please, PLEASE, make sure to have directions before you head out to La Jolla. No joke, every time we go to La Jolla from the north, we get lost. It’s really not crazy difficult or anything, there are just a few twists and turns that can catch you by surprise.


Sexy food: Breakfast pizza

breakfast pizza

Valentine’s Day is this week and there’s no denying that along with the giving and receiving of hundreds of cheesy and impersonal cards, lots of lovebirds are heading out for special dinners, giving small blingy tokens of appreciation, and trying to figure out last minute ways to show some love. What I find absolutely and  wonderfully sexy is a great homemade breakfast that you can eat in the comfort of your own home (especially now that I’ve got a small thing running amok in the house as early as 6 am). The idea of eating a velvety, luxurious breakfast on a special morning (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, Child’s Birthday, Saturday…) is the perfect way of showing true adoration.

My husband is known to toss together amazing slow-cooked scrambled eggs that melt in your mouth.


And, thus, why he is my husband.

But this Valentine’s Day, I had plans for making a special breakfast that would  fill my sweetheart’s tummy with savory goodness. And the Shine Supper Club’s challenge this month is all about sharing sexy dishes, making this breakfast recipe wonderfully fitting.

Breakfast pizza.

Crisp crust topped with thinly sliced prosciutto, slivers of fresh Parmesan, and topped with soft eggs that spill and run all over the whole shebang. How perfect is that? And you can use store purchased pizza dough, which makes this recipe wonderfully easy for any home chef.


Pizza dough (homemade or store bought)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese

1/8 pound thinly sliced prosciutto

Fresh spinach leaves

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

4 eggs

Fresh cracked pepper


Preheat your oven to 425F so it’s really hot when you’re ready. Having your oven temperature just right ensures those eggs will set properly on the breakfast pizza.

Lightly grease your pizza pan and then press out the dough to create a nice even thickness. Top with the olive oil, Italian seasoning, and the spinach leaves.

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Now layer on the prosciutto and sprinkle half of the shredded cheeses over the pizza. Carefully crack and add the eggs to the pizza and then toss the rest of the cheese over the eggs.

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Carefully place in the hot oven for 10 to 13-minutes, or until the eggs are just set.

Give the finished pizza a light covering of fresh cracked pepper, slice, and serve alongside fresh strawberries, hot coffee, a big kiss, and you’ve got the perfect sexy breakfast. And the longer you let the pizza sit before cutting, the eggs will set to your liking.

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*Just so you know, this recipe is also wonderfully delicious as a late-night snack…



Shove It! Des Moines Regional Skatepark Fundraiser


My first boyfriend knew his way around a skateboard. I tried to get the hang of it, but my total lack of coordination while in movement did me in. It takes mad skills to do all those cool moves.  And, honestly?  He, and all his skater friends, were darn cute while attempting new tricks and skating around town.

Ah, the wonders of junior high in late 80’s.

It doesn’t matter where you live, offering an outlet for youngsters (of all ages) to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment is essential. And my creative brother-in-law is working hard to make that happen in Des Moines. On June 7th, 2013, Shove It!, a curated show by Baykiddead held at the Des Moines Polk Country Heritage Gallery, will showcase artists that are putting forward works to help raise awareness (and funds!) for the amazing civic project that will bring the country’s largest free outdoor skatepark to downtown Des Moines.

How cool, right?

Even if you’re not in the area, check out this page for more information or like Shove It! on Facebook.

Do it.

We are in the now.


We decided long ago that we would take a vacation this week. I prepped by finding the perfect person to hang with our cats (so we wouldn’t be constantly worried about them and not relaxing), I put in extra time last week so most of my work would be done, and I planned our return so we’d have one full day to recoup before revisiting the real world. And then, at the last minute, we put a crazy spin on things by leaving a day early, driving the seven hour trek in the afternoon instead of waking up in the wee hours to make the jaunt.

It was totally worth it.

We got here.

And guess what?

The internet connection sucks.

I found a cafe that I can head to in the early mornings to catch 20-minutes of work while sipping my vacation mocha before the sun gets warm and the beach is calling, but the rest of the hullabaloo is off.

There’s no Twitter.

No Facebook.


At first my fingers were twitching — I started freaking that there would be something missed, an urgent email let go, a pin that needed instant repining, a TWEET THAT WAS AWESOME, FACEBOOK, EMAIL, TWITTER, AAAAAAHHHHHH!


I’m unplugging for the week.

I think it’s worth it.

See ya later.