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Friday, November 12, 2010

Cooking with Kids…and a Recipe for Cream Cheese Fudge

Each week Cate, my kindergartener, gets to choose a book at the school library. This week she picked a cookbook, which I thought was really sweet. We sat down, picked out a recipe (a very tasty fudge recipe that I’ll share below), gathered our ingredients and got to work! After a few moments of me getting frustrated because Cate wouldn’t listen, we finally settled into a groove and had fun. And I had her cut the fudge into pieces and display them on a plate. She really had fun and was very proud of her hard work!

I have to confess something. Cooking with kids is not the easiest thing in the world for me. I try to be patient, and we usually settle into a groove…but incorporating my children into my cooking just doesn’t come naturally to me. But I want it to! I think it’s important for children to have positive experiences in the kitchen and to develop cooking skills that will serve them their entire lives. Plus, it’s supposed to be fun! SOOOO….

Does anyone have any tips for cooking with kids? I want to hear them! I’m sure some of you out there do a great job cooking with kids, while others may be more like me and struggle with it. For those of you who do have it figured out, I’m hoping some of your magic can rub off on the rest of us. Please share your tips!

Oh, and before I forget, the fudge recipe. YUM.

Cooking with Kids...and a Recipe for Cream Cheese Fudge
Recipe type: Dessert
  • ½ cup full-fat cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 level tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chipps
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8-inch square baking pan and wax paper
  1. Lay the cake pan on a sheet of wax paper and draw around it. Then cut out the square just inside the line.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of the pan (or you can use cooking oil). Press the paper into the bottom of the pan then butter the top of the paper.
  3. Put softened cream cheese into a bowl. Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa through a sieve into the bowl. Mix everything well (we used our beaters).
  4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the cream cheese mixture and stir until well mixed and creamy. Spread in the pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until the fudge is firm.
  6. Loosen the edges of the fudge then turn it out onto a cutting board and remove the wax paper.
  7. Cut the fudge into 36 squares. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate 2 more hours. EAT!


  1. Last year, for my niece’s 10th birthday, she asked to have an “Iron Chef” cooking party at my house. I was hugely flattered. We came up with a plan, sort of a combo of all the cooking competitions. The girls drew knives to determine teams, and each team chose a basket full of mystery ingredients for a course (appetizer, main, dessert). The teams had to use 10 of 15 ingredients in each basket, and there was a surprise ingredient in each one (bacon in the dessert basket for example). Then they went to work, with an adult helper on each team and a time limit. The adults knew what the ingredients were ahead of time and had some ideas to suggest to move things along, but they kids were amazingly creative. The grandparents and a neutral parent (no kid in the game) sat at the judges table in the dining room, and each team presented their dish. They were judged on creativity, use of ingredients, plating and taste. The party was a huge success, and the most fun I have ever had in my kitchen.

  2. I struggled with the same things when my kids were little. It was me not them but, me me me. I wanted to control what was happening. So basically you just have to let whatever happen happen, laugh about mistakes and learn from them. Try to let them do stuff that you want to do, just let it go.

    And by the time they are ten, just let them do it on their own. My kids do a much better job when I’m not in the kitchen with them telling them what to do. I’ve taught them to pre read the directions and have an idea of what they are doing before they do it. They are getting better all the time. I hang close but not over their shoulders.

    • Jane Maynard

      I think you’re right on the money…it’s totally me, not the kids. your comment is very encouraging to me…I can get there! πŸ™‚

  3. I let two of my kids help me (ages 5 and 3). They have to wash their hands first – that’s the first rule of letting kids get near the food. Then they take turns pouring ingredients in the bowl after I have measured them. If there are two eggs, for instance, I crack the eggs separately and let each of them pour one in. It took a little while to get into a groove and we still have our rough spots (and sometimes, I tell them it is a new recipe and they can’t help). If I am working with raw meat or chicken, they can’t help. And my daughter has decided she doesn’t like helping when I am chopping onions…too many tears. I try to include them whenever I can, simply because they are more excited to try the food, and you’re right, it is good for them to have good experience in the kitchen. Most of the times they help it is when I am baking (mixing muffins, brownies) and not when I am cooking dinner. Just decide what you are comfortable letting them do and explain up front (before you start) what they can do. Good luck!


    • Jane Maynard

      great tips, cindy. I think explaining up front what they’ll be doing is such a great idea. love it.

  4. 4
    Lisa D

    I LOVE the idea of cooking with kids, but the reality is different and very taxing to my patience. Based on my experience of cooking with my almost 4 year old twins – the earlier in the day the better, making pancakes great – one sifts, then the other stirs. Making kale chips for dinner is always good, they take turns spinning the salad spinner. Then they tear into small pieces, toss in olive oil and arrange on the baking tray. Making cookies – I have an issue with they way they make they look…pretty revolting, but I just let them get on with it…and definitely do not eat any!

    • Jane Maynard

      ha ha! that’s how I feel…the idea of it is really wonderful, but reality never lives up to the ideal! πŸ™‚ and I can’t imagine doing it with twins…go lisa! good tips, thanks!

  5. 5
    Nikki CB

    That IS very good fudge. I can attest to that. πŸ™‚ And Cate was very proud of it – rightly so! As far as cooking with kids, I don’t have long experience with it. My son will be 2 years old in December. Right now when he is interested in what I’m doing and wants to get his hands in it, I put a bib on him, or tie up one of my aprons so it fits him, and put him up on a chair at the kitchen table (where I do most of my baking/cooking) so he can see what’s going on. Then, I have him dump measuring cups full of various ingredients into mixing bowls, or stir batter, etc. If I’m not up for having him actually involved in the cooking, I give him his own mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and a bit of various ingredients I’m using and let him mix and measure his own creation. I just make sure they are not very expensive ingredients, and I don’t give him very much. The only thing that I will NOT do again is give him flour and water to mix together – it makes GLUE! I guess anyone with paper mache experience would know that…. But, it’s fun having him with me in the kitchen, and like you said Jane I think it’s important that he is exposed to cooking young, and has fun, positive experiences with it. It’ll be fun to read people’s ideas in the comments here!

    • Jane Maynard

      nikki, that is so smart what you do with gabe while you’re cooking…why haven’t I thought of that? I think that will be a great tactic for anna…and even cate, he loves creating things. very fun!

  6. Hi! Your little munchkin is particularly adorable! I have a 4.5 year old who is so picky, so I’ve worked hard to find ways to include her in cooking. Here’s a post I wrote with some tricks that worked in our little kitchen!
    Hope it helps!

  7. My mom certainly did it right. I don’t remember *ever* being chased out of the kitchen or told to go play outside, no matter how much mess I made in my attempts to “help”. Equally, cooking was never on my “chores” list, it was *fun*.

    I recently helped a young second cousin learn how to flip pancakes. She loves pancakes to desperation, and is grown up enough (at almost 10!) to do all the mixing and measuring, but the “flipping” eluded her. I showed her how to use a fork to brace the pancake while she slipped the turner under it, then we practiced with a cold dry pan and a slice of bread just flipping it all over the house until it was easy. What fun we had, and no mess!

  8. 8

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now. I have a 2 and 4 year old tht love to help in the kitchen. My advice is pretty simple but it helps me a lot if I let them help if I’m not in a rush. I have to remind myself that we aren’t in a hurry because sometimes I get short on patience and then it is no fun for anyone. If we just take our time there is less mess and more fun. Also I always I’ve them help clean up, so they learn how to clean up and I don’t have to do it by myself afterwards. Listening to good music while cooking always helps too. πŸ™‚

  9. 9

    My daughter loves to use our hand chopper! I give her all my scraps and she puts them in, chops away and creates all types of “soups and stews!” Chopping without me worrying about her getting hurt!

  10. yum cream cheese fudge sounds delicious

  11. 11

    I don’t have kids yet, but whenever I sit for kids, or from what I remember when I was a kid, you have to give them simple tasks that they can understand and you have to be patient with their little hands!

    And that fudge looks absolutely amazing!!

  12. This is too cute! I love the pictures! I have such fond memories of being in the kitchen with my mom, my grandmother and my dad….all separate kitchen experiences.
    My daughter is still a little too young to actually participate but she plays on the floor or sits in her high chair and plays with the measuring spoons and spatulas while I cook. I show her everything I’m doing and explain every step….even if she has no idea what I’m talking about now, she will someday. I think kids have a sense of pride when they help in the kitchen and it’s a great way to get them involved with new foods and flavors! Way to go!

  13. I totally understand your frustration. I’m a really neat and tidy cook and I like my baking to be just so. When I babysit my nieces (3 and 6)I always like to bake and cook with them because their mom doesn’t do it much, but boy does it try my patience! I always try and remind myself that they don’t care if the scones aren’t the right shape or the cookies aren’t round. I second some of the comments above, I usually measure ingredients and then let them pour into the bowls. They also help stir and of course taste test!

  14. 14
    Jane Maynard

    I knew I wasn’t alone and I knew you all would have encouraging helpful words! πŸ™‚

    and I’m proud to say Cate and I made a second recipe from the library book before it has to go back on Monday! πŸ™‚

  15. Hi there. I’m glad I found your site. I probably have a lot more to learn from you, than you do from me on this issue- as you’ve been cooking with kids for a few more years than I have.

    I have a one and a half year old- so this might not help with an older child, but we have started to do cooking prep work in the dining room, where she has a short prep space and I have a tall one (her craft table with a drop cloth under it, my table). It lets me be as anal as I want to, but also lets her feel involved and active, as long as I keep communicating with her. I provide her with all of the ingredients and equipment that she can handle at her age and simple instructions (she’s at an age where she likes to put things in pots, etc). If she decides not to mirror what i am doing or follow my instructions, I’m left with a few ingredients splayed about and munched on. But she is content to be this involved- copying what I do when she wants to, and being inventive on her own when she wants to as well. She’s getting good at modeling clean up, since we’re working on it, so often the mess she makes in her space is partially self remedied at the end of our food prep. We can communicate about our projects, and she stays entertained, but I find that the slight separation in our spaces provides room for me to engage but not control her food engagements, and to actually get dinner made (which is sometimes really hard with a toddler).

  16. 16

    The recipe is easy to follow and the results is enough to bring the whole neighborhood kids.

  17. 17

    LOVE your recipies! Just found your site today, trawling through websites looking for cool things to bake with my little niece.

    One thing though, I dont undestand your measurements here. You have T and C but I don’t know if that’s a T Spoon, or what. Could you please clarify?

    Thanks heaps!!

    • Jane Maynard


      standard is a large T is tablespoon, a small t is teaspoon, C is cup…even though it’s standard maybe I should just start typing it out to avoid confusion! πŸ™‚

      hope that helps and so glad you love the recipes! πŸ™‚

  18. Hey if I can allow my 15 month old to ‘help’ in the kitchen so can you! πŸ˜‰ Actually the only thing that I can let her do in the kitchen is make a mess by throwing the plastic bowls around while I try to cook! And that’s my magic, Jane.
    But there is one recipe that she helps with…with her little hands, she helps me mix the ingredients for my Banana Spheres – now that’s messy. πŸ™‚

  19. This is incredible! I have never thought something like that before! Not even tasted something like this! I think i must try it once! Thanks for this unusually gorgeous recipe.

  20. 20

    Hi! I’m a little late on this.. I’ve been so busy this week. But I LOVE cookng with my daughter. My mom never did it with me and I feel like I missed out. I have a 3 1/2 year old and she loves to help. There is a book called C is for Cooking by sesame street and each recipe has kid appropriate steps in it. That really helped when first starting out! It has yummy recipes too!

  21. 21

    I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to help me out in the kitchen!

  22. 22

    Such great pictures, Jane! Yummy looking fudge too!

  23. 23

    With my children, we started early in the kitchen – making magic potions! From there they have all blossomed into great cooks! I always looked forward to their helpful hands when they were little. A big tradition is still cookie day at Christmas – it’s all hands on deck! And mess – what mess? Spending time chatting and cooking is the best! Who cares about the mess!

  24. 24
    Lisa J.

    Hey Jane,
    I came across your blog via Lindsay Rutman (amazing cook and mom whom I am SURE has a lot of tips). Anyway, I teach Kindergarten (and have been for the past 8 years) and each week we have “Book Cooks” where all 20 children help cook a recipe that is somehow related to the book. What I have learned is to let them hold (the measuring item) dump (once you have filled it) and stir. The kids love it, I rarely eat it and we all have a blast in our little kindergarten kitchen.
    Lisa J.

    • Jane Maynard

      “I rarely eat it” – LOVE THAT. πŸ™‚ and bless you for being a kindergarten teacher! and….lindsay is a good friend of mine. I steal tips from her all the time. and miss her terribly πŸ™‚

  25. 25

    Hey Jane! I just made some cranberry streusel bars with my three year old, and the hardest part for me is just not jumping in and being like “Ugh let ME do it!”
    I think giving very clear, step-by-step verbal instructions help. Like saying “hold the measuring spoon over the bowl, then turn it upside down” instead of just “dump it in there.”
    Also, a huge deal for them is turning on the mixer or the food processor. They feel very big being able to “play with” such cool toys!
    The biggest challenge yet is that my almost-two-year-old wants to do everything my almost-four-year-old does. So, the trick is finding things they BOTH can do, which always brings me back to turning on the electrics! πŸ˜‰

  26. I admire your efforts on cooking with your children, I try really hard to include my girls and curb my perfectionistic/control freak tendencies. My parents were very stern believers in no kids in the kitchen with a hot stove, and I always said I wouldn’t do that to my own.

    I’ve found that recipes where there is a little wiggle room work best…gravies, meats, sauces, casseroles. I try to avoid cakes and meringues and the like that require precise amounts.
    And I’ll have to give that fudge a whirl!

  27. I think I totally get what you are saying about it not being easy to cook – or bake – with kids. I love to do it with my kid – but lately it always turns out more stressfun than fun.
    However, it mostly is my mistake. I usually am stressed already as we do not have much time and try to do as much as possible. I think the first thing you gotta have when doing cooking, baking or crafting with kids is time. It does not work when you try to be quick and efficient. I do know that but to actually put it into all I am doing is hard …
    I am trying to get better though. πŸ™‚

  28. The cream cheese fudge looks so yummy! I am sure this post will motivate many parents to bring their kids into the kitchen and cook with them. Thanks for sharing!

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