How to bake with kids

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Warm muffins, melt-in-your-mouth rolls and all the pumpkin spice you could wish for: hello fall! Now that autumn days are cooler and crisper, I’m ready to take my oven out of its summer retirement. It’s no wonder that Peeper has been wanting to help me in the kitchen, too: She asks to help me make muffins at least once a week.

Of course a preschooler’s “help” in anything, especially an activity that involves dumping large quantities of messy flour, requires a certain amount of air quotes. But she loves it—and inviting a child to participate in choosing, preparing and serving food can encourage her to make healthier food choices in the future, according to research. (Um, do chocolate chip cookies count as a healthy food choice?)

Through plenty of experience, I have come across tips on how to bake with kids—without them losing a finger on a hot oven (or you losing your mind).

How to bake with your kids - fall cookies & pumpkin spice muffins, here we come! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Learning to feed myself—again

One late night when I was in college, my roommate Cedar walked into the kitchen and found me eating cold refried beans out of the can.

He was mortified. I was mortified.

“At least heat them up,” he said. Oh, the shame.

I had a few semi-legit explanations for my sorry excuse for a meal. I was operating on an average of five hours of sleep a night, was the editor-in-chief of the journalism school’s magazine, tutored other college students 20 hours a week and maintained a 4.0 GPA. Cooking was not exactly at the top of my priorities.

The truth is, though, when things get tough on the home front, I’m terrible at that most basic skill: feeding myself. Worse, I have a very fast metabolism and burn through food like a hummingbird. I’m also the world’s most indecisive person if I haven’t eaten in a while.

Take, for example, one time (or, ah, multiple times) when I was pregnant with Peeper. I came home from work, sat down in the middle of the kitchen and bawled because I was so hungry but didn’t know what to eat.

Thank goodness for cereal, amirite?

Anyway, the notorious night of the refried beans popped into my head this week when I was ravenous and had stuck my head in the fridge for the fourth time only to see that, disappointingly, no fully prepared meals had mysteriously appeared. I ended up microwaving some refrieds and eating them with cheese on a tortilla. Not quite as pitiful as that college snack, but still.

Anyhow. This is all to say that especially because I’m growing another tiny life inside me, I need to be a little more conscientious about feeding myself (and the rest of my family).

You and I already know the reasons to meal plan. It reduces food waste—a huge problem in the US, where we throw out 133 billion pounds of food every year. It saves money. And it saves the stress of having zero clues or inspiration on what to put on your plate each night.

I’ve been utterly crap at my previous attempts to plan our meals ahead of time. But we should never let the past define our futures! (Ok, I’m getting a little ridiculous, but you know what I mean!)

So help me, Internet world: What is your best advice for planning meals? Or are you like me and find yourself settling for canned refrieds for lunch?