Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Desserts to Make with your Kids

Since today is National Pi Day, my 6-year-old son and I baked a pumpkin pie (his favorite). It reminded me of how fun and easy it is to make desserts with kids. Here are a few of my favorite dessert recipes that are great to make with a young assistant!

Pumpkin Pie

If you use a pre-made pie crust, making a pumpkin pie is pretty much an issue of dumping all the ingredients into a big bowl and stirring. Older kids can help measure; younger ones can break the eggs and whisk. There are hundreds of pumpkin pie recipes out there, but the one on the back of the One Pie brand canned pumpkin is easy and delicious – not too spicy for young palates, and the molasses adds extra flavor and sweetness.

Frozen pie crust
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
scant ½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin or squash
 2 eggs, beaten (with hand whisk or electric mixer)
1-1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/8 cup molasses
1-1/2 cups milk
Pre-bake pie crust according to package directions. Cool completely.

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, eggs, butter, molasses, and milk. Pour into cooled pie crust. If you have extra filling, pour it into ramekins, set ramekins in a baking dish and add water to close to level of filling and bake alongside pie. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Filling should be slightly jiggly in the center, but will set as the pie cools.

Resurrection Rolls

These sweet, doughy desserts are fun as an Easter treat, since they symbolize the empty tomb, but they’re a fun treat any time of year. This recipe is great for really little ones because there’s no measuring required.

Frozen crescent roll dough
Marshmallows (full size)
Melted butter
Sugar and cinnamon, mixed together

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Arrange balls of crescent roll dough, leaving about 2 inches between balls. Flatten each ball into a 3” diameter circle (it’s fun to squish with the bottom of a drinking glass). Place a marshmallow in the center and wrap the dough around it, pinching to close completely. Roll in the palm of your hand to smooth and seal. Brush generously with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Return to greased cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray. Let rise till doubled (~30-60 minutes). Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Lime Fascination

This was one of my absolute favorite desserts as a kid – to eat AND to make. The hardest part was waiting for the jello to set before moving on to the next step! If you don’t wait long enough, you end up with a layered dessert with mostly green jello on the bottom and mostly whipped cream on the top. Delicious either way, though!

2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (a pre-made chocolate pie crust will also work, as will crushed chocolate graham crackers) - use either a food processor or a rolling pin to make crumbs
4 Tbsp melted butter

1 (13 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 pkg lime jello
1-1/4 cups boiling water
¼ cup lime juice (can substitute lemon juice)
1 cup sugar

Combine chocolate and butter. Set aside a few tablespoons for topping (or use chocolate jimmies) and press remainder into the bottom of a 9” square baking dish.

Chill the evaporated milk by refrigerating overnight or placing in the freezer for about 15 minutes. In a medium bowl, dissolve the jello in boiling water. Add the sugar and lime juice and stir until completely dissolved. Cool slightly (you can scant the boiling water and add a few ice cubes at this point), then refrigerate until partially set.

Pour the evaporated milk into a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer (start on low and increase speed) until it forms a solid, whipped-cream-like foam.

When the jello is partially set, beat until a light, airy texture. Fold into evaporated milk, mixing until color is even and not streaky. Pour over the crumb crust. Smooth with spatula and sprinkle with reserved crumbs (or chocolate jimmies). Cover with plastic wrap (hold up with toothpicks if necessary to avoid sticking) and chill for several hours before serving.

Gingerbread Boys

There’s something universally appealing about making gingerbread boys. These cookies are just as delicious cut into squares with a knife or circles with a drinking glass, but kids love using a cookie cutter to make little boys and girls. This recipe is moist and delicious enough to not need icing, but if your kids are artistic, feel free to add icing decorations after the cookies are cooled.

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup Crisco (or butter)
1 tsp vinegar (white or cider)
1 tsp baking soda, dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
2-2/3 cup flour (adjust as needed)

Combine all ingredients, adding flour gradually until dough is a workable consistency. Roll out on a floured board (slightly thicker dough will result in a softer cookie) and cut with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Bake on a greased cookie sheet (cookies will spread slightly) for 5 minutes at 400.

Crazy Cake

This is a delicious, moist cake, but what makes it special is how fun it is to make. It reminds me of making mud pies! Kids love to dig wells in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids, then mix it all together. Adults love that there’s no big mixing bowl to wash afterwards.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cold water

Sift together all dry ingredients in ungreased 9x13”pan. Make three wells and pour oil into one, vinegar into another, and vanilla into the third. Pour cold water over all and stir well with fork.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely and frost as desired.

Fun Fudge

Fudge is always fun; mini marshmallows are always fun. Put them together, and you get double fun! And now that microwaves have taken the place of double-boilers in melting the ingredients, fudge is a much more kid-friendly recipe.

18 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups miniature marshmallows (white or multicolored)
1-1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate chips and margarine in microwave-safe bowl, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk and heat an additional 30-60 seconds, stirring till well blended. Fold in marshmallows and vanilla. Spread evenly in an 8” or 9” square pan lined with waxed paper. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn out onto cutting board and peel off waxed paper. Cut into squares and store in covered container in refrigerator. 

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