517 Magazine Days of Giveaways

Give Kids a Hand in Christmas Food Projects

By Rich Adams When I was about 4 years old, my mother let me help out in the kitchen. I was the youngest of four children, and I guess wi…

By Rich Adams

When I was about 4 years old, my mother let me help out in the kitchen. I was the youngest of four children, and I guess with a nearly empty nest, she had the time to teach me how to cook.

I am forever grateful for her letting me help out in the kitchen. That lesson – I was able to make the hole in the bread for eggs in a window – set me on a path to the foodie I am today. I consider myself very fortunate. Most guys in 1958 weren’t given a chance to learn how to cook. Even in high school, home economics was still a girls-only class, and many of my contemporaries didn’t have a clue how to cook other than sticking a TV dinner or frozen pizza in the oven.

Those early cooking lessons have done me well. Today, I love to cook (and my lovely wife loves that I know how to cook), and the more challenging the recipe, the better. I have a butternut squash soup recipe that takes all day, originally given to me by a chef at a Lansing restaurant back in the 1990s. He didn’t mind sharing with me because he didn’t think I would even attempt to make the soup once I saw how layered it was.

All of this prologue is to stress how important it is that your children learn kitchen skills.

According to the Frugal Family Home website, you can make a burger and fries meal at home for $1.81. The same food at a restaurant could run you $8 or more, depending on which restaurant you chose for lunch.

Let’s say you eat a burger meal once a week for a year. Cooking your own burger and fries at home for a year would amount to an annual outlay of $94.12. Using an $8 meal deal at a restaurant, you would be spending $416 every year for something you could have made at home for less than a quarter of the cost for a year of restaurant burgers.

So, teaching your child to cook is an investment in his or her financial future. Knowing how to construct and cook a meal is not only a budgetary move, it also instills skills in children that will boost their self-esteem.

Since it is nearing Christmas, I want to take a look at a few simple recipes you could make with your junior chef. Who knows – maybe a degree from the Culinary Institute of America will loom in the future.

Peanut Butter Christmas Mice

From A Taste of Home


1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Peanuts, split in half

Brown M&M’s minis

Miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Black shoestring licorice, cut into 2-inch pieces


Beat peanut butter, butter and sugars until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture (dough will be soft). Refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour (which also will teach your child patience).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; taper one side to resemble a mouse. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Add peanuts for ears, M&M’s for noses and chocolate chips for eyes.

Bake until set, 8-10 minutes. Immediately insert licorice pieces into warm cookies for tails. Remove from pan to wire racks to cool.


Santa Strawberries

From LeAnne Bakes


1 dozen strawberries

1 cup whipped cream

Chocolate sprinkles



Using a paring knife, slice the leafy end off each strawberry so they stand up. Then slice the tip off for the hat.

Using a spoon or a large icing tip, place a large dollop (about 1-2 teaspoons) of whipped cream on top of the strawberry base for the beard and face. Plop the little hat on top. Add another small dollop of whipped cream to the tip of the hat to make a pompom.

Carefully place two chocolate sprinkles in the “face” for the eyes. Using a toothpick, place two very small splotches of whipped cream down the front of the strawberry for buttons.

Store them in the fridge to keep them cold.





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