Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! blueberry muffins edition

I have to admit I sort of phoned it in for TNFC this week. I was just at the grocery store on Friday, yet we're out of almost everything but dried pasta and storage carrots that are starting to sprout (mouth-watering, no?) and my teaching/rehearsal schedule is so insane I don't have time to restock the proverbial pantry until late Thursday night. Also, I've had a sore throat since Sunday night, but I haven't felt sick, so I think it's a combination of stress and allergies. It's just that time of the school year/semester.

My original plan for Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! was to make chicken noodle soup and some kind of quick bread. It's a good antidote for the mild allergies and cold, blustery weather we're suffering from (to say we're truly suffering from allergies is a stretch, but as for the weather, it was actually snowing a little bit on my way to work this morning and it's snowing again now so I think the complaint is warranted). It didn't quite work out that way, though. Read on.

I gave Daniel and Anya a choice between cornbread or blueberry muffins to go with the soup. Of course they chose blueberry muffins. Who wouldn't? They're delicious. And they have this amazing super fruit as a major ingredient so we can pretend they are a legitimate component of a balanced meal and not dessert masquerading as a carb-y side dish.

Maybe it's the week I'm having, but making those muffins really stretched my patience. The kids didn't complain about doing any of the tasks, but Daniel was tired (he is always tired when it's time to cook, I've noticed) and they both wanted a turn doing e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Even turning on the oven. Anya tried first, but it took her too long to find the right buttons and the display started to blink impatiently at her, and she got frustrated and then Daniel took over.

Fortunately, the recipe has two of just about everything - two eggs, two cups of flour, two teaspoons baking soda, you get the picture - so making sure they both had a turn measuring and dumping and stirring wasn't too complicated. They particularly liked mashing the blueberries and did so with gusto!

When the batter was finally, finally mixed up and cupcake liners were finally, finally selected and ready in the pan, I gave them each a turn scooping batter into one cup. Miraculously, none of the batter spilled when they did so. Usually I make an ungodly mess when I do it. 

By the time the muffins were baking in the oven, I just knew I didn't have it in me to have the kids help with soup. For one thing, when I make soup, I often make it up as I go, which is not a good method for cooking with kids. They do better when there are instructions to follow and plan with more details than "Let's scrounge what we can out of the fridge and see what's coming up in the garden that we can throw in there." Yes, they need to learn those skills of putting together a meal out of whatever you've got around, but today just wasn't the day to learn that.

So I let them have their screen time while I went and foraged in the yard. I totally would have made them do this with me except that the weather is so yucky I didn't want to be outside any extra time having an educational experience. I just dashed out there long enough to grab some sorrel, chives and garlic greens. 

Green things!
In the end, the soup and muffins were delicious, and for that reason, I consider the meal a success. In some ways I feel like I should have made the kids help with the soup since that was the main dish and they would have learned more. Maybe next week.

Here are the finished muffins cooling on the rack.

Chicken soup!

Blueberry Muffins (recipe from my mom, instructions adapted somewhat below):

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups blueberries (mash 1/2 cup)
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. milk
  1. Heat oven to 375. Allow at least 5 minutes for this task if it involves explaining to your 7yo how to do it.
  2. Have the 9yo beat the butter until creamy
  3. Have the 7yo beat the butter some more.
  4. Have the 9yo measure out 1 cup sugar using a measuring cup and a teaspoon to scoop it in spoonful by painstaking spoonful because the sugar is low in the canister and he can't scoop it out all at once. Add sugar and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy. 
  5. Add one egg and have the 7yo mix it up.
  6. Add the other egg and have the 9yo mix it up.
  7. Continue to stir for them when they complain that their arms hurt from stirring.
  8. Add baking powder, 1 teaspoon at a time, after explaining at least three times how to level off each spoonful on the straight edge of the baking soda can. When the 7yo can't do it without accidentally dumping the baking powder off the spoon every time, take it from her and start to do it yourself before you see tears welling up in her eyes and you give her one more chance.
  9. Add salt and vanilla yourself because you know better than to let children measure salt over the mixing bowl.
  10. Pause for several minutes so each child has a good long turn boisterously mashing that extra 1/2 cup of blueberries to a juicy pulp before adding it to the butter/egg/sugar mixture.
  11. While the 7yo is stirring in the berries, instruct the 9yo to measure out 1/2 cup of milk.
  12. Explain to both children that the flour and milk should be added in two stages, with half the milk and half the flour added and stirred in gently before the rest is added and mixed. Negotiate who gets to dump the flour in first. Negotiate who gets to dump in half the milk. Negotiate who gets to stir first. Point out multiple times that they both get a turn doing everything so it shouldn't really matter who's first. 
  13. Stir in the rest of the blueberries, declaring it's finally your turn to do something.
  14. Pause for several minutes to put cupcake liners in the pan. Avoid entering the debate over which colors to use from the multi-pack, and in what pattern they should be arranged.
  15. Allow each child to scoop exactly one muffin's worth of batter into the liner before taking over and finishing the task yourself.
  16. Put the muffins in the oven and allow each child to set a timer for 25 minutes so that when they go off you'll be assaulted with beeping noises from all sides.
Got that?


Anonymous said…
Blueberry muffins or cornbread? Depends on the context of the rest of the menu. I like dried large lima beans (cooked, of course) even without the ham hocks. With those, I prefer cornbread.

I commend you. Michael Pollan has a small book called "Food Rules." One rule is something like "If you can pass it through the window of a car, it is not food." Another is "Learn to cook" which you are forcing your kids to do, even if there are complaints of being tired. Good for you.

Being a parent takes patience; while being a grandparent just requires a smile or two.

Anonymous said…
I think it's just fine if the kids help with only the muffins. At their ages, that's a very good start in cooking.

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