FOOD WISE: Cooking with the kids during Spring Break

Grandma's easy peach cobbler

By Chef Renee Morgan

Oh Lordy, help us! It’s the time of year anticipated by all school-aged kids in our country. Spring Break! What in the world to do with all those little (and big) rug rats? They’re gonna be out of school the whole week and you’ve got to find something to keep them busy. Are you on the way to Padre or Schlitterbahn? Maybe you have recently inherited a small fortune from some long lost aunt and will spend spring break entertaining the children at a major resort in the Caribbean. I hear Disney has a fabulous new cruise ship available. No? Nothing? (Crickets chirping.)

How did we get here? How did this annual week-long celebration that we anticipate almost more than Christmas come about? As with so many of our traditions, spring break also has its origins in ancient Greece and Rome (tongue in cheek). In those ancient times, the arrival of spring, the first budding of the trees signaled the awakening of fertility. The earth was coming alive with abundance and hopes of great crops and flowing waters. Celebrations centered around Bacchus and Dionysus, the Greek and Roman gods of wine. Spring was always celebrated as a time of renewal.

Fast forward to 1938, when a swimming coach from Colgate University brought his swim team to Ft. Lauderdale in the spring to train at the state’s first Olympic-sized pool, the precursor of our spring break was born. Ft. Lauderdale businesses and politicians realized what a cash cow this idea could be so they organized annual spring “swim forums,” which drew swimmers by the hundreds. By 1985, spring breakers were showing up for the annual party in Ft. Lauderdale to the tune of 370,000. Many other spring break destinations have developed in many locations over the years, including Panama City (my childhood Spring Break hangout), Padre Island, Corpus Christi, and Mexico. Wherever they may be celebrating spring break this year, nearly 6,000,000 are expected to attend a spring break celebration somewhere.

Well, good for them (insert snarky tone). But maybe you are more like me. When my kids were growing up, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra money to blow over Spring Break. However, I did still need to occupy and entertain them somehow. These days, there are so many creative things out there to do. There are all kinds of camps and lessons, every manner of activity to keep the kids outta the parent’s hair. Problem is….all these things run into major bucks, too, plus kiddos need time with mom and dad. Truth be told, we need time with them at least as much.

What about planning your own “cooking camp” with them? Kids love to cook and trust me on this…if they cook it, they will eat it. That’s a good little trick to tuck away in the back of your mind. You could include learning how to use different kitchen tools safely, some vocabulary so they learn what different kitchen terms mean, some fun food facts, taste tests and maybe let them package up some of their creations in pretty paper with ribbons to give to their friends. You could also provide them their own apron and kitchen tools sized for their hands. Think of the life skills they will be learning while they are doing something fun with you!

Now I know that pesky little thing called work might get in the way, but try to get creative with the timing. Maybe you could conduct “camp” one day and switch off with another parent on another day. Even if you only do a couple of things, you and the kids will love it and you are making those memories you all will cherish. Here’s a couple of kid friendly recipes to get you started. Be sure to take lots of pictures. You’ll treasure them for a lifetime. I’d love to see some pictures of your fun cooking camp week too. Send them to me at ChefRenee@LHIndependent.com and be sure to check out her website at www.chefalicioushospitality.com.

Chef Reneé is an award-winning, classically trained chef. She earned her culinary degree at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, as well as a bachelor of music degree from Hardin-Simmons University. She has an extensive background in events planning and management. Reneé lives in Liberty Hill with her husband, John, their dogs, cats, chickens and one ornery rooster.

 Fun Food Facts for Cooking Kid Camp

  Did you know that chocolate was first manufactured in the United States in 1765, and was used as a health drink until around 1900. In 1906, the first brownie recipe was invented in Boston.

There are more than 7,500 varieties of apples. More than 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States alone.

Early American colonists served gingerbread, a dessert they created when molasses came from trading with the West Indies. In fact, George Washington’s mother served gingerbread to Layfayette when he visited her in 1784.

Chocolate grows on trees, cacao trees. The Mayans used the “chocolate” cacao beans like money to trade with the Aztecs.

Before Meriweather Lewis left on the Lewis and Clark expedition, he visited Thomas Jefferson who introduced Lewis to a new food – waffles.

The first recipe for a pancake appeared in an English cookbook in the 15th Century.

Each day, Americans eat enough pizza to cover nearly 110 football fields.

Yeast is a fungus plant and needs carbohydrate in the form of sugar or flour for food to grow. Egyptians first baked yeast bread more than 5,000 years ago. They used wild yeast, captured from the air, in starters.

 My Grandma’s Easy Peach Cobbler

 1/2 stick of butter, melted

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ¼ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 – 28 ounce can of sliced peaches

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Pour butter into 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk and vanilla until smooth. Pour into the pan with the butter. Do not stir the mixture together.

3. Spoon peaches into batter and butter in the prepared pan. Include some of the syrup from the can of peaches, but not all of it. It is very important that you do not stir the mixture together. Bake about 45 minutes or until crust rises up over the peaches, becomes cake-like and is golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

 Whole Grain Waffles

 1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

¼ cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups buttermilk

½ cup melted butter

1. Brush waffle iron with oil and preheat as directed by manufacturer.

2. Combine flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir until just blended.

4. Bake in waffle iron until crispy brown. Serve with fruit or syrup.