by Betty Thompson

A friend's 2-year-old got up early one morning, climbed up to the kitchen counter and mixed together some flour, sugar, salt and coffee stored in canisters. I'm sure at the time this mom didn't see her youngster as an aspiring young cook.

But kids love to cook, given a chance. Children have a sense of pride and satisfaction in things they have created, and they are more willing to eat what they have made. Through cooking, youngsters also develop a tolerant attitude toward food and cooks.

Most children are traditionalists, especially when it comes to food. They don't want anything that looks or sounds weird. They are motivated to cook things they like. So this month's recipes were chosen with the tastes of children in mind. (Mom's desire for an asparagus, wild mushroom and goat cheese frittata might have to wait for another day.)

Depending on the age and experience of the children, these dishes can be prepared with very little help and minimum measuring and equipment.

Delicious French toast can be soaked ahead, even frozen and popped in the oven just before serving. Serve with fresh or frozen berries and a dollop of fruit yogurt.

The Oven Sausage Pancake is traditional pancake batter baked into one giant pancake topped with link sausages. It is cut into portions and served with baked apple slices or applesauce.

It can be partially prepared ahead. Fry sausage the day before or use brown and serve sausages, which require no frying. Measure and mix the dry ingredients ahead, combine and bake just before serving.

The Ham, Cheese and Potato Pie is based on frozen Potatoes O'Brien for ease in preparation. It is topped with ham, cheese and eggs and baked. Serve with warmed tortillas, salsa, cherry tomatoes and slices of avocado.

These breakfast dishes are useful for adult cooks as well as children. The recipes are fast, can be done in advance, require little preparation and can easily be doubled for serving a large group.

When working with children, establish a few ground rules from the beginning:

Fresh apple slices bake alongside the pancake. Top with maple syrup.
1 lb. link sausages
2 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons oil
Apple topping (optional at end of recipe)

  1. Cook the sausages following package directions. Drain on a paper towel. This can be done the day before if desired.
  2. Grease a shallow baking pan, about 10 by 15 inches.
  3. In a large bowl combine flour, soda, salt and sugar. Mix well.
  4. In a small bowl beat eggs with a fork. Add buttermilk and oil. Mix well.
  5. Just before baking, preheat oven to 450°.
  6. Add eggs and milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir about 15 strokes. Do not over-mix or pancake will not be fluffy.
  7. Pour into well-greased baking pan. Arrange cooked sausages on the top. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  8. Cut into squares and serve with baked apple topping and maple syrup.

Apple topping: core and slice two golden delicious apples. Place on a buttered baking pan. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bake along side the pancake for 15 minutes.

This looks beautiful and tastes like strawberry shortcake.
8 1-inch thick slices French bread
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 basket fresh strawberries, stemmed, sliced and mixed with 3 tablespoons sugar or one 10-ounce box frozen strawberries, thawed.
1 six-ounce carton strawberry yogurt

  1. In a bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon together. Add eggs and beat with a fork. Add milk and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Arrange bread slices on a rimmed 10- by 15-inch cookie sheet.
  3. Pour egg milk mixture over the top of each one. Let stand 10 minutes, turning once until the egg mixture is soaked up.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°.
  5. In a small pan melt margarine. Pour into a rimmed 10- by 15-inch baking pan.
  6. Place bread in buttered pan. Scrape any remaining egg onto the bread and bake for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Remove to a serving plate.
  8. Top with sliced strawberries and strawberry yogurt.

Serve this favorite with salsa, sliced avocado and toast.
2 cups frozen nonfat Potatoes O'Brien
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 ounces(1/2 cup) sliced Canadian bacon or ham, cut into bite-size strips
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
Dash of pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Grease a 10- by 6-inch baking dish or 9-inch quiche dish.
  3. Place frozen potatoes in bottom of dish.
  4. Place grated cheese and ham pieces on top.
  5. Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork. Add milk, salt, mustard, pepper and mix until blended.
  6. Pour over potatoes, cheese and ham.
  7. Bake at 325° for 45-50 minutes until puffed and golden.

Betty Thompson has taught cooking locally since 1974.

The North Coast Journal Table of Contents