- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Mother’s Day tradition calls for a festive brunch or lunch in a favorite cafe or at home, but when home preparation is the ritual of choice, the older children often get involved and the little ones feel left out.

This year, why not reverse the line of command and let the younger children be the star chefs with the older children and available adults acting as assistants?

I know this is possible because I have spent a fair amount of time cooking with preschoolers in their classrooms. It’s also a great deal of fun and makes the youngest children feel proud and useful.

Children love to measure things, and this granola recipe is all about measuring and dumping, followed by enthusiastic mixing, spreading and baking. Since baking is all about waiting, you might want to have some parallel activities ready for the little ones. Coloring? Card games? Picture books?

Get out the biggest bowl you can find and have the children roll up their sleeves, wash and dry their hands and dig in.

For an extra creative opportunity, let the children choose from a variety of dried fruit, which gets added after the granola has baked and cooled.

You’ll need to tailor this recipe if any of the children have nut allergies or if you are concerned about small particles, such as sunflower seeds. You can substitute additional rolled oats, one-for-one, for those ingredients.

Here are some tips for streamlining this do-together project: Try to have all the ingredients set up ahead of time on a table, rather than on a kitchen counter, so the children can more easily see and reach.

Keep damp paper towels handy.

It’s easier to relax while children are measuring liquids if you place the measuring cup in a pie pan and let them pour or spoon the honey or oil into the cup. The pie pan will catch any spills.

The granola mixture is quite sticky so the kids might want to dust their hands with flour or have their palms sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray, before mixing by hand.

Putting the tray into the oven and taking it out again is an adult job.

Crunchy fruit granola

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups rolled oats

2 cups combined seeds and chopped nuts (see note)

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

½ cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup assorted dried fruit (use small varieties, such as raisins, currants, cranberries, raspberries or blueberries)

Milk for serving, optional

Spray a 13-by-18-inch baking tray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Combine oats, seeds and nuts, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Combine oil, honey and vanilla in a separate bowl and mix with a whisk until thoroughly combined.

Slowly pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients.

Mix thoroughly with a spoon or with clean hands and spread mixture as evenly as possible to the edges of the prepared tray.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Stir once or twice during baking (adults only).

Cool on tray for about 20 minutes before adding the dried fruit.

Eat plain or with milk.

Makes 6 to 8 cups. Mixture can be stored in two 10-ounce tightly closed jars in the freezer or refrigerator for maximum freshness.

Note: The combined seeds and chopped nuts can be sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or anything else you have on hand.


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