Cooking with kids: A gallon of patience equals a ton of fun

Probably my favorite recipe in cooking teacher Michelle Stern’s “The Whole Family Cookbook” is the one titled “Recipe for Cooking with Toddlers.” Its chief ingredients are one gallon of patience, one pinch of expectations and several squirts of hand soap.

This fun and practical approach to cooking with kids from toddlers through preteens makes Stern’s book a great guide to creating good things to eat while having fun with your children or grandchildren.

Stern, who lives in San Rafael, has fond memories of teaching cooking classes at the Osher Marin JCC preschool when her own children were part of that program.

“I remember that one of the best ways to settle their wiggly bodies was to give them each a special task to do. One of their favorite recipes was the macaroon recipe,” she said.

Below are a few of Stern’s recipes, adapted for space. In her book, the recipe directions are very detailed and color-coded by age (2-3, 4-6, 7-10 and 11-plus). More information on the book, recipes and cooking classes is available on


Pretzel-Coated Chicken

Serves 4-6

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 springs of fresh thyme

2 cups salted pretzel pieces and bits (parve)

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg

olive oil for frying

lemon, optional

yellow or brown mustard, optional

To start, place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a small skillet until flat. Pick thyme leaves from stem and finely chop. Place pretzels in food processor and grind until fine, or put them in a zip-top bag, seal and use a rolling pin to crush until fine. Put the ground pretzels, chopped thyme, salt and pepper in a dish. In a separate bowl, crack the egg, add a splash of water and beat until well blended.

Preheat a large non-stick skillet with 1/4-inch of olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast in egg, letting excess egg drain back into the bowl. Dip chicken into the pretzel mixture, pressing to help make the coating stick. Turn chicken over and coat other side. Repeat for second breast. Add to hot oil, cooking each side for 3 to 4 minutes until pretzel coating is browned and the juices run clear when you pierce the meat. Remove from skillet, slice into individual portions. If desired, squeeze fresh lemon juice over chicken, or serve with mustard on the side.

Getting kids involved: Younger children can help pick the thyme leaves from the stems, crack and beat the eggs, and season, dip and coat the chicken with pretzel mixture. Older kids can help with the rest and will particularly enjoy bashing the pretzel pieces.


Coconut Macaroons

Serves 12

2 egg whites

14 ounces shredded sweetened or unsweetened coconut

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. butter, melted

1⁄4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg whites with electric mixer until stiff. Combine coconut into a separate large bowl with the condensed milk, melted butter and salt. Stir. Fold egg whites into the coconut mixture until combined. Cover baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the mixture onto pan, about 1-inch apart. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Getting kids involved: Younger cooks can separate the egg whites, measure ingredients, prep the pan and help with the electric mixer. Older kids can take care of the rest.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at Contact her at [email protected].


Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].