I have these happy mama moments sporadically throughout my day. A pocket of time where I’m with my children and we’re totally engaged and present. It’s those moments that make my heart swell with happiness. We’ll be playing legos, or reading books, or even cutting a salad together. The atmosphere is calm and pleasant and I might even say perfect. Internally, I’m beaming with gratitude and love and as much as I know it’s a temporary state, I try to feel the moment, bottle it up and keep it safe in a corner of my brain. Conveniently so I can revisit it when inevitable craziness ensues.
Some days I even try to create these moments, rather than hope they’ll emerge serendipitously. I’ll get a special book or bring out a forlorn toy box. But the kids’ favorite is when I invite them into the kitchen. I love this special bonding time. Some times it’s as involved as rolling out their own pizza dough and leaving a carpet of flour on the floor. Other days it’s sprinkling colorful stars over the cake they watched me prepare. It all depends on how mentally prepared I am.
Somewhere in their cookbook lineup, Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek came out with a Kids Cooking Made Easy. My kids and I had so much fun looking through the recipes together, picking out our favorites and planning which ones we’ll make together. The cauliflower poppers (p.72) were addicting, we’re still eyeing the chocolate bonbons (p.116) and the grilled chicken sticks (p.38) are a perfect weeknight meal.
The book features so many great, family friendly recipes, all brightly photographed and very approachable. My favorite feature is the blurbs on the side with tips, tricks and explanations that are very beneficial to little learners (and big ones, too).
Side note: this book also makes an excellent gift, I've given it a few times.
Let’s talk about this Toffee-Topped Brownie Cake (p.96). It’s at once dense like a brownie, yet light as a cake. I halved the sugar from the original recipe (standard practice for me), and the balance of sweetness was just right. My favorite part is that it bakes in a half sheet, a perfect size when serving a crowd.
3 cups of sugar (I used 1.5 cups)
1 1/2 cups oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
23.5oz. good quality chocolate
6 Viennese Crunch (chocolate covered toffee bars)*
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine eggs, sugar, and oil. Beat until mixture is creamy. Add in flour, cocoa, vanilla, salt, orange juice, and baking powder. Continue to beat until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Test for doneness.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate. Spread melted chocolate over cake immediately after taking it out of the oven. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top.
Smash the Viennese Crunch into small bits. You can put them into a plastic bag and hit them with a mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan, or process them in a mini chopper. Sprinkle Viennese Crunch buts evenly over cake.
*though I did use the Viennese Crunch, I do not think it’s absolutely necessary since I felt the crunch and texture of the toffee was lost amidst the brownie. I’d probably use some ground nuts instead.