Start kids in the kitchen at an early age

My nephew, Garrett, started cooking at age 2, helping my mother in the kitchen while standing on chair. Here he sifts flour for Christmas cookies.

My nephew, Garrett, started cooking at age 2, helping my mother in the kitchen while standing on chair. Here he sifts flour for Christmas cookies.

I understand the Easy Bake controversy in theory, but find it a tempest in a teapot. A 4-year-old boy wanted an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. His 13-year-old sister wanted to get him one, but they only come in pink and purple and are packaged for girls, she says. Who cares? And, who says pink and purple are just for girls.

Chefs have jumped on the bandwagon, urging Hasbro to make a gender-neutral version. Chef Bobby Flay concluded by saying get the kid the oven. What difference does it make what color it is?

I agree, but say let him cook in the kitchen and the heck with the Easy Bake Oven. My siblings and I were cooking whole meals by the time we were 12. We loved to cook.

My nephew started helping my mother in the kitchen when he was 2. Standing on a chair, he would sift flour, measure coffee into the percolator and any other little tasks she devised.

There are plenty of simple recipes perfect for young hands. Get a cookbook designed for kids to start them off. I had the “Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls” (no gender bias for Betty) and used it all the time. I still make the Sugar Cookies below from that book. Copies are available online for as little as $8. They’re reproductions of the original 1957 book.

But, there are lots of others, too. “Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook” is for ages 5 to 12. Shop around to find one with recipes your young one likes to eat.

Just make sure youngsters have supervision if knives and the oven are involved. With microwaves, it’s so easy for kids to start cooking at younger ages. Even if it’s just a pizza bagel after school.

And, my mother was a smart cookie. She worked and it got to the point where we could have dinner on the table when she and Dad got home.

Sugar Cookies

from the “Betty Crocker

Cookbook for Boys and Girls”

Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup shortening*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (zest)

1 cup sugar

1 egg, unbeaten

2 tablespoons milk

2 cups sifted Gold Medal Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ground nutmeg

Blend together the shortening, salt, lemon rind and sugar. Beat in the egg and milk. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Grease the bottom of a flat glass. Dip the glass in sugar and flatten each cookie. Sprinkle cookies lightly with nutmeg.**

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until a light golden. Cool on a rack.

* I use Crisco, but you can use half Crisco and half butter for a slightly crisper cookie.

** I sometimes add a 1/2 teaspoon of anise seed with the dry ingredients. If I do, I omit the nutmeg.

Note: These cookies are a very pale gold. If you let them get brown, they come out really crisp. Experiment to see how you like them.

Visit Lynda Rego on Facebook at where she shares tips on cooking, books, gardening, genealogy and other topics. Click on Like and share ideas for upcoming stories.

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