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Toddler Talk: Cooking With Kids

Confession time: I am not a mom who traditionally has enjoyed cooking with kids. Don't get me wrong: I admire, exalt and envy the parents who do bake with their children (especially their toddlers)—those amazing, patient souls who don't mind little hands in the brownie batter or flour spattered on the walls/floor/ceiling or up your nose.

But this recipe changed my attitude. It's a versatile oatmeal-muffin recipe based on my mom's recipe from a 1970s copy of Mothers in the Kitchen, a La Leche League cookbook. Depending on your preferences, you can make it super-healthy (whole wheat flour, honey instead of sugar, etc.) or use white flour and sugar (like this version here). The best part is it will taste amazing even when you sneak in vegetables or fruit—your kids will never notice any additions of zucchini, carrots or apples. (You could probably also throw in some kale, quinoa, or dirt—it's still gonna taste good.) It's the most forgiving, adaptive recipe. (Forgot to set a timer and baked it an extra 10 minutes? No problem!). And it's toddler-proof: My child can energetically (over-) stir, spill and splatter the batter everywhere, and it still makes marvelous muffins.

Let's get cooking, shall we?

Ingredients

• 1 cup rolled oats

• 1 cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon)

• 1 cup flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 egg

• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (the original La Leche League version calls for 1/3 cup oil)

• 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed (you can also use honey or white sugar; the original LLL recipe calls for 1/3 cup)

• Optional additions (any combination of the following has worked well for us): 1/2 cup grated carrot, zucchini, apple, blueberries, chocolate chips, pecans or almonds

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and spray or grease a 12-muffin pan. Combine the rolled oats and buttermilk in one bowl. While those two ingredients soak each other in, mix all the dry ingredients in a second bowl. Then add the egg, oil and sugar to the oats mixture; stir well. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, toss in the extra ingredients of your choosing.

Resist the urge to eat all the raw batter. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are a little crispy and the tops are golden brown. Let sit five minutes before removing from the muffin pan. Resist the urge to eat all the muffins during that morning. Enjoy!

My son especially loves to help break the egg into the batter (then try to grab it out of the batter), and stir in blueberries or carrots at the final stage. Another confession: As of this baking, we were at Nana's house—where an iPad full of educational games was readily available to him. (Angry Birds is a total anthropology primer, right?) So he was a little too distracted to help mix and bake on this particular morning. Such is real life.

He was not, however, too distracted to help us eat them. In fact, he ate three in a row. Final confession: so did I.

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