Kids in the kitchen

After-school snacks your children can make for themselves.

By Emily Franklin
September 20, 2009

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Help is a must for harried cooks, particularly in the rush of fall. When kids are hungry after school, who better to lend a hand (or six) than the kids themselves? In my book Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures With 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes, I chronicle a year in which I transitioned my four children, all of them under 10, from the limited land of nuggets to the wide-open spaces of the grown-ups’ menu. Since then, they have become eager to learn how to cook, too.

Let fruit “Rolldowns” act as the red carpet that welcomes small hands into the kitchen. The prep process is simple. My 2-year-old uses a dull knife to cut peaches, in season now, into small, uneven chunks before her 7-year-old brother carries them to the food processor. My 2-year-old flips the on switch, while my oldest child, 10, acts as supervisor and pours the puree onto the cookie sheet for drying.

Crunchy Snacking chickpeas

Makes 4 cups

Salty, spicy, and sweet versions of this recipe start the same way.

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas

1½ tablespoons olive oil



1½ teaspoons sea salt



½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)

½ teaspoon turmeric

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon paprika


1 teaspoon cinnamon

1½ tablespoons sugar

Dash nutmeg

Dash salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well, then pat dry with paper towels. Pour the chickpeas onto a large cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, rolling the beans gently to coat. Roast the chickpeas for about 35 minutes or until fairly evenly browned, shaking the cookie sheet several times as the beans roast.

Remove the browned chickpeas, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with your choice of flavoring mix. Serve, or store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 weeks.

Infinity Bars

Makes 20 to 25 bars

Add or substitute ingredients your kids like, such as dried cranberries, white-chocolate chunks, cereal, raisins, cashews, or tiny marshmallows.

¼ pound (1 stick) butter

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs

2/3cup brown-rice cereal or Rice Krispies

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup butterscotch chips

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the oven, melt butter in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Remove pan to work surface, allowing it to become cool enough to handle. Add graham cracker crumbs to butter, and mix with fingers until crumbs are coated. Press crumbs down evenly in the pan to make a crust. Sprinkle on the rice cereal, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and almonds, distributing them evenly. Drizzle the condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake for 25 minutes and let cool before cutting into small squares. Serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.

No Cleanup Caramel Banana

Serves 1

Make as many as you have hungry people. Adapted from Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures With 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes.

1 banana, sliced

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Dash cinnamon

Dash lemon juice

½ tablespoon butter

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place banana slices in the center of a 12-by-12-inch square of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and dot with butter. Bring the four corners of the foil together, forming a tepee, and fold seams to close. Place packet on a cookie sheet and bake until hot, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, put on a plate, and open carefully. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pita Crisps

Makes 30 crisps

Older kids can cut the pitas with kitchen scissors and younger ones can rip pieces off: triangles, strips, random bits -- it doesn’t matter. For a savory version, use 1 teaspoon salt instead of the sugar and rosemary or thyme instead of the cinnamon.

6 whole-wheat pitas

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Tear or cut the pitas into 30 pieces. Place on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil, then spread into a single layer (you may need a second cookie sheet). In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon, then dust the pita pieces with the mixture. Bake until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm, or store at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag with the air removed for about 1 week.

Fruit Rolldowns

Makes 24 to 32 rolldowns

Yes, the baking time really is 8 to 10 hours.

4 cups pureed fruit (see Kitchen Aide)

2 to 4 tablespoons honey (optional)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cornstarch (for dusting)

Heat oven to 125 degrees. In the food processor or blender with the fruit puree, add honey, if using, and cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Line 2 cookie sheets with plastic wrap or parchment paper and pour half of the fruit mixture onto each cookie sheet. Bake until leathery, 8 to 10 hours. Remove from oven and cool, then peel off plastic or paper and discard. Using kitchen shears, cut each sheet in half the long way, then crosswise into 6 or 8 strips per half. Dust strips with cornstarch to prevent sticking, roll, and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.

Emily Franklin, a former chef, writes novels for adults and teens. Send comments to

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