Vegan Baking With Your Kids While Stuck at Home (Or: How to Really Lose Your Mind)
It’s Day 10 of coronavirus quarantine here in Los Angeles. Or maybe it’s Day 110? I’ve lost all track of time. I’m running out of toilet paper. And PJs. (And wine, ahem.) But, strangely, I’m not running out of healthy, fun, or delicious things to do with my six-year-old daughter.
In between her e-classrooms, BFF Zoom calls, and mastering the monkey bars outside, we’re finding our way around the kitchen in exciting new ways.
Last week we started sprouting. I’ve loved putting sprouts into salads and sandwiches for years, but the thought of doing the sprouting myself always seemed so complicated. I’ve since learned it’s anything but! My daughter fills the jar with seeds and water, a few hours later we rinse them. Then a few more rinses over the next few days and voila—fresh, crunchy, delicious and super healthy sprouts by the jarful. Tonight she ate broccoli sprouts alongside her homemade pizza. We’ve got chickpea sprouts coming up in another day or two. Those are denser and chock-full of protein—the perfect crunchy snack for kids, too. And as any parent knows, the more involved the kids are in making their food, the more likely they are to eat it!
But the real magic happens when we bake. It's even enough to pull her away from the iPad. And that says a lot these days. My daughter loves the alchemy of putting together flours and sugars and other mystery powders with liquids like oat milk and melted vegan butter only to have it turn into something else entirely. She's a proud baker, if a totally messy one.
So far, we’ve made a few batches of vegan crepes. These are so great for kids because unlike pancakes, kids can fill up their own crepes with fruits, seeds, nut butters and our favorite: vegan chocolate hazelnut spread (we buy this one and it's absolutely amazing) for a fun DIY meal. She goes to a French school (er...went to? we're now fully at home until further notice!) so crepes are a staple and we’re proud to say we’ve mastered the vegan crepe (pro tip: refrigerate overnight and thin out in the morning with extra oat milk). This recipe has been our go-to and never disappoints. I do use oat instead of soymilk and whole wheat flour instead of unbleached and it still works great for a healthier crepe.
We’ve also made our own Belgian waffles (we’re big on breakfast in this house!). We’ve made a few different recipes in the past and have gone back to this one a few times. I like that it has flax seeds for an omega-fatty acid boost. And, again, I only use whole wheat flour or oat flour to get a whole grain into the batter. These hold up way better than my attempt at French Toast a few weekends back. And they freeze super well, too. We doubled the batch last weekend and my daughter ate waffles a few mornings this week from the frozen reserves.
I will say I’m personally not a breakfast person, oat milk lattes work best for me. But my daughter is ravenous by 8 am. We do a lot of avocado toast topped with nutritional yeast. She’s also really into Farina lately, which is easy and tasty to make, as well as a good source of protein and fiber. But in these strange, uncertain times, I think starting the day with something fun like waffles or crepes is incredibly appropriate.
Our kitchen adventures don’t stop there, though! We’ve baked a few batches of cookies recently, too. And, don’t tell her, but I just ordered some vegan white chocolate chips (her favorite), so we’ll do some more cooking baking this weekend as well.
Vegan Cookies for Kids
I’ve been baking cookies out of the Post Punk Kitchen’s “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” recipe book for over a decade. I truly don’t know any other cookie recipes. There’s no need. This book has it all—from bar cookies to drops and icebox favorites. We recently did two batches of the thumbprints, modified with black raspberry and grapefruit jam. We also did a batch of chocolate chip drop cookies (we added heart and brain-healthy walnuts). Again, here I sub in whole wheat flour in all recipes. I also never use white sugar. Where the recipes call for it, it’s usually in combo with brown or turbinado sugar. I just use turbinado sugar entirely (it’s sugar without the molasses totally stripped out, so it’s less refined than white sugar). I’ve also experimented with subbing in avocado oil in place of canola and we’ve had good results. It’s an expensive swap but worth it for the health benefits.
But the healthiest and tastiest baking we do together is banana bread (or muffins). Again, I turn to Isa Chandra Moskowitz of the Post Punk Kitchen for a no-fail recipe. We modify the heck out of this one with add-ins like nuts, whole pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flaky coconut shreds and more. I only use whole wheat flour here as well and it works terrifically. Bananas are a rich source of potassium and fiber and as long as you don’t forget to add in the oil (oops!), you’ll have a really moist and balanced cake slice or muffin. It’s hardy enough to hold up to toasting post-bake and is excellent slathered with Miyoko’s vegan butter or any decent jam.
And here’s a little icing on the proverbial cake: when my daughter bakes her own treats, she is much more invested in not overdoing them. She likes to stretch the cookies or cakes out as long as she can rather than shove them all into her face at once like she does with the store-bought versions. And, assuming we’ll still be able to get sacks of flour in the coming weeks, we’ll be baking as often as we can. That is, until we start turning the soil for our spring garden out back.