The signs are up all over town — camps for your kids to swim, practise arts and crafts, take nature hikes, or learn taekwando. They sure are lucky because there were no such things where and when I grew up.
We were also sent out of the house every sunny day, to hang over the swings and draw in the dirt or walk up to the ancient soccer pitch that everyone used to play stickball because no one had ever seen a real soccer game.
Or maybe we’d pick the berries close enough to the edge of the woods that you could still hear your mother when she yelled for you to come for lunch.
The days I remember most, though, are the rainy caplin-weather days, when I was allowed to play in the kitchen.
I know stay-at-home parenting is not as accessible as it used to be, but if you’re looking for something to do with your kids that doesn’t involve taking them to summer camp — something they will remember till they’re old and grey — let them help make a family meal.
Not only will it keep them out of mischief, it will impart skills they will thank you for when they find themselves in their own homes. It will come sooner than you think.
Quick and easy cinnamon oat buns
Yeast dough takes longer than the average kid’s attention span can manage, but this recipe delivers all the flavour with none of the fuss. Let your helpers work the butter into the dry ingredients, taking as long as they need, or introduce them to the joys of a food processor. These make a great breakfast for a teenage sleepover, but are equally delicious as an afternoon snack.
Just a note on butter versus margarine: butter is always better in baked goods, and unsalted is the absolute best, (in which case you should double the salt to 1/2 tsp.), but if you have hard margarine on hand, by all means use it. Soft margarine will not give you the wonderful crumbly, scone-like texture.
2 cups flour
1 cup large-cut rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (light is fine)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp. milk
Whisk together flour, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and rub in with fingertips or pulse 5 or 6 times in a food processor to create coarse crumbs. Whisk together milk, yogurt, egg and vanilla and add all at once to dry ingredients. Work into a dough but don’t handle it too much. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top. Fold the dough onto itself a few times — you are looking for streaks, not a homogenous mixture. Pat out a 12-inch by 12-inch square and cut into 16 pieces. Place on a well-greased or parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 425 F for 15 minutes or until golden brown on the top. For the glaze, stir together butter, sugar and milk and spread on warm or cooled buns.
Baked beans and wieners
This recipe couldn’t be much easier, but it is deceptively delicious. You can substitute sausages for wieners if you like but make sure the sausages are closed to cooked through before adding the onion. Count on at least 4 servings.
8 good quality hot dog wieners, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. smoked paprika (or sweet paprika)
1 tbsp. molasses
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14-oz. can baked beans — any flavour you like
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
Fry wieners and onion in oil in a dutch oven until onion is soft and everything is starting to brown. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Combine cheese, breadcrumbs and melted butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 425 degrees F 10 minutes or until crusty and golden.
Simple spaghetti and meatballs
There’s something very satisfying about squishing your fingers into hamburger meat. Why not share that pleasure with your kids? These meatballs are not difficult and taste delicious, so make a ton and freeze them raw on a baking sheet, then transfer to a zippered bag so they can come out any time. They are also fabulous on meatball sandwiches or in sweet and sour sauce with rice. This recipe makes lots, and should be plenty for eight people, maybe even with some leftover.
1/3 cup milk
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp. each garlic and onion powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional but really good)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb. each extra-lean ground beef and ground pork
2 large jars good quality pasta sauce — whatever flavour you like
1 900 g box spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
Pour milk over breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit 10 minutes. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, parsley and cheese. Add beef and pork and mix until well combined. Form into golf ball-sized meatballs and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 F about 30 minutes or until the centres are no longer pink.
Heat spaghetti sauce in a large pot and add cooked meatballs. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Stir about one cup of the sauce into the cooked spaghetti. Serve on a platter with remaining sauce and meatballs on top.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram,
P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.