Cooking with Kids—and a Side of Blood Orange Ricotta Pancakes
Yield: 12 to 14 pancakes
When my son Russell was three years old, I had envisioned an evening of peaceful dough-mixing, precise cookie-cutting, and elegant cookie decorating while listening to Bing Crosby sing carols. The reality, however, was our wiggly three-year-old boy was just that—three. He touched everything in sight with his sticky hands while putting everything in his mouth, including handfuls of sugar and candy sprinkles. There was flour everywhere, butter smeared into my clothing and hair, and pieces of egg on the floor. I was literally walking on eggshells.
I turned my head for one brief moment, and while I wasn’t looking, Russell grabbed a reindeer-shaped cookie cutter and started freely stamping it up and down into the dough we had prepared. “Look mommy! The reindeer are flying!”
I will admit, this tested my parental patience. And that is when I awoke to the fact that our kids teach us more about ourselves and life than we could ever teach them. Cooking with your child should never be about perfection—and shouldn’t be about the end result of a dish. Cooking is about the fun you have together and the lessons you learn about each other as you bond over food.
Now that Russell is nearly seven, nothing makes me happier than when he asks me, “Mom, can we bake something today?” I’ve worked hard to make our kitchen an environment that is welcoming to him. And in order to do that, I’ve needed to let go, listen, and learn from him.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always make cooking together the child’s choice. I like to make it an invitation. And when he’s interested, I move onto the second lesson, which is the only expectation you should have in the kitchen is to have fun.
Russell learns best when he does things for himself. I let him sift the flour and crack the eggs—and I keep a few extra on-hand in case the first couple don’t quite make it in the bowl or when the cracked eggs are full of shells.
One of the best investments I’ve made was in a set of plastic, kid-friendly chef’s knives, which Russell uses to chop veggies and fruit. He’s learning the basics of knife handling, and I love seeing how he knows the way to keep his fingers tucked in and away from a blade.
When he was really little, sometimes while I was in the kitchen already cooking something, I’d invite him in, give him a bowl, and let him “make a recipe.” He would put flour in there, and then go to the spice cupboard and start mixing things up. It always made me laugh, and it meant that we were spending time together in the kitchen as he did his “recipe” alongside mine while I cooked for our family.
Allowing Russell to be hands-on in the kitchen has opened him up to trying new things. I love teaching him about where our food comes from; it gives him an appreciation for the ingredients. Cooking together has brought us closer as a mother and son, and we now have recipes we call “ours.” And I’ve learned a lot about myself—that ultimately teaching my child how to cook is a beautiful expression of love.
This recipe was published in The At Home Issue of Life & Thyme Post, our quarterly newspaper shipping exclusively to L&T members. Get your copy.
- 1 ¼ cup einkorn wheat all-purpose flour, sifted (can substitute for whole wheat flour, but it will result in a denser pancake)
- 3 tbsp. golden coconut sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. blood orange zest*
- 2 tbsp. blood orange juice *
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (blood orange-infused, if possible. I use Temecula Olive Oil Company’s Blood Orange Oil)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (I prefer Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips, no sugar added)
- 2 tbsp. ghee
*Can substitute with any type of orange when blood oranges aren’t in season
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- Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the center and then set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together milk, ricotta, eggs and vanilla until well combined.
- Add zest, juice and olive oil to the milk mixture and whisk for 30 seconds to incorporate. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
- Brush skillet with a little bit of ghee and then ladle approximately ⅓ cup of batter onto the pan. Immediately sprinkle a pinch of chocolate chips onto the pancake as it starts cooking (I prefer adding the chocolate chips in the pan versus in the batter to ensure more even distribution).
- Cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface and the bottom is turning golden brown, then flip and cook until the opposite side is also golden brown.
- Serve warm with pure maple syrup.