Jarlsberg Jalapeño Biscuits [recipe]

South meets Norse in this Jarlsberg® jalapeño biscuits recipe, created in partnership with Jarlsberg® cheese*. In it, a Southern classic gets a Norwegian twist with a hefty portion of the mild cow’s milk cheese alongside diced peppers. Think of it as more reason to love the people of fjords, Vikings, skiing and the midnight sun.

Jarlsberg jalapeno biscuits

Sure, the Danes brought us hygge, but the Norwegians gave us what’s now known as America’s number-one edible import: Jarlsberg® cheese. Mild and melty, this lactose-free cheese is as versatile as it is beloved. Is it any wonder that the people of Norway are literally some of the happiest on earth, ranked second only to Denmark?Read More

gluten-free bread for communion

Anyone who’s lived a gluten-free lifestyle knows how hard it is to find a bread free of wheat. So, recently tasked with finding a gluten-free bread for communion, i.e., one sturdy enough to dip into liquid without dissolving, I test two recipes, comparing quality and costs with store-bought varieties. Here’s what I find.

gluten-free bread for communion

Where do you go when you need a bread you can offer the masses? When you want loaves you can break and hand out? Given that, according to a study discussed last year by Niall McCarthy at Forbes Magazine, some 3.1 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet, a number that has “tripled since 2009,” finding a bread sans gluten is a good place to start. Read More

5 Reasons to Bake Pretzels with Walter the Baker

This post on five reasons to bake pretzels with Walter the Baker is part of a series of articles on cooking with kids. Cooking with kids forges bonds, grows skills and makes the world of food more fun–but, for many busy parents, knowing how and when to include kids in the kitchen isn’t obvious. // Do you have a story or suggestion from your own experience to share? Contact me here.

baking pretzels from Walter the Baker

Cooking with kids is a hot topic today. It discourages picky palates, according to registered dietician and freelance nutrition journalist Janet Helm, who says “children are much more likely to try something new if they’ve had a hand at preparing it.” Getting kids in the kitchen can grow math and vocabulary skills, according to children’s health and development site KidsHealth. Even British celebrity chef and restaurateur Jaime Oliver, advocated for it, in his 2010-11 ABC TV series, Food Revolution, while he tried to reform American school lunch programs and change kids’ eating habits.

But, as with many good ideas, the biggest challenge is knowing where to start. So here’s a suggestion: Bake pretzels with Walter the Baker.

Why set aside an hour or so to try this baking project? Here are five reasons.

baking with kids, baking pretzels from walter the baker baking pretzels from walter the baker

1. It’s Based on a Beloved Book

First published twenty years ago, Walter the Baker is a vividly illustrated children’s book about a baker faced with a unique challenge. His only hope of avoiding banishment is designing a new kind of baked bread: a roll through which “the rising sun shines three times.”

Over the last two decades, this fictional pretzel history, based on a story Carle’s grandmother used to tell, has sold over 41 million copies and been translated into 62 languages. It’s one of more than 70 children’s books created by Carle, an acclaimed author and illustrator whose resumé also includes being a graphic designer for The New York Times and an art director for an international ad agency. Bottom line: If your child already loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Carle’s Walter the Baker is an easy sell. Read it and bake pretzels to turn your cooking project into a literary one, too.

2. There’s a Short Ingredient List

You can start cooking with your kids as early as two years old, according to The American Institute for Cancer Research, but, let’s be honest, if you’re working with children that young, the simpler the process, the better. Bottom line: Check your pantry. Homemade baked pretzels require only a few basic ingredients such as warm water, yeast, salt, sugar, butter, flour and baking soda–you probably already have them on hand.

baking pretzels with walter the baker

3. The Recipe Includes Kid-Friendly Steps

Including kids in the cooking process means finding age-appropriate steps they can handle, according to Katie Reece, RD, who started cooking with her 19-month-old son, Ryan, when he was only around a year of age. “He’s never really wanted to play by himself while I’m in the kitchen, so I’ve had to look for ways for him to get involved,” she says. “We got him a learning tower for his one-year birthday, which allows him to have a safe way to be up at the counter. Sometimes I put water in bowls and give him measuring spoons and cups to try to scoop the water, to distract him while I cook.” Bottom line: your kids have several opportunities to help when baking pretzels, such as sprinkling yeast, sprinkling flour, stirring dough, playing with dough and kneading.

baking pretzels from walter the baker
baking pretzels with Walter the Baker

4. It Involves Kneading

An easy and fun activity for kids of all ages is kneading. Just ask Nicole Spiridakis, author of the cookbook Flourless and blogger at Cucina Nicolina, whose “kids have been in the kitchen since they were infants … I think I started actually cooking with my oldest when she was about two or a little younger,” she says. “Now she’s four and I do help her to cut things, but she definitely pours and stirs and whisks. We make bread and it’s a great kid activity–all that kneading!” Bottom line: kneading works for kids because it’s fun and it’s scalable to your child’s capability, whether that means simply pounding and slapping the dough as a toddler or forming pretzels as a school-aged child. 

5. Kids Like Pretzels

Everybody knows the best part of helping in the kitchen is getting to taste the end product, and pretzels (twisted, boiled bread with salt on top) are a great reward. The bottom line: pretzels may not expand your child’s palate beyond something he or she would already eat, but, as such, they will plant seeds of cooking being fun, laying a foundation of interest in future food.

why bake pretzels with walter the baker

To any parent reluctant to sacrifice fast recipe prep with the slower, often frustrating work of including a small child, it’s worth remembering that “there are good reasons to encourage kids in the kitchen at any age,” according to KJ Dell’Antonia and Margaux Laskey of The New York Times. “With young children, that early investment pays off — eventually.” As you take the time to help your child grow more comfortable in the kitchen, you make food more approachable, empower them with confidence and open up a place to talk about healthy ingredients and why they matter. Perhaps best of all, Dell-Antonia and Laskey also point out the inevitable consequence of working together with a child on something new: “For better or worse, you will get to know your children, and they you, more deeply when you cook with them.”

Notes on this post:

This post includes Amazon affiliate links, which yield a small commission on any products purchased through them.

The pretzel recipe pictured in this post comes from Sally’s Baking Addiction. We watched her how-to video, pulled out ingredients and read through Carle’s story one more time while the dough rested. Did the experience develop new skills or expand my toddler’s palate? I can’t say. But within an hour of starting, side by side at the table, biting into soft pretzels, I told him these are our pretzels, the ones we made, and he looked back at me, pretzel in hand, with a smile.

Blueberry Buckle Doughnuts, Doughnut Cookies or, Doughkies

This article on blueberry buckle doughnuts (or doughnuts meet cookies, i.e., doughkies) is the third post in a series of make-ahead mornings, batch breakfasts designed to save you time. Also in this series: breakfast panna cotta and a closer look at smoothie packs.

blueberry buckle doughkies

Built like a doughnut, baked like a muffin and crunchy enough that their bite can be heard across the room, these doughnut hybrids are like doughnut meets cookie: doughkies?Read More

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins for Toddlers or Anyone

This is part four in a Cook the Cookbook series featuring Margaret Rudkin’s The Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, published in 1963. Also in this series: Intro, Venison Vegetable Soup, Will the Best Pie Crust Please Stand Up? and Pepperidge Farm bread.

healthy pumpkin muffins for toddlers or anyone

At first glance, the fourth chapter of Rudkin’s book strikes me as the strangest, departing from the linear storyline of her life to feature her interest in old cookbooks. As if to explain, she writes that she developed this interest while in the food business. In fact, knowing her hobby, on the twentieth anniversary of Pepperidge Farm, her employees surprised her with a copy of the world’s first printed cookbook, with a scroll signed by each one. Read More

Pepperidge Farm: The Bread That Launched a Business

This is part three in a Cook the Cookbook series featuring Margaret Rudkin’s The Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, published in 1963. Also in this series: Intro, Venison Vegetable Soup and Will the Best Pie Crust Please Stand Up?.

Homemade white bread from Pepperidge Farm's Margaret Rudkin

Like most middle-class American children of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I grew up on goldfish crackers, Milano cookies and other foods branded with that famous red banner displaying the Pepperidge Farm name. When choosing a recipe from this third section of Rudkin’s book, however, dubbed “Pepperidge Farm,” I decide to go basic. If bread could grab her doctor’s attention, launch Rudkin’s foray into the food business and be the impetus for a business now known around the world, perhaps it will appeal to me, too. Read More

Will the Best Pie Crust Recipe Please Stand Up?

This is part two in a Cook the Cookbook series featuring Margaret Rudkin’s The Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, published in 1963. Read the intro to this cookbook’s series here and part one here.

pie crust made with butter and coconut oil

Before Margaret Rudkin wrote the world’s first cookbook to land on the New York Times Bestseller list, she was a mathematics and finance major who joined the working world and met the man she’d marry, Henry, at a job. They wed in 1923, three years before they’d, “to live a real country life,” buy 125 acres of land in Connecticut and name it Pepperidge Farm.Read More