Valerie Phillips: Cooking traditions can bring families together

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 25 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

These are fun to make as gifts for neighbors or a favorite teacher. Borrow a few bundt pans so you can make more cakes while you wait for the first cake to cool.

Equipment needed: One bundt pan

4 quarts (16 cups) popped popcorn (it's better if you use air-popped, as the microwaveable popcorn will be greasy)

Nonstick cooking spray or butter

1/4 cup butter or 100 percent margarine

1 16-ounce package mini marshmallows

1 teaspoon mint extract (more for a strong mint flavor)

2-3 drops green food coloring

1-2 cups mix-ins such as gummy bears, M&Ms, peanuts, raisins or craisins

Sort through the popcorn and remove unpopped kernels as you place the popcorn in a large, wide mixing bowl.

Spray the inside of the bundt pan with cooking spray or rub it with butter.

Place the butter and marshmallows in a large mixing bowl.

Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir again. If marshmallows haven't completely melted, microwave another 30 seconds.

Stir in mint extract and food coloring.

Pour marshmallow mixture over the popcorn, and gently stir the popcorn until it is completely coated. Add some of the mix-ins, reserving about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Pour the mixture into the bundt pan and press the mixture down so that it becomes more compact.

Wait 30 minutes for the mixture to set. Turn the pan upside down on a plate and tap gently until cake releases. Finish decorating the cake with the remaining mix-ins. To serve, cut slices with a knife. To give as gifts, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and tie with a festive bow.

— Valerie Phillips

Tips for making holiday treats with kids

1. If you have more than three kids younger than age 8, have another adult or teen on hand to help supervise.

2. Don't attempt a complex project if you're in a hurry, super-tired or feeling irritable.

3. Divide and conquer. Consider mixing dough and freezing it one day, then baking and decorating on another day. Or instead of expecting them to help with the whole process, just assign pre-school age kids specific tasks, such as cracking the eggs and stirring them into the batter, or rolling cookie dough into balls.

4. Start with simple recipes with a quick pay-off, such as chocolate-dipped pretzels or Rice Krispies treats.

5. Choose age-appropriate tasks. Don't let your 4-year-old loose with a knife, for instance.

6. Kids should be covered with an apron or old clothing to protect against spills, with sleeves rolled up to keep them from dragging in batter or frosting.

7. Use a sturdy stool so kids can safely be part of the action.

8. If the child can read, have him or her read the recipe it aloud to you before you start. It's good reading practice, and helps you both to see if you have all the ingredients, equipment, time or patience to make the recipe.

9. Gather ingredients and equipment beforehand and place on a cookie sheet. As you use each one, replace in the cupboard or refrigerator until the cookie sheet is empty. This helps to keep you from leaving an ingredient out of the recipe.

10. Clean as you go. Kids need to learn that clean-up is part of the process, but it shouldn't be the emphasis.

11. Wash hands before and after handling foods. Parents should supervise use of knives and appliances.

12. Use thick, dry pot holders. Moisture will quickly scald the skin when heated.

13. Use caution when making candies, whether it's for toffee, peanut brittle, fudge or molded suckers. Involve the kids in stirring the sugar and other ingredients together before you crank up the heat. They can butter pans or arrange nuts on a cookie sheet for peanut brittle. But pouring out the boiling syrup is a task for adults or teens.

— Valerie Phillips

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor and the author of "Soup's On!" She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere