Cooking with Kids – Cupcakes & Quesadillas

Making Cupcakes

I was thrilled to hear from one friend that over the March break they had challenged their children to select a recipe from my cookbook, Anne’s Favourite’s, then make a shopping list and finally prepare it for the family. I try to organize the ingredients and instructions carefully so they can be followed by novice cooks and following a recipe together provides numerous opportunities for learning, reading, fractions and food science. Talk about where ingredients come from and how they work together to create something completely new.

For my February article in the Rural Voice I wrote about fun in the kitchen for Family Day and as families are spending time isolated in their homes I thought I would share some of those ideas for baking with you here (updated slightly for the occasion).

Family Day Fun in the Kitchen

When Social distancing keeps you inside, at home with your family, use the opportunity to share some fun in the kitchen. I am always surprised at how much young people like to participate in the magic of food preparation. Introduce them to a variety of foods in their original form and let them help to transform them into meals and snacks to enjoy together. Cracking eggs for breakfast, peeling cucumber or carrots for lunch gives them new interest in that food. Something as simple as peeling and deconstructing a pomegranate can be an activity for little hands resulting in a wealth of delicious and nutritious seeds to eat alone or add to salad or whatever you please.


Homemade applesauce is a simple way to get even the youngest children involved in the kitchen. I put a bowl of water on a low table and a container of apples to be washed with a cloth to soak up the water underneath and let the little ones wash the apples before I cut them into the bowl to microwave. We leave the skins on and later help them to turn the handle on the food mill to make applesauce. If you do not have a food mill get them to peel the apples with a vegetable peeler before you cut them into the bowl to cook. When they are soft your helpers can do some mashing. Enjoy this delicious treat on its own  or take a cup and make a batch of applesauce muffins.

George Mixing

Applesauce Cranberry Muffins

Apples and cranberries are always good together. Sometimes I use a little leftover cranberry sauce in place of some of the applesauce. These muffins are a little sweeter and more like cupcakes so kids enjoy them.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour *
  • 1/2  cup all purpose flour *
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seed or ground flax seed (optional)
  • 2/3  cup white sugar
  • 1  tsp baking powder
  • 1  tsp baking soda
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1 1/2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped or 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 2  eggs
  • 1/3  cup canola oil
  • 1/3  cup yogurt  or sour cream
  • 2/3  cup applesauce

*You may replace both flours with 1 ½ cups of gluten-free all purpose flour and 1 tsp of xanthan gum

  1. Mix both flours, flax or hemp, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and xanthan gum if using.
  2. Stir in eggs, oil, yogurt and applesauce until blended.
  3. Add cranberries and mix until incorporated.
  4. These muffins are a little runnier than most so do not be alarmed.
  5. Fill paper-lined muffin pans using a 1/4 cup measure or a 2 1/4 ounce scoop or use a 1 ounce scoop and fill mini muffin pans. Makes 3- 4 dozen small ones.
  6. Bake at 365°F for about 20 minutes for the minis and 28 – 30 minutes for the regular ones. Muffins are done when springs back when lightly touched.

Makes 11 -12  muffins

 Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Every occasion becomes special when you add some pretty cupcakes. These are probably my most requested contribution to family parties and group activities. I always have a package of grated and measured zucchini in the freezer from the summer abundance but if you do not there is usually fresh zucchini at the store throughout the winter. This popular cake adapts without much trouble to a gluten-free version. Most people would not realize there was anything different.

  • 1/2  cup canola oil
  • 1/2  cup margarine
  • 1 3/4  cups white sugar
  • 3  eggs
  • 2  tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2  cups GF all purpose flour  (can substitute regular flour and omit the xanthan gum)*
  • 1 1/2  tsp xanthan gum *
  • 1/2  tsp GF baking powder
  • 2  tsp baking soda
  • 1/2  cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2  cup sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt
  • 2  cups grated zucchini, unpeeled (may use frozen)
  • 1/4  cup chocolate chips

*you may substitute regular all purpose flour for the gluten-free and omit the xanthan gum

  1. Sift flour with xanthan gum, GF baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder.
  2. Beat oil, margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light.
  3. Mix in sifted flour mixture alternately with the sour milk, beating after each addition.
  4. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  5. Fill paper lined muffin pans ¾ full using a scoop or ¼ cup measuring cup. You may also use a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan or two 8 inch round layers.
  6. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes for cupcakes and 35 – 45 minutes for cakes.
  7. Cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Easter Cupcakes

The internet has hundreds of ideas for decorating cupcakes so have a look at the incredible creativity shared there. You can simply pipe or spread a nest of icing on top and fill it with a few mini eggs or you can use some marshmallows to make bunnies  or sheep. Have fun! If you do not have piping bags for detail use a ziplock sandwich bag and cut the corner to make your own piping bag. Use raisins and nuts if you do not have the candy decorations. Ask your children for ideas, you might be amazed by how creative they are. We had some fun frosting cupcakes with rainbow colours mixing 3 pastels colours in the same piping bag and letting them come out in a swirl.

Butter Frosting

This butter frosting is based on the bakery fluffy white frosting we used for our slab cakes except I have substituted butter for most of the shortening. It has a lovely flavour and is very stable at room temperature. It can be easily tinted to your favourite colour for special occasions.

  • 1/2  cup butter, softened
  • 1/8  cup non-hydrogenated shortening or more butter
  • 4  cups icing sugar
  • 2  Tbsp corn syrup
  • 2  tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup water or milk, as needed to desired consistency
  1.  Beat butter and shortening with half the icing sugar until light.
  2.  Add corn syrup and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  3. Slowly beat in remaining icing sugar, adding a little of the water if it becomes too stiff for the mixer.
  4. Add remaining water a little at a time as needed and continue to beat for at least 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. At the bakery we beat this frosting for a full 10 minutes.



 For lunch or snack or dinner these are quick and versatile and kids of all ages love them. This was a favourite item for cooking lessons with Cubs. They were amazed that they could make something like this with just the help of an adult to put it in the oven. It used to be difficult to find nice fresh, soft corn tortillas that did not contain any wheat but they are becoming  more readily available in the grocery store so these are making a comeback at our house!

  • 4 – 8 inch soft tortillas (corn tortillas for gluten-free)
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar, mozzarella or other cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked
  • Garnish with chopped green onions if you have them
  • Accompaniments: sour cream, salsa and guacamole
  1. Cover 2 tortillas with cheese.
  2. Crumble bacon over top.
  3. Place remaining tortillas on top and press lightly.
  4. Bake in 375°F oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and tortillas are starting to brown.
  5. Cut in quarters and serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole.

Serves 2 – 3

 Variation: Chicken Quesadillas

Substitute about 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken for the bacon. Toss chicken with 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce before adding to quesadilla.


Let your kids help you make some homemade guacamole. This is a pretty basic, but balanced, guacamole recipe that I got from my sister. When we make a little guacamole to go with nachos or quesadillas for the kids we will omit the jalapeno pepper. Since we also have some that are not fond of tomatoes we even make it without the tomato ….  so sometimes we just have mashed avocado with a little lime and salt and pepper to accompany our Mexican inspired meals and this is just fine!

If you have leftover cooked peas you can mash them right in to use them up and boost the protein value.

  • 1  ripe avocado, flesh removed and diced
  • 2  tsp fresh lime juice (lemon will also work)
  • 1  clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 – 2  Tbsp red onion or 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper, finely chopped without seeds
  • 1/3 cup fresh tomato, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh coriander, chopped or 1/2 tsp dry (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  1. Mash pulp from avocado with lime juice immediately because avocado turns brown quickly.
  2.  Add garlic, onion, pepper, tomatoes, coriander and salt.
  3.  Adjust salt if needed.
  4. Serve with quesadillas or raw vegetables or tortilla chips.








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