YAY! A snow day! That raises two questions if you’ve got kids: what are they going to do all day, and what are you going to feed them, knowing you probably can’t get to a grocery store and will need to cook from the staples in your kitchen? The first question can be the answer to the second: let your kids participate in the cooking as a way to keep them busy while teaching them cooking skills they’ll always be able to use!
Playing in the snow and cold can produce big appetites, so it makes sense to choose pasta-based meals for a snow day supper. Another easy favorite: make your own pizza dough and let the kids roll out and design their own individual pizzas. Breakfast-for-dinner was always a big hit at our house on snow days, adding to the festive air of the day. This is the time to teach a child how to flip a pancake or scramble an egg. They can be creative with the pancake dough, adding fruit, chocolate chips or cheese to the batter, just as they can learn about how delicious it is to add chopped tomatoes or mushrooms into an omelette. And you’re likely to already have the ingredients for these simple meals in your kitchen. One of our winter favorites is a mac and cheese casserole made with a rosy touch of tomato sauce and any mild cheese you’ve got in your fridge. (See recipe below.) It’s hearty, easy to put together, and makes great leftovers – in fact, the leftovers might even be better than the original!
Snow days are a good time for food experimentation. After a couple of hours of sledding and building snow forts, how about a session in the kitchen making real hot chocolate, with milk instead of a powdered mix – and peanut butter? Absolutely! Have you ever had a cup of hot chocolate with a teaspoon of peanut butter melted into it? It is essentially a liquid Reese’s Cup.
Another snow day treat that can lead to an impromptu history lesson is molasses-on-snow candy. If you remember the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura and her sister Mary used to pour a mixture of molasses and brown sugar on to clean, fresh snow and let it harden, and then enjoy eating the “snow candy” (recipe below).
This is a two-ingredient recipe, and the outdoor element of collecting snow for the molasses mixture to harden on can break up the monotony of a long day inside.
Of course, the easiest way to keep kids occupied in the kitchen is to make a batch of sugar cookie dough and let them roll and cut out cookies to their heart’s content. This can take hours, and though you may eventually find yourself cleaning flour off the kitchen ceiling, the actual cookie baking and eating become the merest afterthought once the rolling pin and cookie cutters come out. This is where the real fun (and creativity) lies. After we baked cookies, I used to point out how cold it was outside and how hungry the birds must be, suggesting that maybe we should break the cookies into crumbs and feed them to the birds… and then another outdoor activity was created, allowing us to avoid a snow day sugar high from eating what we baked.
Snow days can be wonderful unplanned interludes in the life of a family. I hope you’ll make the most of yours!
Prep time: 40 minutes
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1 cup bottled tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups cream
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup shredded gouda cheese
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheeseNote: you can add fontina, muenster, or any mild cheese that you have on hand, but the gouda cheese is what makes this taste best
- 2 tablespoons butter for putting on top of pasta before baking
- Cook pasta in a large soup pot, adding 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. For the penne, allow 11 minutes to reach the “al dente” stage. Drain and put aside.
- Mix all other ingredients, except butter, in a large bowl and add the cooked pasta.
- Put the mixture into a baking dish and dot with small pieces of butter.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until top is brown.
-from the Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes: ¾ pound of candy
- 1 cup dark molasses
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 nine-inch pie pans
- Fill pie pans with fresh snow, then set outside in snow to stay cold while making the candy.
- Combine molasses and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to medium heat and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning.
- Test the syrup by dripping from a spoon into a glass of cold water until the syrup forms a firm ball in the water, or if you have a candy thermometer, heat syrup to 245 degrees.
- Remove from heat and divide hot syrup between two pyrex measuring cups.
- Bring in pans of snow and pour syrup onto snow in a thin stream, making lines and curlicue patterns if you like.
- Allow candy to harden, then break into bite-sized pieces.