Knot Your Average Snack

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Find more about cooking with kids, dinner

I'm halfway through making marmalade chicken and rice when Ellie discovers the dinner menu. "Can I make dinner tonight?" she asks. Translation: "Not chicken again! I'd better take over, quick!"

The thought of my 9-year-old daughter and her somewhat finicky eating habits coming up with dinner for five in 15 minutes is somewhat alarming. It's a fairly safe bet that we'd wind up with pears, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Oreos on our plates. And access to those sharp knives — yikes!

I suggested she start with something more manageable, when we have a tad more time. To prove I'm not putting her off for good, before bed we pull out Mollie Katzen's HONEST PRETZELS, a cookbook designed to help wean kids 8 and up from parents in the kitchen and become independent cooks. Ellie chooses the cover recipe, Honest Pretzels, and that Saturday she and Caitlin tackle it together.

HONEST PRETZELS is cleverly designed with recipes divided into tasks that are kid-friendly and tasks where an adult hand is required. Since we've baked together since they were 2, I'm sure Ellie and Caitlin could have followed their parts to a T. But as soon as they got to measuring the flour, Talie and I decided this looked too fun to pass up.

So, together we measured and mixed. After some hearty pounding, we divided the dough, so each of us had a healthy portion to roll into snakes and arrange into the classic pretzel twist. Most exciting was plunking the pretzels into boiling water and watching them bob to the surface like rubber ducks in a turbulent pool.(Note: Pinch joints hard before boiling so the pretzels retain their shape through this ordeal.)

I let Caitlin and Ellie go nuts with the kosher salt — there had to be one lesson here — which came down like a February snow before we popped the pretzels into the oven. We ate them as soon as they were cool enough. They were fabulous served with several glasses of water.

Ellie and Caitlin may not be ready for solo dinner prep quite yet, but if pressed, at least I know they won't over-salt the pears and Cheerios.

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