Caleb and I were baking thumbprint cookies last Sunday and I thought I’d try taking those small steps with him by asking where some of the ingredients came from. “Caleb, do you know where these Pecans come from?” He responded, “A pecan tree!” I then asked him if he could tell me where eggs come from and he answered hesitantly, “from an egg tree?” I stifled my laughter and could hear Mateo doing the same from the other room. I went on to lamely explain that chickens poop out eggs each day, but I meant ’pop out’ and I heard Mateo saying “this is going well!” I dropped the subject right there, thinking to myself “you come in here and try having this conversation and see how well you do!”
It’s not like we’re just starting to talk about food and where it comes from with Caleb. Each week, we pick up our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box of organic produce. Caleb picks the box up from the porch of the local drop-off site and very proudly walks it back to our car. We get our box from Full Belly Farm – a real multi-family, certified organic farm on 300 acres of land in the Capay Valley – and he understands that everything in it was delivered to us fresh from the farm. As we’re putting the produce away in our kitchen, we play Name that Vegetable! with Caleb. He usually passes with flying colors and wins a brand new Chevy Malibu. When he doesn’t know the answer, then we just teach him.
We can and should talk with our kids about where food comes from. We can also teach the importance of really getting their little hands into it, and activate all of their senses while cooking.
This brings me back to the thumbprint cookies. Caleb and I have made them several times together and it’s such a kid-friendly recipe. Thumbprints are basic ice-box cookies that are fun to make. Caleb’s little hands love to roll the cold dough into small balls and place them onto the cookie sheet. He then presses them down with his palm and creates a well for the jam with his little thumb. We take turns spooning the jam into the center of the cookies with one of Sadie’s baby spoons, which are perfect for the job! Caleb will open the oven door for me and I’ll pop the sheet in and we wait for our house to fill up with the fragrance of sweet, baking cookies. Once the cookies have cooled on the rack, the real reward comes! Eating these not-too-sweet cookies is a real treat because they’re old-fashioned and they take you back to a simpler time. I can also see that Caleb feels such a sense of accomplishment after having made them with his own hands and I love that.
Makes about 32 cookies
3/4 cup pecans – process until course in food processor
2/3 confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg at room temperature
Jam (we use low-sugar strawberry, but try any kind!)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Beat together butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at high-speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat well. Add flour and ground-pecan mixture and mix at low-speed until just combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Dough will be crumbly but will hold together when squeezed.) Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, pull out dough and roll into small balls (slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball), place on buttered pan, use palm to gently flatten dough to about a ½ inch thick, use your thumb (or the back of a wooden spoon handle) to create little wells for the jam, then spoon in the jam of your choice.
Bake cookies in middle of oven until tops are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.