Seattle's Child

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cooking with kids thanksgiving

Cooking with kids: holiday clover rolls, pumpkin pie, Brussels sprout gratin

Great ways to involve kids in making a feast

Thanksgiving and other holiday season meals usually stand out from meals during the rest of the year. And that means helping prepare them can be a magical experience for young cooks!

Over the course of teaching classes at Frog Legs Kids Culinary Academy, I have learned that children have so much pride when showing off something they have created. And they don’t have to be involved in every step of the process for them to feel that sense of pride. Whether they are doing a little or a lot, participating in the creation of a feast makes a big difference for them.

A few tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of messes. After all, you’re going to have to clean the whole place when you’re done, anyway. What’s a little extra flour on the floor?
  • Get them involved: pulling herbs, rolling dough, stirring flour, cracking eggs. There are times when it’s just not convenient to have help – I know! – so sometimes I resort to a little trick. The kids will do preparatory steps by my side, but I won’t use what they did in the meal. They have such fun helping, and it isn’t hard to keep the secret.
  • Kids love to cut – just be sure you give them a safe knife. Herbs, peeled fruit, and soft vegetables like zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes will work perfectly with a kid-friendly blade and will easily involve the kids in food prep.
  • From kitchen to table: Have the kids fill all the candle holders, fold napkins, make place cards, or set out the flatware.

Here are some recipes created at Frog Legs that involve the kids and will be a delicious addition to your holiday meal!

Clover Dinner Rolls


  • 1 cup warm milk (105 to 110 degrees)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup melted butter


Preheat oven to 350º.

In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup, combine milk, sugar and yeast. Let stand for five to 10 minutes or until mixture is foamy. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine softened butter, egg and salt. Add yeast mixture, beating at low speed until smooth. Gradually add flour, beating at medium speed until a smooth and elastic dough forms (dough will be slightly sticky). Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Form dough into a ball, and place in greased bowl, turning to grease top of dough. Cover, and let stand in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, for one hour or until doubled in size.

Spray two (12-cup) muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Divide dough into 24 equal portions. Divide each portion into three pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Place three dough balls in each muffin cup. Brush evenly with cream. Cover, and let stand in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 35 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Shortcut: You can’t go wrong with a Pillsbury crescent roll. They are delicious and easy and kids can make a lot of them and have it be fun!

Positively Perfect Pumpkin Pie


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pie dough – frozen or prepared earlier
  • If you have pumpkin pie spice, add 1 to 2 teaspoons to punch up the flavor


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place one piece of your homemade pie dough down into a (nine-inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for one hour to firm up OR follow the directions on the package of your store-bought frozen pie crust for baking with an uncooked crust.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese. Add the sugar until creamy and light, then the cooled melted butter, then the eggs (one at a time, mixing after each egg addition) and beat until combined. Add the pumpkin, half-and-half, and salt, and beat until combined.

Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and pie spice, if using, and beat until incorporated. Be sure to taste the mixture to ensure it is seasoned enough with the spices. I always do this and sometimes add an extra teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Shortcut: Don’t hesitate to use a store-bought pie crust, remembering the goal is to have your kids involved and feel successful. If there is leftover pie dough, it is fun to use a small cookie cutter to cut out leaf or pumpkin shapes to place on top of your pie or along the edge of the crust.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin with Breadcrumb Topping


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered lengthwise through core (can substitute broccoli)
  • 1 head of cauliflower (about one pound), trimmed, cut into small florets
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Prepare the cauliflower by cutting – or breaking; kids love this! – them into florets. If substituting broccoli for Brussels sprouts, prepare like cauliflower. Place each vegetable in a microwavable bowl with one inch of water and cook for four minutes until just tender. Drain the water and set veggies aside.

Combine cream, shallots and sage in a large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about eight minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir until beginning to brown, about two minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter 11- by 7-inch glass baking dish. Arrange half of vegetables in dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then one cup Parmesan. Arrange remaining vegetables evenly over the others and sprinkle with remaining one cup Parmesan. Pour cream mixture evenly over it all.

Cover gratin with foil. Bake covered 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle breadcrumb topping over it and bake uncovered 15 minutes longer.

In 2007, Laura Vida Thompson founded Frog Legs Kids Culinary Academy, a cooking school in Seattle and Kirkland where kids (and adults) have a hands-on fun cooking experience. 

More at Seattle’s Child:

Are your children creating kitchen nightmares? Good!

Pumpkin: It’s more than just pie

Recipes for fall: Healthy pumpkin oat muffins


About the Author

Laura Vida Thompson