Holiday vacation is a fine time to get the kids involved in fun kitchen projects. Cooking with the kids is easy together-time that’s educational and leaves them with something delicious to eat. But selecting the right project is essential. It’s easy to dream up elaborate baking projects, but the truth is that they usually end up running the clock in terms of the kids’ attention spans. What you want is a recipe that is simple, fast, has instant results and requires no special ingredients, tools or techniques. That way it’s easy to do whenever the mood strikes you.
For that, I usually turn to soft cheese. Kids love cheese, so it’s an easy sell. And it’s fast enough that kids can actually see the cheese form, a huge bonus for easily distracted little ones. This recipe will take you 25 minutes, start to finish.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- Fresh thyme leaves
- Ground black pepper
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk almost to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Stir in the salt, then the lemon juice.
- Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again. Almost immediately, the milk will look grainy and clumpy. This is the fat and protein separating from the whey (liquid).
- Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, use a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the strainer. Let it drain for 5 minutes, stirring gently every once in a while. Transfer the cheese from the strainer into a wide, shallow bowl. You can refrigerate it or serve it warm.
- To serve, top with fresh thyme, pepper and a drizzle of honey.
Recipe by J.M. Hirsch, AP food editor and author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues. Photo: Matthew Mead.