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The Teaching Kitchen at the Children's Museum of Denver Photo By Carol W. Maybach

Cooking With Kids: The Teaching Kitchen at the Children’s Museum

Looking to cultivate a healthy eater? Check out one of the museum's hands-on (and free!) cooking classes.

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Opened on November 20 as part of the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus‘s $16.1 million renovation, the Teaching Kitchen offers hands-on daily cooking classes for children and their parents. Although the healthy-eating educational program is relatively new, it has caught on quickly. When I arrived for a recent visit at 9:20 a.m. (just 20 minutes after the museum had opened), the cooking classes were already booked solid for the entire day.

The adorable and fully-equipped Teaching Kitchen is designed to look like a hip eatery. Observing the class, the children (most of whom range in age from four to eight) looked engaged and enthralled. They were having so much fun, in fact, that they hardly realized that they were learning healthy eating habits.

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And that is exactly the point, according to Katy Batsel, one of the Teaching Kitchen Specialists, “We keep the classes to 20 minutes to capture this age group’s attention span,” she explains. “The recipes are so easy and delicious, that they end up making them at home, which is exactly what we’re trying to achieve.” Classes feature straightforward, kid-friendly items like crêpes with Nutella and strawberries and gingerbread pancakes with pear applesauce.

Alliance Francaise of Denver is also getting in on the Teaching Kitchen fun, offering a French Chef Series for pint-sized cooks on the fourth Thursday of each month. Each session incorporates lessons in geography and culture by introducing kids to the ingredients used in different regions of France. For example, for the tarte aux pommes (French apple tart) class on February 25, children will learn about typical French regional ingredients as well as fun facts about the Eiffel Tower and Paris.

Feeling inspired to get your own kiddo involved in the kitchen? The Children’s Museum was nice enough to share their scrumptious recipe for gingerbread pancakes with pear sauce with us. It’s the perfect kid-friendly (and secretly healthy) weekend breakfast.

Tip: Classes are free with museum admission. However, class size is limited to 16 people total (that includes parents), so plan to arrive by 9 a.m. to register for one of the five classes offered that day. Check the museum website here for current schedules and course offerings.

Children’s Museum of Denver, 2121 Children’s Museum Drive, 303-433-7444

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Recipe: Gingerbread pancakes with pear applesauce

For the gingerbread pancakes:

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups milk

5 tablespoons molasses

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2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

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2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

Nonstick cooking spray, as needed

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In a medium bowl, beat egg with whisk. Add in milk, molasses, canola oil, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.

In another medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just smooth.

Heat a large, nonstick sauté pan or electric griddle over medium-high heat. Lightly spray skillet with cooking spray, if necessary. Use 1/8 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter and pour onto the hot pan for each pancake. Cook until pancakes start to bubble and are lightly browned on the bottom, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on other side. Remove from heat.

Serve with Pear Applesauce (see recipe below), yogurt, or fresh fruit.

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For the pear applesauce:

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

5 pears, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

cinnamon to taste

Add apples and pears to a sauce pot. Add 1/2 cup of water and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes.

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Mash until smooth using a potato masher or blender. Add cinnamon to taste.

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