Cooking with Kids: Homemade Sprinkles and a Birthday Party

It’s easy to make funky little homemade sprinkles to brighten up a bowl of ice cream or birthday cakes, doughnuts, cookies – whatever needs a hit of flavour, colour, and crunch.

Sprinkles, little round ones Homemade Sprinkles, Pink Long

Cooking with Meredith

It was birthday party time – Meredith’s to be exact. She turned nine last week. What fun for me to get invited to her party. Twelve happy girls having a blast!

A bouquet of balloons birthday cake candle blowing

They bounced like jumping beans in the bouncy castle, crafted little chef ornaments out of wooden spoons, decorated their own chef’s aprons, piled their plates high at the taco bar, and dithered happily over choices at the cake and sundae bar, but the highlight of the evening was the uproarious game of Musical Chairs – good old-fashioned musical chairs. The girls wanted to play again and again, shrieking and laughing with joy as they scrambled for chairs whenever the music stopped. It’s obviously a game that has stood the test of time, as I remember playing Musical Chairs at my own birthday parties when I was that age!

It takes time to pipe all those homemade sprinkles.

The week before Meredith’s birthday, she and I had a great cooking session making sprinkles for her party. We decided on little button ones, which are fairly labour intensive, but a lot of fun to make. Our project grew bigger than we’d planned as we kept deciding to make just one more colour. We decided to make the long pink sprinkles, too.

Homemade Sprinkles, Pink Jimmies

The homemade sprinkles were a party hit at the Cake and Ice Cream Sundae Bar for dessert. The girls piled the sprinkles onto their ice cream bowls and gobbled them up.

a bowl of kid fun - drown the ice cream with chocolate syrup, mound on the whipped cream, then shower with colourful homemade sprinkles

a bowl of kid fun – drown the ice cream with chocolate syrup, mound on the whipped cream, then shower with colourful homemade sprinkles

Meredith chose the colours we used, and we tried matching the flavourings to the colours – orange extract for the orange sprinkles, lemon extract for the yellow sprinkles, and raspberry for the blue sprinkles (I know, but close, eh?), we used chocolate flavouring for the pink sprinkles. You could also just use vanilla or almond extract, if that’s all you have.

Homemade Sprinkles, long pretty pink ones Homemade Sprinkles, Pretty Yellow Beads
The citrus extracts actually add lovely little bursts of flavour when you use these sprinkles to top ice cream, cakes, or cupcakes.

Homemade Sprinkles are pretty on cupcakes

pink sprinkles can dress up cupcakes for a party

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Kitchen Frau Notes: This homemade sprinkles recipe is basically a plain icing with a bit of flavouring and a tablespoon of syrup to keep it supple and not form a crust too quickly as it dries. You can drop the icing into little beads, or make long strands which you chop into short pieces to make ‘jimmies’. The beads are more time consuming but look lovely. The longer jimmies are quicker to make and look more traditional. It’s great to have some of both on hand. I think they’d keep for a long time in the cupboard. We made the pink ones with water instead of milk, so I think they should last almost forever!

I found a lot of different ways to make sprinkles online, but finally settled on a version of this recipe from Snixy Kitchen and played with it a bit. I found that the beads were easier to make when the icing was a bit runnier, and Meredith and I liked it with a bit more flavouring – the sprinkles are good enough to eat straight from the bag!

Homemade Sprinkles, Orange, Blue and Yellow Beads

Homemade Sprinkles

adapted slightly from Snixy Kitchen

  • 1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon milk, water, or non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon golden cane syrup (we used Roger’s Syrup) or corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon flavouring, whatever flavour fits to the colour of the sprinkles
  • paste or liquid food colouring

Mix the icing sugar, milk, syrup and flavouring in a small bowl. Stir until all the lumps are worked out and the icing is smooth. You want a fairly runny icing, kind of like a pudding consistency. Add a drop more water if too thick, or a spoonful more icing sugar if too thin.

homemade sprinkles, making the icing

Add the colouring: if using liquid food colouring, add one drop at a time and stir after each addition. If using paste colouring, use a toothpick or skewer and add about a rice-grain-sized dab at a time, stirring after each addition. Use a new toothpick or clean skewer each time you dip into the container (it can go ‘bad’ if contaminated). Keep in mind that the colour of the sprinkles lightens as they dry, so tint them a deeper shade than you think.

Scrape the icing into a zip-top sandwich baggie (snack-sized works best). This is easiest to do with two people – one to hold open the baggie, and one to scrape in the icing. You can also use a piping bag with a small round-holed tip.

Line baking sheets with wax paper or parchment paper, or lay  the paper pieces  directly on the countertop.

Snip a teeny tiny corner off the baggie, and holding it straight above the paper, pipe rows of tiny dots, or long stripes.

a big batch of homemade sprinkles

Leave  the sprinkles on the counter to air dry for 24 hours. If you need to move the sheets of parchment paper, slide a rimless cookie sheet or a piece of cardboard under the paper to lift it and set it elsewhere. When dry, you can just pop the sprinkle beads off the paper. If you’ve piped lines, pop them off the paper and bunch them gently together. Slide a cutting board under the paper, and cut the bundles of strips into short pieces with a sharp knife.

Homemade sprinkles, easy pink jimmies Homemade Sprinkles, Cutting up Pink Jimmies

Store the homemade sprinkles in airtight containers.

Homemade Sprinkles in baggies

we collected all the irregular blobs and bits and combined them for a batch of ‘misbits’

Makes ½ to ¾ cup of sprinkles, depending on the shapes you make.

Guten Appetit!


See what else we’ve been having fun with in our ‘Cooking with Kids’ section!


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Homemade Raspberry Marshmallows (easy no-thermometer recipe)

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Easy Homemade Ice Cream Cake

Homemade Sprinkles, licking off the icing

if you get icing on your arm, you don’t want to waste the taste!

Posted in Cooking with Kids, Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

It’s so easy to stir together a few spices to make homemade pumpkin pie spice mix; convenient to use and always fresh.

jar and spoon of pumpkin pie spice mix

At this time of year I’m making all kinds of warm and comforting fall dishes, lots of them using pumpkin and spices. And going out to buy a jar of premixed pumpkin pie spice just seems like a waste of time and money when I can mix up my own at home in minutes using the spices I already have in my cupboard.

Here’s a basic mix for those warm spices used to flavour pumpkin pies, and all other things that could use a hit of autumnal cheer.

Spices for homemade pumpkin pie spice mix

Use homemade pumpkin pie spice mix instead of cinnamon in pumpkin baked oatmeal, or to replace the individual spices in pumpkin pie or cookie dough balls. Add a spoonful to a latte, smoothie, or a power coffee to jazz it up, add it to pumpkin pie granola, or in pumpkin freezer fudge. Your imagination is the limit to all the possibilities.

* * * * *

top view, homemade pumpkin pie spice mix


Kitchen Frau Notes: Searching the internet will bring up endless variations of ratios for the spices in a pumpkin pie spice mix, but I like the mix of 2 parts cinnamon to 1 part ginger, and then smaller amounts of nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Some recipes use only cloves, but I find them quite overpowering. I like the rounded depth of flavour that allspice brings to the mix, so I use a combination of both. And I have to have nutmeg, since it’s my most favourite-est spice in the world! If you have whole nutmeg, grate it fresh for the best flavour.

*All spices used are ground.

Jar of pumpkin pie spice mix


Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cloves

Combine all spices in a small bowl or jar. Stir or shake well to mix them up evenly.

Store in a sealed jar, away from light, at room temperature.

Makes a scant ¼ cup.

Guten Appetit!

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Posted in How-to-Basics, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Asian Pear and Chicken Slaw

A light crunchy cabbage, red pepper, and chicken slaw sweetened with crisp Asian pear and rounded out with a zesty, herby dressing.

Asian Pear and chicken slaw with cilantro

I love having leftover cooked chicken in the fridge. There are so many ways to use it. Aside from my favourite way of sandwiching it between two slices of mayonnaise-slathered toast, with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper, the best way to serve cooked chicken is to add it to a colourful crunchy slaw like this one. The hit of protein turns the salad into a light meal, or makes a great side dish. Try serving it with a baked sweet potato drizzled with coconut oil or tahini, or with a piece of crusty bread or toast.

Asian pears are so good right now – heavy and sweet and crisp. They add a delightful juicy crunch and a subtle fruitiness to this simple slaw, while the dressing gets its hit of flavour from dried basil and toasted sesame oil – a great combination.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I’ve made this salad without the chicken, too, and it’s a refreshingly light slaw that is great as a side dish.

bowl of Asian pear and Chicken slaw with cilantro

Asian Pear and Chicken Slaw

  • 4 cups (300gms) shredded cabbage (about ¼ of a large head)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 green onions (spring onions or scallions)
  • 1 Asian pear
  • 2 cups (250gms) shredded or julienned cooked chicken (optional)
  • 1 handful cilantro sprigs (about ½ cup, chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

for the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (gluten free, if necessary)
  • 4 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil (I like grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper

Core the cabbage and shred it finely by hand.


shredding cabbage for Asian Pear and Chicken Slaw

Core the red pepper and cut it into fine strips. Cut the white and light green parts of the green onions into lengthwise strips, then cut the onions into about 1½ inch (4cm) lengths. Cut the Asian pear into quarters, cut out the cores, then slice the quarters thinly, stack the slices, and cut them into julienne strips. Roughly chop the cilantro sprigs.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar or cup. Shake or whisk  them to combine them.

Sliced ingredients for Asian pear and chicken slaw

In a large bowl, combine  all the salad ingredients. Pour the dressing over, and toss gently to combine.

Makes about 8 cups (2 litres) if using chicken, serving 4 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish.

Guten Appetit!

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Sweet and Zippy Mango Salad with Mango Chipotle Dressing

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Posted in Chicken & Poultry, Salads & Dressings | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pumpkin Freezer Fudge, my New Addiction

One bite of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, decadent Pumpkin Freezer Fudge will have you moaning with pleasure and hiding the rest of the pan to keep it for yourself.

Luscious creamy Pumpkin Freezer Fudge

All things pumpkin are on my mind, of course, since it’s only days from Halloween.

Last weekend we had our annual pumpkin-carving gathering. The artistry and creativity of our pumpkin carving crew always amazes me. It’s a busy hive of ‘squashy’ activity – pumpkin flesh and pumpkin guts everywhere. The nutty smell of pumpkin seeds being roasted fills the air, and pumpkin soup fills our bellies afterward.

The best part of the evening is when it gets dark and we light up the jack o’lanterns to finally see the results of our labours. It’s a rewarding moment, as we all crowd together in the dark to see those smiling, scary faces.

Pumpkin Freezer Fudge - Lineup of cool jack o'lanterns Pumpkin Freezer Fudge, Jack o'Lanterns in the Dark

This pumpkin freezer fudge was a part of our dessert platter and it disappeared first. I’ve got a new batch in the freezer right now and it’s all I can do to keep myself from inhaling the whole pan and never telling the family it was there to start with!

You can not believe how creamy and pumpkin-pie-y it tastes. The toasted walnuts add a rich crunch, but your tongue will revel in that melting fudgey lusciousness of every single bite. It’s not too sweet, and it’s made with good-for-you ingredients, like coconut oil, almond butter, coconut sugar, spices, and of course, pumpkin.

Can you believe it? A fudge that is actually good for you? And it’s best straight from the freezer – so you can make a whole pan and keep it frozen for months so you have an instant treat if company drops by! (Who am I kidding? You must  hide it deeeeeep in the depths, under the frozen cauliflower and frozen fish bait, and behind the freezer-burnt chicken gizzards – so no one else could ever find it . . . except you.)

You have got to try this. That. Is. All.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: If you want to make this recipe vegan and are using brown sugar, make sure it’s organic.

You could also substitute pecans for the walnuts.

Pumpkin Freezer Fudge, so addictive


Pumpkin Freezer Fudge

gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, vegan

  • ½ cup (125gms) pure pumpkin puree, canned or well-drained homemade
  • 1 cup (150gms) coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar or maple sugar)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup (120ml) almond or cashew butter
  • 1 cup (240ml) coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup (100gms) toasted walnuts (*see below)

Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x20 cm) square baking dish with a parchment paper sling that sticks up above the pan on two sides. Crease the paper along the two bottom edges so that it lies flat in the pan and goes straight up the sides.

*To toast walnuts – place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown and smelling toasty. Let them cool and rub off any loose skins.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, coconut sugar, spices, salt, and apple cider vinegar.

Whisk in the almond butter, then add the melted coconut oil. Use an immersion blender (stick blender) to blend the mixture until smooth (or whiz it all together in a regular blender). You may have to push the immersion blender up and down into the mixture to get it to start mixing.

Chop the walnuts coarsely and stir them into the fudge mixture.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Chill the mixture in the fridge until firm. 3 to 4 hours.

Run a knife along the edges of the pan without parchment paper to loosen the fudge. Remove the slab of fudge from the pan by pulling up gently on the two parchment paper flaps, and lay the whole slab on a cutting board. Cut the slab into 36 squares. Remove the squares into a freezer container, putting pieces of wax paper or parchment paper between the layers to prevent them from sticking. Store in the freezer and eat straight from frozen. They can also be stored in the fridge.

Makes 36 highly addictive freezer fudge squares.

Guten Appetit!


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Chocolate Truffles

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Pumpkin Carving Party

it’s a busy place

digging out the tasty seeds to roast with seasonings

digging out the tasty seeds to roast with seasonings

Pumpkin Carving Party - time to rest

if you’re the first one done, you get to rest and oversee the others


Posted in Cookies & Candy, Dairy-free | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cooking with Kids: Porcupine Meatballs

Kids can help make these tasty Porcupine Meatballs. It’s fun to see how the rice pokes up into little ‘quills’ after they’re baked.

Cooking with Kids: Meredith with Porcupine Meatballs and veggies

Sometimes life presents us with the best stories and most unexpected coincidences.

This morning when I took a package of frozen hamburger from the freezer to thaw in anticipation of making porcupine meatballs together with Meredith for our after-school cooking session, I didn’t have the slightest inkling that my choice of dish would be so serendipitous.

Around lunchtime I heard Pippa barking and growling outside. She was acting strange. When I went to inspect, I was amazed to find a real, live porcupine up in our apple tree!

Cooking with Kids: Porcupine Meatballs, real porcupine in tree

Pippa’s growling was a result of her run-in with a porcupine earlier this summer – 200 quills in her mouth and a $650 vet bill to remove them. She now has a healthy fear of porcupines – we hope! But just as a precaution, I locked her in her run, and continued to go outside at intervals to see if the porcupine was still up in the tree. It stayed all afternoon and was still there once it got dark. When Meredith came off the school bus, we both got a good close look at it. That long silky fur is deceiving – it hides those dangerous quills.

Cooking with Kids: Porcupine Meatballs, Meredith sees porcupine Cooking with Kids: there's a porcupine in our tree

We even got close enough to see its eyes and its soft little snout. Quite a cute creature.

Cooking with Kids: Don't pet that porcupine

Meredith and I had a good giggle when we got inside to start making our porcupine meatballs – we now had live inspiration for them. She kept taking breaks to run out and see if that real porcupine was still up in the tree.

What are the odds we’d have a real porcupine visit on the very day we were cooking porcupine meatballs? We’ve had the occasional porcupine visit our acreage over the years, but I’ve never been able to get this close to one before. Life really is stranger than fiction sometimes!

These meatballs are kind of fun, because the rice cooks up to stick out like little porcupine quills. There are a lot of onions in the recipe, but they help keep the meat mixture loose and moist so the rice has room to expand as it cooks. The seasoning is very simple, but these porcupine meatballs are tasty and comforting. They got a definite thumbs-up from Meredith, so they are kid-approved. Serve them with buttered spaghetti squash and peas or a green salad.

Cooking with Kids: Porcupine Meatballs with squash and peas

The hardest part of the recipe is cutting the three onions finely. We used a mini food chopper, but because we needed to make batches, we still did a lot of ‘crying’. Meredith invented the ‘onion dance’ – every time the onions got too much for her, she skipped back and forth across the living room and kitchen, waving her arms up and down (and shrieking for good measure), to get fresh air to her eyes. This unusual technique helped immensely in her ability to last throughout the onion chopping chore.

This recipe is a good way for kids to learn the ‘magic’ property of onions – that although they are so sharp and ‘hot’ when raw, they become sweet and mild when cooked, making a dish more delicious.

Cooking with Kids: Meredith doing her onion dance Cooking with Kids: Onion Dance 2

Onion size guidelines:

  • Small onion = 4 ounces, or about ½ cup chopped
  • Medium onion = 8 ounces, or about 1 cup chopped
  • Large onion = 12 ounces, or about 1½ cups chopped
  • Jumbo onion = 16 ounces, or about 2 cups chop

Cooking with Kids: Meredith made Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs

  • 3 medium onions
  • 1½ lbs (680gms) lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ cup long grain white rice
  • 1 large can (28oz/796ml) diced tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Get out a a 9 x 13 inch (23 x33 cm) pan and set it aside.

Peel the onions, then finely chop or mince them, either by hand or in a food processor. If using a food processor, pulse the machine in short bursts so you don’t make a mush of the onions. Stop halfway through and scrape down the bigger chunks from the sides of the food processor bowl.

Cooking with Kids: Meredith mincing Onions Cooking with Kids: Smooshing the Porcupine Meatball Mixture

Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the onions, salt, paprika, and rice. Mix well with your hands until all smooshed together. (We used red onions.)

Pat the mixture down evenly into the bowl, then with your hand push down to cut channels into the hamburger, dividing it into 8 wedges. Carefully take out one wedge at a time and put it onto a plate or cutting board. Divide it into 3 even chunks, then roll each into a ball. The mixture is quite loose, so shape it by gently tossing the ball back and forth between your hands and squeezing lightly.


Make 24 balls. Place the balls into the pan.


Pour the canned diced tomatoes over the meatballs, then use your hands to arrange the tomato chunks evenly among the meatballs.


Cover the pan with aluminum foil, pressing it around the edges to seal it.

Bake for 1 hour.

There  will be quite a lot of liquid, but it will soak into the meatballs as it is served. To serve the meatballs, remove them from the pan gently with a large serving spoon so they don’t break apart.

Serves 6 to 8.

This recipe for porcupine meatballs was given to me by my dear friend Erin, who passed away from cancer two years ago. Whenever I make them, I think of her and remember all the good times we had together.

Cooking with Kids: Pan of Porcupine Meatballs

Guten Appetit!


See lots of other fun ‘Cooking With Kids’ posts here.


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Look at that porcupine!

it was a day of prickly meatballs and prickly visitors

Posted in Cooking with Kids, Meats, Rice | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments