Even though I live in the Northeastern United States, where the coronavirus hit early and hard this spring, but is relatively in check for the moment, life is still much quieter than normal. Vacations and family picnics have been postponed, many museums and indoor entertainment centers remain closed, and up until recently, restaurants and bars were completely shuttered. Even now, they are open mostly for takeout or makeshift outdoor dining on sidewalks, parking lots, and in some cases, even cordoned-off sections of streets.

So for the most part, we’re still cooking and eating at home.

That’s not a bad thing, especially in summer when appetites are lighter. And for families, with kids home—and likely to be home for a while as schools start online—a way to save money and spend quality time together is often in the kitchen.

Below are a few recipes easy for kids to pitch in and that can even be directed by teens, who are also home and eager for something to do. They need to learn how to cook sometime, so why not now in the hazy days of a most unusual summer.

Note that these individual recipes are dairy, meat and pareve, and not meant for a single meal.

STONE SOUP: With or without the actual stone, this is the best catch-all for veggies past their prime. Tomatoes, lettuce, arugula—any greens for that matter—give flavor and body to the soup. The story goes, in Eastern Europe, a wandering Jewish man arrived in a village looking for food. “There’s no food here,” he was told. “No problem. I’ll make stone soup.” He dropped a stone into a cauldron of boiling water, stirred it, sniffed it and said loud enough to be heard. “This is good, but a bit of cabbage would be better.” Soon a villager came with a cabbage he’d been hoarding. They stirred it in and tasted. “Delicious,” said the soldier, “though some salt beef would make it fit for a king.” The butcher came with salt beef … and so it continued with potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms until there was a thick, hearty soup to be shared by all contributors. The Jewish man was offered a great deal of money for the stone but refused to sell it and went on his way having both helped feed the villagers and never to be hungry again. The moral of this story? Work together, be smart, and success is at hand.

SCOTCH BOMBS: These have nothing to do with Scotland. “Scotching” refers to mincing. A hard-cooked egg is coated in ground meat and breadcrumbs, and then baked or fried. Fortnum’s of London claims to have invented the dish as part of their picnic basket trade in the early 16th century. I cut the eggs in half before coating.

BUTTERFLY CAKES: When I was growing up in the Shetland Islands, there were no computers, cell phones or even television. After school, in the short winter days, I’d rush home to bake these dainty little cakes. Cupcakes were called “Fairy Cakes,” the British name for a feather-light cupcake that rose in a peak in the center. Slice the top off, cut in half to make the wings and set on top of a blob of jam or frosting. They were always served at birthdays and at my Mom’s card evenings. Easy and fun, they simply delight children (and their parents).

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING: Francis Coulson at Sharrow Bay in the Lake District claims to have created the original recipe in the 1970s, though the Scots claim it as their own. “Nobody loves sugar more than the Scots,” goes the saying, evident from the sweet shops on every street corner in the country. The popular, dark date dessert is crowned with a rich toffee sauce. To be more decadent, top it off with a dollop of whipped cream. The recipe below is from Mike Benayoun, the” daredevil” who with Vera “the expert” writes “196 Flavors,” a unique culinary blog.

A whole cabbage and a cross-section. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Stone Soup (Pareve)

Serves 10-12

Cook’s Tips:

*Chop the veggies in the food processor or slice thinly.

*Do you have the remains of shredded cabbage in a bag? Use it.

*Vegetable juice may be used for part of the water.

*Leftovers taste even better second day or may be frozen.


¼ cup vegetable oil

2 large onions, chopped coarsely

4-5 cups total of sliced or chopped greens, cabbage and root vegetables

2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon powder or 6 cubes

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

1½ teaspoons chopped bottled garlic

1½ teaspoons cumin or to taste

6-8 cups water

salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large soup pot.

Add the onions. Cover and simmer over low heat until onions are soft and yellow, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not brown.

Add the vegetables. Cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the bouillon powder, tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic and cumin. Add enough water to come about 2 inches above the vegetable mixture.

Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes longer. Add more water and bouillon if too thick.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and more cumin, if desired.

Ground beef. Credit: Pixabay.

Scotch Bombs (Meat)

Makes 8

Cook’s Tips:

*Ground beef, turkey or chicken may be used.

*Process two slices bread in a food processor for fine breadcrumbs.


¾ pound ground beef

1 tablespoon dried parsley, sage or thyme

¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs, halved crosswise

1 egg, beaten

½ cup fine breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the beef, parsley, salt and pepper. Pat into 8 rounds.

Work 1 round over each egg half to cover completely. Roll in the beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven until meat is beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

Serve at room temperature.

Perfect Hard-Cooked Eggs: Place in one layer in a pot. Pour water over to come about an inch above the eggs. Bring to a rolling boil. Continue for 3 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand on burner for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water. Crack shells with a heavy spoon. Under cold running water, peel off shells beginning at the narrow end.

Butterfly Cakes. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Butterfly Cakes (Dairy)

Makes 12

Cook’s Tips:

*Any preserves may be used instead of frosting.

*Use paper muffin liners to line muffin pans.

*If frosting becomes too stiff, zap in the microwave for 7 seconds.


1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


6 tablespoons butter, softened

1½ cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon milk or cream

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, with ¼ cup flour, beating well between each addition.

Add remaining ¼ cup flour, baking powder and vanilla extract. Beat well to blend. Mixture will be smooth and creamy.

Bake in preheated oven, 15 minutes or until risen and golden-brown.

Lift out of muffin pan and cool on wire rack.

 Prepare frosting: Beat the butter and sugar until pale, about 1 minute. If too stiff, add a little milk or cream, sparingly, to make a spreadable mixture.

To assemble: With a sharp knife, slice the top off of each cupcake. Cut in half to resemble two wings. Spread the top of the cupcake with frosting and place the wings on top, like butterfly wings. Dust with confectioners’ sugar (optional).

Organically produced blackstrap molasses produced in Paraguay. Credit: Badagnani via Wikimedia Commons.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (Dairy)

Serves 10-12

Cook’s Tips:

*May use salted butter instead of unsalted.

*Chopped dates are available in markets.

*Use baking soda, not baking powder, to add to dates.


1¼ cups chopped pitted dates

¾ cup boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons molasses

¼ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

butter to grease baking dish


½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

¾ cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease an 11×8-inch baking dish.

Place the dates, boiling water and baking soda in a medium bowl. Stir and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and molasses until blended.

Add the sugar, one egg and ¼ cup flour. Beat to blend.

Add the remaining egg with ¼ cup flour and beat to blend. Add the remaining ¾ cup flour gradually, beating well between each addition. Add the baking powder with last addition.

Pour the chopped date mixture over the batter.

Stir with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until firm in center. As soon as cake is out of the oven, prick all over with a fork.

Pour about half the sauce over. Set aside for 30 minutes.

To serve, cut into squares and pass the remaining sauce to spoon over.

Prepare the sauce: While cake is baking, melt butter, brown sugar and molasses in a pan over lowest heat. Stir in the cream and turn heat to medium. Stir often. When it begins to bubble, remove from heat. Use as above. Put a lid on the remaining sauce to keep warm.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.

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