One look at the mess in the kitchen and that special-day meal the children made for you can lose its appeal.
We all remember the wonder of being old enough to cook for Mom and Dad, especially on birthdays and Mother's Day and Father's Day.
As parents, we want to encourage the same excitement in our little darlings -- only without the mess.
A make-ahead breakfast lets you manage the chaos in the kitchen while allowing your children to take ownership of a piping hot meal and brightening everyone's day.
Overnight French toast couldn't be easier to make and is perfect for little helpers. Soak the bread overnight, leaving space between the slices for it to puff up, and bake in the morning.
The two baked egg dishes are a bit more complicated. One cradles the eggs in a cheese sauce and is elegant enough to serve for dinner -- just add steamed vegetables.
The other, from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything: The Basics" (Wiley, $35), uses caramelized onions and cheese as the base for the eggs.
Bittman says any vegetable works as a bed for the eggs, including roasted or mashed potatoes, squash, chopped asparagus or grated carrots. Just be sure the vegetables are cooked tender. Bittman suggests cooking the onions until soft and tender but not browned, but allowing them to brown a bit will only deepen the caramelized flavor. Also, don't cover the egg yolks with cheese or cheese sauce, so you can gauge when they're done. The eggs should come out of the oven while the yolks are still a little jiggly; otherwise, the yolk will be dry and rubbery.
The baked egg tarts are scrumptious, but also a lot of work. Our recipe tester offers several suggestions to ease preparation.
Pillsbury's signature crescent roll dough is easier to mold into oiled cupcake pans than flattened bread slices. Bake the crescent roll crust alone for about 12 minutes, let cool, then fill and bake again according to recipe directions.
Taco-size tortillas are another option. Heat them on both sides in a frying pan with olive oil, then mold into oversize muffin pans. Bake empty about 12 minutes, cool, fill and bake according to directions.
The recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, but grape tomatoes are a bit more manageable. Cut in half, squeeze out a little of the juice and place cut side down on the tart filling.