A low (but delicious) bar for creativity

How do you know if your child is being creative?

Frequently, my children seem random but not necessarily creative. And admittedly, part of creativity is just trying out some stuff and seeing what sticks. But the vast majority of what my children do is trying out stuff (e.g., throwing toothbrushes in toilets, making odd sounds, trying to blow bubbles with water) and none of it “sticks.”

Cogsci-toddler always has an interest-of-the-moment. He went through a cactus phase, a mannequin phase, a sea anemone phase… this summer, he has been into italian cypress trees and baking. So we’ve been pointing out cypress trees in our neighborhood and baking banana bread (thanks to trader joe’s mix!) and parsnip muffins.

At the beginning of summer cogsci-toddler started a new preschool (the Anna Bing Arnold Children’s Center at CalStateLA) and we had a little orientation/get-to-know you session with the teacher. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:

teacher: What do you like to do?

cogsci-toddler: I like to bake!

teacher: What do you like to bake?

cogsci-toddler: M&M bread!

And at that moment, I was like (quietly in my head), “Hey! We’ve never made such a thing! But… hm… that’s a good idea!” I was so proud of Amos for inventing a whole “new” recipe. Granted I googled zucchini bread recipes and then we just added the M&Ms before baking, but that is probably how great chefs begin — by tweaking other recipes.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman writes about how knowing the proper ratio (the fundamental ratio of the essential ingredients) basically unlocks an infinite number of variations. I like to think of recipes as equations… you can swap out ingredients that have the same “value” or function and get a new kind of experience… When people do that, we call that “being creative”! Melissa Clark of the NYTimes food section made lemon bars by swapping out some of butter for olive oil. Or what about Chef Roy Choi of Kogi truck fame who swapped out carne asada for some galbi and skyrocketed to culinary greatness?

I’m pretty sure Amos is not going to get a food truck or anything so if you want some of his M&M bread, you’re going to have to make it yourself!

amos cooking IMG_0916 IMG_0917

Cogsci-toddler’s M&M Bread (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c grated zucchini
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc)
  • mini-m&ms for top (we like to put 5-8 per muffin, depends on how consistent your child is, mine starts off with a lot per muffin…)

(Recipe adapted from this one.)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon). Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl (eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla). Then mix together with zucchini and nuts until just combined. Spoon into muffin tin and top with M&Ms. Bake for 25 min.

Note that the M&M colors might bleed. I suspect part of what we see is due to cogsci-toddler’s excessive fondling of the M&Ms before placing them on the cupcakes.

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2 thoughts on “A low (but delicious) bar for creativity

  1. Mai An says:

    Looks yummy!

  2. treevalley says:

    only you could bring together cognition, creativity, cooking, computation, and cute toddler antics. “excessive fondling of the m&m’s” hahaha!

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