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One of the things I always wanted to do with my future kids, when I imagined them in my head before I was a mother, was bake goodies for holidays, special occasions, or just a rainy weekend indoors. I pictured us measuring our ingredients while reinforcing lessons about fractions and addition – so that some education was snuck into the fun like the secret ingredient in a family recipe. Well, that semi-quiet and calm day of baking with my boys may come when they’re a bit older. For now, our everyday real life is loud, and rather messy. That’s fine. I’m learning to love our beautiful mess. Since I’m a type A personality with OCD tendencies, an aversion to germs and a thing for tidiness . . . it’s a process.
My currently two & three and a half year old boys are teaching me to see the beauty in fun, messy but memorable times. One of the things I’ve also learned is to make things as easy as possible. If I was baking for a chic dinner party worthy dessert, I’d take ny time measure to perfection and have not a child in sight to distract me. When I’m after some quality time, however, I opt for easy. A great compromise I’ve found for quick with quality is the Trader Joe’s boxed Pumpkin Bread Mix.

Pumpkin Bread in my family is a beloved tradition. Every year, my Dad totes in several large cans of pumpkin goop – you know the one I’m taking about. It’s used for everything from pie to pancakes and goop really is the best way to describe it. He follows a recipe that he likely has memorized now but used to be housed in some passed down, spiral bound, compilation cookbook with a red plastic cover. Now this easy Trader Joe’s version does not fully rival my Dad’s BUT he eats it happily and comes back for seconds. If it gets a nod from the pumpkin bread master, I’m fairly certain you’ll love it as well. It may even fool a mother in law if you’d be so bold.

You don’t have to dole out teaspoons of nutmeg. It’s all in the box, save for oil, eggs and water. I baked some recently with my three year old, while his little brother took a nap. It was easy enough for him to really help and he was ecstatic. When he poured the mix out of the box and into our mixing bowl, I could immediately smell all of the spices.

We had a great time, and except for the moment when he asked if he could go pour the batter on his sleeping baby brother, it was a very sweet afternoon. “I love making with you, momma,” he told me. “Its baking baby. I love baking with you too,” I replied.

It’s okay if things aren’t perfect, or quite the way you pictured they might be. Especially if kids – or the adults who love them – are learning new things. Sometimes you just have to Take It Easy Bake It Easy.