Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kids Cooking

Since I wrote the post "Why Aren't Your Kids Picky Eaters?" I've had several requests for recipes that my kids make for our family dinners. AGAIN - I don't have all the answers, just sharing my personal experience.

What I didn't say in that post was how incredible it has been to reap the many, many benefits of having children that can cook. To name a few: Self Reliance, Math skills (doubling a recipe), Expanding their vocabulary, desire to READ cookbooks, Imagination, Confidence, allowing for substitutions when we are missing an ingredient, being able to identify what tastes good with what (a million different types of onions - which one works for our recipe?). Although I am very athletic and grew up that way - I love that my kids have a hobby that doesn't involve sports, school or media (screen time).

I also have to say, that if BOOKS were drugs - I'd be a dealer. Buy cookbooks FOR KIDS - with kid recipes - with lots of pictures. I can't tell you how my heart swells with happiness every time I catch my kids reading in general - but when they read cookbooks, it always leads to conversation and inspiration with me:) I really have to stop telling people this - but I almost exclusively buy books at Goodwill/Deseret Industries. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get them interested!!

Since my older kids are now nearly 11, 9 and 6, and they've been making family dinners for several years - anything is game for them - so I'll focus on the meals I start my kids cooking when they are little - between 2 and 5 years old...

As I said previously, my baby - who just turned 2 - hasn't started the process yet, so this will be a good post for me to refer to very soon!

Set a goal for yourself to carve out one day a week - one day a month - when you know you will have time to spend with your little one in the kitchen. It can be tricky to do. With 4 kids of my own, our schedules can be hectic and unpredictable. So consider this seriously.

Have a meal in mind and make certain you have everything you need before you even chase your little punkin down and bring them into the kitchen.

IF you have set a day specified to cook with your little one and your not in a good mood - DON'T DO IT. Seriously. You want your childs first experiences cooking to be pleasant and fun - with an emphasis on FUN.

I start having them "help" when they are capable or interested. I generally start by having them help me make one of their favorite meals. The next 3 words I'm going to share with you will change your culinary experiences forever. Ready? DUMP, POUR, STIR. You can't believe how excited kids get about these 3 words - these 3 actions.

Even when my older kids aren't making dinner for the family, they usually wander into the kitchen while I'm making dinner and are always excited to help in whatever way they can. Currently, my 6 year old is the "seasoner" for nearly every meal. I have a pot of Kosher salt and a black pepper grinder she uses. Since her fingers are so little - she can put several "pinches" of salt and several grinds on the pepper mill without over seasoning the meal.

Even if you aren't accustomed to measuring ingredients or spices - make the effort to. It's hard to tell a 2 year old what your particular idea of "a bit" of a certain spice is - but when you measure it out - they can still participate without having major mistakes.

Let your kids get dirty. It's fun. It's an adventure. You will become a superhero.

Now. The food. I usually stick to crock pot meals, soups, baked pastas, meals where they are not required to have a lot of contact with uncooked meats.

Some fun blasts from the past:
White Bean Chicken Chili
Jack's 3 Bean Soup
Spinach Lasagna
Any Pizza you can think of - the one I linked to was actually made from start to finish - concept and ingredients included by Jack:)

And any of the following:
Crock Pot meals
Roasted Vegetables (which are particularly fun bc they get to sprinkle them with salt and pepper and toss them with evoo)

I've even pinned several ideas from Pinterest specifically for my baby to start with - like
Ravioli Casserole
Caprese Garlic Bread
Murray's Mac n Cheese

For some of the more complicated meals, I still let the little ones help out - but I do all the mise (prep and cutting) ad let them do all the dump, pour and stir:)

What do you do??

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