Cooking with Kids
Whether your child
is a toddler practicing his fine motor skills with a wooden spoon or a teen
working out the intricacies of pie dough with a rolling pin, working
side-by-side with parents in the kitchen offers a heavy helping of learning and
communication opportunities. (For some reason kids find it easier to open up
while whisking together dressing ingredients than when they're sitting down for
the purpose of chatting!)
Of course, for
many parents, there's not much time to be had in the kitchen. Labor-intensive
meals occur only on special occasions, if at all, and the daily priority is to
get something on the table. That's okay. Take those shortcuts together by
livening up leftovers or whipping up a nutritious meal from a mix. Sharing your
"real life" cooking has the same benefits as preparing a big dinner.
When you have more time, you can make some of those special recipes. (You might
bake bread or roll out that pie dough together on the weekend, for example.)
Here are some tips for making the most of your child's time in the kitchen, no
matter your time constraints.
Meals that are fun
and quick to make, nutritious, and easily successful will build confidence in
your child and save you time. Stocking the cupboard with healthful convenience
foods now will pay off come crunch time. Some good choices:
* Healthful mixes.
Try instant mixes for falafel, soups and dips, beverages (lemonade, fruit drinks, cocoa), salsas, soy
burgers, and taco filling.
All will quickly become staples in your household. Your food budget will
benefit, too, because you can purchase these in bulk.
The Simply Organic
line of mixes offers everything from baking and dip mixes to gravies, pasta
sauces, dressings, and marinades. Use the Carrot Cake
Mix or the Cocoa
Biscotti Mix to get a baked treat in the oven in just five minutes. Or
use them as a springboard for other recipes, like Strawberry
Spice Muffins and Cocoa
Brownies or Peanut
Butter Cocoa Cereal Snack. Use dip mixes, like Creamy
Dill Dip Mix, to make Baked
Dill Potatoes, and Spicy
Guacamole Dip to make Feisty
Fajita Filling. You get the idea -- and there are almost 200 recipes
using Simply Organic Mixes on our site.
* Broth powders.
Homemade soup isn't out of the question when your broth is instant. Have your
child toss in leftovers from the week and a few spices, and you've got
yourselves a budget-friendly, healthful dinner. Or follow an easy, reliable
Onion Soup, Creamy
Tomato Soup, and Curried
Carrot Soup, for example, can each be made in five minutes using broth
Broth powders are
useful in other recipes, too. This Braised
Seitan is delicious and elegant, yet easily prepared with vegetable broth
powder as a base. You can use broth powders for making grains such as Toasted
Pilaf and Surprise
Make It Fun
- Add to the
importance of your child's role as cook by providing appropriate supplies. Your
little tyke might need a stepstool, for example, and kids of all ages will
appreciate a colorful apron.
- Encourage easy
creativity via the spice rack. "Want to try cardamom instead of cinnamon
on those apples?" and "Let's add some zip to these leftover mashed
potatoes with a little Garlic
'N Herb. Seasoning veggies and combining them with other favorite foods
is also a good way to get kids to try them. Picnic
Peas & Pasta Salad, with bowtie pasta and myriad spices—is much
more fun to eat than plain ole peas!
- Remember that
presentation is paramount for kids. Cut foods like sandwiches and pancakes into
shapes, and grate veggies into ribbons atop salad greens. Take advantage of
seasonal inspiration (the shapes might be hearts in February, shamrocks in
March, and Christmas trees in December, for example). Stand broccoli (trees)
upright in the rice, slide fruits and veggies on a kabob, and make a raisin
face in the oatmeal (sprinkle cinnamon for hair!)
- Be enthusiastic
about food. Show interest in new recipes and new ingredients, and encourage
your child to do the same. Be willing to try your child's suggestions. A
willingness to experiment with new foods will be very valuable in expanding
your child's nutritional and cooking repertoire.
Look For the Lesson
No need to get
preachy, but take advantage of the learning potential in the kitchen. Here are
just some of the things your child can learn by your side as you cook together.
It's fun to see
how much you can share in the short amount of time it takes to whip up dinner.
Teach well, and your child may not only learn a great deal but also take over
as head cook in your household someday!