No good parent will deny that kids need to learn responsibility and develop independence through a slow progression of increased duties. Chores are common place for the growing child but it seems that cooking is often overlooked. Kids participating in cooking have several advantages. They learn skills that will be needed for the rest of their life. They gain an understanding of what food really is and what it takes to fill a belly. Kids helping in the kitchen get to spend quality time with their parents, learn a valuable skill and have fun. The ability to cook a meal should be placed in the canon of childhood chores.
Having meals at home is not always easy with the modern-day schedule. Cooking homemade meals with a busy schedule and being a parent of young children is even harder. Trying to fix a home cooked meal with young children only complicates things. Kids within the range of 5 to 12 years of age are a precarious demographic. They possess a solid grasp of what is going on in the world but physical coordination and wisdom are still developing. They want to be informed and they want to participate in everything. Kids are often shooed out of the kitchen. Usually, it is for good reason. They get in the way, touch everything with their dirty hands, spill anything not properly sealed, steal food specifically bought for dinner preparation and gravitate to the hottest objects in the kitchen. If children are given appropriate tasks, they will succeed. The dangers of the kitchen are easily mitigated by an attentive parent (just like the myriad of other tasks kids often perform).
Listed are 3 recipes that are simple enough to allow children to participate, entertaining enough to keep them interested and tasty enough to continue to make. These recipes are perfect for kids for 3 simple reasons; they are simple, safe, and are basic recipes that allow for the additions and/or substitutions ideal for a child’s creativity and preferences. As a parent, you are still required to do most of the work and supervision is always needed when dealing with anything hot or sharp.
15 ounce can garbanzo beans (drained)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
Squeezed ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons tahini
Black pepper to taste
Kids will love to use this savory and healthy dish as a dip. The kids will get to add all the ingredients into the blender and squeeze a lemon. Then comes the exciting blending action that is loud and exciting. Use pita chips, tortilla chips, celery, bread, or whatever your child wants to dip and eat.
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot (or ½ of small onion)
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (optional)
A basic creamy rice dish is hard for any child not to enjoy. Do not be intimidated by the risotto snobs. This is a simple dish that just takes a little bit of time. It’s good for kids because they will always have something to do. This dish involves a lot of adding and stirring which is exactly what kids want to do. The basic premise of risotto is to cook rice in chicken broth while regularly stirring. Heat the shallot in olive oil for no more than 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes. Pour the wine over the rice and cook until evaporated (no worries, all alcohol will be cooked out). So far, the kid(s) has been either stirring or adding an ingredient. About ½ cup of chicken broth is added to the rice and stirred until the ½ cup of broth is almost gone then another ½ cup is added. This is done for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the rice is al dente. When the rice is al dente add the butter and parmesan cheese and stir again. Garnish with chopped parsley. There is no doubt that a kid that helps out with this dish will feel like a chef and wonder what else can be done.
This is a ‘base risotto’ which allows for the addition of vegetables, meat, and herbs of your child’s choice. Just prepare the addition and add at the very end.
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt
1.5 cups frozen fruit (pick one or mix and match)
If there is a fool proof recipe for kids to help out with and enjoy, this is it. The best option is to buy frozen fruits from the grocery store. Pick your favorites and add them to the blender with the banana, milk, and yogurt. Blend to desired consistency. All that is required here is supervision of quantity and use of the blender. The ability to change ingredients knows no bounds. Simple changes can be different types of yogurt, milk, and fruits. Just remember that for every whole banana add 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt and at least 1 cup frozen fruit (I like mine a little thicker so I always add ~1.5 cups of frozen fruit). Half banana needs ½ cup milk, ½ cup yogurt and at minimum ½ cup frozen fruit.