Cooking with Children

 In Families, Nannies

This month we are talking all about cooking with kids in the kitchen. Many do not realize that the process of cooking holds many educational (and life) lessons. Math, science, sensory, culture, and community are all things that can be taught through food and conversation.

Life Skills:

It’s a well-known thing that food brings people together (right now I am picturing one of those “Happy Family Thanksgiving” ads from the 50’s) Allowing your child to help you in the kitchen can help create a strong family bond. With the cheer and laughter of the holiday season comes the hustle and bustle. While setting your kids aside may be a convenient way to make sure they don’t get into trouble, putting them in the middle of things could be beneficial as well. Cooking with your children around is a wonderful catalyst for a conversation on health, ingredients, and the food we put into our bodies. The conversation starts in the grocery store. What does our recipe require, canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, and what is the difference between the two? Whatever your food philosophy, it is imperative to teach your children about all the nutrients different foods offer. Do you have a picky eater? By asking them to help you cook meals, they will be more likely to try new foods, as they had a hand in the preparations and are excited to taste their efforts. Involving kids in the process means they have worked hard to yield an end result, a meal loved ones are sure to praise. This gives your child a feeling of accomplishment, a boost of confidence, and a sense of self worth.

Educational Skills: 

Most cooking requires reading, following directions, measuring, counting, and heating. When you think about it, there are many educational lessons children can learn by just helping you out. Reading recipes to your children can help strengthen their own reading skills. Once they are able to read on their own, kids will learn how to follow step-by-step instructions. This can also help your child understand order and sequence words such as first, next, then, and finally. Math comes majorly into play while cooking. A recipe may call for 6 cups of flour, and with your child you can count each cup as you pour it into your bowl. For more advanced children, you can use cooking as a visual explanation for fractions: ½ a cup of water and ½ a cup of sugar equals how many whole cups? Mixing, heating, and cooling are great ways to see science happen before your eyes.  Allow your child to notice and observe how their foods change when mixed, heated, and cooled. You can take 6 individual ingredients, mix them into something new, put them in the oven, and watch them transform before their eyes into something yummy. Every part of cooking can be a sensory

Remember that the entire cooking process can prompt educational and emotional conversations and questions. If your child is not ready for counting and math, ask them how many cups they think will go into the recipe. Discuss how the taste of ingredients may change when added with others. Every part of cooking is a sensory experience for your child. Allow them to measure, mix, smell, touch, and taste every safe ingredient added to your meals. Cooking with your young children can be messy, but knowing all the skills your child will learn from helping out in the kitchen will far exceed the messes they will make. And we all know they grow up fast. So this is a great way to connect with your children.

Enjoy our favorite holiday meals to make with kids, tips on how to involve them, and thoughts to prompt family discussions.

Pumpkin Chili:

This is a loved recipe from the heart of our CEO Leigh Aberle. This chili is free of beans, tomatoes, and peppers. It is allergy friendly and delicious! You can add all the veggies you want to really make this chili your own. All the missing ingredients can be added back, as well!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup of diced celery
  • 1/2 cup of chopped red or white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound of grass fed beef or bison
  • 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of organic sweet potatoes or carrots
  • 1/2 cup of organic potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of corn
  • ½ cup of zucchini
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin)
  • sour cream for topping
  • fresh cilantro for topping
  • gluten free noodles or rice to top it with

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the avocado oil on medium. Talk to your child about the different types of oils and where they come from. 
  2. Add the onions, garlic and celery and let them cook until soft. This typically takes about 3-5 minutes. Before chopping the onions, garlic, and celery, allow your child to hold, feel, and smell them. After they have been chopped, help your child measure out the proper amount.  
  3. Add the grass fed beef or lamb and brown it until fully cooked.
  4. Add the pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and spices and mix well. If you are comfortable, your child can taste a bit of everything at this part. Discuss how a pumpkin grows, and how it goes from a whole pumpkin to a puree. 
  5. Stir in the vegetables and bring chili to boil. You can then cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for about 40 minutes until the veggies are fully cooked through. I imagine this could be done in a crock pot as well. We just haven’t tried it yet.
  6. If you can have dairy, we like to serve this chili with a little sour cream, Kerrygold shredded cheese and fresh cilantro.

A more simple recipe to you could try with your children is a household favorite and certainly reminds us of our childhood.

Rich and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

For this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes washed and peeled, cut in chunks (about 7 large potatoes.) It is important to use starchy, russet potatoes when making mashed potatoes. Talk with your children about the different kinds of potatoes while in the grocery store. The different colors, regions of growth, etc. 
  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup salted butter melted
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Place the cut potatoes in a large pot and fill the pot with water, leaving about 2 inches at the top of the pan. Have your child do the filling, and discuss when the water is too low, in the middle of the potatoes, and when 2 inches are left at the top of the pot. 
  2. Place the pan on the stovetop on medium-high heat.
  3. Allow the water to come to a boil, then turn the water down to medium heat. Discuss what happens when water boils, and how hot it needs to be. 
  4. Boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Cool a potato chunk and ask your child if it is hard or soft. 
  5. Drain the water from the potatoes.
  6. Use a potato masher and mash those potatoes! This will be the most fun for your child to do. 
  7. Add the cream cheese, butter, whipping cream and salt.
  8. Gently fold the potatoes using a rubber spatula until they are smooth and creamy.
  9. Serve warm.

Now for dessert! Every holiday meal must be completed with a tasty treat! Here is one delicious dessert your children will be sure to love.

Four Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of marshmallow fluff
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate

Whipped Cream 

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, combine the marshmallows and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until marshmallows are completely melted, 5-7 minutes. Let your child do the combining and explain the difference between mixtures and solutions. 
  2. Pour the marshmallow mixture over the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until well combined and smooth.Your child can whisk in the beginning, giving them a chance to give it a go and feel accomplished. 
  3. Divide the mixture between 4 serving cups. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or until set.
  4. Top with whipped cream and grated chocolate, if desired.
  5. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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