Have you ever asked your kids “how was your day today” only to be met with them pulling a face or, if you are lucky, a one-word grunt? It’s amazing how quickly their tongues loosen up while doing something creative (and productive) with their hands, so GET your kids into the kitchen with you when you’re doing your Personal Chef Approach™ cooking for the week. It’s a great way to bond, teach your children the cooking skills they’ll need
as adults, while creating fond lifelong memories - times spent cooking with my Auntie Vera are some of my fondest memories. Plus, who couldn’t use a little “slave labor” to get the cooking done faster? Cooking can also be a great educational tool for math or chemistry. You get to turn a chore into a fun family activity.
I don’t think it is ever too young to teach an interested child how to cook. Even a two year old can hold a measuring spoon with you as you dump ingredients into a mixing bowl – you just have to assign tasks they are ready to tackle.
Know that kids will make mistakes and messes, so be mentally prepared for it. I screamed at my three year old daughter for dropping a cup of flour on our clean kitchen floor once, and I’m still carrying around the gulit over it. It’s important that it is a positive experience for them, if you want to foster their expertise and future help, so choose a time you are not in a hurry or stressed, especially with the little ones.
Since good food starts with good ingredients, you can make shopping for dinner a treasure hunt for the best of everything. Point out how beautiful all the colors of the fruits and vegetables are in the produce section, talk about the seasons, and explain why you chose this firm apple over the mushy one, or the artichoke with tight leaves over the one with the loose discolored ones. If you are not sure how to shop for optimum ingredients, say hello to the store staff and ask them to help – being a parent doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but teaching your kids who and how to ask for help when they need it is a very good practice.
Obviously, the kitchen can be a dangerous place, so never leave young children unattended. The last thing you want to do is frighten them, but I do think setting ground rules and a serious discussion about being aware of open flames or hot burners, boiling liquids, and sharp knives etc. is important before you start. One investment you might want to consider for younger kids is a set of children’s knives. I have a client whose son proudly produced his set upon my arrival at their house to do a dinner party (he wanted to help me prep – little man after my heart). The knives are made of nylon and serrated, so you have to saw back and forth for them to cut. Knife skills are where culinary schools begin, so why not start there at home too?
Children vary in maturity and coordination, so I’m not comfortable telling you when your child is ready to move from skill to skill level. That is something you will need to observe and evaluate yourself, but encouraging them to cook new things, including vegetables, will most likely help in getting them to expand their culinary horizons. If they made it, they are much more likely to want to eat it. It’s a win-win situation any way you approach it.
Tatjana and I have settled into quite the team, and can rock out a full PCA™ cook date in a mater of a couple hours together – which means we don’t have to think about dinner the rest of the week. We have more time for movies, art museums, and shopping, because we can just “heat to eat” delicious, healthy meals in minutes when we need them. Purchase premium membership here to print, shop, and cook the PCA™ way, like we do.
Udon Noodles with Tofu & Greens
I’m so excited Tatjana actually uses her premium membership when I’m not around. In fact she made my new Udon Noodles recipe for her father recently, and he loved it. High in nutrients while full of flavor, it’s is sure to help spruce up your weekly repertoire. Not a tofu fan? Substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size chunks and use chicken stock in place of the vegetable broth, or chunks of sirloin with beef broth.
1 12 ounce package Udon noodles, cooked according to package instructions
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
2 extra firm tofu, drained and cut into bite size chunks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, miced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 ounces of mixed baby greens (I used red & green Swiss chard, tat soi, arugala, and spinach)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup vegetable broth
scallions for garnish (optional)
toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
1). Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a wok or large saucepan. Dredge the tofu chunks lightly in the cornstarch, season to taste, and brown in the hot oil. Remove to a plate tented with foil it keep warm.
2). Add sesame oil and remaining peanut oil to the hot pan along with the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the greens, tossing to coat with the oil and aromatics, then add the soy sauce mixed with the honey and vegetable broth. Cook tossing gently occasionally, until greens wilt, about 2-3 minutes.
3). Add noodles and tofu to the pan and toss well.
Serve hot with scallions sliced on the diagonal and toasted sesame seeds to garnish.
PS. Leave me a comment below about your childhood memories of cooking with someone you love, and/or what you like to cook with your family now?
PPS. Happy holiday weekend!