Friday, June 04, 2010

Cooking with Kids, really

Children's cookbooks. Arg. They are everywhere. Emma checks them out from the library and pours through the pages, scheming about what she wants to make. Shall it be Peanut Butter Popsicles or Baked Apples with grape jelly sauce?

Children's cookbooks have fantastic, fun pictures. But really, do all the recipes need to contain peanut butter and jelly and/or cheese? A Sesame Street cookbook Emma checked out has a recipe for an omelet with jam inside. I wish I was kidding.

The thing about these cookbooks is that they inspire children to cook. That's a good thing. Right? Parents probably get excited about the idea too until about 10 minutes into the recipe. Then they are thinking of different names for the cookbook, like...

All the Muss, plus All the Fuss

Peanut Better and Jelly: how to ruin a good thing

Simple Meals Made Complicated

30 Minute Meals? Try 90 Minutes of Torture

Recipes for Destroying Your Kitchen, Patience, and an Entire Carton of Eggs

Before I got on this patience kick, or as I call it, attempting to climb Mt. Everest, I was all for "event" cooking with the kids. Let them frost some cookies. Sure! Call them in to dump the cheese packet in the Mac' N' Cheese. Sounds fun! Any attempt at completing an entire meal left me enraged, them crying, and dinner late for sure. So I shooed them out of the kitchen and hoped they could be occupied so I could actually get something done. Because, have you ever cooked with kids? Really. It is A LOT OF WORK.

Then, in my climb up Mt. Everest, I realized I was missing out on a great learning opportunity with the girls. Being in the kitchen with me teaches them...



self control (ehem, let's not eat ALL the cookie dough)


how to serve others

and lets not forget that helping in the kitchen teaches them how to COOK!

I don't have the magic pill, but I will say that there are a couple things that I find helpful for successful meal prep with kids;

  • 1) a SUPER big bowl makes stirring for uncoordinated hands easier, 
  • 2) let the kids practice cracking eggs into a glass bowl first, check for shells and then dump them into the mix, 
  • 3) allow at least twice the time for prep than the recipe states, 
  • 4) require obedience the first time every time -- if they won't listen to you when you say no to cookie dough, then they won't listen to you when you are working with raw chicken either or handling a knife, and 
  • 5) keep things moving, giving each child a job to do.

Let's make some dinner. It should take 30 minutes, but I'm allowing an hour and 15 minutes. On the menu tonight is Meatballs. And apparently my lens cap since Mandy is trying to devour it.

BEST MEATBALLS (without peanut butter or jelly, thank you very much)

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 TBS onion flakes (use the fresh equivalent if you have it)
1 tsp. garlic powder (use the fresh equivalent if you have it)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. mustard
2 tsp. worcestershire
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper (or steak seasoning is good too)
2/3 cup bread crumbs

Form into meatballs (about 1.5 inches across) and bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.

I love you Pampered Chef 32 Quart Stainless Bowl and the Mix and Chop stirrer thingy.

We added chopped celery to the mix because I had it on hand and Emma is addicted to Pampered Chef's Food Chopper. The girl will chop anything in sight.

She also chopped up the herbs.

That's snot running out of Mandy's nose. Are you hungry for dinner at our house now?

Sorry about that.

Mandy wiped her nose on her shirt shortly after this picture, so no worries.

Before you start to think that everything went swimmingly....

I found Mandy dissecting an egg shell with my sharpest knife.

And Rem woke up from his nap and thought he would like to join the action. He worked on sweet potato puffs.

 The girls added all the ingredients and then mixed and mixed some more. I like to use my mini-muffin pan for meatballs -- a good size and easy for little hands to fill the cups up with the meat mixture.

And there you have it. A meal prepared by children in a little over an hour.

We also made rice and green beans and served the meatballs with a little Yoshita's (because that stuff is super yummy). If you try the recipe, save out half for the freezer. The total recipe makes about 40 meatballs and they are delicious with spaghetti sauce too.



Notorious M.E.G. said...

I was wondering why Mandy's mouth looked like a japanese cartoon characters. Yes, cooking with children can be trying. And Yoshida's marinade sauce is awesome with meatballs. I know this from experience.

Kellie said...

At least your kids *want* to help you cook. It's all I can do to keep the kids interested enough to help me dump cookie ingredients together. They do like to mix Kool Aid though. Does that count?

Sherri said...

And don't they like to eat the food they cook better. I'm glad you are climbing Mt Everest the view from the top will be amazing:)

joyq said...

I think we might be living the same life. I just really think we are. That is all. As you were. Oh yes, and I think your great.

Melanie said...

These are some great tips for having kids help in the kitchen. And I'm sure in about three years, you will be so glad they know how to cook!

Last week, I saw a few American Girls cookbooks on the clearance rack at Borders. They look like a great set (no pbj!).

Janelle Rispler said...

The Pampered Chef food chopper is a great idea for kids. Nice tips. When I get a kitchen, I'll have to have Adelynne help with dinner. So far she just does the dishes with me, which isn't too bad because water and soap aren't as problematic as meat and sauce and knives, and hot ovens. I know she would love to "help."

Melanie said...

Absolutely Love the new header! And you are a super adventurous woman cooking with those active kiddos. Such fun memories in the making...

Sending our love from Kenya!

Shawna said...

You inspire me Alysun! I went to a PC party recently and I bought the stirrer thingy because of a previous post and I happen to also get the chopper. I loved this post! I am going to try it! Madison SOOO wants to help cook.

Season said...

Okay, think ahead a few years and you're laying on the couch reading books to little ones with morning sickness and your oldest prepares the entire meal herself because you took the time to show her!