These past few months have found many of us back in the kitchen. If you’re like me, you’ve searched the internet for new and improved ways to prepare literally everything! It’s been a time for my husband and me to put our Ninja Foodi to the test. Who am I kidding, my husband has done all the cooking, but he’s rocked it and we’ve had fun!
We’ve enjoyed cooking with the ingredients from our garden bounty that we probably wouldn’t have planted had we not had more time to be home. I had to call my granddad, parents, and mother-in-law to get tips on the best plants and the do’s and don’ts of organic gardening with bugs and other challenges. I’m grateful for their guidance.
Cucumbers and onions in vinegar is one of my garden harvest favorites. My dad probably doesn’t even realize one of my best memories was spending time in the kitchen with him when I was a kid, cutting up those cucumbers from the garden, watching him take a bite straight out of the onion, and then seeing him laugh when my face twisted from the taste of the vinegar, salt and pepper brine!
I grew up being shooed out of adult conversations, out of rooms being cleaned, away from car engines while oil was being changed, but never, not one time, was I scooted out of the kitchen while meals were being prepared. I was handed whatever age-appropriate task was available, whether that was snapping beans, tossing the salad, stirring the fudge, mixing the brownie batter (always licking the beaters) peeling, slicing, chopping … I was always included, and I’ve learned to love to cook because of those messy times in the kitchen with my family.
We are all becoming reacquainted with what we can safely do with our closest loved ones while our favorite activities are suspended. Cook! Dig out those family recipes and share with your children and grandchildren all your secrets! No matter how helpful the internet is, there’s nothing like pulling a stained recipe card out of the treasure box and seeing years of love written on it as you share that special time. I make my grandmother’s fudge during the holidays using her hand-written recipe, and each time I hear her say, “there’s really no time limit—and the wooden spoon and weather matters, but that soft-ball in cold water’ll never fail…just be patient.” Incidentally, I make excellent fudge. I ONLY use a wooden spoon, and if it doesn’t make a soft ball in cold water – it’s not ready!
It’s never too early to start. Even my 2 year old grandson walked out of the kitchen with his mom’s skillet recently, asking for an egg. He sat eagerly across the bar while she prepared it, and was so excited when the much-awaited egg was placed in front of him!
Cooking with your young ones teaches them chemistry, math, patience, to follow directions, and it shows them where food comes from – that it isn’t just from grocery store shelves, hopefully giving them a greater appreciation for all of it.
It can raise their comfort levels with different kitchen tools – building confidence and self-esteem. A mixer can be a scary thing, but demonstrating its use takes the fear away, and can be pretty tasty when you splatter that homemade icing all over the place! The more time you spend in the kitchen, the more comfortable they become!
Here are just a few tips to get you started:
Be ready—messes make the best pictures! It’s also a fantastic teaching opportunity about safe food handling, washing your hands as well as the food itself, cleaning up, and getting all your work finished before you enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Do some prep work ahead of time that makes it easier. For example, do the heavy chopping or pre-measuring. Choose a recipe that they can help with while still being safe – let them slice the bananas with a butter knife, or use that knife to level off a cup of sugar, or pour the pre-measured flour into the mixer.
Be a cooking show host! Talk through the steps of the recipe – explain why you add certain ingredients at specific times, and what reaction takes place when you don’t. I remember my mom explaining how to add an egg to a hot liquid without cooking the egg and making it lumpy. I can still see that custard mixture coming together to turn into ice cream a few hours after it chilled.
Some of the most heart-felt, honest conversations with your kids and your grandkids come from spending time together on a project. The sharing builds mutual respect, and if they come away thinking you’re a rock star, all the better!
Take time to taste along the way. It helps develop their palate, and also teaches them to cook to their own taste. They can be creative with flavors and textures – it’s a wonderful way to experiment and learn likes and dislikes. It still amazes me the satisfaction I get from tasting something from a family recipe and getting it just right.
There are so many recipes that are kid-friendly. Now more than ever, it seems we need that special time with our families. While things are a little slower, dig out those treasured recipes and share your secrets.