Cooking with Kids

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As a mom of two little guys, I know how hard it is to get dinner on the table. But sometimes, you just need to slow down and use the time to not just make dinner, but teach your kids some life lessons. In my case, Will loves to help me cook. Doesn’t matter what I’m making he loves it. He follows directions and pays attention. For a 3 1/2 year old, this is huge. Especially for one that is a wee bit temperamental. He’s a guy who wants things his way, and now. Come to think of it, he may make a great chef one day. I hear some of the world’s best are the same way (if you watch Hell’s Kitchen, you understand).

Tonight, we were having stuffed chicken breasts, roasted vegetables and dumplings. I bought the chicken stuffed from the meat counter at our store, which has a wonderful selection of these types of foods. Will wanted to help get the veggies ready and make the dumplings.

So, I let him help me arrange the veggies, put the olive oil on, and salt and pepper them before they went into the oven. I think this helps him follow direction, plus by mixing them with his hands, he gets the feel of different things. Oily, salty smooth, leafy.

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Onto the dumplings. I got all of the ingredients ready, but I let him mix everything himself. After I measured out the dry ingredients, he mixed them together and we talked about why you do that. Next, cracking the egg and mixing it into the milk, again why it’s done that way. And finally, the mixing of everything together to make our dumpling.

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He’s actually gotten pretty good at cracking eggs. And that certainly is a life skill. I think it’s important that kids understand the science behind cooking, and how the ingredients affect each other, as much as how to follow directions. He certainly doesn’t get what baking powder does now, but when they use it in science at preschool, hopefully he’ll remember what it did to his dumpling.

If you’re interested in making these wonderful dumplings, here’s the link to an earlier post for Donna’s Dumplings. So easy, even a 3 1/2 year old can make them!

 

 

 

A Bonus of Pancake Day

 

 

 

Every Monday night, Jill and the boys come over and a group of us have a somewhat healthy dinner. From my Pancake Day post a couple weeks ago, you can safely assume I almost never do the cooking, but I was feeling inspired after that post and decided we’d make savory crepes with the boys. Since I’d be cooking with 2 toddlers, I told myself drinking a bottle of wine while preparing dinner was definitely not an option. Don’t worry, I didn’t drink the bottle before they got there either!

Instead, I went into it fully prepared. I had my ingredients and tools ready to go. I knew who was doing what, and most importantly I had a backup plan in case anyone sneezed in the batter or did anything else little-boy gross — I had a few crepes in the fridge I made that morning for my post. I must confess I also had a sous chef prep all of the savory fillings for the crepes before Jill and the boys arrived. How else did I not drink a bottle of wine?

We hit our first snafu as soon as I asked the boys if they wanted to help cook dinner.  Charlie said, “No way” immediately, but Will was excited to help. He chose the Bears apron from the pantry, we slid a chair over to the sink, scrubbed his hands, scooted him over to the island and got to work. Turns out a 31/2-year-old can actually  crack an egg better than me. He also measures dry ingredients with less mess than I. Charlie was pretty hungry because as soon as he saw Will getting to snack on some of the diced ham he said he wanted to help after all. Charlie got his apron on and helped Jennifer grate the cheese.

Once Will and I got our batter stirred, and Jennifer and Charlie got the cheese grated, it was time for the boys to choose their fixings and clear the way so I could heat up the crepe griddle. Somewhere along the way, though, something  magical happened, and Charlie started eating the steamed broccoli! That’s right the kid who runs from anything green on his plate started popping broccoli in his mouth. With Will that’s no surprise, but Charlie got so wrapped up in cooking that he ate broccoli.

In the end, we did not need the backup crepes, and we all enjoyed crepes stuffed with ham, cheese and broccoli. The plan had been to trick the boys into eating the broccoli by hiding it inside pancakes, but by including them in making dinner, we didn’t have to hide anything. They were happy participants!