Get Kids Cooking!

Anyone who is familiar with this column knows that I am a huge fan of teaching kids how to cook and the importance of cooking. So when I heard that Touchwood Editions (the Victoria-based publisher behind my cookbook, Fermenting Made Simple) was putting out a kid-focused cookbook, I was super excited!

Let’s Eat is a cookbook written for tweens and teens. It offers real food recipes, like spaghetti Bolognese and chicken pot pie, along with beginner-friendly basics on how to cook eggs, rice and potatoes. The authors, DL Acken and Aurelia Louvet, are Salt Spring residents behind a lot of BC-based food writing (Edible Vancouver Island, Cedar and Salt).

Food deskilling is when someone doesn’t have the skills needed to cook healthy food from scratch. It’s a global problem linked to poor dietary choices and subsequent health problems. While the huge amount of processed foods available in our grocery stores is partly to blame, the main reason for food deskilling is that kids are no longer being taught how to cook.

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Here are a few recipes that can help you get your kids cooking!

Cooking With Little Kids

If you aren’t sure where to start, here are somethings that little kids can do around the kitchen.

• 0 to 2 years: Keeping your baby or toddler in the kitchen while you cook, is a great way to get them interested. Let them play with foods as you prepare them. As they get older, they can help wash vegetables and stir batters.

• 3 to 5 years: Preschoolers LOVE to help out their parents. Let them pack their own snacks or lunch boxes. They can also slice up soft items, like tofu and mushrooms, with a butter knife. They can even do some highly-supervised cooking, like flipping pancakes, grating cheese, or stirring a pot on the stove.

• 6 to 8 years: Little kids are able to do a lot more independent cooking. Kids can make muffins, prepare a salad, and help with dinner. The amount of supervision and assistance needed will decrease as they gain patience and skill.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are the perfect way to get little kids helping out in the kitchen. They can chop vegetables, grate cheese and put together their own quesadillas. Quesadillas are typically cooked on a griddle, however, this oven-baked recipe allows you to make enough for everyone to eat at the same time.

8 to 12 small corn tortillas

1 can refried beans

6 spring onions, finely sliced

4 mushrooms, sliced

3 tomatoes, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 can of chopped black olives, drained and rinsed

1 cup grated cheese

Salsa, sour cream, and hot sauce for serving

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with vegetable oil.

Depending on the age of your child, have them help with dicing the vegetables and grating the cheese.

Spread a few spoonfuls of refried beans over half of the corn tortillas. Let everyone decorate their tortilla their favourite fillings. Top with a handful of grated cheese, then put a second tortilla on top.

Place the quesadillas on the baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Press down on each quesadilla with a spatula to stick the layers together, then carefully flip the quesadilla over. Bake for another 8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tortillas have started to brown.

Slice the tortillas into quarters and serve with salsa and sour cream. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Cooking With Tweens and Teens

Most tweens and teens are capable of independently preparing dinner. The only trick is, that they need to be shown how. It takes experience to know how to sauté onions or figure out how long it’s going to take wash a head of lettuce.

Online recipes can be quite difficult for kids to follow. Since they involve scrolling between the ingredient list and the instructions and often steps are missed. I recommend having them work from a cookbook and staying nearby so you can check on them periodically. They’ll feel better knowing that you’re available to help, if they need it.

Let’s Eat is designed for kids 9+ with a focus on recipes for tweens and teens. The following recipe is an excerpt from the cookbook.

Sweet Potato Thai Curry

(by DL Acken and Aurelia Louvet)

Although this recipe calls for sweet potatoes, curry is an ideal dish for vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes or peas, and proteins like chickpeas, tofu, shrimp or chicken. Basically, anything covered in curry sauce is YUM! Try different Thai curry pastes: there are green, yellow and red varieties, and each has a different flavor, but be sure to check out their spice levels on the packaging for mild or spicy kinds. Not a fan of coconut milk or have an allergy? Use the equivalent amount of vegetable stock instead.

¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice

2 small onions, cut into medium dice

¼ cup (60 mL) curry paste (like Thai Kitchen)

2 Tbsp (30 mL) brown sugar

2 (each 14 oz/400 mL) cans coconut milk

2 cups (500 mL) stock of choice (beef, chicken, fish, and vegetable all work well)

4 tsp (20 mL) fish sauce

2 cups (500 mL) cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

2 cups (500 mL) baby spinach, washed

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sweet potatoes and onions, stirring occasionally, until they’re starting to brown.

Add the curry paste and stir it into the sweet potatoes and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes to cook off the curry paste. Add the sugar, coconut milk, stock and fish sauce and stir to combine.

Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Keep the potatoes cooking until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook for another minute until the spinach has wilted.

Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or naan.

Emillie Parrish
Emillie Parrishhttp://emillieparrish.com/
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.