How to teach your child how to cook: the basics
“I’ll make breakfast, mom.” Those are the words I both dreaded and wanted to hear. As my daughter whipped up ham and cheese omelets for everyone, I realized my days as chef in our kitchen were numbered. When she added the spinach, “because it tastes better with spinach,” I chucked my apron into the closet and decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.
Growing up with a chef-dad, the kids have been around food and in kitchens since before they were even born. Ironically, my daughter learned to scramble eggs when she was in first grade. Her 4-H leader taught her that one. But not every child has a resident chef or capable 4-H leader, so where do you start?
Begin with the basics. You can’t force a kid to cook, but you can foster a love of cooking & food. Give them choices.
- Sandwiches: I tell my kids we are doing “Subway” and set out bread and different fillings, mayonnaise, mustard, etc. Like in the sandwich shop, they get to choose what they want. Let them put the mayonnaise on the bread, the lettuce, etc. (No sharp utensils needed on this one, which is good if you have younger kids).
- Instant Pudding: Before your kids whip up a chocolate mousse confection, begin with instant pudding. Just add milk and mix. Have them measure the milk out in a measuring cup (math skills!) and use a wire whisk to mix it. Small quick motions and they will feel like a chef using the proper tools! Good one for smaller kids! You use the wire whisk for scrambling eggs once you are ready for your kids to move their skills onto the stove top.
- Breakfast Parfait: Greek yogurt, honey drizzled over it, berries or fruit of your choice. We add sprigs of mint in ours.
If you are ready to let your kids tackle cooking with heat, read on, but please supervise them and know their limitations. I still take the hot items from the oven!
- Cupcakes: use a cake mix to start with and let your kids get all the ingredients out, measure them and add them to a mixer. (Eggs, water & oil) Follow the directions on the box. If you are not ready to dive into egg cracking with kids yet, crack them yourself . Use cupcake liners (less mess). Have them spoon the mix into the liners 2/3 full and let them set the timer (they will have to learn one day!) Let the responsible adult take them out of the oven (and yes, even we burn ourselves!). Let the kids frost them. Extra points for sprinkles!
- Spaghetti: let them read the directions! Spaghetti can be a frugal persons life saver, so everyone should learn this one! As for sauce, use a jar one or sauté up some onion, garlic and pepper in olive oil and add to it. Get creative, mix it up.
- Soup: Everyone needs to know how to make a homemade soup! It is great for using up leftovers and with some bread, and feeds the masses if you have friends hanging out. Let your child be the “chef” of the soup. A parent can be the “sous-chef” and do all the chopping of veggies (until your child gets to the stage/age where they can do it all themselves), and your child gets to direct you in what they want in the soup. Use a big saucepan. Cut up the items separately and put into little bowls. Your child can add them to the pot and stir it up. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Here is my daughter’s recipe for her soup:
Heart Soup (Because it is full of love!)
1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 onion chopped, 1 clove garlic crushed, 1 red pepper, de-seeded & chopped, 1 cup chicken stock, 1/4 head cabbage chopped, 1 carrot diced, 1 cup diced cooked chicken (we use left-over chicken), 1 cup water, salt & pepper to taste. In a sauce pan, get the oil hot, add the onion, garlic & red pepper and sauté until soft. Then add the chicken stock, cabbage, diced carrot, cooked chicken, and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for about 20 minutes, stir occasionally. Add salt & pepper to taste & serve.
This is the best soup ever and you can change it up- have peas, add that, don’t like carrots, fine, omit it! Have your child add the items- be very careful about it splashing back, though, and stir. A long wooden spoon is great as a stirrer.
Above all else, train your kids to clean up after their cooking adventures (yeah, I am still working on that one myself!) and one day you may look forward to a “Don’t worry, I’ll cook dinner/breakfast today!”
The art of cracking an egg:
Some people use one hand (clever gits!) I have to use two. Also have two bowls handy. Tap raw egg on it’s long side, right in the middle, on the edge of the bowl. It might take a couple of taps to break the egg. When it is broken, gently pull it apart over bowl #1 and then pour out raw egg into bowl #1 and chuck empty egg shell into bowl #2 & wash your hands. It may take a few tries- or even a carton before you get the art of cracking an egg down pat. Even now I still have to fish an egg shell piece or two out of my bowl #1 (use a teaspoon for that). But just think of all the lovely omelets you and your kids can make afterwards!