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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Get Your Kids In The Kitchen!

Used to be that children, especially girls, were expected to help cook but with both parents working and relying more on fast food, that practice has disappeared.  This has resulted in generations of adults  who can only order pizza because they never learned to make a simple meal.  No wonder children can't identify basic vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli; they've never seen them in their original, fresh from the garden state. 

Children should be taught to cook and included in meal preparation from an early age.  Four and five year old children can at least set the table.  Older children can stir and add ingredients.  By nine and ten, children can cook pancakes and chop some fruits and vegetables or peel them.  Some of my best memories of my father are when he let me help him in the kitchen.  My job was to stir and of course, the minute he turned his back, I tasted whatever batter was in the bowl.  Cooking with your children can be a time to share and develop a closer relationship.  Children are proud when you announce they helped with the meal and get a sense of satisfaction seeing the family eat what they prepared.

When cooking with your children, put aside some expectations.  Their efforts won't be perfect and they may slow things down.  Who cares if the carrots aren't perfectly peeled or there are lumps in the mashed potatoes?  Children will be slow so resist the temptation to do things for them.  Obviously there are times when you need to get the food on the table quickly so let them help when things aren't rushed.  Teaching your children to cook will have big payoffs when they are teens.  Teenagers are capable of preparing dinner.  Think how nice it would be to come home from work and find dinner waiting for you!  Don't leave out the boys.  The time will come when they are on their own and need to do more than pull through the drive thru everyday.

Both my children cook occasionally.  My son is more reluctant but Grace has embraced cooking and often asks to help.  She makes the best buttermilk biscuits and frequently makes breakfast on the weekends.  Cameron is more likely to make desserts but he can make other dishes.  I'm going to share one of the recipes that my kids like to make.  It is easy for the 11 to 13 year old, depending on their previous cooking experience and appeals to their tastes.

Seashell Hot Dog Bake
8 oz. shell macaroni
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
1 16 oz. package hot dogs, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 large tomato chopped
1 4 oz. can drained mushrooms
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
2 oz. shredded provolone cheese
2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook garlic and onion in hot oil over medium heat till nearly tender.  Stir in hot dogs and cook until lightly browned.  Add spaghetti sauce, tomato, and mushrooms.  Bring to boil, then remove from heat.  Stir in sour cream and half the cheeses.  Stir in pasta.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover and bake about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and bake 5 more minutes till cheese melts. 

So get those kids in the kitchen and get cooking!  Your job is to teach them life skills; don't send them out without some basic kitchen know-how. 

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