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Cooking With Kids

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The last topic about kid friendly dinners got me thinking ... what are some of your favorite recipes for your kids to cook?

My oldest (16) has really learned her way around the kitchen, and just proclaimed herself a "real chef" after making a fabulous flourless chocolate cake out of the current Bon Apetit for her sister's birthday. :>) In addition to helping us out in the kitchen, she started making pudding and jello on her own when she was 7 or 8, and by 12 or 13 was making "Crunchy Munchy Chicken" from a recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook for kids -- a pretty simple recipe of chicken wings breaded with crushed corn flakes, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked in the oven. She's made that chicken over and over again, and I dare say that one recipe is largely responsible for helping to instill an enjoyment of cooking in her, and gave her the confidence to try new and harder recipes in the kitchen.

Now that my other kids are on that same path (wish you could have tried the potato salad my 14 year old made at a recent family reunion!), I'm looking for other ideas to give them to cook.

So what are some of the recipes that your kids love to cook?

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  1. Challah. Kids love to knead bread.

    My rambunctious youngest cousin, the baby of the family, was running wild through our house tiring everyone out. I recruited her to help me put together a ball of challah dough. She had never seen bread being made before, so I made a big show of saying how fun it was and let her add the flour as I pulled the dough together. Soon enough, she was saying "Can I knead it too?" So I "let" her knead the bread while I prepared other things for dinner. Watching an eight year old wrinkle up her face in concentration, attack the dough with all that pent up little kid energy, and get flour all over herself is hilarious.

    My aunt said she'd never seen her be quiet for so long. And the challah was the most popular item at dinner, even before we revealed who had done most of the work.

    1. Don't underestimate them because of their age. 14 and 16 are not kids, they are young adults. As long as you trust them with knives, stove, appliances etc. they can cook anything an adult can. If they have more interest, get them some cookbooks on technique.

      Otherwise, ask them what they are interested in cooking and get them an adult level book of that nature.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Pupster

        Its not about trust, or an underestimation of their talents or abilities. Its about finding ideas for recipes that will help instill in them, and younger ones, an enjoyment and a love of food and cooking, by sharing some communal knowledge of what other kids have enjoyed learning to cook.

        1. re: djh

          You keep calling them kids, but they are 14 and 16. There are many in professional kitchens at 18 or younger. Not that they are interested in going pro but they have the capacity to cook as adults, not just chicken fingers and peanut butter cookies. (Your 16 y.o. sounds very accomplished if she is cooking chocolate cakes from Bon Appetit.)

          Ask them what they want to cook. Cook what they like to eat. Show them what braising is. What a bain marie is. What a fennel bulb tastes like.

          I'm not suggesting that you buy a book and leave them at it. But I guess I don't get the point of your post after all.

          1. re: Pupster

            I don't disagree with you that kids who have learned to cook at an early age can, as teenagers, start to develop the ability and palate to cook as adults. But they have to start somewhere ... and you're right, they should cook what they like to eat. Which is why they are more likely to find a love of food and cooking first in chicken fingers and peanut butter cookies.

            So the point of my post was more about where they started (Crunchy Munchy Chicken) than where they ended up (Bon Apetit). Kids (and I'm not just talking about teenagers here) are surprising, which is why I thought it would be interesting to share some recipes that have instilled a love of cooking in other kids, and might help do so in mine or yours as well. :>)

            Pei's post about challah was right on.

      2. I was at the newsstand today and saw a Martha Stewart magazine called Simply Kids. I guess it's a Martha Stewart Living spinoff.

        It's half the size of a regular magazine and is full of cutesy things to make with kids in the kitchen. A lot of it looks like birthday party treats, but there are some recipes for real food. It might be fun for your kids to have a subscription even if they're older. The photos are of course beautiful, and it's a fun little magazine.

        1. Not sure if this is inappropriate to mention, but I have written several cookbooks aimed at precisely this market. The first one was a general one targeted at "teens" because I saw that as a really under-served age group in terms of cooking instruction. They are old enough to be capable of cooking real food and are often expected to do so, but sometimes they just don't have the background (especially the lingo) to understand recipes which are written for people with years of experience. It's not that they can't "fold" batter, it's just that they have no freaking idea what that actually means. So they need a bit more thorough instruction, but at the same time don't want to be bored into a coma by dry commentary. So my books are allegedly funny enough to be entertaining, cover everything from shopping and cleaning the stove to recipes for cooking a fancy dinner.

          Kids' cookbooks are too often filled with goofy recipes for funny-face pizzas and tuna melt sandwiches in the shape of sailboats. While recipes like this have a place at a birthday party, let's say, I find them otherwise insipid and ridiculous. Teach a kid to cook real food, fergoshsakes.

          I'm not going to advertise the books here because that WOULD be inappropriate and I would almost certainly get reprimanded by the powers that be. However, I thought it was worth mentioning that a cookbook for kids isn't what you're really looking for.

          Actually, besides my own books, I'm a big fan of Bittman's How to Cook Everything. My eldest - now 24 - uses it a lot.

          1. I agree with Nyleve about recipes geared towards kids as typically being goofy and unappealing to "grown-ups". If I'm supervising (my 4 & 8 year old), it's going to be food I want to eat also.

            Last week we made sorbet together. VERY easy, but very good (Photos Below).

            Krissywat's cracker recipe was perfect for my 4-year old, both delicious and easy. My kids also love my "Stomp & Bake" Chicken.

            Orange-Basil Sorbet...
            Lime-Basil Sorbet...

            4 Replies
            1. re: Funwithfood

              I LOVE Krissywatts's crackers! It's one of the best recipes I've gleaned from this board.


              1. re: Funwithfood

                Oh, they also love to make Baked Oatmeal (photo below). Again easy, but very good.

                1. re: Funwithfood

                  Can you post the baked oatmeal recipe? Thanks!

                  1. re: TerriL

                    Yes, here it is...

                    Baked Oatmeal

                    3 large eggs
                    1/2 cup vegetable oil
                    1 cup sugar
                    3 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
                    2 teaspoons baking powder
                    1 teaspoon sea salt
                    1 cup whole milk
                    1 small pitcher cream (for pouring over the baked oatmeal)
                    compote of peaches or strawberries
                    (or add a bit of water to some jelly and warm on the stove)

                    Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray a 2-quart souffle (or other baking dish) with a non-stick coating.

                    In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in the oil and sugar; combine well. Stir in the oats, baking powder, salt, and milk; mix until combined well.

                    Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake for 40-55 minutes, or until nicely golden brown. Serve warm with the cream and fruit.

                    "The Baking Book, a recipe from a Lancaster County B&B"

                    NOTES : So simple to make and so delicious! (tastes a little like sticky toffee pudding!)

                    (Note: I tried it with brown sugar once, but I didn't like it as much. It was more moist and sweet.)

              2. My 3 year old son helps me "cook" almost every day. Tonight he helped me make a chef's salad...I gave him his own cutting board, a regular table knife and peices of cheese, cucumber, turkey, and lettuce and he cut them up into pieces (with my supervision, of course) as I was working. We then sat down and had dinner all together--it was the first time he's ever eaten a salad and he was so proud to eat it because he "helped" me make it. And there were no goofy faces or sailboats!!!

                He also loves to help me measure items for recipes, crack eggs, stir batters, use the cookie cutters, squeeze garlic in the press, etc. I pretty much let him help with anything that doesn't require a sharp knife and a hot stove/oven. I'm hoping this will lead to bigger and better things in the kitchen as he gets older.

                The biggest bonus is that it's expanded his food horizons.

                I'm also a huge fan of Bittman's book...one of my most used books in the kitchen.

                1. My kids are 3 and 5 and they LOVE to help me cook. It takes a lot of work to cook w/ kids, though, so they don't help every day. They almost always help make pancakes and cookies (things where there is lots of measuring and pouring). My son likes to operate the stick blender (w/ my help) so he's standing there whenever that comes into play. My daughter loves stirring and I've been working w/ her on stirring hot stuff on the stovetop safely. Both kids love to use knives and (when it's not something they can cut w/ a butter knife- bananas or softer cheeses like mozarella, for example) I will put my hand on top of theirs when they hold the knife. My daughter loves to make salads w/ me; putting the ingredients into bowls, mixing the dressing, etc..

                  The best part about kids cooking is that they, often, will try things they normally wouldn't if they helped to prepare it (as mish pointed out above). My daughter eats the salads she makes even if they have "unpopular" kid ingredients like onions.

                  1. What about subscribing to Good Food from the MS folks? Recipes are not complex but feature fresh ingredients and some technique as well as appealing pictures. The flavors aren't exotic but do have special seven ways with corn type content.

                    1. About a year ago my son (now 14) took out the Zuni cookbook & faithfully replicated the Caesar salad dressing and salad for the first time. This was unprompted--he had checked out the recipe when I got the cookbook. He is an aficionado of Caesar salads and was very pleased with the results.

                      If you share with your young hounds what you are cooking and the sources, and enlist their help, they will seek out what they like and try it. I also show him the steps I go through when making breads, pinto beans from scratch, etc. I ask for help in the steps of what I'm doing, explaining whatever I think of that seems important to the dish. I've also trained him to look carefully at labels while shopping, and to seek out organic fruits & vegetables, grass fed beef, etc.

                      Having lots of great & some not so great restaurant meals contributes to the education as well.

                      1. I agree with the other contributors who mention that children love to eat what they cook. We take it a step further by involving our five year old in marketing, shopping at a co-op farm and gardening. Last year we started growing a few herbs and he became very interested in 'eating plants'! This year I put in strawberries and tomatoes and he has loved tending them and eating them. And the local farm market installed a children's garden where the kids can explore and tend the garden. It's a terrific resource.

                        I've always presented vegetables as fascinating, beautiful, delicious foods and he has grown up loving them. At age five he eats a far broader diet than most adults and loves asparagus and long beans more than candy.

                        1. I cook with my boyfriend's 8-year-old daughter. Her palette is (sloowly) expanding, and I find she eats a bigger variety of things if she partakes in the making of.

                          Our favorite things to make are:

                          Pizza. I buy crust, and she helps to grate cheese, I chop toppings, and she assembles the pizza.

                          Custard. There is a recipe for chocolate custard I got out of Food & Wine Mag. that she adores. She 'tests' the chocolate as I chop it up, and she helps to stir all the stuff together. Also fun for her to see fresh whipped cream 'appear'. She helps to spice it up with cinnamon and sugar.

                          Fajitas. Another obvious choice. This is one of the only ways I can get her to eat anything 'healthy'. She loves to pick out her own ingredients and fold her own fajita.

                          Pancakes. I have these awesome candy-coated chocolates which lose their colour in the batter, and she loves to pick what colour pancake to eat by mixing the chocolates (e.g. "Today we eat purple pancakes - blue and red chocolates into the mix!").

                          Pasta. She likes grating cheese, so that's her job. And she helps figure out when the pasta is ready by throwing it at the wall ;) Also, it's fun for her to help pick out ingredients and add them to the sauce.

                          Salad. It is soooo hard to get kids to eat salad! But if they can throw in what they want (nuts and fruits are esp. popular with them) they're more likely to eat it.

                          Being a 'hound, I want so badly to introduce her to other things and especially a healthier diet; but she is not with me most of the time, so my influence is small. I do what I can.. :) She actually came to a Thai restaurant with us this week; with any luck I can get her to come with us for Indian soon.

                          1. Roast Chicken is a good one, teaching the kids to read the thermomter, and some enjoy stuffing the interior with lemon halves and other flavorings.

                            Stir-fries are fun because not only do they encourage easy-cooking but more importantly, creativity to combine different ingredients and experimentation with eating new foods.

                            Mashed potatoes with different mix-ins. Good to hand mash, and then mix in different cheeses or vegetables.

                            Muffins are easy and fun as well.

                            Finally, salads are fantastic, especially when they are plated in creative, decorative patterns, and children can play a game of making the prettiest and most appetizing plates incorporating many "colors" and hence different healthy foods.

                            1. I learned to cook by doing prep work...whatever you're cooking, make them help you. They can chop, clean veggies, peel potatoes, make salads, stir & saute--by 16, I was cooking regular weeknight meals for my working parents. That said, my nieces & nephews have always liked to make complicated things with many steps & special ingredients. Seems counterintuitive, but the very complexity made the whole thing seem special, rather than ho-hum. It was clearly not "mom's weeknight specials" or cafeteria food. They always enjoy a trip to the asian grocery store, specialty market, or even just Whole Foods to pick out stuff they'll get to cook. Their "favorites" list includes beef sate (from a long, detailed thai cookbook), chocolate malted cheesecake, chocolate fondue (although this is more about shopping for outlandish things to dip into the chocolate), various versions of chili, homemade pasta & ravioli, and anything fried (shrimp, oysters, onion rings, curly fries).