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ideas for teaching teens to cook

My 12 and 15 year olds don't like making much by themselves other than quesadillas, boxed mac 'n cheese and Tollhouse cookies. I've decided they no longer have a choice in the matter and will learn to cook no matter what. To complicate things, they're not very adventurous eaters (although my son once enjoyed making California rolls from scratch).
So far I've had them try roast chicken with rice and carrots and spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and broccoli. I'm thinking of steak and mashed potatoes for this weekend since the older one is a big carnivore. Any other ideas for very simple menus that your kids might have liked cooking?

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  1. If you've got a grill, teenage boys love fire. Teach them some marinades and show them how to tell when the meat is done. Show them how good veggies taste when grilled with just olive oil, salt and pepper.

    1. Enchiladas are a good choice. Lasagna using a bottled sauce is another. Those are more about construction than cooking but the results are usually good for beginners. Meatloaf, too. If they're squeamish about moshing up all the ingredients, invest in a pack of disposable latex gloves.

      1. Actually, one of my small victories so far was hearing my son tell my daughter that it was fun to mix up the meatball mix with your bare hands!
        thanks, keep 'em coming!

        1. My suggestion would be to find a cookbook that has fairly healthy recipes (I'm just guessing that in teaching them to cook you also want to be nutrionally conscious) and then let them choose. If something sounds intriguing to them I'd think they'll be far more likely to really go after it and more interested in what worked and what didn't. When I started learning to cook on my own, I just started reading through my mom's cookbooks and making things that sounded good.

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          1. re: ccbweb

            That's a good idea. The Barefoot Contessa's books offer very accessible recipes for great-tasting food. It might be somewhere to start.

          2. Couple of thoughts. I found that teens seem to like baking more than cooking, so let them make a cake as a reward at some point. Cakes are pretty easy to make and have a big payoff. Fruit cobblers too--easy and good.

            Second, if they make something they like or get to pick that might work out better. Basic skills are great but sometimes it's just more fun to make something interesting for 'fancy'. Challenge them to come up with something.

            I do have a favorite dish that kids love. It is a sticky glazed chicken over Chinese noodles. I always serve it over the fresh Chinese noodles you can get in the produce section or near the tofu at some markets but you can use dreid noodles or thin spaghetti. Or rice, but I love it with noodles. The garlic will turn sweet and mellow and this takes only 1/2 hour to make. Good with sauteed pea pods or snap peas in sesame oil
            http://www.worldwideschool.org/librar...

            I'd try a couple one dish type meals: arroz con pollo, a pasta with something other than red sauce.

            1. give them a day of the week (friday, saturday, or sunday might be good choices) when they are responsible for cooking dinner...help them with meal planning, making a shopping list, and going to the market with you...these are real life skills that would be appropriate for a parent to introduce...another idea is to take them shopping and give them $20 for a dinner budget and see how they do, then take it from there

              1. Pizza - just about evryone loves it in some form. Can make the dough which is a great lesson or purchase dough and work from there. Small pizzas are great and each can be individualized.
                My teen likes to make skewers and BBQ them.
                We had a lot of fun making ravioli and potstickers. I really find that teaching a child to make their favorite food is always good. Family recipes are good

                1. I got interested with meatloaf and oven fried chicken. I didn't like anything that involved lots of mincing and chopping and whatnot. I found it to be too frustrating.

                  1. What about teaching them breakfast stuff... french toast, pancakes... a good french onion soup, what about a fish dish?

                    1. My kids are younger but they loved kneading dough--pasta, pizza, bread. They also have a lot of fun making pasta. They each get their own well of flour, add the eggs in the center and mix, then knead. Then they fight over who gets to turn the crank on the pasta maker. They love cutting ravioli and pinching the edges together. Pizza is really fun for them, too, and they love trying to spin the dough, though it never works for us.

                      Baking is also great--most of the basics that kids like are easily do-able, brownies, cakes, cookies. Try the Cooks Illustrated thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies, the mancatcher or supernatural brownies (all recipes can be found here). Anything egg based is easy. Quiche, scrambled eggs, omelettes, fritatttas. The best thing would be to have them make their favorite foods to get them enthusiastic.

                      1. When my niece and nephew were in their teens, I bought them a copy of How to Cook Everything and their parents gave them each one night per week that were their responsibility to choose and make dinner. They both found that having control of the entire process make it more fun and less of a chore.

                        1. One example that comes to mind...making homemade ice cream from fruit bought/picked at farmer's markets/pick your own farms, it helped me with our kids. The grill suggestion is a great one! Encouraging the kids to make the foods they love from scratch as illustrated by everyone posting here is the best way to go (imo, too).

                          Our 17 year old prepares dinner once a week and it's always a treat! (We're going to miss it when he heads to college.)

                          At one point our kids created a family cookbook including drawn pictures for every recipe. The project wound up being the biggest hit and "teacher" of home cooking. Let them have as much control over home cooking as you are comfortable with.

                          1. There was a similar thread just before christmas and someone suggested "Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures" by Rick Bayless and his teenage daughter. I gave it to my 13 year old daughter for Christmas to try and get her more interested in cooking and (hopefully) a little less picky. It's not just Mexican, but covers a gamut of things. It's very good in laying out "what to do first" and even tells you how to do things that we've all forgotten we once didn't know how to do (like chop an onion). It's fun reading, as each recipe is introduced by both Dad and daughter. The way it works in my house is that every week or so my daughter picks a recipe and we then cook it together. It has evolved that she gets to pick not only an entree but also a dessert (desserts are generally not on the menu in our house); a little bribery goes a long way.

                            1. If they like boxed mac & cheese, show them how to make mac & cheese from scratch. It's way better than the stuff in the box, and they will learn how to make white sauce, which is a basic cooking skill everyone needs to have.

                              1. I think it is a great idea to teach your kids before they leave home. Assigning a night where they are the head chef is a great choice as they have that responibility to feed everyone. Even if it isn't much they are getting the practice of preparing meals.