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First meal to teach a kid to cook

We've taught our son to make scrambled eggs and omlettes (with supervision of course). Give me some other ideas of things that you've taught your kids or you remember being taught how to prepare - and still make.

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  1. Son: Oatmeal cookies using the recipe on the box. They turned out better than good!
    Daughter: Simple marinara sauce. I was always in the kitchen when they were cooking.

    They both prepped for me from about the age of 8 (+/-). At first they just assembled the ingredients, then as they got older they measured out the herbs and spices, progressing to chopping the vegetables. They both set the table for dinner when time and homework permitted. We used a "formal" setting so they would get used to using the various forks, etc.

    1. scrambled eggs here too -- also smoothies and pancakes

      1. muffins are easy, taste good, and give you a chance to talk about why you don't overbeat, and teaches what folding something (berries...) in is about.

        1. I was taught grilled cheese sandwiches.

          1. If I remember correctly, my mother taught me:

            Stage 1 (age 5-7). Cooked cereal; scrambled, boiled, and fried eggs; simple sandwiches; heating moochi; hot dogs; fruit salads; creamed spinach (yes, using Campbell's cream of mushroom); three bean salad (also from cans).

            Stage 2 (age 8-11). Rice; hamburgers (including mixing meat and making patties); green salads; salad dressings; miso soup; oyako donburi; stir fried meat, tofu, and vegetable combos; muffins; pancakes; waffles; teriyaki chicken and beef; soups & stews; sukiyaki, shabu-shabu; kim chee, Japanese quick pickles; rattatoulle; tacos; chili; beans; pasta sauces.

            Stage 3 (age 12-16). Enchiladas, burritos, chile rellenos, tamales, inari zushi, maki zushi, dolmas, lumpia, pies, ...

            1. I remember the first things I ever made on my own - pan-fried potatoes, chocolate chip cookies, and lemon bars. All because I wanted them (I think I was around 7), and my mom told me that if I wanted them, I'd have to make them myself.

              I still remember how precisely I would dice the potatoes, and how carefully I'd fry them in just a touch of olive oil so that each and every side was the proper shade of brown. Now, I'm not nearly that careful.

              Oh, and I loved making that dish where you cut a hole out of a slice of bread and fried an egg in it? Although, I never was able to turn it perfectly.

              1. Bread.

                It's also a disguised chemistry lesson with the yeast etc.

                1. After the scrambled eggs and french toast, we taught our kids how to make macaroni and cheese to learn how to make a bechamel sauce and biscuits because they loved them and it was relatively easy.

                  1. The very first food preparation I teach little kids is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You know, the right way, with great bread and make sure you get out to the edges!
                    It's the best for a little one to make something they can eat right away. What fun!

                    1. Odd that I should see this today.

                      My first cooking lessons with my nephews will be today when we'll work on the fine art of spaghetti and meatballs.

                      Should be a lot of fun.


                      1. The first recipe I mastered was a basic brownie recipe from my mom's Fannie Farmer cookbook. Once I had it down pat, I began to experiment and develop the recipe until it was truly special. I was then assigned the role of baking brownies for every family gathering, which made me quite proud of myself. My secret ingredient was heavy cream.

                        1. Bolognese Sauce (but not a terribly authentic version, but STILL the version I make today!). Chopping onions is one the hardest first lessons in the kitchen with all that crying! Make everyone wear sunglasses, and suddenly it's fun. I've done this as a babysitting activity and had lots of fun. My friends' kids call me "the best chef in the world."

                          My mom's version was chopped and sauteed onion and garlic. About a pound of browned ground beef, added to the skillet after the onions were soft and starting to brown. Salt, pepper, oregano, basil (fresh if you've got 'em, dried if you don't). When the meat is browned and the liquid evaporated, add a big can of good tomato puree. Simmer everything for about 30 minutes. Done. Serve with pasta. (For kids it's the basic-ness of the recipe that is so appealing, and as they get older and more sophisticated and adventurous they can add things - milk/cream, a parmesan rind, kalamata olives, mushrooms, whatever they want.)

                          1. So many great suggestions. Let me add one more. If you have any ethnic or family-tradition recipes that you turn to alot, start teaching those (age/skill appropriate, of course). My background is Finnish, and our holidays feature a number of Finnish foods. My kids started helping in the kitchen early, and learned alot about their heritage through the foodways and recipes they were exposed to. (This worked especially well for us because, well, one doesn't usually find the opportunity to go out for Finnish food, the way one can for Italian!) Same can go for "Great-Granny-Ethel-on-Dad's-Side's Perfect Butter Cake" or "Uncle Pat's Irish Stew."

                            Check out some of the old recipe cards you may have received from family members. It's a great cooking lesson, and a bit of history the kids can eat.

                            1. Cinnamon Toast, Pancakes and French Toast

                              Seasonal/familial desserts. For us, Pepparkakor(ginger snaps) or pumpkin pie

                              1. My first cooking was with omelettes - it was a different way of using up leftovers. So I'd work on that... what can you throw together with what's already in the fridge? Stir fry? Meatloaf? Enchiladas? Chili? Groundnut stew?

                                IMO, teaching kids to never waste anything and respect the food chain trumps most any other kitchen skill that can be taught while yound.

                                1. the first style of cooking i tried was stir-fry. we had one of those electric woks so when things seemed like they were too hot and fast for me, i would turn it down until i felt like i was in control again, then turn it back up. stir-frying helped to teach me how to gauge the heat, and what kinds of vegetables or meats cooked faster than others. i was the only one out of my group of friends that knew how to cook from scratch.

                                  1. The first cooking memories I have with my Mom is making pancakes and my Great Aunt Jean's brownies....both from scratch...no boxes no mixes.

                                    1. Scrambled eggs, pancakes, toad in a hole or picture frame eggs

                                      Mom's tuna salad--tuna, mayo, red onion, red apple, celery and dill

                                      The first things I remember making alone were Egg Boats (deviled eggs w/ paper sails mounted on toothpicks), cornflake chicken, Calzones (I was like 8 and set on making my own pastry), and making up my own cookies at my pen pal's house in Tennessee

                                      I always think pasta is fun to make with kids! Wish my mom had been more culinarily inclined...

                                      1. I was taught by my grandmother to grill meats first, she always let me watch her cook,i picked up a lot from that ,but for some reason she never wanted me to cook in the house...

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                                        1. re: jword2001

                                          great tip - yes, grilling is great for kids. It teaches them the relationship of heat and food in a fundamental way. Even from a young age they can help turn brats or veggies on the grill with supervision. Plus, a nice family activity, and one that can mature as the kids do.

                                          I remember the steak fries (id est, steak cook-outs - maybe a Midwestern term) we had when I was a kid. The young ones (I and my eight-year-old cousins) would be charged with turning the ribeyes and T-bones and strips according to a timer, while the parents chatted. It was glorious to be in charge of the food, if only for a short time. Kids love it.

                                        2. Krispy Kreme donut bread pudding with canned peaches, a la Paula Dean.

                                          1. A few friends and I took a little community cooking class when we were about 8, I think and one of the things we learned to make was Toad in a Hole as a few others have mentioned here. At around the same time I got a children's cookbook and made one whole dinner myself--meatloaf with mashed potatoes on top, a vegetable side that I don't remember and a no-bake frozen lemon cream pie sort of thing for dessert. Looking back, they were items that mostly had to be assembled, stirred, etc. which made them manageable and I was very proud to make the WHOLE meal!

                                            I also remember making Swedish meatballs with my mom--probably had a fair amount of help with browning them. This falls under the ethnic, passed down category that someone else mentioned.

                                            Other than that, most of my experience was with baking--cakes, frostings, muffins and lots and lots of cookies!

                                            1. Oops, sorry about my earlier reply. Guess I didn't read carefully. Muffins don't make much of a meal, do they?

                                              I used to bake or broil fish alot when I was young. Very simple dishes like fish with lemon, garlic, paprika...nothing too exciting but I thought it was pretty good at the time. You could raise the bar there and teach them from the get go to make it tasty.
                                              I made baked potatoes or rice and probably just heated up a frozen vegetable.
                                              Sadly, my fish cooking skills haven't gotten much beyond that...

                                              We had salad every night so we knew how to do that very early. even if they're too young for the veg slicing they can wash, spin, and tear lettuce.

                                              Oh, another easy one we did as young kids was cooking fish or chicken with vegetables and herbs in foil packets. It was so easy and so much fun to eat that way. We'd put the packet right on each plate and everyone would open theirs up and oooh & aaah. Opening them with my fork reminded me of Jiffy Pop, which was something our parents didn't buy but looked so cool!

                                              1. Okay, for some reason I can log in at my office but not at home. Weird. I use the same browser both places.

                                                But as to the topic at hand: when I was a kid I started baking cookies by the time I was nine or ten years old. Then my mom taught me how to make biscuits (baking powder biscuits, from scratch), and that became my job for weekend breakfasts.

                                                Somewhere along the line she got us a children's cookbook, and in there was a very easy vegetable dish involving canned green beans, sliced tomatoes, and cheese. I *still* make that for potlucks from time to time.

                                                By the time I was in junior high I was the official spaghetti sauce maker in our house.

                                                Here's what I think: Every kid should learn how to make a basic white sauce. With that they can make macaroni & cheese that's better than the box; and they can make gravy to go on those biscuits. They'll also be able to do lots of things that normally call for canned cream of whatever soup, only without all the salt & chemicals, and with a whole lot more control over the flavor.

                                                Keep kids underfoot in the kitchen. When they're little they'll be very proud of whatever help they can give, whether it be getting bowls out of the low cabinets or measuring flour. This is how people have learned to cook from time immemorial. It might take a little extra time to have them helping, because you have to show them stuff and maybe they make more messes (they can learn a valuable lesson by helping clean up, too!), but it's necessary and worth it.

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                                                1. There are pictures of me at the age of four covered in chocolate happily stirring brownie batter. I don't think I ever really learned to cook, it just sort of happened. If I was in the kitchen and something needed to be done, my mom put me to work. Baking is a great way to teach kids about fractions and counting, so we did a lot of that.

                                                  The first whole meal I ever cooked was baked chicken (with some sort of homemade shake-n-bake type coating) baked potatoes, and broccoli. And brownies for dessert.

                                                  1. It's not really cooking, but all my sisters and I started out making Jello for family dessert . . . always mixed in the same brown pottery bowl, using the ice cube "quick" thickening method. After that, chocolate chip cookies. I made my first from-scratch cake--unsupervised, as a surprise--using all-purpose instead of cake flour. My Dad asked for a big piece and, bless him, ate every yucky bite. Even I couldn't finish my piece. Taught me a great lesson about following directions, without destroying my confidence.

                                                    1. My grandma had me peeling garlic at age 5. When ever she was doing a technique, like adding an acid to halt oxidation, she would always tell me why... why she ran the banana leaves over an open flame 4 times, to soften; why she rinsed the rice so well; why she let the pan get really hot before adding anything to the pan. All given a little at a time but built up to the foundation of my culinary knowledge.

                                                      The first thing she really taught me to make was crepes. Age 8. Heat pan just so, lightly grease, roll the batter with perfected arm twirl and pour off excess...Once I got it down pat, I made hundreds and hundreds for my grandma. It felt good to be needed at age 8-9 by my grandmother. (it was for fresh lumpia)

                                                      By age 11 I was baking cakes all by myself. Somewhat of a culinary wunderkind, so I my experience may be a bit advanced.

                                                      MY niece is 9. And I let her help with crockpot recipes, which is mostly dump in and sit and wait. She didn't take to cooking like I did. I'll have her pick my herbs off the stem so can chop them. Peel potatoes. You should teach them all the prep first, just like in a pro kitchen, then graduate them to cooking.

                                                      I'd think frying up bacon wouldn't be a bad first cooking lesson.

                                                      1. Homemade meatballs do the trick for my 4 and 7 year old grandsons. They love to get their hands in there to squish everything around while singing "One Meatball" (Louie Prima?) at the top of their lungs. Let everything come to almost room temp before beginning so their hands don't get cold. They can then help to add the pasta to the pot, eat and clean up. Fun and good learning at the same time.

                                                        1. As kids, we always helped out with the 'Sunday dinners'. I think an invaluable lesson for any child is to roast a chicken. They will use this skill the rest of their life. Not the most difficult thing to cook, there is a bit of wait time involved though - but could be a good opportunity to learn mashed potatoes?

                                                          1. Since you've already taught omelets, try expanding on this with Korean Omurice.
                                                            A fried rice omelet.
                                                            You can find a pretty good recipe for it here:
                                                            Sue, the host, has quite a few interesting recipes on her site, some of them would be good to expose children to other cuisines.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: hannaone

                                                              scrambled eggs, french toast, pancakes, chicken noodle soup from cans, scones, instant noodle. My 9 year old daughter loves to cook and she has been learning since she was 7.

                                                            2. One of my earliest cooking memories (probably at age three or four) is making peanut butter thumbprint cookies with my mom. The "thumbprints" were filled with jelly, and peanut butter cookies are still high on my list of favorite cookies.

                                                              1. Spaghetti and marinara sauce, because it's normally the "real" food that kids eat in restaurants, and it demystifies it. My little sister-in-law (who is now 12) wouldn't eat marinara sauce until she saw me make it one day. I taught her how, and she still makes it.

                                                                I do have to say that the Quick Chop is the best thing ever for kids who are too young to use a knife -- you put the garlic under the dome, give the kid some leverage (your garlic cutting board securely planted on non-skid foam on the coffee table works great), and say, "Now keep mashing down on that button on top!" Then there's the "oh wow" factor of actually pouring a glass of wine and putting it in the sauce. ("Ewwww, I don't like how it smells, why do you and Mommy and Daddy drink this??" "That's OK, you don't have to like it, it changes in the sauce.")

                                                                I debated teaching her to make pasta, but until recently she didn't have the upper-body strength necessary to knead the dough.

                                                                Another good thing is cookies... chocolate-chocolate chip go over really well.

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                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  I recall making crepes with my son when he was about six. He helped measure the ingredients for the batter, and mix it. And, then helped fill the crepes after they were cooked. Some were filled with spoonfuls of creamed spinach (Stouffers' frozen), some jam, some just cinnamon sugar.