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Your input needed

As many of the regulars know i am floor manager in a independent cookware and gourmet foods shop. I also write the monthly news letter. That is where I need your help. I am thinking about an edition devoted to kids and cooking. I've been to the web to sniff out some recipes and suggestions and frankly I am appalled. Most of the sites are run buy the big corporations who hire, I am ashamed to say home economists, of which I am one, to develop recipes. I find lots of sugar and very little nutritional value in those recipes. The one exception I found is a website called Kaboose. Granted many of the recipes are a bit more difficult than Rice Krispy Squares but certainly achievable by children tall enough to reach the cook top and may need a little adult help.

What were your childhood favorites that you could make by yourself or with a little help? You certainly did not become Chowhounds by eating and making back of the box recipes.

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  1. I started with things like ratatouille, spagetti sauce, inari rice, sandwiches, crisps & crumbles, cookies, tamale pie, cornbread, pancakes, waffles, shabu shabu, miso soup, rice, pizza, salad dressings and salads, scrambled eggs and omelettes, and one pot dinners (e.g., sauerkraut and spareribs, oyako domburi).

    1. First one that comes to mind is the tuna sandwich baked in a brown paper bag. It’s just drained tuna, chopped onion and celery, cubed American cheese with salt & pepper and just enough mayonnaise to hold it together. Spread on white bread, place sandwich in brown paper bag then into a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes. I remember them being something special when I was just starting to experiment in the kitchen as a child. Now I would change the type of cheese and the type of bread and maybe add some water chestnuts, parsley, cilantro… the list goes on. It’s a start I think.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TimCarroll

        This reminds me of what our mom called Tasty Tuna Burgers. Tuna salad on half of a burger roll, shredded cheddar on top, and under the broiler it went until the cheese was bubbly. We loved them with tomato soup. Never heard of the bag method, sounds like something fun to try.

      2. The things we made often as young children included

        chili con carne,
        oatmeal raisin cookies from the Betty Crocker cookbook,
        bran muffins,
        apple crisp,
        beef stew,
        baked fish,
        scrambled eggs.

        All very simple but they tasted good and the success did, too.

        Good for you for teaching the kids.
        By the way, Candy, I was thinking you must either have remarkable restraint or outbuildings to house your purchases working in a place like that. Dangerous!

        1. I recall making stuff like egg salad, no bake cookies, french toast, cheesy scrambled eggs, quesadillas, hamburg bbq (sloppy joes), grilled cheese sandwiches, corn on the cob, steamed veggies, etc.

          1. Candy: Although I'm not sure what age range you're talking about, here are some thoughts for 3-5-year-olds that I researched recently for a friend of mine. It's geared toward getting the little ones in the kitchen, learning basic techniques, and being involved in food prep.

            Thre's a lot of good buzz for Mollie Katzen's two books -- Pretend Soup and Salad People. You may want to check them out on-line or at Amazon for a peek at her recipes.

            English muffin pizzas (spread sauce, put on toppings), mozzarella cut with scissors, * see below.

            Cinnamon rolls (butter the pan with clean hands, butter the dough with clean hands, sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar, put rolls in pan)
            Adult probably needs to roll and cut. Child can drizzle with glaze.

            Pinwheel bites (spread flour tortillas with flavored cream cheese, place thin slice of deli chicken or ham, or both for color, maybe herbs)
            Adult probably needs to roll, wrap in plastic wrap, chill, cut into pinwheels. Easier to spread cream cheese with an offset spatula, kid or adult.

            Rice Krispy treats (butter pan, push into pan with buttered hands) I realize you said something more sophisticated than this, but this is aimed at the really little kids.

            Instant pudding (learn to measure milk, pour milk, help stir, add bananas or crumbled cookies, spoon into individual cups, top with whipped cream when set).

            Jell-O parfaits (help stir Jell-O to dissolve, when set, cut into cubes with plastic knife, layer in tall glasses with whipped cream and/or fruit between layers)
            Use whole blueberries or raspberries, or cut strawberries or bananas with plastic knife, * see below.

            Bread pudding, sweet or savory (butter pan, tear bread into pieces, learn to crack eggs, help make custard, pour over). Learn importance of staying clear of a hot oven.

            Meatballs (rolling and rolling and rolling and....) mini ones might be easier for little hands. Use a small cookie scoop to portion out blobs, then the kids can wet their hands and roll. Adult should probably brown them. Put in soup or in sauce over small pasta.

            Cookies, cookies, cookies! From cutting out Christmas shapes to rolling snickerdoodle balls in cinnamon sugar to peanut butter with the traditional fork grid marks.

            Monkey bread. Lots of recipes on the Web. Kids can roll the balls, dip in butter and/or herbs, spices, or sugar, put in tube pan.

            * Some suggestions I found were to use plastic safety scissors to cut everything from herbs to cheese slices to mushrooms.
            Plastic serrated knives are good. Learn the importance of frequent hand-washing. Learn to clean up. Someone said just have lots of dishcloths and sponges around. Someone else said I wish I had a dog to eat everything that fell on the floor! Some posters remembered wearing an apron as being a big deal when they were little.

            1. My daughter took to cooking very early and is a professional cook now. She started in our kitchen with:

              Apple crisp

              Tuna salad

              Peanut butter cookies

              Pancakes (and thats really where we started getting creative with additions and then toppings)

              Grilled cheese sandwiches with infinite variations on bread and cheeses

              Chili (varying meats and additions)

              Pizza with toppings as imaginative as can be (kids LOVE sweet pizzas, nutella, chocolate, marshmallow, strawberries etc)

              And fruit and vegetable salads that little hands make and put in a (plastic sandbox) pail go down much better than anything mom can put in a salad bowl!

              Good luck: this is a very noble quest!

              1. Just to add a note, the shop also has a website and we are thinking of adding a "Kids Can Cook" section to it after the intro in the news letter. We do carry kids sized aprons ad I just received a catalog of kid sized equipment, we won't stock a whole lot, but certainly enough spatulas, whisks etc. meant for smaller hands.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Candy

                  I did a lot of cooking as a kid, but since my Mom was ... well... an uninspired cook, I learned by following recipes. I remember the wonderful shock of discovering it was possible to leave out an ingredient I didn't like or have around the house. So I would definitely aim for some "master" recipes to introduce the idea of varying things to suit individual tastes. Oatmeal cookies where you add in raisins, choc chips or nothing, for example... Those english muffin pizzas were an early favorite. Breakfast for dinner became a staple (I guess because I never had time to make breakfast for breakfast). I didn't like recipes that required things like boiling pasta AND making a sauce -- I found it basically impossible to get the timing right. Gosh, it's hard to remember so far back -- like trying to remember not knowing how to walk. I definitely agree with Fern that successful cooking is tasty indeed. I "specialized" in a sugar cookie that I would take to bake sales and impress (or so I thought) my friends and family with. Good luck and have fun!

                  PS I am a recent devotee of the Artisan in 5 bread -- can't decide if it would be really cool for kids or kind of a flop. I do know plenty of adults who think they can't bake bread, so it would be impressive, but perhaps introducing a fridge-space hog that takes patience isn't the best way to a parent's heart?

                2. One thing that is useful when teaching kids to cook is the hands on aspect...I don't necessarily mean always literally little fingers in the dough though that is useful, too. As adults we tend to forget how tactile a process food prep should and could be.

                  For example, to really understand when cream is whipped, an old-fashioned hand egg beater is great for kids: the standard Kitchen Aid mixer just goes too fast from "almost" to "overdone" for a leaner to grasp the food chemistry involved.

                  Same thing goes for using a mortar and pestle, WAY more useful than grinding spices or whatever in an electric grinder where kids can't see and feel the stages of grinding.

                  And then I remember very well the day my daughter went from frustrated by pastry to totally getting the feel of it; this doesn't happen if your experience is limited to pastry by food processor only. Then it really was "easy as pie".

                  I will let others come up with examples but I think most good adult cooks will remember the hands-on idea as an important stage of learning to love cooking.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LJS

                    My mother used to usher the kids out of the kitchen while she cooked so I learned by following recipes right down to the last detail but now I've adapted a more freestyle cooking style which involves my daughter more. I agree with LJS that the tactile aspect is extremely important to kids, I let her whisk the eggs, stir batter, roll up cookies, make salad dressing, mashing up berries using mortar& pestle. It's fun for her and makes excellent bonding time too. Cooking with her is also a great way to incorporate math skills too :)

                  2. My kid watched and helped with the cooking. She loved something I called "chicken schnitzle." The first step was pounding the chicken and then rubbing with a paprika, salt and black pepper concoction. Well, when she started to make this dish, she increased the paprika, and then made a sauce with tons of paprika to dress pasta. To be honest, this was disgusting stuff, but it empowered her in the kitchen. Whenever there was a holiday from school, she would make this dish for lunch, for both herself and her friends. This was fifth grade. Now at 23, she can make a much greater variety of foods.

                    For her, feeling like the kitchen was her playground was the first step. I needed to let her make "paprika chicken" without making retching noises.

                    I am not sure there is one path to becoming comfortable in the kitchen. But parallel play with parents, or parent-substitutes, is a good place to start.

                    p.s. And I don't generally cook desserts. And now this is her "speciality." Sometimes learning how to perfect the things that your kitchen teachers don't do, is the path towards excellence.

                    1. Thank you all for your input. We have a website for the shop and beside writing the newsletter about kds and cooking we are thinking of putting a Kids Can Cook section on the website too. Keep the suggestions coming. i was cooking even when iI had to stand on a chair. I was looking at a recipe from the New Orlean's Jr. League cookbook, The Plantation Cookbook. I saw a recipe for French Silk Pie and thought that recipe is do-able for a 9 or 10 YO which sent me searching for more real recipes and posting this. I'd like to post recipes for all age groups of children.


                      1. When my kids were tall enough to work at the counter I had them help with dinner a few times a week. I didn't teach them recipes in the beginning, though. I started them out cleaning and chopping up vegetables. I had to teach them how to hold and use a knife so they would not do any major damage to themselves. They were also responsible for beverages. They learned how to tell when pasta is done, read a meat thermometer and mash potatoes.

                        As they got tall enough to see into the pots and pans I let them stir and add ingredients. I taught them how to make proper scrambled eggs and omelets. I think you can see where this is going. As they gained more skills they were able to do more in the kitchen. Now my teenager can make spring rolls, risotto, etc. and she has her own chocolate chip cookie recipe. We all use her recipe now.