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Kinda complicated, kid cooking dinner advice needed

I have a kid friend (13) who loves to cook but has pretty much considered herself topped out at french toast. Her younger sister's going through serious chemo/radiation treatments three hours away (with Mom away too) so she's/the family's often eating whatever nice neighbors have brought or her Dad brings home for easy re-heat. They whole family is lovely and appreciative for absolutely everything that shows up, but I would like to expand my friend's cooking repertoire/comfort level when she cooks at my house and give her glowing reviews when she cooks for the family.

I am specifically looking for things she could prepare with me and reheat and/or cook at home for her family.

The family seems to have very unspicy palates and may be historically mid-western in their likes. My friend likes to experiment and try new things her sibs don't appreciate.

We made pot stickers together (though I had to rechop most of her veggies) and the pot stickers were a big hit both here and at home. But now I'm looking for something she could make at my house and later make at hers. (This means no fine dicing, for now.)

Her family avoids cow-based dairy and I don't know how much meat they eat. (I do know that I'm a pretty lame meat cook.)

Suggestions on what we ought to make for our next cooking adventure? We are generally limited to an hour or so for cooking but I am happy to shop (and chop, if needed) to make delectable happen.

Thank you soooo much for any and all ideas you might share!!

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  1. Is thirteen too young to cook pasta, I wonder? Obviously, you'd have to have a special recipe for mac and cheese, but there are so many options for cheeses.

    2 Replies
    1. re: miki

      Her favorite dish ever is angel hair pasta with shrimp. Thanks for reminding me! I think this is something she could do with her eyes closed after doing it with her eyes wide open. (I loooooove mac and cheese and we have a great local goat cheese dairy so will see what we can do.)

      1. re: miki

        Hummus goes well with pasta instead of the cheese.

      2. I was that age in junior high home ec class, where I think the first thing we learned to cook was tuna casserole - the cream of mushroom soup, milk, and potato chips version.
        Adding some frozen peas before baking would give it a little more flavor and eye-appeal.

        I'd teach her Shake&Bake chicken. Potatoes can be put in the oven while it is preheating and if they are on the small side, will be baked by the time the chicken parts are done. Also, boneless chicken breasts are versatile in that if you teach her to saute them, they can be sauced in a number of ways. Stir-fries are coarse chopping friendly.

        Sauteeing broken-up ground beef and onions is an easy thing for novice cooks and is fine just over potatoes or can be turned into spaghetti sauce or sloppy joes.

        This young lady is fortunate to have a thoughtful neighbor like you looking out for her; all the best to all of you.

        5 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Great ideas! I will see if they're into tuna casserole (or, as it was called in my home, tuna wiggles).

          And your shake and bake idea is FAB! Reminded me of this recipe from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... that has gone over exceptionally well with kids of all ages.

          Thanks for the well wishes. She's a GREAT kid and I'm super lucky to have met the whole family through her. Truly exceptional people.

          1. re: miss louella

            Shake and Bake is still one of our old reliables. Around here, so is American Chop Suey which is basically sauted ground beef, onion, seasoning, can of tomatoes, small can of tomato sauce, and elbow macaroni. One of my son's favorite dishes.

            I would also consider some soup recipes like chicken and rice soup. And teach her how to make gravy and a simple roast chicken. If the family eats beef, beef stew and beef pot roast . I always serve pot roast with Near East Rice Pilaf with peas added.

            Foods that re-heat and even taste better the next day are good.

            1. re: dfrostnh

              Roast chicken is probably too much for a young teenager. For kids that age, just touching raw meat is supremely yucky. The thought of sticking her hand inside one, rubbing reasonings on the skin, and bending/breaking joints will likely send her running for the nearest purveyor of deep-fried nuggets. Beginning cooks, regardless of age, usually stick with meats/poultry that is already in smaller pieces that cook quickly, and later on they develop a sense for slower and combination temp cooking styles.

              1. re: greygarious

                I'm not sure - I suppose it depends on the kid. When I was just younger than that, my mom 'taught' me to cook by leaving detailed notes about dinner. One of my favorites is the first one she wrote for a whole chicken - "Take chicken from fridge. Wash chicken. Do *not* use soap. Dry chicken. Do *not* use the dish towels..." I was giggling even then and managed my way through the rest of it without even thinking of the 'ick' factor. And if you're 12 or 13 and cook a whole chicken, you really feel like you know how to cook. Big confidence builder :)

              2. re: dfrostnh

                can also experiment with your own shake and bakes - recently we did pork chops in Fiber One cerial that I ground up (or smashed) - just added salt & pepper - it was fantasticly sweet and salty.

          2. You're kind to help, and surely, anything you will do will be very appreciated.

            Maybe some one-dish type cooking, such as chili, spaghetti and (turkey) meatballs.fajitas, chow mein (if you wanted to go a little more exotic, pad thai), skewers/yakitori, humus/pita as part of a mediterranean spread... breakfast for dinner like blintzes...

            1. How to bake potatoes.
              Then make toppings for them.
              Veggies and cheese on them.
              And maybe even how to make baked potato soup.

              Soups: Split pea...she'll feel so sophisicated when you teach her to make croutons for a topping.
              How to make a congealed salad-starting with jello.

              Variation on a theme: Bread pudding- she already almost knows this recipe from French Toast.

              1. Now that you mention breakfast....Omelets for sure, but the fine points of scrambling and frying eggs, and bacon, will serve her well. Granted, it's mostly a matter of learning not to use high heat as a shortcut, but that's a lesson everyone needs to learn (usually the hard way). You should get a look at her family's cooking equipment, feel the thickness of the pans, and teach her a little about the differences. She would probably have more success if you could sometimes teach her in HER home rather than yours, given how diffferent equipment yields different results, so that her confidence doesn't flag if she is unsuccessful in trying to duplicate something she cooked on your stove in your pots.