Julie Negrin, MS., C.N. knows something about cooking with kids. She has spent the last twelve years teaching both adults and children how to cook, devoting 5 years to developing recipes and curriculum specifically for children.
She has even been on Sesame Street.
I admit to feeling overwhelmed with having my 4-year old help in the kitchen. I always seem so hurried to get meals on the table that I don’t take the time to have her help. But this book has made me realize there’s much more I can do to get the ball rolling.
Here are some tips for getting started straight from Julie Negrin’s book, Easy Meals to Cook with Kids:
1. Start with something familiar: When introducing the concept of cooking to kids, start with one of their favorite dishes so that they’ll equate cooking with something they already enjoy. Once they get the hang of it and “trust” the process, you can graduate to unfamiliar dishes.
2. Find assistants: Invite Grandma over or keep your sitter for an extra hour. It will be more fun for everyone if there is someone else to help oversee the project and clean up.
3. Accept that it will get messy: Kids are great cleaner-uppers, so ask them to pitch in. Many kids, as young as two years old, love using a sponge and do a surprisingly good job of wiping up.
4. Give specific instructions: Since kids think very literally, be extremely clear with them. Years ago, I asked my students to peel carrots and turned around. When I looked again, they had peeled the entire carrot down. (From this experience, I realized it was a safe way for them to “grate” the carrot and continued using that method to prep carrots.)
5. Roll with the punches: If something goes wrong, just laugh. It’s a good opportunity to teach children how to shrug off mistakes and learn from their blunders. Best of all, that “mistake” could end up being a new recipe idea for family dinners!
More about the book…
While the beginning of the book is filled with tips, the majority of it contains nutritious and tasty recipes. Each recipe includes age-specific tasks for 2 and up, 4 and up, 6 and up, 8 and up and over 10 or adults. The dishes are divided into 4 different regions Latin, Italian, Asian and Mediterranean. Oh, and there’s a section on dessert!
While many of the dishes are vegetarian, they are appealing and simple. Even if my daughter doesn’t end up helping much, I will use these recipes. I can’t wait to try the tropical mango salsa, mini black bean burgers and the mini spinach pies.
You definitely won’t get only kid-friendly fare here (although there is a recipe for mac and cheese and garlic cheesy bread) which gives you a great opportunity to expand your kid’s palate. Julie admits to haven been a picky eater growing up but because her family was too busy enjoying their own food to notice, she finally decided to join them.
Before I reveal the dish my daughter and I made, I have to tell you how much I love this book. Julie’s dedication for helping kids prepare good food shows up on every page. It’s nice to have advice from an expert on the most effective ways to have kids help (and learn) in the kitchen.
Because she made this book all on her own (self-published), Julie was not able to send me a complimentary copy. So I happily bought it knowing that if I’m going to have one book on cooking with kids, this is the one to get.
So even with a half-put together kitchen, we were able to make this super simple and tasty dish.
I’m curious, what meals do you make with your kids? And if you don’t, why not (let’s be honest here!)
Zesty Black Bean and Corn Salad
Prep Time: 20 minutes
-One 15 ounce can black beans (or 2 cups cooked)
-2 cups corn kernels (fresh; frozen and thawed; or canned)
-2-3 TBS red onions, finely diced
-1/4 tsp garlic, minced
-3 TBS olive oil
-2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon (about 1 lemon)
-1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
-freshly ground pepper to taste
-2 TBS cilantro, minced
Kids 8 and up: Clean off the top of the canned beans (and canned corn, if using). Open the can and drain the liquid. Rinse the beans off in a colander and drain well. Combine the beans and the corn in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Kids 2 and up: Add the onion and garlic to the beans and corn. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and the lemon juice together and pour over the bean mixture. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in cilantro (or serve it separately for picky eaters) and stir. Let the salad stand for 15 minutes (or up to one day in the fridge) to allow flavors to blend. This salad is best served at room temperature. Store the salad in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recipe, used with permission, from Easy Meals to Cook with Kids by Julie Negrin © 2010
Amy at TheSceneFromMe says
This salad is right up my alley with all those hearty ingredients. I am going to make this for a healthy post Thanksgiving meal. Thank you!
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Amy — it’s great and so simple. Hope you like it!
I let my kids help out a lot in the kitchen. Maybe moreso than the average parent. My 6 yr old can even scramble her own eggs (with supervision). She’s working on making her own quesadillas.
My theory is that by teaching my kids how to cook, and making it something enjoyable and interesting (rather than the drudge that it can easily turn into), I’m giving them a truly invaluable skill. Often times it seems like the people who turn to prepackaged meals and fast food are ones who don’t know how to cook.
This book sounds like a great one for us. I’m thinking about getting a cookbook for my 6 yr old for Christmas.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Goodfountain — I think you’ll like it. Lots of vegetarian dishes.
You are so right about how important it is that kids learn to prepare foods from a young age. It’s not just about getting them to try new food but learn skills they will use for a lifetime!