Many parents’ intuition might be to shoo children out of the kitchen.
But the next time your kiddos are underfoot while you’re making dinner, consider tossing them a task.
Cooking with kids can be a great way to bond, create healthy habits and make something great for lunch.
Sally Sampson, who created “ChopChop," a cooking magazine for families, suggests starting small: let them pick a vegetable at the farmer’s market to add to a salad, or throw veggies into a blender to create a smoothie. Kids can also create their own salad dressings.
One thing she cautions against? Inviting the help for dessert.
“Pretty much anybody’s going to say that they want to make cookies, and I think you don’t want that to be the focus,” she says.
Cooking works even with the littlest ones. “You can describe what you’re doing,” Sampson adds. “You can have them hand you carrots. No age is too young.”
And cooking can be much healthier – and cheaper – than parents might think.
Massachusetts program Cooking Matters aims to help low-income families make delicious, affordable meals.
Director Alicia McCabe advises asking children whether they ate different colors in the rainbow – for example, if they ate anything green – and making it a daily game.
“I think a lot of that is just getting parents to imagine a slightly different way of doing things,” she says.
One last tip? Don’t forget to include them in the cleanup.
Mango salsa, from Cooking Matters
Rinse mangoes, cucumber, green onions, jalapeño pepper, limes and bell pepper, if using. Peel mangoes. Cut mango flesh from the pits. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. If using bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise. Remove stems and seeds. Dice mangoes, cucumber and bell pepper, if using. Finely chop green onions. Cut jalapeño pepper in half lengthwise. Remove stems and seeds and dice. If using, rinse and chop cilantro. Cut limes in half. Squeeze juice from each half into a medium bowl. Discard seeds. Add mangoes, cucumber, green onions, jalapeño, salt and cayenne pepper to bowl with juice. If using, add bell pepper and cilantro. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
2 large ripe mangoes
1 small cucumber
2 medium green onions
1 medium jalapeño pepper
2 medium limes
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 medium bell pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro
Serves six, ½ cup per serving
Rainbow sandwich, from ChopChop
Wash your hands with soap and water, then gather all your kitchen gear and ingredients and put them on a clean counter. Start with whole-wheat bread and your favorite sliced cheese, then lay on the color.
1. Red: tomatoes, red peppers, radishes
2. Orange: carrot salad
3. Yellow: yellow bell peppers, hummus
4. Green: spinach, lettuce, pesto, fresh herbs, cukes, avocado, sliced green apple
5. Purple: cabbage slaw
Black bean hummus, by Ana Quincoces for IMUSA
In a molcajete or bowl crush the garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro. Add the black beans and mash lightly with a fork. Add the prepared hummus and combine while making sure to incorporate the crushed garlic, and cilantro at the bottom of the molcajete or bowl. Add the paprika, cumin, salt, and white pepper. Mix well. Carefully fold in all but 1 tablespoon of the chopped tomato. Drizzle the top with olive oil and garnish with the remaining cilantro and tomato. Serve with plantain strips and blue corn chips.
1 cup store bought good quality hummus
½ cup cooked black beans
1 small ripe but firm plum tomato seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of white pepper
A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Plantain strips and blue corn chips for serving
Spicy chicken, tangerine and shiitake stir fry, by Cat Cora
In a large skillet, heat the oils over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for four to five minutes or until lightly browned. Add broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, pepper and onion and cook an additional five minutes, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, combine broth, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili flakes. Add to chicken mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium to medium-low and simmer for four to five minutes or until sauce thickens. Add in tangerines and cilantro, toss lightly and serve over hot brown or jasmine rice.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 package shiitake mushrooms
2 to 3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed chili flakes (optional)
1 cup tangerine (or orange segments)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro