Inspire your future chef
Growing up some of my fondest memories were of my Grandmother and my Mother in the kitchen teaching me how to cook. Every Sunday we would prepare a huge sit down dinner from scratch. Sauce, meatballs, and just about every delicious Italian food you can imagine. To this day, I still love to cook and it’s a passion that I try to instill in my children. There is a special kind of bond that is formed between mother and child when both are elbow deep in cookie dough and flour.
Play It Safe
Much to my delight, my oldest daughter has taken an interest in the culinary arts. While I am far from a professional chef and I don’t cook everything from scratch like my Grandma used to, I am more than happy to teach her everything I know. When she told me she wanted to learn how to cook, I was faced with the task of finding recipes that were fun, easy, and safe for a child of her age. While she is 9 years old, she has barely even used the microwave on her own so it was a bit of a challenge for me.
We started small and worked our way up to her being able to use the stove solo (but still supervised). She surprised me this past Mother’s Day with an egg breakfast that she had cooked on her own and she couldn’t have been any prouder of her handiwork. Neither could I, and I’m happy to report that the eggs were rather delicious and fluffy.
I’ve compiled a list of kid friendly recipe ideas that are easy and fun to get your own little chef started in the kitchen. These recipes don’t require a lot of skill and can be made either with store-bought packages or from scratch- depending on the age and skill of your little one.
Mac and Cheese
Okay so this really isn’t a recipe but it’s one of my children’s favorite foods and rather easy to make. Most of the preparations are made with no flame so it’s a great start for younger children or those less experienced using a stove. I make my Mac and cheese by eye and don’t follow the measurements, but when cooking with my child I do. She measures out the water, adds a pinch of salt, and oil while I supervise. We use a stopwatch to time just how long a pot of water takes to boil, which is helpful to know when you are a novice trying to plan a meal.
Once the water is boiling, I let her put in the macaroni. She wears oven mitts and an apron to prevent any hot water splashing on her and burning her. We also time how long it takes for the macaroni to cook for future reference. When she believes it is done, I take on piece of macaroni out on a spoon and cool it off so she can taste it and look at it. Doing this enabled me to show her the difference in how the pasta looks when it is raw, half-cooked, or ready- as well as the texture of it.
I strain the pasta for her safety and once the stove is off and the pasta is returned to the pot, it is her turn. I let her measure and pour the milk, butter, and cheese powder on her own. She is able to stir it herself seeing as how the stove is no longer lit. Once she learned the basics of making boxed Mac and cheese we experimented a little on our own. We grate and mix different cheeses to achieve different flavors and textures.
Making Mac and cheese teaches kids the basics of cooking. How to boil water, cook pasta, and measure out ingredients. As well as, the time and temperature it takes for things like cheese to melt. Letting your child read the box and follow the directions also teaches them how to follow a recipe. Adding stuff to your Mac and cheese teaches them how to modify a recipe as well.
Making soup may not seem like a kid friendly recipe but it can be one as long as you cook on a low flame and are very careful. The fun thing about soup is it comes in all kinds of varieties. This enables your child to play with spices and ingredients, coming up with their very own creations. Start with a broth to make things easier and go from there. This gives your child a chance to explore your spice cabinet and learn the different flavors of different ingredients.
Meatballs are messy, gooey, and a lot of fun. If your child can roll a ball of play- doh, they can make meatballs. You may want to let them crack the eggs in a separate bowl if they are beginners to ensure you won’t have any eggshells in your food. There are many variations of meatballs you can make but the basic ingredients are always the same. Mush bread crumbs, a few slices of potato bread (how my family makes it), garlic, basil, oregano, grated cheese, eggs, and chop meat together and then roll into balls. Some kids might not prefer this recipe because it’s a little gross- but my kids love gross so it’s a win in my house.
Pigs in a Blanket
Again, this is not a recipe you make from scratch but it encompasses a favorite kid food- hot dogs. It also gives your child a chance to play around and become familiar with dough, even if it is from a can. The hot dogs and dough can all be cut with a butter knife so no sharp tools necessary and the preparations are done without heat so it is perfect for little ones.
This recipe definitely requires adult supervision but it is a favorite of mine and my kid’s to make. We cheat a little and buy complete pancake mix. Again I let my child read the instructions and measure the ingredients out on her own. We then add our own special touches- a dash of vanilla extract and chocolate chips or blueberries. I do the flipping and work the spatula but my child watches to see when the pancakes are ready to be flipped. Once the batter starts to bubble on one side- its time. These are as much fun to make as they are to eat.
An iconic childhood memory is making cookies with your parents. Even the dough tastes good so what is there not to like? You can use premade cookie dough but making your own in a lot more fun. The ingredients will vary depending on what type of cookie you are trying to make. Our favorite are Kiss cookies- peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle. The other fun part of making your own dough is you get to get messy with flour and its okay. You can cut your own cookie shapes and play with recipes however you’d like. Add nuts, berries, chocolate- go wild.
When you feel your child is ready to man the spatula all by themselves, scrambled eggs are a great place to start. It is cooked on a low flame and there is less chance of splashing or getting burned. It takes patience to make the perfect fluffy scrambled eggs but other than under or over cooking them- they are relatively hard to mess up. After mastering making scrambled eggs try more complicated recipes, like maybe an omelet.
Whatever recipes you choose for you and your child to make together, remember to have fun. Don’t mind the mess; it can be cleaned up later. Cooking together as a family is not only a learning experience, but a bonding experience. It’s surely one that they will carry with them for a lifetime, as I have done with my own fond memories of cooking with my family. It’s never too young to inspire their inner chefs. There are an endless number of recipes you can try from simple to advanced. So put on your aprons, get into the kitchen, and enjoy. Bon appetite!