Even if kids don’t like to eat something or think they don’t like to eat it, chances are they will like to prepare it – even more so if that means one-on-one time with parents or a special adult, or cooking with their peers.
Since I started offering classes, I invited my own older kids to join in the hopes that they too will continue to try different foods, practice basic kitchen skills and keep getting involved in meal time preparation. I currently have a 6 year who entitled herself assistant teacher and a 9 year old chef who says he’s not big into cooking (I have a feeling that being in a class when your Mom is the teacher is just not cool right now, but I’m ok with that).
We’ve made frittata, calzones, salads, cheese bread, falafel, minestrone and more. My kids are having fun, but the biggest a-ha moment for me was the day I forgot that my son had become a vegetarian (and more on that topic later). Having just sat down to eat dinner after preparing a relatively nice meal in spite of the exhaustion of single parenting 3 young ones (Romas was gone on a 9 day work trip), I realized that Mateus would not eat dinner, so I asked if he could get up and go see if there was anything else that he could eat in the fridge.
I almost saw a lightbulb pop on the top of his head when he realized he was free to do whatever he wanted in the kitchen – or so he thought, at least. I followed and tried to give minimal guidance to avoid cuts and microwave fires, but tried not to interfere much as he was experiencing the independence and endless possibilities that knowing how to cook brings us. He sliced, grated, toasted, spread, sprinkled, chopped, mixed, squeezed and, more importantly, created a lunch of his own (after attempts to microwave bread and stab an avocado were gently redirected). Since that day, Mateus has been a lot more interested in the kitchen and a more confident cook. His pleasure comes from choosing what to make or what ingredients to add in a dish we are making.
Given the weekday time constraints on most of us, human parents, smoothies come in handy to allow for a quick adventure in the kitchen while at the same time providing an after school snack (my kids are usually starving after school – they are chatter boxes during lunch time!).
Here is our favorite around here lately: açaí smoothie. I try to get a bit of a Brazilian flair in our kitchen every time I see an opportunity, such as when I spotted the açaí frozen fruit puree packets at Trader Joe´s a few weeks ago. Kids love adding things to the recipes and choosing ingredients, so I offer chia seeds, oats and almonds as extra choices for added nutrition and texture!
And here are some helpful tips that I gathered from cooking with my kids and teaching other children:
- Let your children help out at the supermarket by picking vegetables, fruits and other healthy foods they would like to eat or try. They may surprise you!
- Find out what your kids may like helping out with during meal preparation besides setting the table. A child may prefer to read the recipe and gather the ingredients, while another prefers to be more hands-on. Either way, get them involved.
- Don’t cook down to your kids or cook separate meals. Cook what you feel like eating!
- Bring your kids to the local farmers’ market or a farm for a fun family outing. It will teach them about seasonality, where the food comes from and how it is grown, made and sold.
- Don’t give up on getting your kids involved and interested in cooking or learning about food and eating. Kids go through phases with just about everything.
- And don’t take it personally! If they despise a meal you worked hard to prepare, they may be ready to try it again sooner than you think. Their taste change quickly and it has nothing to do with your cooking!
AÇAÍ AND STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE
1 banana, chopped into slices and frozen (do this step the night before)
1/2 cup of fresh berries of your choice (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
3½ ounces (1 pouch) frozen unsweetened açaí fruit puree*
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons of honey
1 cup of frozen spinach leaves
1 squeeze of lemon or lime
optional: 1 tablespoons of chia seeds, oats or nuts of your choice (or all of them)
a few ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Drink right away or freeze in popsicle molds.