Cooking With Kids:
Joss got a wonderful cookbook for his birthday that has encouraged us to cook together!
Joss is no stranger to helping me in the kitchen; however, our kitchen adventures usually involve cakes or cookies. For his recent birthday, though, he received a cookbook that has encouraged us to branch out: "Chef Gino's Taste Test Challenge" by Gino Campagna.
Not only does this book provide easy recipes that kids can make (or at least help with!), it tries to help kids understand taste and how different ingredients and flavors work together. For example, Campagna provides a "Pasta Sauce Matrix" with several different columns--fats (butter/oil), meats, vegetables, dairy--and explains that kids can mix and match different elements to create their own tasty sauce. As someone who has my own coffee cupping* bowls, spoons and book at home, I find this very appealing!
*Coffee Cupping is a formal process by which roasters, coffee buyers, etc., taste and evaluate different coffees. I believe Topeca offers coffee cupping classes on the first Saturday of the month, so if you're interested in learning more, check out their website. It's a lot of fun!
I loved this recipe for stuffed cucumbers, and added some blue cheese to give it even more flavor! Joss liked the process of making them and eating the cucumbers but tried to expel the cheese mixture from the middle. Ha.
Furthermore, while the recipes are easy enough for kids to make, they're also on the fancy side: like homemade pasta and crepes! I've made homemade pasta one time in my life, and that was good enough for me. It involved using a pasta maker attachment on our Kitchenaid and seemed to take forever--but reading about it in this book made me want to try again, so last night, Joss and I made ravioli!
Even at four, Joss can do a lot to help! Although he does tend to get distracted by wanting to eat the ingredients...The most fun part is how excited he gets about being "the chef"! While he isn't always in the mood to cook, generally he is more than happy to have me pull his stool up to the counter and get to work. It is also a great opportunity to have conversations about listening and following directions--and how not to spread germs!!
Sadly, although the cookbook promises that "if they help cook it, they will eat it," Joss decided that the spinach-and-ricotta filling was not to his liking. He said, "I like the toppings. And the edges." And that's what he ate. Oh well.
A bigger success was the Greek Salad, which I will put down below (with some variations--Joss is not a fan of onions, so we left those out!). He ate the entire bowl, and got the opportunity to use his knives as well, which he always loves.
The first recipe we made from the book was for Caprese salad--if you buy pre-slized mozzarella, this is the easiest recipe! Just layer mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil leaves! I did cut the tomatoes, but Joss enjoyed the layering process (which was more of a stacking process, as you can see in the photos below). He also got so excited by the prospect of helping with dinner that he insisted on making me scrambled eggs. Obviously, I helped with the stove elements, but he was so proud of his eggs and salad, it was a really special experience :)
I've known for a while that I could have Joss help me more when it comes to prepping dinner, but having a cookbook that specifically encourages kids to get in the kitchen has helped make that happen! I know this isn't the only kids cooking book out there, and I would love to hear if your family has one (or several!) that you've made repeated use of over the years.
Summer in Greece (aka Greek Salad), adapted from "Chef Gino's Taste Test Challenge"
- 1 English cucumber, chopped (Let your kid do this if they have kid friendly knives!)
- 1/2 c. chopped tomato
- 1/4 c. kalamata olives
- 1 package crumbled feta cheese
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Combine cucumber, tomato, olives and feta in a bowl. In a separate, small bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings. Drizzle over the salad and stir until combined. Enjoy!