One of my favorite pastimes is cooking with my children. Do you have kids? If you do, I want to heavily recommend that you teach them the joys of the kitchen while they’re still young and look up at you like a superhero that has all the answers. Teaching your children how to cook is more than a rite of passage; it’s just plain fun. To me, the kitchen is like a magical land that can create a special type of community and intimacy with the simple act of making a meal.
There are some little things you should look out for when you start to integrate your children into the cooking world: the basic do’s and don’ts.
DO assign simple tasks. When starting out, show them how to wash veggies, how to stir sauces to not let the sides burn, how to scramble eggs, etc.
DON’T let your child use a knife and cutting board without supervision and being taught proper technique.
DO give them a bit more responsibility as they show they understand. Show them basic vegetable cutting, but once you pass that knife from your hand to theirs, watch them like a hawk. (younger ones can use pumpkin carving knives safely, so save yours!)
DON’T let your child remove anything from the oven. But explain how it’s done as you do it; this way, when it’s time, they’ll be ready.
DO explain how when you’re using a pot or pan that you need to turn the handle to the side so it’s not sticking out so no one can run into it or accidentally knock it over.
DON’T allow them to handle meat until they’ve had a couple seasoned years under your training, but explain the safety issues and demonstrate thorough hand washing after you touch it.
ALWAYS let them sneak tastes of their labor in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I get to taste along the way, and I can guarantee that it’ll be a favorite among your children as well.
Well folks, there you have it! Show your children what a kitchen is and how to use it. My daughter is a college graduate now and she tells me all the time how surprised she is that hardly anyone her age knows how to cook. Regardless, your children are going to love learning this new skill! For them, it’s like finally getting to know the secret behind a magic trick. Have FUN!!
There is a true intimidation factor in cooking for some people—I get the emails from them so I know this is true. For me, having grown up in a home with parents who cooked, rarely eating out, I learned how to navigate my way in a kitchen early on.
It was (being honest here) a bit of surprise when I first started my website back in 2001 to learn that not everyone knew how to chop an onion. The cooking terms that I learned before I got my first Girl Scout badge (The Cooking badge naturally—I’ve got it taped to my bookcase, LOL!), have fallen by the wayside. Terms like dice, mince and julienne have turned into much simpler terms like chop, chop fine and chop into matchstick-sized pieces. But who cares, right? The deal is to get the cooking DONE, not worry about semantics.
Check out this testimonial we received from Heather:
Okay, I finally decided to try your system.
Well, first I get the menu – looks good, but I’m worried, because spaghetti and sauce is about the most I do. Then I see the grocery list – there are things on there that I’ve never ever bought before!
I go to the grocery store with your list in hand. For a family of 6 my average grocery bill was always over $120/week. With Leanne’s list – I spent $67.52.
Now, I decide to prepare the meal. First thing that I discover, a fancy sounding name doesn’t mean hours of cooking. Second thing, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to cook the whole thing! Finally, I find out that my kids eat things that don’t include mounds of sugar.
Thank you for helping me save money and my family’s health!!
Me again—the trick is, as Heather wrote, was not to be intimidated! She took a tool (the menu) and dove in and did the work. She discovered that doing so saved her a ton of money, her sanity, and made her feel like a hero in her own home! Isn’t that what we all want?
Don’t be intimidated by cooking! I’ve said in a million times, this is not brain surgery and it is something everyone can do, I promise! If you need help, I’ve got it for you in every way imaginable from free daily newsletters, to recipes and tips, grocery lists, freezer cooking, you name it. Don’t lose hope and think you can’t do this thing called cooking. YES, you can!!
Ready to try Dinner Answers like Heather did? We’ve got it right here for you.
You know how I feel about making dinner an event in your home. I’m a firm believer in getting everyone around the table together for dinner to reconnect with each other, discuss the day’s events and to nourish our bodies with good home-cooked food.
A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of learning how to set a proper table. Today, I’m going to talk about something else that makes sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience. Today we’re talking table manners.
My children were taught how to behave at the table from the time they were in their booster seats, so they naturally grew up knowing what to do and what not to do at the table.
This might not seem like a significant life skill to some people, but I believe that it is.
Think about it. How quickly can someone be turned off by a person chewing loudly with their mouth open in a formal dinner setting? It drives me up the wall when someone reaches over my plate to grab something at the table, rather than asking for me to pass it to them.
If you have children around your table, you have lots of time to train them in dinner table etiquette.
Teaching table manners to pre-schoolers.
It’s never too early to start teaching the basic stuff, like washing your hands before going to the table and sitting down on your chair to eat. Those things can start being drilled into a child as young as 2. Between then and kindergarten age, here are some other basic table manners you can start to teach:
• Say please and thank you
• No toys at the table
• Ask to be excused from the table
• Set your napkin in your lap and to use it when wiping your face
• Thank the person who cooked the meal
• Use utensils to eat
• Take small bites
• No running around or yelling during dinner
For children at the higher end of this age bracket, they can be taught to say nice things about the foods they like and to not make a fuss about the foods they don’t like.
Teaching table manners to grade-school children.
A child at this age should automatically wash their hands before sitting down at the table and they should already be sitting nicely at the table, and saying please and thank you. But now it’s time to teach some more adult table manners:
• Don’t slurp
• Use a knife and fork to cut food
• Chew with mouth closed
• Don’t reach over a fellow diner’s plate
• Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat
Include children in discussion around the table and make sure your child knows that you’re interested in hearing about their day.
When they have these manners down as children, it’s really just a matter of refining them through young adulthood.
Comment on their good manners when you find they’re using them. Your praise goes a long way.
Teenagers should already have these basic table manners down, but please make sure there’s a “no phones at the table” rule in place. Lead by example! Everyone should wait until dinner is over before returning to their mobile device.
What is your biggest dinner etiquette pet peeve? Come tell us on Facebook.
Hello hello! (Caroline speaking)
I asked our Facebook page a couple days ago if anyone would be interested in my Zuppa Toscana recipe, and there was a resounding “yes” – so here it is!
I like to call it “Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana” because (as some of you may know) myself, the hubs, and our two adorable husky pups, packed up in a little bus we call Henrietta and made an adventurous cross-country move! We found a dreamy little farm property to rent, but there were some kinks that needed to be fixed prior to us moving in, so our bus occupancy was extended another month (and then some).
While it was fun, and I love love love that we did it, I was ready for a house. Ready to settle in and have a real home again – kudos to those “van-lifers” out there, I just don’t think I could do it full time! One of the first things I made once I was back in a real kitchen was a huge vat of hearty and delicious Zuppa Toscana. I love it because it’s filling, and has potatoes, and a little cream, but it’s mostly broth based so it’s not too terribly rich (like a chowder would be).
Without further ado, here’s my preferred recipe!
Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana // serves 4-6 (give or take leftovers, depending on how often the fam goes for seconds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 pounds red potatoes, washed (peel off bruises or eyes, but I like leaving skin on for the most part) and sliced very thin
4 to 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (feel it out, it’s all up to how brothy you like it)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 cups kale, chopped
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add sausage and use a potato masher to really ground it all up and cook evenly. Saute for 4 to 6 minutes, then drain any excess grease. Turn heat down to medium, add onion and cook for another 3 minutes, then add in potatoes, broth, and spices.
Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to low and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or until potatoes are fork tender). Stir in cream and kale, once kale has wilted some (just about 1 to 2 minutes) go ahead and serve!