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.
Date night doesn’t always have to mean finding a babysitter and making reservations at an expensive restaurant. That’s nice to do once in a while, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a date night in on a regular basis. Feed the kids early, put them to bed and prepare a romantic, candle-lit meal for just the two of you!
Set the mood
Part of the fun of going to a restaurant for a romantic dinner is the ambiance. Try to recreate that atmosphere at home by setting the table with some linens, flowers, candles, a nice set of dishes and beautiful glassware.
Sexy menu items
We’ve all heard that oysters are good for spicing things up, if you know what I’m saying, but they aren’t the only sexy foods out there.
• Asparagus is a natural aphrodisiac for men and women, so be sure to add some to the menu.
• Figs have been eaten to spice things up between couples for hundreds of years.
• Chiles are also known to turn things up a notch or two in the boudoir! The capsaicin in spicy foods raise the heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins.
• Chocolate-dipped strawberries. It’s cliche for a reason, people.
Dress for the occasion
Change out of the yoga pants and put on that killer little black dress and a sassy apron! Wear your heels while you’re cooking (or being cooked for!). Put on your favorite music, pour a glass of wine and have fun with it.
Reconnect with your honey over the chopping and peeling.
Serve your fancy meal in courses if you’d like to draw out the evening. Sit down to your salads while your main course cooks away. After your main course, clean the kitchen before serving dessert.
What you do after dessert is up to yourselves. 😉
There are few skills more important for your children to learn than those that will empower them to feed themselves for the rest of their lives.
Think about it. Over the course of your life, what will you spend more time doing than planning for, shopping for, preparing and eating food? The only thing I can think of is sleeping, and you don’t really need any special skills to sleep!
But where cooking is concerned, there are many things you need to teach your children and in my opinion, as early as possible. By the time they’re in their late teens, they might not be all that interested in learning how to scramble eggs or do anything else in the kitchen.
As a parent, you know it’s your job to teach your children about nutrition and why they need vegetables and not candy. Why they need to try everything on their plates (often more than once!) before saying they don’t like it. Why they need protein and iron and fiber.
It’s also your job to arm your children with basic skills, advancing with them as they grow older, so that by the time they leave the delicious comfort of your nest (and your dinner table), they will be able to cook for themselves. I did this myself and raised both my of my children to be proficient in the kitchen and today both are good, healthy cooks and eat intelligently (most of the time).
If you do this, you will have instill in them a good solid education in basic nutrition so they understand what types of food choices they need to make at the grocery store and how to cook for themselves and their eventual families
It truly breaks my heart to see so many young adults leaving their parents’ homes and ending up fueling their bodies with fast food and sugary snacks because they don’t have the skills they need to feed themselves. (Foraging for pizza does not count.)
We’ll keep talking about food, cooking and how to prepare it and how you can learn new skills yourself and pass them down to your children. But for today, we’re going to talk smoothies because they’re a great, easy and highly nutritious way to start the day off right.
Depending on the age of your child, you may have to do some of the work—chopping fruit and helping to get the blender set up, cleaned up and put away. But, no matter what age your child is, he or she will be able to add the ingredients, press the buttons and enjoy the result of his/her work!
Start by teaching the basics of a fruit smoothie and what it includes:
- Frozen organic berries. As you select your berries, teach the children about the nutrients in each item so they know why it’s being added to the smoothie and how those frozen berries will make their smoothie icy cold.
- Liquid. My preference is almond milk or coconut milk, but maybe you like kefir or straight cow’s milk. Whatever it is, pour your choice into a measuring cup so it’s easier for your child to pour it into the blender’s container.
- Fiber. I always add chia seeds and/or FiberMender 2.0 to my smoothies. Show your kids how chia seeds thicken up like magic and explain that they help take yucky stuff out of your body when they eat them and makes them good poopers! Honestly, kids love talking about poop. You might as well go there and tell them why, LOL.
- Perfect Paleo Protein. It’s important to get that protein into your smoothie. This is what keeps you full and satisfied. There’s chocolate and vanilla flavors—why not let the kids choose which one they want to add?
- Just Juiced Greens. 1 tablespoon, can’t taste it (and dark berries hide it) and it adds a huge nutritional punch to the smoothie. I LOVE this stuff! Shortcut for juicing!
See how easy that was? A whole nutrition lesson with your kids, they did it themselves and now they’re drinking something that tastes like a milkshake but is so good for them!
And listen, if you’re thinking about a vacation or party that involves bathing suits (did I hear you say, “EEK!”?), Come on over and do the #SummerSmoothieChalllenge with us! We have already given away a brand new Nutri-Bullet, you could be next!
By: Leanne Ely
Fresh mint is a common sight in the summertime and today you’re going to get a tip, a trick and a recipe featuring this pretty little leaf!
I have mint growing in my garden and let me tell you, when you plant mint, you have mint for life! Really. Mint can take over so you really have to be vigilant about keeping this plant in line.
But if you can manage a mint crop it’s well worth growing! (If you don’t have a green thumb, fresh mint is a relatively easily fresh herb to get your hands on.) Mint is quite high in Vitamin A and it also contains Vitamin C, iron and manganese.
There are many uses for mint leaves. While you see it most often used as a garnish, you can add mint leaves to your smoothies for a minty kick (can you say chocolate mint?!), make yourself a cup of peppermint tea, or even flavor your water with them!
Now, it’s time for your Trick
When you’re freezing a tray of ice cubes, try adding a mint leaf to each one for a pretty (and refreshing) way to keep your lemonade or cocktails cool!
If you wish to plant your own mint, I recommend planting it in a container. This is probably the best way to keep that mint under control.
And your Recipe
Mint Chip Smoothie
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Mix (chocolate preferred for this recipe)
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)
In a blender, place coconut milk, water, mint leaves, cacao nibs, Saving Dinner all-in-one smoothie mix, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred.
Speaking of smoothies…I LOVE Perfect Paleo Protein–dairy free, creamy yumminess and anti-inflammatory to the 10th degree! Highly recommended!