It has been a while since I have written about cooking with the kids. This is a fun and very important topic. Cooking with the kids is a great opportunity to teach them many things while having fun at the same time. I can share “lessons” that don’t seem like learning because we are having so much fun. OK, for the most part, I am having so much fun. As I have mentioned before, I can tend to get uptight while cooking with the kids because it gets messy and they often get a little crazy. I am getting better, remembering that it’s just a mess and can be cleaned. Besides, before I know it they will be teenagers and won’t want to do anything with me anymore.

As I seize the opportunity to play & cook with Nolan & Davan, I make sure to incorporate lessons in food, nutrition, basic cooking techniques, and food chemistry. I believe these are lessons that will help them as they grow, especially once they reach adulthood. I sure don’t want them cooking what many twenty-somethings I’ve met consider their signature dish: “welfare stew,” which is top ramen with various canned foods tossed in. Also, since the easiest foods to consume these days are unhealthy, a basic understanding of cooking and nutrition is important. American’s are the heaviest they’ve ever been, which is pretty easy to understand considering the majority of food promoted is junk food. Unhealthy food is the most convenient food to purchase, prepare, and consume. Cooking and eating healthy takes conscious effort, and it is our responsibility as parents to prepare our kids to eat healthy throughout their lives.

Through many messes, wasted ingredients, accidents and would-have-been-fun-if-I-didn’t-get-so-upset experiences, I have learned that the most effective way to pack as much “teaching” into cooking as possible is to make it fun. As I got better at relaxing through this process, I just faked it for the kid’s sake. Now, however, I truly enjoy it.  A simple way to make it fun is to find a good kids cook book and let the kids pick out the recipes – they are usually simple, fun, and silly recipes. Once you pick a few recipes out, start the planning. First off, when will you have the kids and the time to cook, and what ingredients will you need to prepare the recipe they selected? Aha! Lesson number one and two: 1. Meals take planning and, 2. Food costs money. So, go to the fridge and cupboards with the recipe and see what you need and then make the grocery list. And, be sure to take the kids with you so they can see the ingredients and the different options there are for each, and so you can begin to introduce the idea of price and nutrition to them. Obviously you are not going to give them a crash course in economics or health & nutrition 101; just provide the basics. See, here is where we get to see marketers at their finest. Ask your child which item they would choose, and you know it’s going to be the one with the most exciting colors, the cool name, and the best logo or mascot, right?! And guess what? It will most likely be the unhealthiest choice, too. Lesson number three: shop with your head, not your eyes or stomach.

Back to the fun cookbook. Nolan got a Star Wars cookbook for a gift and recently pulled it out and asked if we could cook stuff from it. So we did. The recipes are fun, simple, and tasty. With these recipes, we were able to let Nolan and Davan do most of the work; we just helped as needed. That in itself makes it fun for them, but to make it even more fun, Nolan created a rating system. After each recipe he tries, he rates it in Light Sabers on a 5-point scale and he draws the light sabers on the recipe page. It becomes like a little cooking show because we all get to rate the meal and explain why we rated the way we did. Both kids really enjoy our cooking time, and it has been a great way to “sneak” in some lessons –and get a home cooked meal that Kerry & I didn’t have to cook.

Happy Cooking!

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad