#Cooking with Kids – http://ow.ly/oZMcU
I don’t know about you but I Love cooking with my kids, especially in the summer. There are so many fresh, local ingredients this time of year with all the fruits and vegetables starting to pop. Not to mention the longer days with more sunlight and no school the next day. Meals don’t always need to be quick and easy this time of year and with my kids, a meal that normally takes 30 minutes takes an hour. Which is fine, except it always seems that the longer a meal takes to make the bigger the mess that results.
Therein lies my biggest flaw when it comes to cooking with the kids; I am a neat freak. Not a little neat freak either; I like a clean, well-organized kitchen. It may be that way before the kids get to work in the kitchen but five minutes in it looks like a tornado came through. Not a little tornado, one with the power to to blow utensils and ingredients two rooms over. I still can’t figure out how that happens when the kids haven’t left the kitchen. Any ideas? I sure would like to figure out how they do it.
Letting go and just letting them learn and enjoy is something I am working on. I am getting better each time they set foot into the kitchen to start cooking. The last thing I want to do is be such a grump that they lose their passion to cook. As a matter of fact, my oldest can be pretty much be left alone now. He will just call Kerry or I in to ask us questions about certain things like measurements or what a certain ingredient is. Talking about measurements, those questions are a great way to sneak in math lessons without them even knowing! Back to my son. He has actually created some of his own recipes when we just let him go. How can I discourage that? Everyone in the family benefits this way. It’s also a great activity that doesn’t involve video games or TV and a fun way to get the family together after a hard day of work at Go-Go Babyz.
Of course, except the one who has to clean which is usually me. Even though I want the kids to clean everything up on their own I want to make sure everything is clean. Not just cleaned and put back the way I like because I am a neat freak, but also because I want to make sure all the germs are cleaned up. The kitchen may look clean on the counter tops and the surrounding floor but germs find way to collect in the not-so-obvious places. So if you love to cook with your kids remember to clean these areas with a bacteria killing cleaner:
- Refrigerator/Freezer door handles (there dirty little hands are always opening & closing these)
- Refrigerator/freezer seals (just a quick wipe, they always seem to drop or spill stuff there)
- Floors in front of the sink, refrigerator & cabinets
- Stove fan surface
Kevin Williams VP & Dad
Memorial Day is typically the kick off to summer, right? We all know what that means – fun in the sun with a lot of meat cooked with fire! Forgive me for sharing this a few weeks after Memorial Day but it just didn’t seem like summer around here with all the clouds and rain. Better late than never. What is it about grilling and BBQ’ing (there is a difference you know) that gets the testosterone pumping in men? Is it the fire, the smoke, the large slabs of meat? Is it the sweet, the savory, the slop and the mop that gets rubbed, slathered, basted and glazed over a perfectly cooked piece of meat? Maybe it is all the above and then some. Whatever it is, there is a primordial instinct that takes over a man when summer hits and the grill is uncovered for the first barbecue of the year. This instinct brings out the best in male competition because we all know, regardless of who comes away on top at the field, court, rink, or diamond, that he who hath the best ribs wins (replace ribs with any meat). I don’t care if you get a hat trick or a grand slam home run, nothing compares to laying out a summer spread with a platter of perfectly grilled New York steaks with nothing but salt & pepper on them.
This time of year just awakens something in men. I know guys who couldn’t bake a chicken if their life depended on it but hand them a bag of charcoal and some matches, and you’re gonna do some good grubbin’ tonight (don’t get me wrong, I also know guys who turn anything they BBQ into something resembling a hockey puck). I get that – baked chicken simply is not as exciting as perfectly cooked chicken on the grill with a nice crisp skin and a juicy center – whether it’s barbecued, smoked, grilled, cooked fast or slow, or done on the rotisserie. So, I understand this about men. For myself, however, I love to cook inside and out. The grill is my vehicle of choice but I do it all. Fortunately, I live in California so my grill only gets covered a few months out of the year when the rain really hits.
This brings me to what I really want to talk about: summertime cooking. As I mentioned, I love to cook all the time but I love the spring and summer simply because of all the fresh flavor possibilities and everything tastes better al fresco! This time of year has so many options for fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, creating the possibility for simple flavors to complex, layered flavors. I ‘cue everything from ribs with a complex spice rub and sauce with fresh ingredients to a simple grilled chicken marinated in olive oil with fresh lemon juice and oregano from my garden – both are to die for. The possibilities seem endless this time of year. Just add some fresh ingredients and fresh air and all is well. I have even been known to grill dessert!
Another great thing about this time of year is the al fresco part. More than just eating outside, it is nice just hanging out beyond the confines of walls, TV, a hot oven, and the wii, x-box or PS3. There is nothing better than hanging out with friends and family with the smell of BBQ in the air and the sound of laughing kids and playing dogs in the backyard. Like the title says, Grillin’ & Chillin’. After all, that’s what summer’s all about!
– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad
I am a city boy through and through. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting out of the city and heading to the mountains. As a matter of fact, all my favorite activities are in the mountains, but the city is where I like to dwell. My point is that although I remember the days when San Jose and its surrounding areas still had plenty of orchards and farmland, I grew up around more concrete than orchard, and my family didn’t farm. My grandma, however, always grew tomatoes and sometimes a few other vegetables. She did this in the tiny strip of dirt bordering the cement walkway on the side alley of her house. It couldn’t have been more than ten feet long by three feet deep. And let me tell you, I have yet to taste a better tomato.
My grandma’s tomatoes were so good that my dad started growing a garden, and I did the same when I moved out. We have never produced one as good but we do sometimes come pretty close. There issomething very fulfilling about preparing a meal with food from your own garden, not to mention how fresh and healthy the food tastes.
In my previous posts, I have mentioned how my kids, Nolan & Davan, and I love to cook together. Well, they also love to help in the yard, especially when it involves planting fruits & vegetables. Now that their taste buds are developing and they are acquiring likes and dislikes for certain foods, they are becoming more interested in what we plant. They now want to make sure that the garden is properly taken care of so we can harvest good stuff to eat.
There are many reasons that this makes me happy. First of all, I get to discuss the concept and benefits of using fresh, locally grown ingredients. I let them know that it’s good for us and the environment, and that the benefits to us aren’t only health related. When the kids shop with me, I point out how muchproduce costs and where it comes from, and explain that shipping produce from distant locations causes harmful emissions to the atmosphere. I let them know how much the seedlings we plant cost us and that the only emissions come from the local delivery truck that brought the seeds to the store, and from my car when I went to the store to buy them. We are city folk, remember, so the concept of emissions does not go over their heads. All I have to mention is the black smoke that comes from the big trucks we see all the time. So, they do understand that in addition to saving a few bucks, we help preserve the ozone layer as well.
Without giving them a full environmental science, horticulture, and economics class, I get to teach them the little bit I have learned about gardening and the importance of eating locally grown food as much as possible. This helps them understand that the tomatoes just don’t mysteriously end up at the store in bins for us to pick through. Someone had to plant, water, harvest and deliver them. And as I mentioned, they have developing tastes and understand that fresh stuff just tastes better. They love watching our stuff grow from start to finish, and love to harvest and eat it even more.
This is where the cooking comes in because we don’t eat everything right of the plant; most of the stuff is simply an ingredient for whatever we are making. They love it when we”harvest to order” by picking just what we need for whatever we are cooking right then. It just seems to taste better. As I mentioned before, it is also fulfilling knowing that we did more to prepare a meal than just the cooking; we actually grew the ingredients too. Besides all of these great lessons that get infused into the process, the kids and I have fun. That’s what it’s really all about, right? Especially in this day and age where technology rules; it’s just good to get them outdoors away from TV and video games to do some gardening. Not to mention I get to teach them a bit about my grandma, whom they never had the pleasure of meeting. I can’t help thinking about her and the delicious tomatoes she grew whenever I plant and harvest my own, and am glad the kids get to share in her tomato legacy.
– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad
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
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 –andget a home cooked meal that Kerry & I didn’t have to cook.
– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad
The smell of fresh baked cookies . . . images of my mom in the kitchen with her apron covered in flour . . . me at the kitchen table decorating cutout cookies, icing and holiday-colored sprinkles everywhere. This is what my Christmas memories are made of.
Christmas baking is one of my favorite traditions. Not only because I love cookies, but also because it is fun and has always been a special tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. Every year wemade decorated cutouts and snowballs, and grandma always provided the chocolate crinkles. To add to it all, family friends dropped off a little something, too. Louise made her famous toffee, and Auntie Cindi made rocky road for dad. These were the annual treats we enjoyed year after year. And, if we were lucky, we would also get to have some crullers from our Croatian side if we happened to visit Teta Anne.
Baking holiday treats is special because we made everything with family and shared them with family and friends. On Christmas Eve, we sit around the tree and eat all the goodies while opening presents—and trust me, I ate a lot because I really was hungry again. You see, I couldn’t open presents until Grandma finished eating dinner, and that took FOREVER! All the waiting and whining made me hungry all over again. Back to the point: holiday baking brings all this back each year. In our family, holidays are usually happy times full of memories. Bringing those great memories back every year is a wonderful thing. We get to remember spending Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Gary definitely loved partaking in our sweets with his cup of coffee. It is this type of “side-effect” that makes a tradition special: the memories that conjure the past that make you want to laugh, cry, or smile—maybe all three. In any case, these memories are something special we get to cherish and build upon and carry on with our own children.
Grandma & Grandpa, Teta Anne, Uncle Gary, Louise, and other loved ones are no longer with us but the times they shared with us, and their recipes and love are with us always. My sister and I bake everything now using the original recipes. As a matter of fact, we make more than we really need; so much, actually, that we often have some left in February. We do it because it is fun and special and brings us and our family closer. We make tons of cookies, toffee, and various types of fudge, rocky road and other treats. Over the years we have added new items, which have become as traditional as the snowballs, cutouts, and crinkles. We’re so excited about our holiday baking, we start talking and planning the weekend after Thanksgiving.
I can’t think of a more fun tradition to share with family, especially the kids. Although Karen and I do the majority of the baking, Kerry gets involved and most importantly, Nolan and Davan get involved and have a blast carrying on the traditions, as well as getting hopped up on sugar during the process. Even just being in the there during the baking process is being part of it; after all, someone has to sneak in with a spoon to steal a sample of the cookie dough!
– Kevin Williams
I guess the first thing I should share is that mine is a family of foodies, and we have Sunday dinner together at my parent’s house every week. This weekend the plan was to have dinner at Mom and Dad’s Sunday and at our house Monday. We are the type of family that starts planning the menu for the next Sunday while we are eating Sunday dinner. So our plans for the Labor Day weekend menus started the Sunday prior, and my Dad and I finalized what to cook mid-week. I wanted to do pulled pork on Labor Day, so we had to find something different for him to cook Sunday. We narrowed it down to either a rolled leg of lamb on the spit or a whole BBQ turkey. He went with the turkey and it was amazing! I went with Carolina-style pulled pork and started the process when I got home from dinner Sunday.
I am not sharing this play-by-play of our weekend menu planning to make your mouth water; the reason is to tie it in to cooking with the kids.
I remember cooking from an early age. The first thing I can remember cooking all on my own was scrambled eggs. I am not sure how old I was, but I remember my little cousin Jonathan and I making them with my Mom—she let us do the making while she offered help and guidance. Today I love to cook & bake. Grilling and BBQ’ing are my favorites ever since watching my Dad and Grandpa cooking on a BBQ as a kid. Every Father’s Day we would cook whatever meat Gramps or Dad wanted. I will never forget the day I took over the reins. My Grandpa bought a bunch of top quality New York Steaks and I got to grill them. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. My family likes rare meat so I didn’t have much room for error. Grandpa just gave me a few words of advice and sat down. Ten minutes later we were all enjoying perfectly grilled steaks in my parent’s backyard. I felt like I had arrived, like I had completed a rite of passage. I had indeed.
My kids have the same curiosity and joy for cooking that I had growing up, especially now that I’ve let go of some of my craziness about messes and worry over cooking-related injuries. I took this weekend as an opportunity to engage them in that joy. They were not around for the whole process, but they heard me talking and asked questions, so I explained things like, “what is brining?” I told them what I did the night before while they had a sleepover at Gramma & Papa’s. I started cooking the pork early Monday, and they would let me know when the BBQ smoked too much and when the outside of the pork looked ready. So, I was able to begin their first lesson in true barbequing—well, actually their second. I taught them one of the most important lessons in barbequing the first time they each saw me grilling: always use fire – never, ever gas. A real BBQ’er never uses gas! But I digress . . . So, I taught them about indirect heat, smoking, slow-cooking, and resting meat. The best part about it all, besides eating the delicious food, was that they got to see how excited I am about cooking, and how that excitement was shared by all those lucky enough to partake in the meal!
No matter what you grow up to be, cooking is something you can always do. I hope I can pass on what I have learned over the years along with my passion for cooking to my kids. Meals have always brought our family together and I hope to do my part to ensure that it continues to do so for generations to come.
What did you have this weekend? Any good recipes to share? How about any childhood memories about meals, family, or food? We would love to hear them.
– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad