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Cooking with your kids can be a gratifying way to spend time together, but it also provides opportunities to pass along some useful kitchen skills. Besides, by this point in the summer, you may be thinking it’s time to channel your kids’ time and energy into something that can actually help you get tasty homemade meals on the table. Consider the following suggestions for how to approach cooking with your kids.

Start with salads. Let them choose the combination of vegetables and fruit they’d like to include, and you’ll find they may be eager to give their creation a try. Teach knife skills if your child is ready. Otherwise, assign tasks such as tearing lettuce or shaking up the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid . Try this simple, kid-friendly salad combination: Toss grated carrots with a generous squeeze of lime juice, a few glugs of olive oil and a dab of honey. Sprinkle with dried cranberries for a burst of flavor and color.

For some meals, assign your child the role of prep chef. My boys are often the ones who trim green beans and cut them into thirds before I steam them. Kids usually are eager to stir and will probably enjoy using a meat tenderizer or a pastry brush. You would most likely get an enthusiastic response if you asked your child to brush oil on day-old pita pieces before you bake them into chips.

Let kids choose the recipe or meal you’ll cook together. That way they feel they have some sense of control and you’ve got them invested in the process from the start. Then, take into account your child’s learning style. If they like structure and rules, teach them how to follow a recipe. Begin by reading through the entire recipe and checking whether you’ll need to make a trip to the store before you get started. If they prefer to do their own thing in the kitchen, teach them basic principles and techniques to provide helpful guidance for their cooking ventures. When experimenting with salad dressings, for example, they’ll find it helpful to know that the basic vinaigrette has a 3 to 1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar.

Teach cooking terms along with skills. In order to follow the recipe they may need to know words like sauté, knead, and marinate. While cooking, you may find opportunities to talk about family history, culture, nutrition and hunger. Help your child understand some of the broader issues related to food and why you make some of the food choices that you do.

Keep the end goal in mind. Your kids will one day thank you that they left home for good with basic cooking skills under their belt. But even in the short term, cooking can encourage independence and boost your child’s self-esteem. And if you and your child end up enjoying the time cooking together, that in itself is a win.

Impostor Hummus
This dip contains no chickpeas so it’s technically not hummus. My boys prefer the milder taste of olive oil in this recipe over the traditional tahini. They like helping to make it too.

15.5 oz. can of cannellini or white beans, drained (or 1½ cups cooked white beans)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste (about ½ teaspoon if using homemade, unsalted beans)
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. For best flavor, refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Bring to room temperature and serve with carrot, jicama and celery sticks, pita chips, tortilla chips or your favorite crackers.

 

By Anita Dualeh