Tag Archives: cooking

Teaching Kids to Cook

I’ve seen quite a few parents share lofty goals of things they’d like to teach their kids during this time of staying at home. Teaching kids how to cook frequently shows up on that list. As this period of staying at home has gone on, I’ve also seen most of those people post that they aren’t accomplishing most of the goals.

First, I want to say that is 100% ok to not accomplish the goals and just move on. This is a difficult time for all of us in different ways. Doing your best is all you can do.

I will be honest, I had lofty goals of things to accomplish for MYSELF, but didn’t really think about goals with my kids. Sadly, I haven’t accomplished most of my personal goals. And that’s ok. The answer to most things in this post is “that’s ok”.

Why? The most important part of teaching your kid any life skill is actually building a positive relationship with your child and having a positive experience. So do what you have to do and that’s ok. Repeat it to yourself.

However, I have actually randomly had a fair amount of success cooking with my kids during this time. This isn’t something that comes naturally for me, actually. And we have plenty of failures. But today, I thought I’d show some tips I’ve found to work for me and my kids in the kitchen. If you have any, please share in the comments. (None of the links in this post are sponsored or affiliate links. I get nothing from you clicking them. Just passing on information.)

1) Find something that makes your kid(s) excited to cook. There are subscription services out there that can be very fun, like Raddish. My daughter got a cookbook for her birthday that has really set her cooking dreams aflame. We are liking that one, but there are plenty of options out there. During this time of quarantine, America’s Test Kitchen has opened up their kid website for free. Not everything is open, but a lot is. And their kid’s club is discounted right now as well. But you don’t need any of these “official” things. Just ask your kid what they want to make and find a recipe somewhere. If they are old enough, have them find the recipe.

2) If you have multiple children, only cook with one at a time. This has caused huge breakthroughs in our house. I used to always try and cook with everyone. It just led to fights between the kids and me yelling. By going individually, things go much smoother. Does it mean my other kids sometimes watch tv? Yes, and that’s ok. Not only does this eliminate fighting amongst the kids, it lowers your stress level. You aren’t having to watch more than one kid with a knife or hot stove, etc. Also, kids love one on one time with parents, so it is a win on multiple levels.

3) Make it a “set” thing. As set as you can make it. We don’t have a set night, but my daughter knows she will cook dinner one night a week. When I am menu planning, she picks it out and we put it on the schedule. She knows it is coming and is excited about it. This also makes it a bit easier only allowing one kid in the kitchen – the other’s know when their turns are.

4) Allow for spontaneity. I know that goes against the last one. While we have the set times, if my daughter randomly asks to make breakfast or a dessert, I try to work that in as I can. But if I’m not feeling up to it, I say no. And that’s ok.

5) Be prepared for a mess. A huge mess. As they are making the mess, just take deep breaths. Realize you were going to have to clean up no matter what. If they are old enough (or have cooked enough to know how to not make as much of a mess), make them help clean it up. Nothing like cleaning up your own mess to teach cleaner cooking. But also, it is ok to have messes. It’s part of the process. However, if the mess is getting out of control and raising your stress level, you can end the cooking session with kids at anytime. And that’s ok.

6) You don’t have to let them do everything. A kid with a knife stress you out? Don’t give them one. That’s ok. The kid can’t muster the muscles to mash potatoes (true story at our house)? That’s ok. Every time the kid whisks half of the mix ends up on the counter? Don’t let them whisk. That’s ok. Let them do as much as you can while keeping the experience positive for both of you. If either of you hate it, it won’t keep happening.

7) Keep the end goals in mind. Positive time together. Building a relationship. Some day (far away likely) they will be independent. Teaching some health and life skills. A picture perfect meal with a picture perfect kitchen isn’t in there. And that’s ok.

I hope any of these tips help you out. Let me know if you have any great tips for cooking with kids. We all need all the help we can get!

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What’s Saving My (Health) Life Right Now

It’s already February! And today marks the halfway point of winter. Woo hoo! We can do this.

How are your resolutions going? I heard someone say recently they love February because we can all get over our resolutions and talk about sweets again. I hope you aren’t in the camp because your resolutions are truly LIFESTYLE changes that you want to keep always.

Anne Bogel, on modernmrsdarcy.com, starts a discussion every year on this date about things “saving our lives”. It is easy, especially in dreary winter months, to focus on all the things going wrong. I had a day like that yesterday. To combat the negativity, it is important to focus instead on the things going right and making our days/weeks/lives better. I love this idea. I actually started my list a couple weeks ago when I was having a rough time. It made a huge difference in my attitude.

Baby Grins that Save My LIfe

This baby girl and her sweet grins are definitely saving my life. Today, I’m sharing 6 things that are saving my life in the aspects of nutrition/health/cooking.

1) Amazon Prime music playlists. I recently made my own playlist on Prime (something I didn’t know I could do). It is all my favorite workout songs. Now, I get excited to exercise and get pumped up during my video when a new song I like comes on.

2) Costco produce. I usually don’t buy many fruits and vegetables at Costco. My family isn’t very big, so I feel like we waste it. But it has helped me make better food choices lately. It’s magic. I can eat more vegetables at lunch when I have lots of salad ingredients or carrots around.

3) Smoothies. Part of how I’ve been using up all that produce is smoothies. I drink a smoothie for breakfast pretty much every morning lately. It helps me rehydrate after my workout. I can drink it while I feed my baby or tidy up the house a bit, so I can multi-task more. My current go to mix: frozen berries, milk or water to thin, banana, greek yogurt or an instant breakfast packet, spinach, baby cucumber. Yum!

4) Treat days. One of my resolutions this year was to only eat treats on two days a week. I’m not going to lie. This is not particularly easy sometimes. But I REALLY enjoy my treats on days I’m allowed them. And I find I’m eating a little less random stuff. When it is a treat day, I know EXACTLY what I want to eat. I’m not just scavenging random candy or fruit snacks I don’t even like from the cupboard.

5) Healthy snacks. To get through my non-treat days, I do allow myself to snack. Yogurt, popcorn, and trail mix (nuts, dried berries, and yogurt chips) are my go-to’s that help me satisfy my cravings without going crazy.

6) Pressure cooker. I am not cool and have an Instant Pot. I’d love one, but my stove-top pressure cooker works well enough I can’t justify that big of a purchase. But it makes food SO fast, which is helpful as our evenings seem to be busy lately. Rice, beans, soup, and chicken are some of my favs right now. I’ll be sharing recipes soon.

What’s saving your life right now, nutrition or otherwise? Share in the comments!


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Cooking Terms, part 3

Don’t forget about parts 1 and 2 of this series.  We are making our way through the alphabet.  I hope you find these make you a better foodie and cook!

-leaven – any agent that causes a dough to rise.  Yeast is what most of us think about with leavening.  But baking soda, baking powder, and eggs are also leavening agents.

-macerate – soak a food in a liquid to infuse flavor.  This is usually used in reference to fruit.  This is similar to marinate.

-marinate – soaking meat, fish, or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture.  Most marinades are acidic, so you should not use an aluminum container.

-mince – to chop food into very small pieces.  For my purposes, this is the smallest cut I would refer to.  If you’ve been following along, largest to smallest is chop, dice, and mince.

-mirepoix – a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor sauces, stews, and soups.  In cajun cooking, you omit the carrots and add bell pepper.  You will likely not run into this term in a recipe.  However, it is good to know that these are a good flavor base.  You can always add some carrots or celery if they are omitted but the other two or there.  These ingredients bring a base flavor without being overpowering of an entire dish, if used in the right quantities.

-mise en place – This term is used in professional kitchens.  When you watch cooking shows, you notice that they have all of the ingredients measured out into small little containers that can just be dumped in at the appropriate time.  THAT is mise en place.  For a home cook, I don’t find this entirely feasible all the time, nor would my husband appreciate all of the dishes.  HOWEVER, I do think it is important to at least gather together all of the necessary ingredients, so you can easily add them when needed.  This also prevents you from getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you don’t have an ingredient you need.

-noodle – Similar to pasta, but the dough contains egg.

-parboil – partially cook a food in boiling water.  This is similar to blanching, although blanching usually involves chilling the food quickly in an ice bath after, whereas parboiling does not.

-pasta – a product made from a dough of flour and water.

-pinch – a measuring term roughly equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon.  When I use this, I generally mean I “pinched” a bit of salt and threw it in.

-pan vs pot – I generally refer to a pot as something with deeper sides.  Anything you would commonly boil water in is a pot to me.  A pan is something wider and more shallow.  Like a skillet could also be a pan.

-proof – dissolving yeast in a mixture of sugar and water to allow it to become bubbly.  This can help you make sure you have good yeast.  I generally use instant yeast, which does not require proofing.  When making products with a long rising time, you can decrease that time by using a “proofing oven”.  Heat your oven to the lowest temperature possible with a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack.  Once heated, place your dough in an oven safe bowl covered with a towel on the top rack.  Shut the oven door and turn off the oven.  This will generally cut rising time at least in half.  However, for some doughs, the rising time is a good time for developing a yeasty flavor (such as for some French breads).  By cutting down the time, you may lose some flavor.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Cooking Terms, part 2

Here’s the next installment of terms used in cooking, food, and menus.  I hope you find these helpful, and don’t forget to check out part 1 from last week if you missed it!

-farro – a cereal grain that was common back in ancient Egypt.  It is a member of the wheat family, so it will contain gluten.  It can be used in pasta and risotto like dishes.  It is often confused with spelt, but is a different grain.

-fold – a technique of gently adding a fluffy ingredient to a richer batter.  This term is often seen connected with egg whites and whipped cream.  The point is to combine the egg whites or cream into the batter without losing all of the air.  To fully combine, you will lose some air.  Just be as patient and gentle as you can.  A circular motion is often helpful.

-fry – to cook in hot oil.  Deep fry means to submerge in hot oil.  Pan fry is fairly synonymous with sauteing.  So not all frying is bad for you.

-germ – this is the embryo in a whole grain kernel.  Whole grain flours will contain the germ.  You can buy germ separately, with wheat germ being the most common.

-herbs – the fragrant leaves of plants.  These are different from spices.  You can generally substitute dried herbs for fresh.  However, dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so you generally want to start with about ⅓ as much as fresh.

-jelly roll pan – a sheet pan that has sides up to about 1 inch deep.  Many people use jelly roll pans for baking cookies.  While this is fine, these are different from a cookie sheet, which does not have a rim.

-kefir – a fermented milk beverage.  While it has similar taste or texture to liquid yogurt, it is not actually a yogurt based product.

-knead – working a dough to develop the gluten.  This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.  A dough is done being kneaded when it is smooth and elastic.  You fold the dough in half, push it away from you, turn it a quarter turn, then repeat.

Until next time, happy cooking and eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


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Cooking Terms, part 1

I’ve wanted to do a series of posts for a while highlighting more technical cooking and food terms.  Some of these you may never see in an actual recipe.  But understanding the concept will make you a better cook.  Others you will see in a recipe, so it is always good to have an idea what these terms really mean (although recipe authors may have their own meanings).  Some may make you a more savvy shopper at the grocery store.

-al dente – Italian for “to the tooth”.  This is the term usually used to refer to the correct way to cook pasta.  Pasta should be tender, but not soggy.  There should be a little resistance when you bite into it.

-beurre – French word for butter.  You see this word in sauce names, such as beurre blanc.  You know that it is a butter based sauce.

-binder – an ingredient used to thicken.  Eggs, roux, flour, and cornstarch are common binders.

-bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth.  You place it in a soup or stew to flavor while cooking.  By bundling, it is easy to remove your stems/large leaves when ready to serve.

-chop – This is a generic term for cutting food into bite size pieces.  It generally means a coarser or larger cut than say mince or dice.

-cobbler – a baked fruit dessert with a biscuit like crust

-crisp – a baked fruit dessert with a pastry like crust

-cocoa powder – usually sold as unsweetened cocoa powder, this is the product from the grinding of cocoa liquor.  Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali.  Cocoa powder is naturally acidic.  You have to be careful substituting Dutch cocoa for regular cocoa if the recipe needs acidity of cocoa.

-convection oven – An oven equipped with a fan to circulate the air.  Products will cook more evenly and up to 25% faster.  It is generally recommended that you can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees when using a convection oven.

-dash – Refers to a small amount of seasoning, generally considered somewhere between 1/16 and ⅛ teaspoon.

-deglaze – Removing the brown bits from a pan after browning another ingredient (usually meat).  You add a small amount of liquid to the hot pan, then scrape the pan to remove the bits.  This is useful for adding flavor to a dish.  However, you could also use this same technique with water to help clean a pan that has a lot of burnt bits on the bottom.

-dice – to cut food into small cubes.  I often use dice as something between chop and mince.

That’s all for now.  Hope you find these helpful!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


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