Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10 Foods I Want My Kids To Cook

Today, the "On Parenting" blog in The Washington Post published a post about "10 foods a kid should learn how to cook". I commend the idea behind this - I've (kinda) written about it myself. And while I like the Washington Post list, I might alter it a bit if I were to publish in that large a blogspace. Here's my take on it. 

Quoted from the Washington Post article: 
"In his 2010 TED presentation, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced his hope that “every single American child leaves [high] school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives.” Because many chronic diseases can be prevented by proper nutrition, I agree with Oliver; for our kids’ sake, we should teach them to cook. 
Have I taught my son how to cook? I hate to admit that the answer is no, I haven’t. I’ve taught him about healthful choices, and I’ve fed him well every day. At 9 years old, he is familiar with the kitchen, and he knows how to peel, chop and measure, but if he were at college right now, I doubt he would know how to make a real meal for himself. 
I imagine he will have limited cooking equipment those first years on his own, along with a limited budget, but fast food, takeout and prepared meals shouldn’t be his only options. I want him to know what to do with all of the healthful vegetables and foods we’ve eaten here at home so he can nourish his body and brain. So I am on a new mission to teach my kids to cook, starting with 10 recipes that will nourish them, inexpensively, and make them a big hit on Super Bowl day — or, dare I say, on a date?"
I'm already, with the help and support of my husband and the kids' grandparents, teaching my kids (ages 10, 7, and 3) their way around a kitchen. There are basic techniques and skills that are critical - reading a recipe, how to clean and chop fruits and veggies, slice meats, saute meats and veggies, etc. And I think we could do more to talk about seasonings and what tends to work together well (and what doesn't!). 

But I hadn't yet thought about basic recipes that they should leave the house being able to prepare. Actually, recipes they should be able to shop for and prepare. So here's my list. Some are the same, some are different.

  1. Pasta and tomato sauce. Yes, it's okay to use jarred sauce as a starting point. Especially when you're first out on your own. But I want my kids to know how easy it is to doctor up jarred sauce (add ground beef, frozen meatballs, or even chicken pieces; throw in just about any chopped veggie imaginable) to make it something special really easily and inexpensively. And if they're interested, I'll even teach them how easy it is to make tomato pasta sauce from scratch.
  2. Meatballs/meatloaf. Deceivingly easy. Can even add in shredded veggies. For use in more than just pasta sauce, too. Meatballs can work in soups, with creamy sauces, or just by themselves. Meatloaf is basically the same thing as meatballs, just without the work of making all the little balls.
  3. Stir fry. This is one of my go-to weeknight dinners. Use any vegetables (fresh or frozen) and meat (or no meat) you want, simple seasonings, serve over any variety of exotic or mundane rice or noodles. This is primarily a lesson in technique and knowing how long different veggies need to cook. And if you can create a stir fry, you can saute just about anything successfully.
  4. Roasted chicken. Totally agree with the "On Parenting" author about this one. So easy, so impressive, and creates tons of leftovers for a variety of uses.
  5. Scrambled eggs. Inexpensive source of protein for any meal. Easy to load with veggies for more nutritional impact.
  6. Muffins and "quick breads". A banana muffin or a slice of zucchini bread can be a wonderful snack. Made with whole grains, fruits, and/or nuts, they can be a healthier alternative to so many snack options. And what young adult isn't going to snack?
  7. Homemade soup. Start with sauteed onions and garlic. Add any combination of veggies, meat, and beans, and maybe a starch (mini pasta, rice, potato). Cover with broth and season. Voila!
  8. Grilled meats and veggies. Whether on an outside grill or an indoor grill pan, grilling meats and veggies is simple yet so delicious (if not overcooked). Just a simple marinade or dry rub will usually do the trick. Even just bottled BBQ sauce!
  9. Baked potatoes. Microwave or oven cooked, they make a great base for almost any meal. Can be used on their own as a side, or pour any sort of sauced main dish over the top.
  10. Homemade cake. Let's not pretend dessert doesn't exist. There will always be special occasions, and the ability to create a straightforward cake or cupcakes with frosting (and not use a boxed mix) adds something special. 
If my kids have the confidence to cook these simple, hearty dishes then I will have confidence that they can feed themselves as needed without undue reliance on packaged, processed food-stuffs. Seems like a reasonable goal. 

Now, I'm off to make a stir-fry for dinner!