September 10, 2020
We’ve all been honing our cooking skills this year, preparing more meals than ever at home. Fortunately, this provides a great opportunity to get kids more active in the kitchen, learning cooking skills that will keep them well fed for life.
While it’s common to bake cookies and make things like pizza and birthday cakes with kids, there are other practical skills they could quickly learn, and practice when it’s time to make breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’re home schooling (and even if you’re not), cooking—and following a recipe—allows kids to practice their reading, math and fractions and problem-solving, while providing a creative outlet with plenty of science (yeast! oxidization! caramelization! the Maillard reaction!). You could even challenge them to discover ingredients or a cuisine they aren’t familiar with, and make something entirely new… an at-home cooking club.
A pot of soup
Just about anything can be turned into a pot of soup—learning the basics will ensure kids carry that skill into adulthood, and are able to transform wilting greens or leftover meats and veggies into a wholesome meal, rather than toss them into the compost bin.
An omelet makes a quick, cheap, protein-rich meal for one, and is an ideal thing for kids and teens to learn how to make. It just takes practice—early on, you may wind up with scrambled eggs, but that’s OK… the more often you make them, the better at it you become. Best of all, an omelet makes use of all kinds of leftovers—cheese ends, cooked veggies, even bits of saucy dips and curries are delicious as omelet filling.
Dressings are cheap and easy to make at home, and far more flavourful—even young kids can practice pouring ingredients into a jar and shaking them up. The basic ratio for a classic vinaigrette is 1 part acid (citrus juice or vinegar) to 3-4 parts oil (canola, olive or other mild vegetable oil), plus a squirt of mustard, drizzle of maple syrup or honey, crushed clove of garlic, or any other seasonings you’d like—the mustard or a spoonful of mayonnaise will emulsify the mixture, keeping the oil and vinegar from separating as it sits. (Try dedicating a glass jar or two to salad dressings, and marking fill levels on the side with a sharpie.)
You could also use tahini and yogurt as bases for flavourful sauces—having them on hand in the fridge makes it easy to pull together leftover grains, veggies, cheese, boiled eggs or cold roasted meats into interesting meals in a bowl.
Rice, grains and pasta
It’s useful for anyone to master making a pot of rice—or pasta, noodles, quinoa, farro, couscous or other grains you like. They’re inexpensive, filling, and can be dressed up in any number of ways. Leftovers kept in the fridge make for quickly reheated meals when you don’t have the time (or inclination) to cook.
Tacos, burritos and quesadillas
All kinds of meats, beans, veggies, eggs, grains and cheeses can be turned into a taco, burrito or quesadilla if you have corn or flour tortillas on hand—a quick meal for one, or however many people you have at the table. Each can be customized according to your taste, appetite or eating preference (vegetarian, spicy, dairy-free) and cooked in just a few minutes, so you can always get a proper meal on the table fast.
Read "Getting kids into the kitchen" to see more recipes ideas to cook with your kids and what they can do in to help.
- Julie Van Rosendaal
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