Kids In The Kitchen
We’ve all been there. You’re in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to Tuesday night’s masterpiece when your seven-year-old daughter saunters in, demanding to know what’s for dinner. And then the face. The dreaded face as you reply. “Springtime Risotto.” You’ve made Risotto before. You’ve made it in the fall, with butternut squash, and you’ve made it in the winter with mushrooms. Neither version was well-received at the time, and, judging from little Katie’s sour expression, your risotto isn’t any more popular (now) than it was then.
It’s all very frustrating. We want our children to have a pleasant experience at the dinner table, but let’s face it, a daily diet of mac & cheese and pizza doesn’t exactly qualify as a wholesome meal. In order to make everyone happy, Mom invariably ends up cooking two meals without kids in the kitchen–one for the adults, and one the children will eat. Not an ideal compromise.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage parents to try new dishes that will allow their children to expand their taste buds beyond the status quo. It doesn’t have to be drastically different. You can still have pizza night on Fridays and the kid’s beloved mac and cheese on Wednesday nights. Just be sure to include a more adult meal two or three times a week. Something a little out of the ordinary but with ingredients that are familiar to your finicky son and daughter. Something that will make them graduate from “I won’t eat it” to “I like it.”. Impossible, you say? Maybe not.
A Way To Get Kids In The Kitchen
One of the best ways to get kids more willing to try something new is to get those kids in the kitchen and involved in the art of cooking. It could be very easy to get certain kids in the kitchen, harder for others. Yes, some children might rebel, but most won’t. Kids, as a rule, have a big heart and are eager to please. Make your request for assistance sound like fun, and they’ll jump at the chance to help.
For busy families, weekends will offer more time for kids in the kitchen. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has brought many youth activities to a halt. As a result, families are now spending more time together, and discovering new pastimes is a must. So, why not take your children away from the TV and Fortnite, and introduce them to a brand new adventure–a culinary adventure.
You’ll want to get your kids in the kitchen for the preparation and the actual making of the meal as much, and as safely, as their age allows. Only you can determine which of your children can sift, stir, measure and slice. As you gently instruct and guide them through the basics, make them feel like true contributors. Ask them to taste as the meal progresses. Ask for their opinion. “Do you think it needs more salt?” Chances are they’ll say no at first simply because they’re not sure. Then as they become more confident and feel as though their opinion matters, they’ll become more assertive. They’ll learn to recognize the difference between a bland rigatoni and one perfectly salted.
Don’t expect instant miracles. In spite of all your efforts, there are still foods that your kids simply won’t eat. For my son, it was Brussels sprouts and liver. For my grandsons, it’s eggplants, olives, and lamb. Know when you can’t win and focus on what you can change now.
A trip to the supermarket will add to the fun of meal-planning. Again, ask their opinion as the three of you walk down the aisles. Yes, there will be an occasional request for a sweet treat. They’re kids after all. Go ahead, indulge them. It will be worth it. You want to keep your kids in the kitchen for this, not keep them out.
So, which of the many recipes that are available should you try first? For the sake of keeping it simple, let’s pick one that sounds fancy but is actually very easy to make and always a crowd pleaser–Chicken à la Provençale.
This fancy-sounding dish is nothing more than a chicken, roasted, carved, and then mixed with all the ingredients that are so popular in the south of France–tomatoes, olives, herbs, garlic, and olive oil. The version below will save you tons of time. Instead of roasting a chicken and waiting for the bird to be done, I buy Costco’s famous rotisserie chicken. It’s plump, juicy, delicious, and at $4.99, it’s a steal. If your children don’t like the name Chicken à la Provençale, suggest they call this dish Chicken à la Costco. That’s totally fine with me.
Chicken à la Provençale
Chicken à la Costco
Preparation time: 30 minutes. Cooking time 40 minutes.
Your favorite rotisserie chicken, cut up, 2 Tbs olive oil, 4 large tomatoes, quartered, 1 green pepper, quartered, 1 medium onion, quartered, 8 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole. ½ cup parsley, chopped, 1 Tbs rosemary, minced, 1 Tbs thyme minced, 1 Tbs chives, minced (you can use dry herbs if you don’t have fresh, but the dish will be so much better with fresh herbs.), ¼ cup tomato paste, 1 cup mixed, pitted olives (black and green), ½ cup white wine, ½ cup chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. (do not add salt until the dish has finished cooking. Costco’s chicken will already be salted and so are the olives. When the dish is done, taste it and season to your taste).
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, the onion, the olives, and the herbs. Add 1 tsp of black pepper and 1/8 cup of olive oil. Mix well and allow to marinate for a while.
Place a high-sided skillet or a Dutch oven on low heat. Add the 2 Tbs of oil and toss the whole garlic cloves in the skillet. Stir the garlic around for a few minutes until it starts releasing its aroma and turns a very light shade of gold. Do not let it get brown. When the garlic is ready, remove it from the skillet and set it aside.
Raise the heat to medium and add the tomato mixture and the garlic cloves. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and stir it in before adding the wine and the broth. Allow it to boil gently for a few minutes. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the cut-up chicken and simmer a few more minutes, (long enough to heat up the chicken).
This is a very saucy dish, so you may want to serve it with a nice French baguette. Oh, and don’t forget to compliment your Sous Chefs!
Interested in more food articles from us? Check this blog out for other winter dinner ideas!