I grew up in Southern California, the child of a father who was one of the original health nuts of the 1970s, and a mother who had a gift for great cooking and a determination to have our family converge each night around the dinner table.

When my own kids, Solomon and Celia, were crawling, toddling, and banging their way around the kitchen, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get them to eat healthy food — without most of it winding up a sticky mess on the floor.  I began to wonder how my mom had made family dinners look so easy when it was all feeling so complicated to me now that I had children of my own. 

I was determined to learn from my own experiences (and mistakes!) to help busy families like mine figure out how to get healthy and delicious meals on the table amidst our chaotic lives. I also knew that many parents like me wanted to include our children in the process of creating, and certainly enjoying, food. Eventually, I created an online meal planning system, The Six O’Clock Scramble (www.thescramble.com) and accompanying cookbooks to share strategies and family-tested recipes to help other families enjoy great meals together.

In this weekly column I hope to inspire you to create and enjoy wonderful meals and snacks with your family. One of my favorite things about food is how it evolves and grows through sharing with friends, families and communities like this one, so I also hope to get some wonderful new ideas and recipes from you and other community members along this journey.

I also hope to inspire you to cook with your children. Ever since our kids were babies we have tried to welcome them in the kitchen.  Before they were walking, they’d bounce in their jumpers in the kitchen doorway or spin in their exersaucers while I made dinner.  Atop our sturdy stepladder when they were toddlers, they’d “wash dishes” in the sudsy kitchen sink while I cooked, or make their own “dinner” out of flour, food coloring, water and soap.  Now Solomon and Celia are old enough to help with shopping, set the table, do the dishes, and occasionally even make meals on their own! 

Sometimes it takes extra patience to let the kids help in the kitchen, and sometimes I am in too much of a hurry to relinquish too much control.  But when they do help, I try to find tasks that the kids can do all by themselves, and I try to hold my tongue if cheese isn’t sprinkled evenly or peeled carrots retain some skin.  (When they were little I also made sure to keep sharp objects far away and teach the kids to keep their hands away from the stove and oven.)  When time and patience allow, cooking dinner is a great way for us to spend time together on busy weeknights. 

Cooking also creates many teaching moments where we can practice our children’s math and reading skills by following recipes together, practice problem solving and put our creative skills to work by developing our own recipes, and gives the kids’ self-esteem a major boost when they create something beautiful and delicious that other people actually want to eat.

This is a favorite dish of my husband, Andrew’s.  We like our taquitos baked until they are crispy, and then smothered with salsa and sour cream. I hope your family enjoys one of our favorite family meals, Crispy Baked Taquitos.  I hope you’ll share some of your favorite meals and ideas in the comments below.  

For more great ideas for cooking with your children, visit some of my favorite family cooking sites:

http://whatscookingblog.com/

http://www.kidscookusa.blogspot.com/

http://www.thefoodies.org/blog.asp

Recipe: Crispy Baked Taquitos with Black Bean Filling

  • Prep Time: 25 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 15 min(s)
  • Total Time: 40 min(s)
  • Servings: 6

A recipe for crispy baked taquitos with black bean filling. Can be served them with sliced mangoes.

Ingredients

    • 15 oz. canned black beans, slightly drained
    • 14 oz. vegetarian refried beans
    • 2 tsp. chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (about 1 clove)
    • 12 small (6-8 inch) whole wheat or flour tortillas
    • 6 scallions, all the green and a little of the white parts, sliced
    • 2 tomatoes, diced
    • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup salsa, for serving
    • 1 cup low fat or nonfat sour cream, for serving

Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the black beans, refried beans, chili powder, cumin and garlic.  Simmer it for 5 minutes.
    • Mash the bean mixture until it is a thick puree (you can use a potato masher right in the pan.)
    • On a clean plate, lay a tortilla flat and place 2 big tablespoons of bean mixture in the center of the tortilla.  Top it with some scallions, tomatoes, and cheese.  Roll up the tortilla into a tube shape and place it in the baking pan, seam side down.  Repeat until you’ve used all the tortillas.  Reserve any leftover filling for dipping.
    • Bake the taquitos until they are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  (Slice the mangoes while the taquitos are baking.)  Serve the taquitos with salsa, sour cream, and/or any leftover black bean filling, if desired.

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  • http://savorysweetlife.com alice

    I love the story of how you started The Scramble and the influence of both parents helped you develop a system to help families get healthy dinners on the table.

  • http://www.lakebreeze.org/blog3 DawnK

    My kids have been helping in the kitchen, since they were toddlers. Now, at 18 and 21, they are great cooks. They gradually went from watching, to making whole meals, over the years.

  • http://www.lakebreeze.org/blog3 DawnK

    My 21yo daughter is a food-blog-junkie and keeps us on our toes trying new stuff, even when she’s away at college. She’s turning me into a food-blog-junkie, too! We also love 6:00 scramble!

  • http://www.thescramble.com Aviva Goldfarb

    Dawn, your comment reminds us how much it serves kids well throughout their whole lives to get involved in the kitchen early. Thank you!