One of my favorite things about cooking with my children, Solomon and Celia, is watching them gain confidence and independence in the kitchen. I also like to observe their growing skills (such as measuring and chopping), and growing knowledge (that 3 teaspoons is the same is 1 tablespoon, for example, and 4 tablespoons equals ¼ cup).
Did you know that when you let your kids help in the kitchen you are giving their math skills a boost? Basic cooking activities teach abstract math concepts in a very concrete and tangible way. With younger children, measuring ingredients and counting as they go teaches numbers, sorting, and even basic addition and subtraction. Older kids can get a multiplication challenge by calculating how to double or triple a recipe.
The recipe below is a great place to start. For the fried rice, school-age children can help you by calculating how much water to use for the rice (generally a 2:1 ratio).
For the tofu triangles, children learn practical geometry by cutting a rectangular block into three smaller rectangles, and then dividing those rectangles into triangles. And the best part is they get to eat their math homework when they are done!
Cook the rice according to the package directions. Meanwhile, cut the tofu lengthwise from end to end (like cutting a deck of cards), making 3 even slices. Wrap those slices in a clean dish towel to absorb any excess water.
First, make the tofu: Combine 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, the maple syrup or honey, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger in the bottom of a flat baking dish that’s large enough to hold the tofu in a single layer. Cut the tofu slices in half, then diagonally again into triangles. Add them to the dish with the marinade and flip them several times to coat them with the sauce.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Transfer the tofu and marinade to the skillet. Cook it, flipping occasionally, until the tofu is nicely browned on both sides, about 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer it to a serving plate and sprinkle it with 2 sliced scallions.
Then, prepare the fried rice: When the rice is 5 minutes from done, heat the peanut or vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the egg in the oil, chopping it as it cooks, until it is well done. Add 3 sliced scallions, peas or carrots (optional) and stir-fry them with the egg for 1 minute. Add 3 cups cooked rice, 4 Tbsp. soy sauce and the pepper and toss it thoroughly. Serve it immediately with the tofu.
How do you foster learning with your kids in the kitchen? Please leave us a comment below with your ideas.
Recipe: Crispy Tofu Triangles with Fried Rice
- 1 1/2 cups dry white or quick-cooking brown rice
- 16 oz. extra-firm tofu packed in water, drained
- 6 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
- 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or honey
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 5 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced, divided
- 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup peas or finely diced carrots (optional)
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. black pepper