Derek walked in the other night as we were all making homemade pasta. Flour was everywhere and Nate kept reaching in to give the homemade dough a little love pat. I physically cringed every time he did it. Even if I dipped these children in a vat of anti-bacterial soap, I will still remain suspect of their cleanliness.
D: Did you boys wash your hands?
Ethan and Nathan: YES!!
K: They did.
D: (to me) Are you okay?
K: I'm fine. It's just they are so gross.
Derek laughed and handed the boys their very own pasta mound. It was a brilliant move. The boys put the pasta into the machine and patted it repeatedly. It fell on the ground. He picked it back up and handed it to them. They squealed with delight as they continued to make their own dinner. I finished making our real pasta and made the dirty pile disappear before the noodles went into the boiling water.
The kids greedily ate their dinner. It was a hit. That's when I realized that having the kids cook with me was a sure way to get them to eat their dinner. It seemed that because they were invested, the food seemed to taste better to them.
Use simple ingredients. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oregano will make a lovely sauce for pasta. My kids love picking tomatoes from our garden. Some are redder than others, but you can always wait a few days for those not-so-green tomatoes to ripen. Nature is kind.
Use a recipe that is forgiving. Pasta is easy to make. Flour, olive oil and an egg. There are a million and one recipes for making pasta on the internet if you are looking for one. Mix it together and roll it out with either a rolling pin or a pasta maker. Kids love rolling pins. I would highly recommend spacing your children out with approximately 6 inches to spare, but that's just the crazy that is our house. Exact measurements for pasta are not required. Another fun thing to make is sorbet. Fruit and simple syrup and you are on your way to a delicious dessert.
Shop together. At this time of the summer, the food at the farmer's market is fabulous. Everything is fresh off the farm. Lots of farms have u-pick programs that encourage people to pick their fruit and vegetables directly from the source. This promotes local farms and sustainability as well. My kids love to go picking. Learning about how the strawberry goes from the plant all the way to the table is part of the fun.
Make dinner colorful. My whole life my mother never made two vegetables that were the same color. And let me tell you, she always made two vegetables. She reminded us on more than one occasion that her home economics teacher taught them that dinner should be inviting and colorful. My kids seem more drawn to the orange food groups (carrots, peppers) but greens are not far behind. It provides a great opportunity to practice colors, although Nate still thinks everything is green but needs us to know that his favorite color is orange.
Don't worry about the mess. As the flour piles up on the floor, take a deep breath and let it go. You can clean that flour up when you are done. Better yet, your kids can clean it up. Stressing out about the mess is only going to ruin your good time. If you are Cathy Cleanup, set a goal for the amount of time you allow the mess to accumulate. That way you can focus on your kids and on teaching them how to cook and less time worrying about the little things.
Cooking with kids is as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Here are more tips for cooking with kids. I'll admit my goal is to have my children cooking all the meals in my house by the time the last one is ten, but I don't see anything wrong with that. Do you?