Families today are extremely busy. Both parents usually work, and then have to fit their kids’ many extracurricular activities, such as swimming, art, tennis, soccer, hockey, and playdates, into what’s left of the day. In this hectic environment, eating dinner as a family is enough of a challenge, let alone preparing the meal with your kids. But getting them involved in making their favourite dishes is worth the effort. This might be hard at first if your kids are doing homework (or just pretending they are), playing on their phones, or sitting in front of the TV. Convincing them that cooking is cool is a good first step. Once they start, they’ll love it, and the key is to make it fun.
There are so many benefits to having the entire family help to prepare a meal. Here are just a few:
- Communication. When I was a kid, we didn’t really converse at the dinner table. Then again, we were a Persian family who loved to eat, and we ate so much and so fast that we focused on food for most of the dining experience. My parents were strict and when they asked me questions, I felt like I was at a job interview and gave formal answers. Granted, now that I’m older, my parents have chilled out when it comes to conversation. While your family’s communication style may differ, I find that it is easier to talk freely when everyone is participating in an activity that serves a common goal: like preparing food for our hungry bellies. This is an opportunity to unite, connect, and even learn a few things about one another.
- Cultural exploration. You can create ethnic-themed nights that feature Mexican, Thai, Italian, or even Persian food. (If you’re making Persian food, I want to come over; it’s so hard to prepare that I prefer to mooch off someone else.) This is a great opportunity to involve your kids in selecting new recipes. Not only that, they’ll expand their knowledge of the world through its various cuisines and be able to relate more concretely to other cultures.
- Self-confidence. Ultimately, your kids will be more self-sufficient if they learn basic cooking skills at home. After all, if you do all the work, how will they know what to do when they move out? Moreover, knowing how to cook will help them make better food choices.
- Cooking dinner together can be a source of happy memories. Sometimes burning the casserole can be turned into a great laugh (if only after the fact).
Kids can get involved at any age, even if it’s just tearing the lettuce to make the salad. Other tasks include washing the vegetables, grating the cheese, and measuring the ingredients. Please review my previous article on food safety before you assign a role for your kids.
Play music while you cook, to get everyone in the mood. My suggestion is to download Songza, a music app curated by experts. Select a playlist like “Today’s Biggest Hits,” that is to satisfy your teenager’s preference (I’m assuming).
Here are some family friendly recipes everyone will love:
Sweet Pea Lasagna
(Recipe is from Real Simple)
For this recipe there are so many different tasks, such cleaning the peas, to mixing the ingredients, and then layering the lasagna. For the latter, it might be monitored for the amount of ricotta pea mixture would be layered. My motto is the more the merrier but this may need a family consensus or not.
10-ounce package frozen peas
16-ounce container ricotta
Kosher salt and black pepper
16-ounce jar marinara sauce
9-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles
- Heat oven to 400° F. Place the peas in a colander or large strainer and run under cold water until thawed; let drain.
- In a medium bowl (check out this Joseph Joseph mixing bowl set), combine the ricotta, peas, and ¼ tea-spoon each salt and pepper. Spoon half the marinara into an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 layers of lasagna noodles (4 sheets).
- Spread half the ricotta mixture over the noodles and top with a single layer of lasagna noodles (2 sheets). Spread the remaining ricotta mixture on the noodles. Top with 2 layers of noodles (4 sheets) and the remaining marinara.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Loosely cover with foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.
(Recipe is from Jamie Oliver)
Who doesn’t love tacos? There is so much flexibility with tacos to cater any food restrictions and preference to support the vegetarian, celiac, to those that like chicken over beef. My favorite part of a Mexican dinner is the guacamole (ahem, extra guacamole). I’d be surprised if guacamole wasn’t’ a hit with the family, the only exception would be if they are allergic to avocados. If that’s the case, I’m sorry! But I guarantee that one of your kids would be excited to prepare the dip. Below are two recipes (1) tacos; (2) guacamole. Ole Ole!
|For the tacos
12 soft corn tortillas
Preheat the cast-iron fry pan. Brush the tacos with olive oil on both sides. Cook in the frying pan, one at a time for abut 30 second per side, just to soften them and heat them through. Remove from pan and wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm.
|For the guacamole
2 ripe avacados
On a large cutting board, slice avacados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and mound it on the cutting board (like this 3 piece Bamboo cutting board set). Chop the avocadoes with a knife until it’s chunky.
Pour the lime juice on top and sprinkle a little salt. Mash evenly with the knife. Add the chopped coriander. Mix to combine and then transfer to a bowl. Use at once or cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for up to 3 hours.
Shake n’ Shimmy Pork Chops
(Recipe from Food Network Canada)
Yup, that’s the title of the recipe which likely requires a few dance moves. Your kids can get involved by putting all the Panko breadcrumbs, and parsley into a large plastic Ziploc bag. Then they can shake, shake, shake! Who knows, you’ll probably want to sing to KC & The Sunshine Bands “Shake, shake, shake. Shake Your Booty.” Maybe it’ll become a dance party too (or is that wishful thinking).
2 quarts water
Brine: Add all of the ingredients to a large pot, and put the pork chops into the brine, allowing them to soak for 1 hour.
Preheat a grill to medium heat.
Add the panko, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper, to taste, to a large heavy duty resealable plastic bag. Add the beaten eggs to a casserole dish. Remove the pork chops from brine. Dredge the chops through the eggs and shake them, 1 at a time, in the bread crumb mixture.
Oil the grill grates with a clean tea towel dipped in vegetable oil. Put the chops on the grill and cook for 10 minutes with the lid shut. Flip the pork chops and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Transfer the chops to a serving platter and serve. (Recipe courtesy of The Neelys)
Here are some more interesting cooking articles you might like:
Shelly’s Friday Favourites does more with a rice cooker
Create an amazing cocktail party for two for your next date night
Shelly’s Friday Favourites makes the best BBQ
Have fun preparing your next meal with your family.