Skip to content

Bonding With Children Through Cooking-A Summer Treat

The question “Can I help?” asked in the kitchen, depending on the age and/or experience of the person posing it can be either an offer or a request. The first is usually welcome but the second is frequently a problem. Perhaps making the recipe involves hazards, cutting and cooking, or more often the person doing the preparation is too short on time to stop to explain and instruct a novice. Unfortunately, a rebuff can make a person feel diminished; several can kill an interest in cooking. Above all it closes a door on a terrific opportunity for learning and bonding. Shared tasks, especially cooking projects have a special way of building relationships. You get to work together AND share the finished project.

Summer is the ideal time to explore these possibilities. The warm weather and prolonged daylight hours make everything more relaxed, even commuting to work.  The long light evenings make the days seem endless and dinner can be a bit later. Children are less stressed in the absence of work related projects and more receptive to creative ones. It’s the perfect time to introduce novices and newbies to the kitchen, share time with them and have the added advantage of teaching them skills that will ease future meal preparation; to say nothing of providing projects for rainy days that everyone can enjoy in any and all stages.

The book Can I help?  is perfectly geared to fostering these ‘kitchen connections’. It’s about using cooking to find ways to spend time and bond with children. The recipes are for adult dishes, 104 breakfast, lunches, dinners and desserts in fact, which are enjoyed by children. They’re recipes to make with children, not kiddie food to make for them.  All have been carefully selected and often modified to require only basic kitchen skills and cooking experience, just a normal degree of supervision, yet provide many tasks to keep a child busy, involved and interested.

Because the recipes are kept simple, the book can also serve as a training manual for older children, allowing them to progress to more difficult jobs. It’s also an excellent guide for the adult who wants to pitch in and help, without making them feel limited to ‘Cooking 101’.Included as well., are two proven complete Mother’s Day menus. One the children made with a little adult help, the other Dad pitched in.

The introduction contains instructions for the safe-handling of poultry, and suggested substitutions for ethnic diets are listed with specific recipes.  Among the dishes to be sampled are Oven Pancakes, Frittatas, Tuna Bean Salad, Strata Burger, Beef Kabobs, Cornish Hens with Wild Rice, fruit filled meringue Angel Nests and Zebra cake. These recipes plus 96 more, 25 in each category, are simplified but Oh so delicious. Since all are calculated to serve 4, but easily divided or multiplied, this book may become a go-to for family meals.

Following are a few sample recipes for dishes, other than those already mentioned, which will give you a wider idea of the audience the book can interest.

Breakfast Croissants: Serves 4

4 Croissants split and warmed
4 hardboiled eggs –sliced OR 4 flat scrambled eggs cut in strips
4 large mushrooms sliced
12 avocado slices
Other filling variations follow
To make flat scramble eggs, whisk eggs in a bowl, pour into a large, lightly greased skillet. Allow to spread evenly over the pan bottom, and then cook undisturbed over medium heat until eggs are set. Slide eggs onto a plate and cut into thin strips. Distribute among the croissants, top with the other chosen ingredients

Variations: Use 8 slices cooked regular or turkey bacon, with sliced tomato and lettuce leaves
Use 1/2lb. cooked, sliced ham and ¼ lb. sliced Swiss cheese–Optionally add pineapple slices.
Use your favorite ingredients
Eggs Parmesan: Serves 4—Custard cups or oven proof mugs are needed for this
4 slices Deli ham—optional-Turkey ham is a substitute
8 large eggs
8 Tbs. heavy cream, half-and-half, or evaporated milk
4 Tbs. Grated Parmesan cheese
Line each custard cup with a slice of ham. Break 2 eggs into each cup. Cover with 2 Tbs. milk or cream. Top each with 1 Tbs. cheese. Place cups on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven until set about 12-15 min. Serve hot with rolls or toast.

 Chef’s Salad: Serves 4
1 head Bibb lettuce OR equal amount of iceberg or Romaine torn into bite-sized pieces
2 medium tomatoes in large dice
1 small onion – halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 oz. of Swiss cheese sliced
4 oz. of Deli cooked chicken or turkey or 1 cup leftover
4 oz. Deli ham- or 1 cup leftover—Turkey ham is a substitute
8 oz. bottle of salad dressing – Caesar or Italian
4 hard-boiled eggs – optional – quartered for garnish
Cut the cheese and meat slices into 1 x 2 inch strips. If using leftovers cube the meat. Gently toss the vegetables and meat with the lettuce and drizzle with the dressing to taste. Optionally plate the salad and pass the dressing. Garnish each plate with 4 egg quarters.

Pita Melts: Serves 4
4 pita breads split in half
4 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
2 medium apples peeled and in thin slices
8 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese = 1 cup
8 slices Deli ham- Turkey ham is a substitute
Spread each pita half with ½ Tbs. mustard, then fill with 1 slice of ham, ¼ of one apple sliced, and 2 Tbs. of cheese. Place on a cookie sheet or foil and place on a low rack under a preheated broiler for 1-2 min. until cheese melts. Serve at once.

Chicken with Mustard and Honey: Serves 4-easy to divide and/or multiply
NOTE: The seasoning ingredients are placed under the skin to help them infuse the meat. This can be done by children, they can prepare the pan and count the cooking time.
4 large chicken thighs
4 tsp. honey
4 tsp. Dijon or grained mustard
¼ tsp. ground black pepper—optional
Garlic Powder NOT garlic salt
Mix the honey, mustard and pepper, if using. Lift the skin on the chicken and place 2 tsp. of the mixture on the meat sprinkle with garlic. Place the pieces slightly separated in a roasting pan. Pour ½ inch of water or broth in the bottom. Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 30- 40 min. or until juices run clear when pricked with a knife point.
A pan sauce can be made by adding a bit of apple juice, cider or broth to the pan drippings to deglaze.

 Suggested Sides: This entree goes well with broccoli, green beans or asparagus cooked and served with a sprinkle of lemon-pepper, and sweet potato fries cooked along with the meat in the oven.

 Salad Nicoise: Serves 4-6 Ideally this should be made with grilled Tuna steaks thinly sliced, but canned works well. Just be sure it’s a good brand of Solid White Albacore. This recipe is actually for 6 servings, but I find it does 4 well. Kids love making this because they can safely do most of it themselves…
1 head Boston lettuce – sometimes called “Garden” or “Bibb” – if not available buy Romaine NOT Iceberg
1 lb. redskin or new potatoes
1 lb. whole green beans
4 hardboiled eggs – peeled, halved lengthwise and chilled
1 large red or Bermuda onion in fairly thin slices
3 large or 4 medium tomatoes peeled and cut in medium slices OR pint box cherry or grape ones
(1) 2 oz. can anchovy fillets drained oil reserved for dressing
(1) 5 oz. can colossal pitted ripe olives – drained
(2) 7 oz. cans solid white Albacore Tuna in water – drained
Kosher salt
White wine
Dried tarragon
Fresh ground black pepper

Cut the potatoes in quarters, or halves, depending on size. Boil them separately or together with the beans until the potatoes are done and the beans still crisp about 10 min.
Drain well, run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool. Place the potatoes and beans in an oblong container, so they can spread to marinate, with ½ cup white wine and 2 tsp. dried tarragon. Allow to marinate at least ½ hr. or all day. Separate the lettuce leaves, wash well and allow to air dry. Cover a large platter with the leaves. Pile the tuna, topped with the anchovies in the center, and attractively arrange the other ingredients, in separate sections, in a surrounding circle. Sprinkle with the salt and fresh pepper.
Dressing:-Wisk all ingredients together well
4 Tbs. minced shallots – onions will substitute
2 Tbs. dry mustard powder
5 Tbs. red wine vinegar
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup olive oil plus the oil from the anchovies
2 tsp. dried tarragon
Taste and add some of the marinating white wine if it won’t dilute too much
Kosher salt
Fresh ground Pepper
Drizzle the dressing over the platter and serve the rest on the side.
Suggested sides: Some nice warm rolls – Clover Leaf perhaps or Crescent.

Dump Cake
2 cans fruit pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
½ cup butter or margarine melted
1 tsp. ground cinnamon – optional
Spread the pie filling in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch pan, mix with cinnamon if using. Cover with the dry cake mix and pour the butter over all. Do not stir. Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven 30 min. until top is golden. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

Easy Berry Angel Cake
1 purchased pound cake
8 oz. tub of Whipped Topping
1pt. box of strawberries
Save several nice berries for decoration.
Slice the rest and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to rest a few hours for the juice to extract itself. Just before serving, cut the cake into 3 layers. Spread first with 1/3rd of the whipped topping, spoon ½ the sliced berries over it allowing the juice to drip down the sides. Repeat with 2nd layer. Finish with 3rd layer topped with the rest of the whipped topping and the reserved decorative berries.

Group Activity

Puppy Chow: Serves 14-16
¼ cup peanut butter
6 oz. =1 cup chocolate chips, dark or milk
6 cups cereal squares-rice, wheat, corn or a mixture
1 cup granulated, powdered or sifted light brown sugar
Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl about 2-3 min. stir in peanut butter. Add cereal and stir gently to coat the pieces well without breaking. Put the sugar in a plastic bag and shake a little of the cereal at a time until all is coated well. Store air tight in a cool place.
TIP: 1 cup shredded coconut, ground to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder tastes better than the sugar, and is healthier. It’s even better if the coconut is slightly toasted first.

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS