Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my brother and I helping my dad in the kitchen. Mostly it was breakfast. We made amazing pancakes with fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy hash browns. I remember my dad letting us help measure the ingredients, mix up the pancake batter, stir the orange juice. I also remember how much better the food tasted when we helped make it and how proud we were to show my mom what we had helped make. It was great.
Now I have two kids of my own, a six-year-old and a three-year-old, both girls. They mean the world to me and I am constantly looking for ways to bond with them, share some quality time and make lasting memories like my dad made for me.
Like most husbands I’m also constantly looking for ways to keep my wife happy with me and build up some goodwill for the occasional poker night with the boys. I have found that cooking with the kids is the single best way to accomplish both goals.
I find that most men will happily cook on the grill (or infrared grill - just as good!), but want nothing to do with cooking in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid of the kitchen, it can be your best friend and it can really be fun. I cook supper every night, not because I have to, but because it is a great way for me to relax after work and a creative outlet.
An added benefit is that when my wife tells her friends that I cook every night they all tell her how lucky she is to have me - which never hurts! Be prepared for your buddies' nasty looks and comments when this happens though...
The real reason I do it though is to spend time with my daughters and to pass on my love of cooking to them. Cooking with my daughters is tremendous. They have such fun and are so proud when they eat something they helped create. For those of you with “picky eaters”, letting them help prepare the meal usually makes them more apt to eat once it is served.
I know you’re thinking that you can’t cook anything so how can you possibly have your kids help? The fact is you only think you can’t cook anything. You just need some ideas. Here is one of our family’s favorites, it’s called peach meatloaf. I know, sounds crazy but it tastes amazing, the kids love it and it’s very easy to prepare.
Peach Meatloaf Recipe
Start with 1.5 pounds of ground beef (ground chicken or ground turkey also make a tasty loaf). Add to it some seasoned bread crumbs. The amount depends on the fat content in the beef you’re using, just put some in and see how it comes together. The beef should get sticky and form a ball, then that’s enough. Then add some seasoning. One of the great things about cooking is you can put in what you like and leave out what you don’t.
We like a lot of fresh garlic in ours (buy the pre-minced garlic to save time). We also put in Italian seasoning, Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, paprika and sage.
You will notice that I don’t have exact measurements here, it's all just one big experiment. Unless you dump the entire container of sage in the mix you really can’t mess it up. Next, add one egg to help bind the mix and keep it moist. I pour the seasonings into the palm of the girls hands and then let them dump it into the mix. As I do I tell them what each spice is and let them smell it.
Now let the kids get in there with their hands (make sure they wash first) and mix all the ingredients together. Trust me, they will love it. Once it’s all mixed up good, get out your loaf pan (lined with aluminum foil) and put the mix into the pan and form a loaf. Now for the yummy peach sauce.
Just get a small jar of peach preserves (orange marmalade also works well) and empty it into a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. The heat will cause the preserves to break down into a liquid sauce. When that starts to happen give a couple of generous squirts from a bottle of Dijon mustard into the preserves and stir it up.
Once combined pour the sauce over the meatloaf and put in a 350 degree oven for one hour. Now you’re a hero with your kids and your wife. It comes out all gooey and yummy and the sweet topping makes it a hit with every kid I’ve ever made it for.
I typically make roasted potatoes and baby carrots as a side dish for the meal. Again, very easy. I use baby red skin potatoes and cut them into about 1 inch cubes and spread them on a cookie sheet.
The number of potatoes depends on the size of your family’s appetite and the size of your potatoes. Then on the same cookie sheet add some baby carrots. Then pour some extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl and set the kids up with pastry brushes. Let them brush the oil on the potatoes and carrots. My little one is always asking if she can “paint the potatoes.”
Once the potatoes and carrots are painted, season with garlic salt and pepper and put into that same 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
If that's a bit more work than you'd like, you can whip out the infrared grill and let it do its business.
Give it try, your will have fun, your kids will have fun and make memories, your wife will give you a big kiss and you will enjoy a good, home cooked meal.