Get Your Kids To Cook

When I was growing up, every summer, my parents required that my sister and I make one meal a week.  We agreed on what day of the week that would be, planned the menu, made all the food and cleaned up afterwards.  (Our chores usually included setting the table and loading the dishwasher, but cleaning up from this meal included scrubbing pots and pans, and so on.)

 It was a good way to learn a bunch of different things at once – nutrition and balanced eating, budgeting, planning for leftovers, and so on.  We often put a lot more thought into the dessert than the rest of the meal, and once ended up with corn fritters and penuche.  It also gave us the opportunity to try, for fun, foods we had read about in books, such as toad in the hole from the Adrian Mole Diaries, and toad in the hole became a family favorite.

 Summer is a good time to have kids cook a meal because with a simple sandwich plate or salad, they’re not messing around with the oven or stove if you don’t want them to, and with the abundance of fresh produce, getting fruits and vegetables into the meal can be fun.  It gives you a little extra time for your work, too.  Be clear with your expectations about the meal – who does prep and cleanup, who sets the table, who sets the budget and does the actually shopping – but let them take the lead.  And whatever they chose, you do have to eat it!

 Here’s a healthy, kid-friendly recipe they can try to get them started:

• 1 bag salad

• sliced roast beef from the deli

• some kind of cheese to grate – for picky palates, co-jack, sharp cheddar or swiss; for more adventurous, try havarti, blue or Roquefort

• red onion

• croutons

• oil and vinegar or caeser dressing

Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces and slice the onion.  Throw it all together and serve with bread (crusty or otherwise), and drinks and desserts of choice.  Older kids can buy a piece of flank steak for the meat.  Set the oven to 400 degrees. Season flank steak with salt and pepper.  Put a splash of canola oil in a hot pan and brown the steak on both sides, about two to three minutes a side.  Put it in the hot oven to roast about 10-15 minutes (for a medium finish).  Remove, let rest and cool slightly, then cut across the grain and toss with the salad.

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