Cooking with Your Kids

Cooking with Your Kids | Sweet Phenomena

One of the best parts of cooking with your kids is that there are a vast number of teachable moments.

These might be literal moments, such as teaching fractions, history, and geography; or they can be more figurative moments, such as teaching appreciation for family meal time, family history, and different types of food.

In our family, we enjoy learning about local foods. Few things can beat knowing where your food came from, and how long of a trip it took to get to you!

I think it’s important to note something before we talk more about all the fun you can have with your children and local foods: eating local and fresh doesn’t have to be expensive and inaccessible.

We love all kinds of food in our house: the good stuff and the not-so-good-for-you-but-it-tastes-amazing stuff. You don’t need to be a health nut or spend tons of money to eat and appreciate local foods.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, how can you involve your kids in learning about local foods, appreciating the concept of slow food, and really taking something away from the whole experience?

You can do any number of things outlined below, at just about any age, and I bet your children won’t even look at it as work!

Visiting the Farmers’ Market

Visiting the farmers’ market is probably the easiest way to teach your children about local foods. It’s a magical place!

Depending on where you live, there are year-round markets, produce-only markets, markets that carry crafts, markets that also offer dairy, meat, and poultry, the list goes on and on. Find what’s in your area by visiting LocalHarvest.

Aside from the vast learning that can take place by just wandering around the market, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your child is involved and enjoying the experience.

Help your child prepare a market shopping list. This could be a written list if they can read and need to practice writing, or it can be a list with pictures that you create on the computer, with magazine clippings, or by drawing. This gives them specific things to look for.

Don’t want to call it a shopping list? Call it a Farmers’ Market Treasure Hunt. Let them dress the part. Have fun with it!

Older children can help plan a menu using items that can be purchased at the market.

Seeing how much of an entire menu you can actually get at the market is so much fun! There’s just something special about making an entire meal from items you purchased fresh, that day.

Your resources may vary, though, so perhaps you only have access to produce. There’s nothing wrong with that, you can still make it work.

Prepare an entree, such as Beef Ravioli Pizza Cups with Tomato Basil Salsa (these look like cupcakes-how fun is that to eat for dinner?!), and use fresh tomatoes and basil from the market for your salsa.

Prepare a side salad to accompany your dish, and then make a fresh fruit cobbler or ice cream sundae for dessert. I think most kids would love a meal like this!

Allowing your child to pay for items that are on their list can help them feel independent and encourage math skills.

Teach seasons and what’s available by utilizing this site to find out what’s available and when in your area.

Practice interacting with others by getting to know the vendors and farmers at the market. These folks are generally exceptionally friendly and love talking to little people about farming, produce, and all sorts of other things. Plus, they often enjoy giving little goodies to cute kids as well.

Have a child that’s not a fan of vegetables? Visiting a market just might be the magic pill you’ve been looking for.

It’s also important to note that your market visits don’t always have to focus on produce.

Many markets have vendors who sell baked goods, handmade crafts, meat and poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Most of us love baked goods, and things like fresh milk and eggs can be used to create your own baked goods.

Other Resources

Many products are available that can enhance your market experience, such as books, checklists, reusable bags, and more.

My favorites are this kit, which includes a booklet, activity cards, and a reusable shopping bag that is stored in a little strawberry pouch, and this beauty from Native Bear on Etsy, which includes a cute reusable shopping bag and a colorful icon-based shopping list.

At the Farmers’ Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands is a great book to keep on hand to help instill a love for local and fresh foods and farmers’ market in your children.

It profiles produce that is found at most farmers’ markets, gives tips on choosing the most ripe produce and other fun tidbits, provides kid-friendly recipes designed to utilize your market goodies. Divided by season, it’s also a great way to teach your children about eating seasonally.

And then there’s this beauty: The Little Chefs Project: A Collection of Kid-Friendly Tips, Tricks and Recipes for Fun in the Kitchen.

I helped write the chapter on teachable moments and let me tell you, there is a ton more great info in there.  Be sure to check it out!

You can find even more great ideas for creating magical market visits with your kids by visiting these sites:

While these blog posts aren’t necessarily focused on market visits with your children, they do provide some great content on being in the kitchen with your kids, as well as a couple of really great measurement printables:

True Confessions:  I am being compensated for my participation in the Little Chefs project.  But, you guys know how much I love to talk about having your kids in the kitchen!

Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Entertaining

Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Entertaining | Sweet Phenomena

Part of the fun of baking is sharing it with others!

While this doesn’t have to be a formal occasion at all, it’s still a great idea to teach your kids how to properly entertain guests.

Below you will find some great resources to help you do just that!

Training Good Little Hosts and Hostesses

What Works for You

Books and guides are helpful, but also remember to incorporate your family’s style and values.

Like formal affairs? Teach your children about them.

Like informal picnics? Teach your children about them.

Impart all that great knowledge you already have to your kids!

True Confessions:  This post does contain some affiliate links.

Baking with Your Kids: Honoring and Starting Family Traditions

Baking with Your Kids: Honoring and Starting Family Traditions | Sweet Phenomena

Baking with your kids is one of those things that they’ll remember for the rest of their life.

Trips to fairs, new gaming systems, vacations, sure they’ll remember bits of pieces of this stuff, but being in the kitchen? You can’t beat those memories.

We’ve talked about all sorts of things to do with your kids in the kitchen the past few days, but today is devoted to the most important: remembering to honor and start family traditions.

Honoring Family Traditions

This is such an important thing to do with your kids.

No matter how small the tradition may seem, it’s important to teach your children to honor family traditions in the kitchen.

Sunday dinners, fish on Fridays, seasonal baking, all of it is important.

But you don’t have to stop at just telling them what the traditions are and being in the kitchen with them.

Make it uber-fun by taking pictures, making scrapbooks, adding a new twist on the tradition, and more.

Compiling a cookbook, complete with pictures of you and your kids making the recipes is my favorite idea.

How many times do you want to make a family recipe but it’s not documented anywhere, so you have to try until you nail it.

Document these recipes with your kids, share the stories behind them, and have a keepsake to pass down from generation to generation.

Start New Family Traditions

I’m all for keeping great traditions alive, but it’s also fun to start new ones.

How awesome would it be for your kids to have something that they helped create to pass down to their kids?

You can create new recipes, new techniques, special baking times, anything you want.

The important thing to remember is that traditions don’t have to be something grand, they just have to be something important to you.  Something that tells a story.

What traditions do you and your kids celebrate?

Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Teaching Food Presentation

Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Teaching Food Presentation | @SweetPhenomena

Welcome to Week Two of Baking with Your Kids!  My collection of posts is part of the Homeschool Hopscotch hosted by iHomeschool Network.

Today’s post is all about food presentation!

I wanted to include this because I think it’s something worth teaching your kids.  Of course this isn’t something that will need to be done all the time, but knowing how to present a dish that is appealing to all the senses is a great skill!

It’s also something that isn’t necessarily easy.  I remember when I first worked in a professional kitchen.  I saw the awesome plating going on, and when I tried emulate with my stuff {I made pastries and cakes}, I got so frustrated.

So here are a few tips you can use to teach your child the art of food presentation!

Teaching the Art of Food Presentation

  • Realize there is no right way.  I’m a perfectionist, so this is a hard one for me.  Really, though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  If your child feels very proud about what they’ve done, then it’s a great presentation.
  • Teach the “why” behind it.  Of course there’s the obvious reason:  we like to eat pretty food.  But presenting a dish that has been beautifully arranged shows that you gave some thought to what you were giving that person.  It’s a way to show your love and appreciation for another person.
  • Think about color and size.  This is one of the simplest ways to learn how to plate better food.  Mix colors side-by-side, play around with different portion sizes, experiment until you’ve gotten the hang of it.
  • Baked goods are easier.  I have no real, solid, fact-based information to back me up, but I’ve found this to be the case.  There’s just something about baked goods that makes them so darn easy to make pretty.  A single cupcake with a pillow of icing on top is gorgeous.  A slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream and some caramel sauce drizzled on top is pretty.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  This is a fun one because, well, in order to practice, you need food.  And then who gets to eat it?  Yes, you and your kids.  Or, if there’s just too much, you can share it with others.  They’ll *heart* you for that.
  • Throw a party to celebrate.  When you feel that you guys have really nailed your food presentation, throw a party!  It doesn’t have to be anything major, just a little celebration with a few pretty display pieces to showcase what you’ve learned.

A Recipe to Help You Practice

Since I think baked goods are the easiest to practice on, I’m giving you guys my award-winning lemon cupcake recipe!

Just like the white cake, this recipe has been a favorite of many brides and has gotten me a few ribbons at county and state fairs.

To frost these, use my standard buttercream frosting, but add lots and lots and lots of lemon zest to it.  Well, lots and lots and lots if you love tart lemon taste.

If you don’t, just add lots.

Pin It to Win It

Want to score some great books for your kids?

To help celebrate the Homeschool Hopscotch Prufrock Press and iHomeschool Network are holding a Pin It to Win It contest!

Be sure to stop by and enter!

Baking with Your Kids: Using Food as Gifts

Baking with Your Kids: Using Food as Gifts {with Sugar Cookie & Icing Recipe} | @SweetPhenomena

People love it when you bake for them.

Food as a gift is one of my favorite personalized gift to give.  People get all warm and fuzzy when they know you’ve been thinking about them.

I also know that teaching your kids to think of others is important.

So why not score some sweet bonding time in the kitchen while also doing something for someone else?

Total win.

Tips for Gifting with Food

  • Ask your child for ideas.  Kids love giving gifts to people.  They might come up with ideas that are more creative than “give them some cookies.”
  • Always consider food allergies.  More and more, food allergies are a concern for many people.  If at all possible, try to find out if anyone in the household has a food allergy so you can plan accordingly.  If you’re unsure, add a note to the gift noting any potential allergens.
  • Test your recipe first.  I’ve never *ahem* had this problem, but you should always test your recipe prior to using it as a gift.  There’s nothing worse than a} getting down to the wire because something didn’t work out or b} giving the recipient something totally gag-worthy.
  • Bake with love.  I don’t know about you, but I think stuff tastes better when I’ve really focused on how much I love and appreciate the person I’m baking for.  Plus, it makes it way more fun!
  • Give some thought to your presentation.  Of course it’s the thought that counts, but presentation also counts for something.  You don’t have to get fancy or expensive, but give a little bit of focus to packaging your baked goods so they convey how much you appreciate the recipient!  Here is a great Pinterest board for ideas.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It is so easy to decide to bake 57 different things because it’s fun.  Again, I don’t speak from experience or anything, but the cost and time involved with that many recipes can quickly add up…
  • Involve your child as much as possible.  It’s very easy to become consumed with doing things your way: you’re quicker, you’re more efficient, you’re less messy.  Kids have that pure innocence and joy that makes giving gifts even more special, though, so don’t dampen that.

Sugar Cookies & Cookie Icing

This is a recipe Babydoll and I use every single year.  They cookies and the icing are delicious, and it’s easy to work with.

The icing can be used to decorate the cookies, or it can be thinned down to flood them instead.

This cookie recipe does not need to be refrigerated before rolling out and using.