Kids who Cook: an update from our kitchen

The whole idea of “spring break” is rather laughable when it’s too cold to go outside and winter storms batter the house from all angles.

Still, the children had five days off of school last week, so we had the “break” – just without any of the spring. Regrettably, all three of the kids were suffering from coughs and colds, so we laid low, watched movies, built pillow forts and ate a lot of homemade soup.

We also cooked up plenty of fun in the kitchen, with each child taking a turn to prepare various meals and snacks for the family. It was really lovely to have ample time to cook – and teach – instead of the frequent rush that is our daily life with 3 kids and 2 jobs.

Here’s a snapshot of what Noah cooked, Mateo baked and Clara scarfed down with a side of tortilla chips last week. Whether you and the children are bored at home on a snow day or you just want to encourage your kid’s culinary chops, you’re sure to find some inspiration here.

Spring Break Cooking Camp

Mateo started us off in the morning with fluffy Spice Carrot Oatmeal Muffins. The original recipe is in my cookbook, but my best ever One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins are just as delicious. Muffins are a great beginner baking project for kids because they can be mixed up by hand (no appliances) and they bake quickly, as opposed to a sweet bread or any bread with a rising time.

Muffins are also endlessly customizable (I’ve listed our favourite combinations in the past) and relatively nourishing, compared to cookies or cakes. We also love adding grated zucchini to the mix for a little boost of vegetables; take your pick between Dark Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and Zucchini Apple Mini Muffins.

Mateo just turned 9, but he’s been baking for a long time now and is a little pro. His favourite subject in school is math and it is a thrill to see him double a recipe in his head.

Looking for more ideas for this age? Check out Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 6 to 8.

Clara prepared a favourite snack for lunch: guacamole. The kids have been hooked on the green goodness since our Mexico trip four years ago! You see what an impact travel can have on kids.

We do everything by hand and this newly turned five-year-old gets right into the mix with passion and determination. Our kids’ favourite guacamole “recipe” is simple: 3 avocados, juice of a lemon or lime, and a dash of salt and pepper. Danny and I will jazz ours up with chopped cilantro and minced red or white onion, but the kids are purists.

We use a sturdy, medium-sized bowl paired with a pastry cutter/blender to mash the avocado and mix everything up in the bowl. It works like a charm and is fun hand’s on work for kids. I cut the avocado in half, remove the pits and Clara squeezes them out into the bowl.

She also takes care of the lemon, the seasoning and the taste testing, of course!

Looking for more ideas for this age? Check out Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 3-5. Oh, and our original Pea-camole is a great variation on classic guacamole.

Noah, my eldest, likes to cook – and I mean really cook. He wields a chef’s knife with care, stir-fries foods with great enthusiasm and dishes it all up with pride. During our last cooking lesson, I took the opportunity to teach him about substitutions in a recipe while sticking to the basic method.

We wanted to make this Quick Chinese Chicken & Cabbage Spaghetti for dinner, but had none of the main ingredients. Did you catch the part earlier where I mentioned we were snowed in? Also, there was no way I was going to haul 3 coughing kids to a grocery store.

So, we read through the recipe together and planned our substitutions: regular spaghetti pasta instead of rice noodles, thinly sliced grass-fed beef (from our freezer) in place of the ground chicken and sliced white onion to replace the leek. And we were off!

In under half an hour, Noah was dressing plates of his delicious stir-fried cabbage, beef & noodles with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Soon all three kids were slurping up noodles and there were smiles all around. After that it was time to put our feet up and watch another movie.

Looking for more ideas for this age? Check out Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 9 to 11.

Just as I am putting the finishing touches on this post, an email has come through from our school board. They’re calling tomorrow a snow day (it’s currently dumping down snow out there). I guess we have yet another opportunity to get into the kitchen together tomorrow.

Got a question about kids and cooking? Leave it in the comments and I’d be happy to share my thoughts.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Lisa Noble says

    Aimée, thank you. As both a teacher and parent, I thank you for raising independent kids, who know that there is value in being able to make things themselves, that there is value in being able to double fractions in your head, that there is value in being able to be comfortable enough with a recipe to say, “okay, what if I try this?”, and live with what happens. Those are skills that cannot be valued highly enough.

    Yesterday, I got my monthly dose of joy that comes from working with my older son (less than a week to turning 16) in a busy kitchen as we helped prepare dinner for 100+ hungry residents of our downtown area. I would embarrass him if I told him how proud he makes me as he precisely chops ingredients, schleps heavy boxes and pots, and in general, contributes to his community in this unique way. He is one of two teenagers on our food prep team on these nights, and I am amazed at the confidence and grace the two of them display, and how much the rest of the group (mostly old enough to be their grandparents) honours and respects them.

    We are raising great kids. Thanks for the help and inspiration.

  2. A few years ago, we had ham to use up. I found a recipe for a casserole that called for broccoli, but then it turned out that our broccoli was past it’s prime. So, we found corn and peas in the freezer and diced up a carrot or two. It was delicious! I wish I could remember what recipe I used, but I don’t think I bookmarked it. Sometimes you just make do with what you have.

  3. I LOVE that you are teaching your kids how to cook and work in a kitchen. Unfortunately, those are skills that fewer and fewer people have. My husband and I have joked (sort of?!) that our kids might very well grow up and marry someone who doesn’t cook! Strange to think about, but we are making sure they know how to work their way around a kitchen.

  4. Oh, the cuteness! Aimee, I have to thank you again for your inspiration. I’ve been reading your blog for years and you’ve encouraged me to involve my 3 boys in our kitchen activities (cooking and cleaning!) as much as possible. They love it, and I love the time spent with them. Thanks to you and your lovely children for their wonderful example.

  5. Shawnna Griffin says

    hey girl- great post! I think it is great to have kids help in the kitchen!

  6. I love seeing what the kids are doing in the kitchen these days. Thanks for the inspiration to make time for cooking together. Such great pictures too!❤

  7. haiminhco says

    I LOVE that you are teaching your kids how to cook and work in a kitchen.

  8. I LOVE that you are teaching your kids how to cook and work in a kitchen.

  9. Such a great post Aimee. You are doing a wonderful job to bring kids of this generation in the kitchen. Cooking is an art and it should be necessary for the kids to learn cooking.

  10. says

    I love them and want them to be future cooks

  11. Owhhh, they are so cute, i love these angels and love the way you are teaching them.

  12. Your kids look so cute. Your family is always happy!

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