As a cooking teacher, I have had the pleasure of watching hundreds of my students transform into adventurous eaters and talented little chefs. Even the ones as young as two years old will gobble up all kinds of “grown up” foods including brown rice, sautéed mushrooms, tofu, kidney beans, and caramelized onions. The key is getting them into the kitchen. Much of kids reluctance to taste new dishes is fear of the unknown. But if they help create the mysterious meal, they feel a sense of ownership and are more likely to try it. There is nothing more fun than eating your own art project!
In this video of my kids cooking class, you can see, hear and feel their excitement about ingredients such as black beans, mint, and cherry tomatoes. You’ll also see how easy it is for them to pick up sophisticated cooking skills like mincing garlic, dicing vegetables and emulsifying their own vinaigrette. They are so incredibly capable – we just have to give them the tools and education. How can they have healthy bodies if they don’t know how to cook healthy meals?
Cooking with kids is a fun and effective way to instill healthy habits for life. Exposure to scratch cooking helps kids develop a mature palate and a taste for fresh, wholesome ingredients. The earlier kids become accustomed to nutritious foods, the less likely they will acquire a taste for processed products. Teaching young people how to cook is also a powerful way to start a ripple effect beyond the classroom. Once children are empowered to feed themselves, they have the opportunity to show their families, classmates, teachers, communities, and future generations, that the key to good health starts in the kitchen.
For more information about cooking with kids, visit the new site, The Kids Cook Monday for recipes, resources and a community of people who love to cook with kids.
Rainbow Couscous Salad
A couscous medley is the perfect dinner for chaotic weeknights since it takes only minutes to prepare and you can add in leftover vegetables or meat from the night before. It’s also convenient for lunch boxes since it can be served at room temperature.
One 10- or 12-ounce box of plain couscous
2 cups any combination of vegetables, diced
3-4 scallions, sliced
¼ cup currants or dried cranberries
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
Optional: beans, nuts, feta cheese, cooked chicken or shrimp
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice(about ½ lemon)
2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
2 teaspoons white miso
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of honey
½ cup olive oil
ADULTS: Cook the couscous according to package directions.
KIDS 4 and up: Add the diced vegetables, scallions, and dried fruit to the couscous and stir. Gently fold in the parsley and mint (and the optional ingredients, if using).
KIDS 6 and up: In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, miso, celery seed, oregano, black pepper, and honey together and slowly add in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the couscous and vegetables and stir. Serve this dish cold or warm. Store the couscous in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
-Since this dish can be easily changed according to taste, encourage kids to come up with their own dressing and combination of vegetables.
-Suggested vegetables and other dried fruit options: carrots, celery, radishes, mushrooms, spring onions, leeks, artichokes, raisins, or chopped apricots.
-Try adding seasonal vegetables, such as sautéed leafy greens in the winter, roasted beets in the spring, or peas in the summer.
-Miso is a fermented product like vinegar so it can be stored in your fridge indefinitely. It should not be heated.
-I recommend white miso because of its mild, kid-friendly flavor, but you can use any kind of miso. (Or, omit it if you don’t have it on hand.) Most health food stores carry several different flavors so feel free to experiment.
Prep time: 30 minutes Total time: 40 minutes Serves: 4-6
Recipe from Easy Meals to Cook with Kids © 2010 by Julie Negrin