You know you’ve been busy in cooking club when you’ve only got a handful of photos/ videos to show for your afternoon’s work! Sometimes cooking with kids needs you to be 100% “on” and completely focussed on what’s happening in the pans/ bowls in order to ensure a successful result! This week we made a personal favourite of mine – Breakfast Grab and Go Cookies – and it’s a recipe that requires a bit more focus than some others!
We’ve made these a few times before (including with Mairlyn!) and they are always a huge hit. It’s a great recipe to teach kids for a number of reasons but I also thought it was an excellent recipe to use for one of our sessions with Chef Myles Chaulk dedicated to making snacks for the youth at Eva’s Place (read more about that collaboration here).
You can also see some check marks and some initials on that paper too. Boys checking off that they have included all the ingredients and completed all the recipe steps. My job here is done, right? Isn’t this the ideas – kids actually following the recipes properly? Indeed it is but it was not without its ups and downs (and near constant reminders to check in with the group leader about whose turn it was to add an ingredient!).
Cooking with kids is definitely fun and rewarding but it’s not always neat and tidy and all the cute little hands you see on social media! And for a lot of people, cooking with (their) kids is intimidating. Over the past few months as I’ve promoted In the French kitchen with kids, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is “What are your top tips for cooking with kids?” Now I realise I’m in a privileged situation as I teach my cooking classes in a school where I teach (or have taught) most of the boys in the clubs. Or I’m teaching in a class where kids have chosen to sign up so they’re automatically keen to cook.
But what about those parents or caregivers who are just keen to start cooking with (their) kids and don’t know where to start? Maybe they’re not the most confident in the kitchen themselves. Here are a few of my top tips for getting started.
3 Tips for getting started cooking with kids
1. Let them choose what they cook (within certain limits)
Don’t impose certain dishes on kids – it’s always easier in a home setting to cook something with your child that they have a hand in choosing. Select a few cookbooks that are targeted at your child’s age group and flip through it with them. See if you can find a recipe you like (even just based on the photos) and go from there. If a child is keen to cook (and eat) a dish, it’s more likely the cooking session will go smoothly. Food is a great motivator!
2. Read the recipe. No, I mean, really read the recipe.
I’m so guilty of being halfway through a recipe and finding out there’s a 3 hour inactive time that I hadn’t counted on. Read the recipe, know how long it will take to make, figure out if you have all the ingredients and equipment you need – set yourself up for success before you even start. Read the recipe a few times to make sure you understand what you’re supposed to do (and don’t be afraid to look stuff up if you don’t understand something. Show your child that you’re a partner in this process. I’m ALWAYS looking stuff up at school in front of my students because as I tell them, “I’m smart but I don’t quite know ALL the things!”
3. Follow the recipe. And yes, I mean actually follow the recipe as it’s written!
There’s nothing more frustrating (to me, anyway) than to see kids presented with selections of (sometimes bizarre) ingredients “Chopped style” and being asked to “make something” – especially if those kids are beginner cooks. Sure it’s fun to mess around in the kitchen with ingredients but if the goal is teaching cooking, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time actually following recipes to a “T” before you have enough knowledge of ingredients and flavour profiles before you can venture out on your own and actually create. Following a recipe is like the most fun form of reading comprehension ever and every recipe you follow will teach you something. I tell my students that once they’ve made a recipe a few times, they are free to experiment a little with different flavours/ fillings/ toppings etc… but don’t go crazy for the sake of it. The food you’re cooking still has to be edible!
All that to say the boys worked hard all session with Chef Myles this week to complete four huge batches of the cookies to send along to the kids at Eva’s. The recipe is pretty hands on and is a lesson in Tips 2 and 3, above. Baking especially is pretty technical and you can’t exactly freestyle things like quantity etc… so the boys were super careful to follow the recipe and it took the entire session AND they still weren’t baked before the boys left the lab! (Luckily a thoughtful teacher set aside 16 cookies and passed them out the next morning to my hard working crew!). We hope the folks at Eva’s enjoyed them as much as we enjoyed making them!
Get the recipe for Mairlyn’s Grab and Go cookies here.
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for order details.