how to turn dinner into a cooking lesson
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Last week Cole and Ev were home at the same time, the kale and cucumbers were overflowing in the garden, I had a story to finish for W.E.L.L. Insiders, and we needed a salad to go with dinner. Dinner time, cooking lesson, story inspo, and pictures needed? Grab available kids and do all the things!
As with any cooking class I teach, impromptu or scheduled, it doesn’t matter your age or skill as there is always something to learn. Read Cooking WELL With Kids: How to Make the Best Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette for the first post in a series I’m doing for W.E.L.L. Insiders. Keep reading for the actual questions I asked and how we made a salad which led to a cooking lesson for Cole and Ev with these questions:
- Is this veggie ready?
- Can you de-stem the kale, please?
- How do you hold and cut with a knife SAFELY?
- What’s an emulsion?
- Have you ever tasted a purple carrot? Thyme? Mint?
Is this veggie ready?
I ask myself this every time I walk by the garden. Googling garden questions has become my everyday practice. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t pay friends to share what they know about gardening!
How do I know kale is ready? Here are a few things I do that may or may not be in the garden books, but they’ve worked for me, and I’ve shared them with my kids.
- Pinch off a piece and taste it!
- Harvest outer leaves when they are the size of your parent’s hand.
- Keep inner and top leaves intact for the plant to keep growing.
- If kale is bitter, I’ve read about reversing the order to what you or I usually do: first wash, then cut, to instead massage leaves to soften, then cut, then rinse to remove some of the activated bitter taste.
- Still bitter? I have found most kale and chard very edible by sauteeing with a bit of butter and balsamic. You’re welcome.
Can you de-stem the kale, please?
This job is perfect and fascinating for all ages. Me! While some (eh hem, Whole Foods) don’t bother, I prefer a salad without the chewy, fibrous stem. We love to do it this way:
How do you hold and cut with a knife SAFELY?
- Notice that Cole knows how to hold something he’s cutting with his fingertips down and his knuckles in front, creating a safe place for a knife to line up (safely bump), preventing any cutting of fingers. Eek.
- Cole holds his knife in the grip of his hand, keeping his pointer finger wrapped around the handle. While some find it easier to put the pointer finger on top of the blade to guide, it is an easy way to cause the knife to slip off balance and cut fingers.
Evie uses a butter knife that is sharp enough to cut softer foods. She’s not alone in the tendency to want to use that pointer finger to guide the blade.
Once she heard me notice and compliment Cole’s knife skills, she changed it below after observing.
What’s an emulsion?
I’ve grown to appreciate and understand the science of food with age and context. Kids pick up on this right away, of course. An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids, like oil and water, that would not usually mix.
While vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion (after an hour or more, it will separate again), there are more semi-permanent emulsions like hollandaise sauce and even more permanent like mayonnaise. Both of the latter requires a third ingredient like eggs or even honey, and mustard can help bind the two together. In a vinaigrette, the oil droplets disperse into the vinegar and temporarily create an emulsion. It’s a perfect two-kid job so that one can whisk and the other slowly pour in the oil.
Have you ever tasted a purple carrot? A piece of fresh mint or thyme?
- Try it!
- Touch it, smell it, taste it!
- Never say never (my golden food rule) and try it again next time.
I’ve often heard parents say, “My child doesn’t eat ______.” Food rejection IS a part of the developmental process of learning to eat, and some struggle more with this than others. I wonder what happens, though, when we definitively decide for a little person who they are and what they’ll do long-term when it comes to food, and then we say it aloud on repeat or remove the particular food from their diet for good? Keep at it, give it time. My 2 cents. 🙂
And that goes for me and my lifelong dislike of lima beans too? Ha. While I don’t need to like this legume, I won’t turn down anything YOU think is worth trying again. So bring it on, you lima bean lovers? (Is there even such a thing?) Never say never.
For more cooking lessons, check out the full series on cooking with Cole called Before He Goes.
Last Updated on August 31, 2022 by Heather Bursch
Great post with good info! Love the sweet photos of oldest and youngest!
Thanks, Betsy! The video of Ev is loading now too. 😉