Monday, March 28, 2016

Cooking with kids

When I was growing up my mom stayed at home with me and my two brothers.  I don't have many recollections of day-to-day childhood life, since it was soooo long ago, but I do know dinner magically appeared on the table around 6 and we ate as a family more often than not.  OK, so it didn't "magically appear".  Mom cooked, a lot.  But sadly, I have very few memories of helping my mom in the kitchen.  Cue sad trombones.

My mom wanted me to be interested and involved in many things like sports, which I was.  So she didn't push teaching me to do "domestic things" since 
1. They obviously didn't interest me (You should have seen my room growing up).
2. I wasn't around for dinner prep due to sports or school stuff. 
3. Mom had it under control.

Mom took care of everything.  We always had a tidy (but lived-in) home, food in the pantry, and a hot meal on the table.  This was a great thing.  Until I left for college.

My sophomore year I moved into a house on campus with a few friends.  We had to cook for ourselves.  This was a major challenge for me.  I distinctly remember staring blankly at a box of Hamburger Helper trying to figure out what "brown the hamburger" meant.  For real.

Fast forward to the present. I'm a stay at home mom (for now). I try to keep a tidy home, the pantry stocked, and have a meal on the table multiple times a day, just like my mama.  I have come a long way from my Hamburger Helper days and consider myself a pretty good cook now. But there's one major difference about mealtime in my house versus mealtime growing up: My kids are PICKY eaters.  

Growing up we ate what was put in front of us.  Period.  And besides the normal childhood complaints of not liking certain meals or vegetables, we mostly complied.  If not, breakfast was at 7AM.  None of us died. 

You know how they say kids will "eat when they're hungry"?  Mine don't.  Despite their obvious hunger, they'll complain about the menu's taste, temperature, or texture and leave their plates untouched. I have tried everything to get my kids to eat, short of preparing a separate meal for all 4 family members (because ain't nobody got time for that). I hate the stubbornness.  I hate the waste.  I hate the ingratitude.

So this summer I vowed to involve my kids more in food prep and menu planning.  My thinking was that if they had a hand in choosing and preparing a meal, they might actually eat it.

Full disclosure: It did not go well at first.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when mommy would sit down on Monday morning to plan the week's menu and create a grocery list. I think the turning point was pulling out some kid-friendly cookbooks we checked out from the library and letting the girls pick out things they wanted to try.  

C is for Cooking, and Royal Recipe Collection are our favorites.

On Monday mornings we browse the cookbooks for something that looks yummy. Then we make a list of what we need from the store.  We try to incorporate items from the garden or farmer's market when possible.  

Each girl has a "night": Maddie's dinner is on Wednesday and Ava's is Tuesday.  Those days may change once school (and dance and tumbling) starts.  The expectation is that on each girl's night, she helps me prepare the meal and set the table.  She also says the blessing.  

It's taken a solid two months, but I think we finally found a happy place this week.  The girls have eagerly planned their meals with me and have shown more interest in helping me cook.  They have also been more willing to try bites of the other meals I prepare throughout the week.  

So, what works about your family mealtime?  What doesn't?  Any good cookbook recommendations?  

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