In years past, we’ve always celebrated Thanksgiving with one set of our parents and extended family. We showed up, someone else cooked, and we enjoyed whatever food was prepared and provided. This year, we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving, and we’ll be hosting three of my four sisters, a boyfriend, and a couple of friends.
And we don’t really follow “the rules” all the time about what’s socially “right” and “wrong” when it comes to hosting guests. As a result, we opted to have everyone contribute to the Thanksgiving menu and allowed each person to select whatever they wanted regardless of that item’s traditional relationship with Thanksgiving. For starters, we and many of our guests don’t really love turkey, So instead, we’re making a fantastic grilled chicken dish (that I picked up in a cooking class at The Chopping Block).
So today, I wanted to share with you a few tips for cooking with kids and share ways I get T involved in the kitchen no matter what I’m making. See how he’ll be helping prepare some of the items for our Thanksgiving Day meal below. I also included photos from several other recipes we’ve made together and how he helped bring those to the table. In the photos above, T covered butternut squash cubes with olive oil before roasting and unpacked all the caramels and crushed peanuts for the snickers fudge we made together.
Without further ado…
Tips and Tricks to Enjoy Cooking With Kids
Accept it. Your kitchen will be messier than when you cook alone.
Plan for it. Preparation will take longer.
Expect it. Something will go wrong. (I have flour all over my counter and floor every time we make cookies…)
Embrace it. And get creative. Find tasks for the kids to do throughout the process. These steps may not always be necessary but will keep them occupied while you complete tasks with which they cannot help. (Eg. Throwing eggplant skin scraps in the trash one by one while I cut off the skins on the next eggplant. Or washing potatoes for far longer than necessary just because he likes it or because he can’t help with the step I’m currently doing.)
Buy it. A chopper that is. It’s awesome. It’s not fool proof. You still need to work with them, but it will give your kids a chance to chop up veggies or other items even when they can’t yet use a traditional knife.
Love it! Your kids will love feeling involved, spending time together, feeling like a valuable helper, and getting to create their own meals. And you’ll love spending time with them too.
Eat it. Chances your kids eat meals they prepared themselves increase exponentially relative to a meal with which they had no involvement.
I also want to give a quick shout out to The Kids’ Table, a cooking school for youngsters here in Chicago. They offer cooking classes starting at age two (though I asked for and received permission to start T at 18 months). We don’t go anymore because it’s not really feasible with J being so young now, but hopefully we’ll be able to go when both boys are older. Attending weekly classes there for a few months really highlighted some great ways to involve kids in the kitchen. It’s a bit of skill to learn how to do it without losing your mind and every ounce of patience.
For the most part, T uses the standard kitchen tools I have. We have one special tool, this chopper, that allows him to help with chopping tasks that he could not complete with a knife.
Thanksgiving Meal Menu Items ~ How T May Help
Seasoned Grilled Chicken in a Peach BBQ Sauce ~ chop peaches (after I peel them) and hold the hand blender in the pan to puree the peach BBQ sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes ~ press or chop the garlic, mash the potatoes, add in any herbs or spices
Sweet Potato Biscuits ~ scrape baked sweet potato into a bowl, pour all ingredients from measuring cups / spoons into the mixing bowl, mix the ingredients, cut the biscuits from the dough, place the unbaked biscuits on the pan, remove the baked biscuits from the pan with a spatula (he’s learned to respect hot pans and plates so he understands to keep his hands away from the pan when taking them off the tray)
Pumpkin Bread & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies ~ pour ingredients, turn on and off the stand mixer (he’s a pro at using this thing)… and of course, eat a few chocolate chips while he pours them into the batter
Other Ways T Helps Cook & Bake
How About You?
So who’s cooking your Thanksgiving dinner (or for those of you who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, who’s cooking your next regular meal or your next celebratory meal)? Maybe your little kiddos and friends can contribute? Take a second look at those tips above. Know someone else who might want to get their little ones involved in the kitchen? Share this post with them! And if you’re not cooking your next meal, share these tips with whoever’s whipping up tonight’s dinner for you.
If you have little ones (kids, nieces and nephews, etc..), have you found ways to get them involved in the kitchen? I’d love to hear more about your experiences and tips you’ve found to make the process go smoothly.