I am constantly amazed at the stupidity the mass media conveys to the public to “improve our lives”. One of my favorites is the one about family’s who sit down to eat a meal in the evening together are better off. It’s not the meal, its the family’s choice to be there. The meal together is a result of their choices, not the cause. Putting a bucket of take-out chicken on the dinning room table is not going to solve any problems except your immediate hunger.
That said, parents who take the time to “cook for their family” and who also involve their children in the process is something entirely different. This process teaches your children vital life skills. It lets your kids see you in a role model situation. It establishes rapport and opens up communication. This activity is part of what being a family is all about.
My mother began involving me when I was in third grade. It started with simple things like making a cake from a box mix. We moved onto cookies and later simple meals. I learned how to make enchiladas cooking with her; first adding the filling while she rolled them up. Then as I grew, learning the more complicated steps. My mother loved cooking and sharing food. She passed this onto me and it is a gift I have promised myself to share with my own children.
I have kept that promise. Both my sons are quite capable in the kitchen and will be a good catch (someday) for the right girl. I know that they will pass on their love of food to their children…which is as it should be.
When I was first teaching my children to cook, I found the Dinner Doctor series of cookbooks to be very helpful. Some pre-seasoned ingredients mixed with learning cooking techniques. I highly recommend them for when you’re first starting out. Afraid to let them use a knife? The Dinner Doctor shows how to use a food processor to rough chop an onion and many other techniques. Check it out from the library.
Most people wait too long to start having their kids help out with meals. Don’t. Involve them when their young and interested and build a relationship that can last a lifetime.
If you were not fortunate enough to have someone who taught you, but have a desire to learn, then share that desire with your family. Children are often intimidated by new things. If you show a willingness to learn, it will help them to do the same. We teach our children many things even when we don’t think we are doing so.
My husband was such a case in point. His mother cooked because she was required to do it. She passed this trait onto to him. (Now I should say that his brother does love to cook, but he learned as an adult.) When Jim and I first married, he promised to cook once a week. That said, our first year of marriage, he cooked once. When I finally pressed him on this, he vowed to improve. At first he approached it like brain surgery; the slightest error could result in disaster. He made us all crazy because he would be so worried about it. I went so far as to tell him to just stop. That it wasn’t worth having to live with him like this.
After thinking about what I said, he refused to quit. So we started cooking “together” and this allowed him to build confidence and learn more about the process. It improved our relationship and earned him respect in the eyes of our sons. Families are all about effort. Doing things for and with each other, listening and responding.
I urge you to involve your family in the kitchen. Let them pick meals that interest them. Worried that it might not taste good? Fear not. When I first started teaching my kids about cooking, we had a good motto. If it doesn’t work out (the meal), we know the number to the pizza delivery place!
If your worried you don’t have enough time, well you’ve come to the right place. This site is all about great meals with simple ingredients that are ready in less than an hour. I also share some special occasion dishes and some weekend meals that let you show off without spending all day in the kitchen.
The Mediterranean Bake is one of these weekend meals. I made it this past winter for our Super Bowl party and it was a big hit. The best part is the simple prep work and then you let the oven do the rest. Lemon, oregano, olive oil and feta have starring roles here.
For six generous servings.
6 cups red skinned potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks.
6 large carrots, peeled (do not use baby carrots) into 1 inch chunks
Place potatoes and carrots in a medium-large pan and just cover with cold water. Add 2 tbs of lemon juice, 1 tbs of salt and 1 tsp of garlic powder. Place on medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and turn off heat.
While the potatoes and carrots are cooking…..
Preheat your oven to 400 F
Chop up the following:
1 lb fresh green beans (optional-summertime yummy)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into thin wedges (pole to pole)
8 oz of crimini mushrooms, cut into large chunks
Have ready 6 Italian sausages.
Now make the sauce:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic pressed or finely minced.
By now the potatoes and carrots have simmered for 5 minutes, drain them. Pour the potatoes into a large casserole dish. Add the onions, green beans, and mushrooms. Now place the sausages on top of the vegetables. Drizzle the lemon/olive oil mix slowly over the top, coating everything as best as possible. Now sprinkle the entire dish with:
2-3 tsp kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tsp dried oregano
Additional olive oil if needed.
Tightly cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and switch oven to top broiler. Move dish to top rack and broil for 7-10 minutes until meat is nicely browned and vegetables are coloring.
Remove from oven and add grated feta cheese and chopped cilantro. Serve in bowls to allow for juices. Enjoy!