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Cooking is a Family Affair

Today is Sunday, one of my favorite days of the week. Fortunately, this is a quiet day for our family. Today, my girls are washing their clothes in preparation for the school week, homework is getting tackled, and the house is tidied. All in the effort to get us off on the right foot as the week begins.

Food-wise, nearly every one of us has a role to fulfill.

This morning I made oatmeal for Father of the Year and I, and whole wheat banana pancakes for the tribe. Personally, I really needed to get back to basics with eating, after an indulgent (more than) weekend of Turkey Day family feasting.

After, I baked my whole wheat bread for lunches. We’ll start the week with peanut butter and banana sandwiches, move into a meat sandwich, and then rotate through a soup entree, a salad with protein, and a purchased school lunch. That’s the plan as it stands today. You know how these things can change, though.

My daughter, G, is baking chocolate chip cookies. We’ll have some this afternoon, save some for lunchboxes this week, and stick half of them in the freezer for next week. These aren’t “healthy-fied” cookies—they’re straight up Toll House chocolate chip cookies. She suggests baking cookies once or twice a month–very age-appropriate— and I love it. Because of her, we get homemade cookies and I don’t have to wander down the cookie isle at the grocery store.

At age thirteen, she started to independently bake cookies. Her favorite is chocolate chip–I usually let her take the lead with cookie flavor. Honestly, they’re my favorite too! She doesn’t know this yet, but she’s going to be my right-hand woman this holiday season, and she’ll get her hands in the mix of a variety of cookie flavors in the process.

I think it’s natural for middle-school children to begin with baking, as it’s an extension of science and chemistry class and the end result is usually something kids like–sweets! My task over the next 3 years will be to teach G how to cook, focusing on basic skills, and gradually allowing her to take over meal planning and cooking for our family. This will be good practice as she moves into adulthood.

Ten year-old Little Man is savvy in the kitchen too, though his skills are evolving. Today, he popped some popcorn for the family afternoon snack, at his suggestion. He reported, “I know how to do it, Mom. You put 1 Tablespoon of oil in the popper and add a bunch of popcorn, and plug it in.”

“You’re right,” I said, and he was. I am eating some right now (with Father of the Year) as I write this blog post. And it’s delish. Little Man put his own spin on it—cinnamon. A first for me, and it’s yummy.

Care Bear and M haven’t done anything food-wise yet, but dinner is still ahead. I bet I can get them to make us a salad. It goes well with Father of the Year’s fish chowder.

It’s important to me, as a working parent, to have a break in the kitchen action, but I don’t want that break to mean eating out. Having my family help out gives me that break and “shares the load.” And even if I weren’t a working mom, I would still need that break, maybe more than I do now.

For the kids, it’s important to get them involved in the kitchen. Why? Research shows it builds cooking skills and confidence, not to mention creativity. I could go on and on about the benefits associated with learning how to cook, but the truth is, in the 21st century food environment, it shows them there is another way to eat.

Food from scratch.

That may be just as important as learning any cooking technique or broadening your child’s taste buds.

Does your family contribute to meals at home? If so, how?

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