March Break Cooking Fun With the Kids!
If you’re taking time off at March Break and not heading south, you may be wondering what fun things you can do with the kids while avoiding the crowds at the malls, museums, and play centres. It’s a perfect opportunity to stay at home and cook up a storm! Cooking appeals to a wide range of ages and the food you make, you will enjoy. While older kids can do more of the actual cooking, the younger ones can help with getting out the ingredients, stirring, and even doing dishes is fun for them!
Cooking is also a great learning tool. It helps reading skills and math skills (such as fractions and measurement). It enables children to organize themselves to accomplish a task and, in the end, they are also more likely to experiment eating foods that are unfamiliar to them if they have been involved the preparation process.
To get started, there are lots of cookbooks for kids and a lot of information on the Internet – Spatulatta.com is a great site! There are recipes, videos of kids cooking, and basic information presented in a very 'kid-pleasing' style and format. My children really love cooking from Kitchen For Kids by Jennifer Low. It’s a beautiful cookbook full of appetizing photographs. The recipes are designed so that children can do most of the work themselves*. Mixing is done by hand, no sharp knives are needed, and there is no stove-top cooking. The recipe yields are small, so it means kids can make lots of different things without running up a huge bill for ingredients!
* Younger children may need some assistance, but children 8 and up need only adult supervision (recommended).
Recipe for March Break Fun:
Make a menu. Have your children search the Internet or cookbooks to choose recipes they would like to make. Encourage them to make something using an ingredient they’ve never heard of or tried. Then have them make a shopping list. Head out to the grocery store and get them involved in reading the list and finding the ingredients. Even
better, if you’ve got the time, head to your local fresh-food market or farmer's market. You can spend time exploring all the wonderful foods and talk to the vendors. Have your kids ask questions. They’ll see first-hand that meat comes from animals and not prepackaged in plastic trays.
Before you start cooking, explain the importance of good hygiene while cooking (no licking the spoons and sticking them back in the pot). Everyone should wash their hands and wear an apron or clothes that you don’t mind getting spills on. Have your kids take turns reading the ingredients and getting everything measured into small bowls or cups. This is called the mise en place. Tell your kids that this is what all the professional chefs do. Once all your ingredients are assembled, have the kids start reading the method and follow the steps. If you’re making several recipes, take time out to clean up and do some dishes in between, so there’s not a huge mess at the end. Kids love doing dishes. Don’t shove everything in the dishwasher. Fill up the sink with soapy water and get them to take turns washing and drying. Before you’re ready to sample your creations, have the kids set the table. Then sit down and try everything and discuss what they’ve learned.
Friday night is pizza night at our house. But why spend $25–30 on take-out when it can be a fun family activity – and it tastes way better too! If you have time on the March Break, make multiple batches of dough and freeze it before it’s risen. During a busy week when you’re back to work and school, take the dough out of the freezer on Thursday night and place it in the refrigerator. By the time you’re ready to make dinner Friday night, your dough will be ready to roll out, top and bake in less time than it takes to order in and have it delivered.
HAND-MADE PIZZA DOUGH
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
(you can also replace ½ cup of the flour with whole-wheat flour)
- 1½ tsp quick-rising instant dry yeast
(buy a jar and keep it in the fridge)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup hot water (about 120ºF)
- 2 tsp olive oil
In bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. With wooden spoon, gradually stir in water and oil until dough forms, using hands if necessary. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead for 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. You can portion out dough into 4 small pizzas or shape into one large pizza. Using your hands, or a rolling pin if you wish, flatten and gently stretch the dough into a circle. Remember, if you like a thin crust, make sure the dough is rolled out very thinly but be careful not to make holes in the dough. Grease a metal pizza pan or baking sheet with olive oil and place the dough on the pan.
Toppings: For 1 large pizza, you’ll need about ½ to ¾ cup tomato pizza or pasta sauce, and 2 cups shredded cheese. Using the back of a spoon, spread the sauce evenly over the crust. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings and then sprinkle the rest of the cheese over top.
Bake on bottom rack of a 500ºF oven for about 10–12 minutes.
©2007 SayItCornell.com / SayItCanada.ca. All rights reserved.
Laura Buckley is a chef and recipe consultant. She trained at the Stratford Chefs School and has worked in the kitchens of some of the top restaurants in Toronto. She also ran a catering company, called Eats of Eden, cooking for rock stars to royalty. She develops and tests recipes for cookbooks and magazines, teaches cooking classes, and is co-editor of All Stirred Up (Random House, 2003) and recipe developer for The G.I. Diet Cookbook (Random House, 2006). Laura is on the board of directors of the Women’s Culinary Network and a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and Slow Food. She lives in Markham, Ontario with her husband and adolescent twins.