The kids and I made a Mexican Chopped Salad today. It was awesome, and they gobbled it up. Actually, we gobbled it up. But what was more awesome was our conversation while we cooked.
While making it, I made a last-second trade-out of an ingredient, substituting agave nectar for honey. Will immediately asked me why, since he’d already seen me get out the honey jar. I showed him how the honey had hardened in the bottled and explained that it wouldn’t mix well. He asked me if the new jar was a sweetener (yes, he really said sweetener). I said yes and he dutifully informed me that honey is a sweetener too. I love his four-year-old curiosity and his ability to retain information like this.
And this is the beauty of cooking with kids. From start to finish, there is open opportunity for questions, answers and discussions. Today, I explained what mise en place means and why it’s important in cooking. They listened. They got it. I love that too.
If you aren’t cooking with your kids yet, or your nieces and nephews or your grandkids, you should start. Seeing you cook, and being allowed to help fosters a child’s natural sense of curiosity and also lets them become informed eaters. That is a very important thing.
And PS: If you haven’t watched Jamie Oliver’s TED talk on teaching kids about food, I highly recommend you do. It’s well worth the 20-minutes.
Cooking with Kids: Chopped Salad Recipe
- 2 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 15 oz can black beans , rinsed and well drained
- 1 medium tomato , diced
- 3/4 cup pineapple chunks
- 1 ripe avocado , diced
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup key lime juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the salad and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.