My niece, Celeste, aged 9, is everything you could ever ask for in a kid, she is outgoing, curious, smart, funny, curious, ambitious, and did I mention curious?
Being Celeste's aunt prepared me in many ways for parenthood. She taught me that babies don't always sleep the way you see in the movies, that 4 year olds really DO hear EVERYTHING you say (and repeat it at daycare), and that being bored can always be remedied by making a big huge mess in the name of experimentation. Like the time she decided to see what would happen to the soapy bubbles in her bath if she turned on the jacuzzi jets & filled my parent's entire bathroom with suds.
There have been a lot of big changes in Celeste's life in the last two years. Oliver, and Celeste's little brother, Charlie, were born within just two months of each other, and while she loves them both and is an amazing big sister and play mate, the boys often mean that our time together when I babysit is spent baby wrangling and not getting into trouble like we used to.
The Kids Kitchen cook book is actually not a book at all. It is a set of bright and flashy colour coded recipe cards that come in a great box with a flip lid. The first few cards explain about the different food groups and the different kinds of nutrients we get from our diet.
I love that this information is included and presented in such a clear and fun way. It's a good feature for kids learning about nutrition, and a great reminder for health conscious parents.
I had originally planned to let Celeste go through all of the recipes and pick one or two for us to make together, but when I saw a card proclaiming 'Specked Vanilla Ice Cream' I knew I didn't even have to ask. Of coarse we were going to make our own ice cream!
Our kitchen date was also scheduled for the same day that a local church was holding their annual Strawberry fair fundraiser, so our second recipe choice was 'Fruity Faces'. The recipe card calls for dried apricots, but we went with fresh strawberries instead and it worked out beautifully!
I really liked that the recipe cards all include a list of items, as well as ingredients that you will need to have ready to make the dish. I really REALLY liked this feature, I am that person who gets half way through making mashed potatoes without realizing she doesn't own a potato masher.
I had Celeste read each ingredient and step out loud as we went. The instructions were all clear and very easy to follow, except for the measurements being in Imperial.
Both Celeste and I are Canadians who learned basic math skills after the 1970's. We are most comfortable using the metric system, and all of our ingredients and measuring tools are marked in metric, a recipe calling for 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate totally blew our minds.
How's this for a math problem?:
If you have a 170 gram package of dark chocolate in 6 cubed pieces, how many pieces of chocolate do you need to make 1.5 ounces?
Luckily both of the recipes we used were super forgiving and both turned out very well despite my less then stellar math skills, and Celeste got to learn about unit conversion.
We also learned that a custard won't thicken smoothly if you accidentally let it boil while you are sneaking chocolate chips, that chocolate dipping strawberries and adding white chocolate chip faces is a fine art that only a nine year old can truly master, that separating egg yolks is harder then it looks, and that fresh vanilla beans make things taste and smell about a million times better then artificial vanilla.
When our dish was finished, I could only snap a few quick photos as the pack moved in to feed.
Cooking with kids is a great way to encourage healthy eating, (or in this case, eating deserts with fresh and wholesome ingredients) and a good way to teach a number of valuable lessons in a practical setting. But more then that I have to say that cooking with kids is just FUN.
Even though I am someone who really enjoys cooking, I find that too much of the time I am rushing through my routine making dishes I've made a dozen times before just trying to get it done so I can move on to the next thing on my list.
My afternoon cooking with Celeste reminded me of all the things I love about cooking, about trying new things and experimenting in the kitchen. It reminded me what it was like to cook for the fun of it without knowing exactly how it will turn out or if you're going to like it, and not caring one way or another. More so then that, Celeste's pride in what we made and the enjoyment she got from watching everyone else enjoy her creations reminded me to put the love back in my kitchen and really cook to nourish my family body and soul.
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