For our first installment of Pint Sized Cooking, a cooking series aimed at including children in the kitchen, we’re going to be making Mollie Katzen’s Cream of Tomato Soup and Crispy Cheese Crackers from Salad People. But first! Why should you cook with children? I know what you might be thinking… There are knifes! Flames! The kitchen is positively a death trap! Perhaps, but it can be quite safe with some adult supervision, and there are just loads of things your pint sized assistant can learn by joining you.
Number one, cooking is a fundamental life skill your child should have, so why not start early. But I promised there were other, non-cooking-related things to be learned, and they are these: The first is math. Cooking is math. Measuring, scaling recipes, and so on all involve adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying. Cooking (especially baking) is also science. There’s the actual chemistry involved of mixing different components, adding heat, and so on. There’s also the hypothesis-testing of trying out something to see what happens – does this taste good? Does the appearance change? Do I like the texture? Why does the darn souffle keep falling after it comes out of the oven?
I think another important reason to include children in cooking is the sense of ownership they take over something they produced. There is something deeply fundamental about the pride taken in making one’s own sustenance. This is also a wonderful, sneaky way to get children to eat healthy things. If they made that broccoli themselves, it is extra special broccoli they might actually want to eat!
The key to successful cooking with children is to keep it simple and safe. Don’t take on a lengthy recipe with a four-year-old when their attention span is going to run out quickly. Do as much prep ahead of time as needed so your child can participate maximally. Don’t stress about messes – they are part of the process. And, make sure that the grownup handles all the knives and hot things!
So, with those ground rules in mind, let’s take on our very first recipe from our very first children’s cookbook. Salad People is one of several vegetarian books for preschoolers by Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood fame). I love her book because every recipe is written twice — once in words, for grownups, and once in pictures, for preschoolers. This lets you include your child even in the recipe-following part of cooking. This also removes potential pitfall in cooking where you boss your child around until they get fed up and leave. Brilliant!
We chose Cream of Tomato Soup and Crispy Cheese Crackers for today. Why? This recipe has two ingredients in the soup. One for the crackers. 2 + 1 = 3. Seriously. All you need are milk and canned tomatoes (but fresh would work too),
Pulse those tomatoes in a blender,
Combine milk and tomatoes in a pot and heat (and ok I cheated, I seasoned with salt and pepper here — and I recommend seasoning to taste with whatever appeals).
Shave some parmesan,
Fry up in tablespoons,
DONE. Ten minutes tops. Huge success!
Look for more posts in our on-going Pint Sized Cooking series. We’ll be doing more from Salad People, as well as Fanny at Chez Panisse and the Klutz Kids Cooking book (a childhood favorite of ours). You can find all of these in the Fair Play Amazon storefront. As usual, leave requests or questions on our Requests page or our Facebook!