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Kids in the Kitchen


We are going to get a little personal.


As a family run business our children are always around the conversation and production of food. While most people think of making food as a basic life skill that eventually gets taught to some level to older kids, we have constant discussions about food with our children. Serving coursed dinners, which I discuss here, allows us to have conversations about what they like and don't like. Our son has learned through these conversations to express his preference or aversion to certain tastes and textures - he prefers his food to not be overly sour or bitter and he especially enjoys savory, umami flavors found in Japanese food. Our daughter prefers a bit of tangy flavors in her pasta sauce and is a sweet food maniac.


When they were babies they played in little piles of flour at their high chairs while I baked cakes and made molded truffles. It was not strange for me to hold my firstborn on one hip and have him put his own pasta in boiling water with a measuring cup so he could "make" his own lunch or to have my daughter top the confetti birthday cake with the sprinkles before baking so she could help with the birthday preparations.


Now that they are (a little bit) older they both have developed their own skills in the kitchen. Just like we start learning to read by making sounds, reading the alphabet and slowly blending sounds to read words, so too have we started with small steps regularly to teach our children safety, sanitation, seasoning, and respect for heat and tools in order to prepare snacks and meals. My kids have small pairing knives they can cut vegetables with, designated spatulas made for their hand sizes to scrape bowls clean and they know their way around a stand mixer.


Our son can cook spinach or green beans, cut cherry tomatoes or potatoes, and scramble eggs. We have a number of electronic tools he can use - the waffle iron and the panini press being the easiest now. I have confidence that we have taught him how the equipment works: how to turn it on and off, what tools to use to aid him and prevent him from burning himself and he takes that trust seriously. His favorite waffles are a BB8 shaped iron that he can fill himself with waffle batter. He has learned to read the steam from the closed iron to gauge the doneness of the waffle and check it before taking it out with tongs.


Our daughter has always loved to bake and has been working on cracking eggs, checking meringue for its correct peak, decorating cupcakes, evenly spreading cake batter and scooping cookies. These projects don't take long to execute and have been part of their upbringing.


I'll reference, again, my favorite parenting book: Bringing Up Bebe wherein the author explains visiting a friend who is allowing her daughter to mix up a batch of cupcakes and decorate them without interference from the mother - a near panic moment for most parents when we think about the mess and misuse of sprinkles. In order to challenge my own parenting I started using the Yogurt Cake recipe in the Bebe book to give my little baker a chance to make cakes on her own. The recipe takes a single serving yogurt cup, uses the yogurt and then the empty yogurt container becomes the measuring cup. The yogurt allows for a moist cake that is forgiving and its neutral base allows us to use any mix of inclusions we have on hand for flavoring (a partial bag of frozen berries, the last remains of chocolate chips, zest of a lemon or orange). I've included this recipe at the end of the article if you want to try it out for yourself.


Another offshoot of the culinary conversations and the newer pop up ghost kitchen we have been running has been manifest in our kids annual lemonade stand. This is a highlight for me each year because it started out as a chance to teach our son how to count coins and be part of the annual Memorial Day yard sale in our neighborhood. He has his own ideas for this stand each year including candy the other kids like to buy, having ice tea and lemonade to mix Arnold Palmers, Sicilian Tomato bread he "orders" the week before from his dad and lemon ricotta cookies he "orders" from me. He sets up and decorates a stand and sets his prices. All proceeds from this stand are his spending money for the summer - the ice cream truck being the main recipient of his hard earned dollar.


Since summer is coming at us full swing let's make the most of the abundant produce and bring the kids into food prep. Take them strawberry picking or to the local farmers market. Take them for arrosticini at an upcoming Di Rosco event which you can track here. Or develop your future entrepreneurs with a lemonade stand that they can design themselves!


Try your hand at a parent monitored but mostly child made cake below:


YOGURT CAKE:

Ingredients:

1 - 6 ounce plain, full fat yogurt (this will be your container)

1 eggs 1 containers sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 Container of oil 2 containers flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1 container inclusions (chocolate chips, frozen berries, walnuts, etc)


Method:


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

  2. Grease an 8" springform pan and put on a sheet tray.

  3. Gently combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil in a large bowl.

  4. In a separate bowl mix together flour and baking powder.

  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently until combined (do not over mix). Add your inclusions and gently combine. Pour into your prepared pan.

  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. It should be almost crispy on the outside but springy inside.

  7. Allow to cool and top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar to finish. Leftover cake can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.

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