Opinon: The Importance of Letting Kids in the Kitchen

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Kids in the KitchenI think being able to put together an enjoyable meal or bake a batch of delicious cookies is one of the most underappreciated skills we posses.  Considering we really only need food, water, shelter, and procreation to survive as a species, and granted procreation is more fun, the ability to provide a yummy meal is essential.  Under the right circumstances it can sometimes even LEAD to procreation.  With that said, I have two people to thank for my love of the kitchen.

My mother never hesitated to let me spend time creating in the kitchen.  She never forced me to assist her in meal preparation, but rather let me follow my own culinary path.  She was The Pooh Cookbookalways there to assist me when needed, and more importantly, to clean up the mess I left in my wake.  She also helped cultivate my pursuit of yummy food by buying me cookbooks.  At first they where titles like the The Pooh Cookbook, and other wonderful tomes of childhood culinary excellence.  By the age ten she picked me up a copy of the timeless, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (1972 ed.).  At that point, it was on.

My father had another modus operandi.  His approach was less structured then moms.  He prescribed to the “we don’t need no stinkin’ cookbooks” school of thought.  He’d gather me in the kitchen in the pursuit of one very focused objective:  to bake a cake.  And bake cakes we did.  I remember comments like, “that’s enough flour” and “better pour a little more sugar in there”.   Most of our cakes were failures but I remember laughing and eating (a little) of each creation.  As the story in the family goes, there was once the two of us produced a decent finished product.  It was in celebration of my Collie Noodles’ birthday.  Unfortunately dad and I felt Noodles would enjoy the cake even more if we threw in a few handfuls of dog food kibble.  Needless to say Noodles was the only one to enjoy that birthday cake.

It was this combination of approaches that assured, by the time I left the house, I could put food on the table, and damn it, I could bake a cake!  It’s to late to thank my father for his contribution, and I don’t thank my mother nearly enough.  I know if it hadn’t been for them, letting me in the kitchen as a very young man, I wouldn’t be the cook I am today.

Betty Crocker Cookbook 1972That little walk down memory lane got a bit verbose, and I apologize.  I hope, however, it helps make the point I was having a difficult time articulating.  That being, get your kids in the kitchen, let them make a mess, bake a cake with no recipe, and if the occasion is right, throw a handful of dog food in it.

I PROMIE you they will be grateful you did and very likely love you for doing so.

So now the recipes!  I picked out four yummy recipes I thought you and your kids would enjoy preparing and eating together.  Together being the keyword.

Thanks for letting me make a disaster zone of your kitchen Mom.   I love you.

Sugar and Spice Porridge

Preparing this yummy breakfast with your kids is a sure way to start the day off on the right track.

Sugar and Spice Porridge1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1/3 cup raisins
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. each salt AND cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats

1.  In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the raisins, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. Slowly add the oats to the boiling milk, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Let stand 1 minute. Serve with milk. Serves: 2

Easy Yummy Tacos

Preparing these easy tacos is as much fun as eating them.  Make a mess and have fun!

Easy Yummy Tacos8 corn taco shells
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 large tomato, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Place the taco shells in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until hot and crispy.

2. In a small saucepan, stir together the refried beans and salsa. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently.

3. Fill the taco shells with the beans mixture. Top with the lettuce, cheese and tomato. Serves: 4

Frank and Bean Sandwiches

A really fun way to eat franks and beans, this recipe will surely bring a smile to young and old faces alike.

Frank and Bean Sandwiches4 slices of bread
1 can (16 oz.) baked beans
2 hotdogs, sliced
4 slices American cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Place bread slices in ungreased shallow baking pan.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the beans and frankfurters. Spread he bean mixture over bread to cover each slice completely, mounding slightly in the center.

3. Bake for 10 minutes or until heated through. Place a cheese slice on top of each bean sandwich. Bake for 2 or 3 minutes more until cheese melts. Serves: 4

Cheesy Spanish Rice

This easy and super-yummy side dish goes well with just about any meal.  Begin teaching menu planning with your youngsters when you combine this dish with the Easy Yummy Tacos.

Cheesy Spanish Rice1 can (14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes, water, chili powder, and garlic powder.

2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the rice. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

3. Top with the Cheddar cheese. Serves: 4

Mike’s comments:

If you enjoyed these recipes you should most definitely check out my friend Jessica’s site A Lot on Your Plate, she has some really cool kid-related recipes and crafts that I found very insightful.

Opinion: Serious food for thought

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Food Stamp Programs Likely To Be Affected By Cuts

Mary Clare Jalonick

The government’s food stamp program, which helps feed 1 in every 7 Americans, was one of the few programs exempted from this year’s automatic spending cuts. But now it is likely to get trimmed. Unresolved is by how much. The Democratic chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee is only willing to take roughly one-half of 1 percent, or about $400 million annually, off the top as the panel prepares to move a massive farm bill through committee next week. Her Republican counterpart in the House, also preparing to consider a farm bill next week, would give the program a makeover and cut it by five times that amount. Neither committee has released its version of the bill, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says he plans to propose a cut of about $2 billion a year. The House bill would also propose changes in the structure of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), something Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and other Senate Democrats have adamantly opposed. Both committees proposed slightly small changes to the program in bills they pushed in the last Congress, but the House leadership has committed to moving a bill, meaning the two sides will have to somehow resolve their differences over food stamps. It won’t be easy, but finding the right amount of food stamp cuts will be the only way farm-state lawmakers can get the five-year farm bill passed. The bill, which also sets policy for farm subsidies and other rural development programs, has historically included food stamps and domestic food aid to gain support of urban lawmakers who may not otherwise vote for the bill. The debate over food stamps doesn’t always fall along party lines—the top republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, has said he won’t support major cuts to food stamps because it is a popular program in his state. Food companies and states, both of which benefit from the program, are also expected to fight changes. On the House side, conservatives are expected to offer amendments to convert the program to block grants to the states, a move that could freeze spending and cut the benefit to many who now receive it. The debate on the floor is expected to be “lively”.