One of my favorite memories when raising my kids was one time when we decided to make a new pasta dish together. My daughter Jini was about 12 years old, and she found a recipe in a children’s cookbook.
The recipe called for a regular spaghetti noodle (we substituted a thinner spaghetti — cappellini) and instead of tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, we used finely chopped fresh strawberries and cottage cheese.
While the cappellini was cooking in the pot of boiling water, we warmed about 2 cups of freshly chopped strawberries in a non-stick pan on the stove. We added about a tablespoon of butter, and gently mashed the softened strawberries enough to get some liquid, but leaving many small berry pieces as well. While the strawberries simmered and stayed warm, we put the cooked and drained cappellini in a bowl, and my then 9 year-old son John added about 1 cup of cottage cheese (to create some creaminess). The last step was to add the strawberry “sauce.” As soon as we added the strawberries, the white cottage cheese turned a pretty shade of pink.
We laughed and had some fun watching the color turn pink and we talked about how much more red we could make it if we added even more strawberries (although we also realized it might not be creamy enough). We enjoyed eating it although we agreed we were not ready to permanently replace our beloved tomato sauce.
Sometimes parents may think it’s a hassle to bring their kids in the kitchen because they’ll make a mess, or the process of cooking a meal with the kids will take too long because you may have to take the process a little more slowly. But I can tell you that my experience was that the times I had/still have with my kids in the kitchen are some of the most treasured moments. It brought a tremendous amount of excitement to have them in the kitchen right by my side.
Kids can get involved in helping you to prepare a meal in so many (age-appropriate) ways from rinsing fruits, to chopping vegetables, to stirring together a bowl of just about anything. When you welcome your kids in the kitchen, they have fun, they don’t feel like guests at your family table — they feel a part of the event — and better yet they become invested in your shared-meal ritual. This interest only helps them to gain that much more enjoyment and good feelings from your shared-meal experience.