The Kids Cook Monday – March 14, 2011

Hello, and welcome to the blog where I share my cooking experiences with, and for, my daughter Alessandra. Along with her mom, we focus on giving her meals with proper nutrition. One of the most rewarding moments every day is when I get to cook with my daughter. The organization recently created an updated website (http://www.thekidscookmonday.org/) giving adults and parents resources and tools needed for cooking at home.

Unfortunately my daughter caught a bad cold so instead of her cooking with me, we happily cooked for her. One of the biggest hits of the weekend was angel hair pasta, pesto sauce, and some black olives. The plus is that takes less than 10 minutes to cook and a total of 15 minutes if you make your own pesto. While you are cooking the pasta, you and your child can easily make the pesto sauce together. The best thing about making the sauce at home is the ability to customize the amount of salt, cheese, or oil.

Once you have finished the pesto sauce you can then serve the pasta. For children, I found a method that really helps them children to eat pasta with a sauce. By evenly coating the pasta with sauce it’s very consistent throughout the pasta. Place some pasta in zip lock bag along with the pesto, grated cheese, and (if desired) chopped or sliced olives. Shake it vigorously and evenly coat the pasta. Done…you can pour it on the plate and serve to your child. For older kids they could do almost everything in this recipe alone.

From the Food Network Website : (link)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese or favorite type of cheese such as Parmesan Reggiano. I prefer Pecorino because of the subtle but noticeable saltiness of the cheese.

Directions – with a 3-year-old at the helm

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese. For the first time, we only put in 1 clove of garlic since my daughter is only 3, but normally garlic is an important ingredient.

Except for chopping the stems off the basil, Alessandra did everything herself. She respected the power of the food processor and listened carefully to instructions. Knowing that her pesto sauce would go on her plate was good motivation for diligence.

Below is an introduction to The Kids Cook Monday from the program director. What she and the organization has to say is very important. I would greatly appreciate if you could take the time to read through it.

Thank you very much,

Loren

Introducing… The Kids Cook Monday!

By Joey Lee

Over the last 30 years, there has been a dramatic shift not only in what we eat, but how we eat. The ritual of family dinner has become all but extinct. More and more kids come home to an empty house after school and rely mostly on processed snack foods and microwavables to sustain themselves until their parents arrive home, often with a takeout box or fast food fare. Studies show that children who engage in regular family dinners eat more nutritious diets, get better grades in school and develop better communication skills, so how can the modern family break this cycle and bring back family dinner?

The Kids Cook Monday is a new initiative that gives families an effective, weekly way to keep up family dinners. When Monday is family dinner night, the meal becomes a fun event, ensuring that parents and kids spend quality time together every week, all year round.

You can use the beginning of the school week as an opportunity to continue teaching your kids even after they come home from school. As your little chefs squeeze oranges, tell them how vitamin C strengthens their immune systems to fight off colds or how the potatoes they’re mashing first grew underground.

Columbia’s Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that family dinners also help foster important life lessons. Kids who ate regularly with their families were more likely to come to their parents with a problem and less likely to try drugs and alcohol. Parents can use Kids Cook Monday night to check in with their kids about the weekend that’s passed and discuss plans for the coming week.

Parents can explore cooking with kids even if they’re novice cooks themselves! The Kids Cook Monday recipes come with age group suggestions as well as “parent”, “kid’ and “together” cooking tasks. Use The Kids Cook Monday toolkit(pdf) to get your family started. You can also share The Kids Cook Monday movement in whatever way works for you: post family dinner stories to your blog every week, hold family dinner recipe contests on your website or start a cooking co-op in your community.

By sustaining the tradition of family dinners, we are sustaining our health and our relationships with each other. Food activist and author Michael Pollan writes “Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture.” Make cooking and eating together your first priority on the first evening of each week. Keep our culture, and our children, alive and well.

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