There’s no better time to cook with young children than for holidays. Whether you’re recreating a traditional family meal or starting your own new tradition, it’s the perfect opportunity to invite kids into the kitchen. And with friends and family at the table, kids are sure to deepen their connections and receive lots of encouragement.
Getting young children to eat can be a challenge and holidays are no exception, but when you involve them in the process—whether it’s choosing the menu, making a grocery list, shopping, or cooking—they become engaged. And an engaged child is a better, more curious, healthier eater.
Some tips for helping your child participate:
• Be a good example; let them see you be appreciative and curious.
• Sit down and talk to your children about what you are thinking about serving. Ask for their input (but only if you intend to take it).
• Have them make a list and then help you shop for ingredients.
• Ask them to set the table and, if they like, make place cards.
• If they are too young to cook, let them dump bags of ingredients into bowls.
• Let them count out ingredients to add. (Could you please put 12 cherry tomatoes into the salad?)
• When you sit down to eat, praise the dishes they helped make (be sincere not gushing).
• If you serve appetizers, be sure to include lots of vegetables like carrot sticks, cucumbers, and broccoli florets (and be sure they see you eating them).
• If your child turns his nose up at something you serve, don’t make an issue of it.
• Use food that your children like in order to get them to eat other things. If they love apples, have them help make the charoset.
Here are three Passover recipes that are great to cook with children:
Matzoh brei probably doesn’t sound appealing unless you grew up eating it, but one try and you’ll be hooked. For a more savory matzoh brei, add spinach, peppers, or caramelized onions. For a sweeter matzoh brei, top with honey, maple syrup, jam, apple sauce, or even charoset.
6 large eggs
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Put the matzohs in a mixing bowl and crumble into bite-size pieces. Cover with water and let sit until slightly soft but not disintegrated, about 1 minute.
Drain off all the water by carefully tipping the bowl and holding onto the matzohs (it’s okay to squeeze).
Add the eggs and mix well.
Place a 10-12 inch skillet over medium high heat and, when it is hot, add the butter.
Add the matzoh-egg mixture and cook, flipping from time to time, until the eggs are set and the mixture is golden in spots, about 3 minutes. Serve right away, sprinkled with salt.
Yield: serves 4
A frittata can be endlessly varied: You can easily substitute a different vegetable for the greens and a different cheese for the feta. Young children may like mini-frittatas: simply oil muffin tins and divide the mixture into eighths.
8 large eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 scallions, chopped
2 to 2 1/2 cups finely chopped spinach or kale
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350.
Place the eggs, salt and pepper in a medium size mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Add the scallions, spinach, and feta cheese and mix well.
Place an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the egg mixture and carefully transfer to the oven. Bake until the eggs are set and the top is golden, about 20 minutes.
Yield: serves 4-6
This is a particularly good recipe to make with kids because there is no “right” way to do it. Although almost every tradition includes apples and nuts, each uses slightly different ingredients. Consider putting out a variety of ingredients in small bowls and letting each child make his or her own version.
Dried fruit can include raisins, dates, figs, and dried apricots; sweetener may not be necessary but could be honey, maple syrup, or sugar. Liquid can include lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, brandy, or sweet wine. Italian Jews often add chestnuts, while Spanish Jews add coconut.
2 large tart apples, diced or shredded
1 cup toasted walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pecans
1/2 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, dates, apricots, or figs
1 tbsp lemon juice, cider vinegar, brandy, or sweet wine
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 tbsp honey (optional, depending on which dried fruit you use)
1 pinch kosher salt
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If you would like a more spreadable consistency, put the mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it reaches the texture you like.
Yield: about 3 cups
Sally Sampson is the founder of ChopChop Kids, a non-profit devoted to helping families cook and eat healthy meals together.