Archive for the ‘cooking with kids’ category

Take time to cook and eat together

May 29, 2014

In the following interview from the Boston Globe, author/activist Michael Pollan talks about the importance of food in our lives. By taking time to cook with your kids, you’re spending time together, teaching them a life skill, and increasing the likelihood that they will eat what you prepare because they saw what went into it. Let go of the mess in the kitchen. It’s an investment on so many levels, including health. Remember to use family meetings to decide together on menus and meal plans.

Take it one step further and plant a few tomato and cucumber plants in a pot on the porch or in the garden.

  • 28 May 2014
  • The Boston Globe
  • By Michael Floreak GLOBE CORRESPONDENT Interview was condensed and edited. Michael Floreak can be reached at michael floreak@gmail.com.

Cooking is time well spent

 Author lauds the social and health benefits of preparing family meals

Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” detailed the complex system of farms, feedlots, and food science laboratories that deliver food to the modern dinner table, and helped fuel a growing food movement. His newest work, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” recently published in paperback, turns his attention to how plants and animals are transformed into meals and explores why cooking is important.

After “Omnivore,” Pollan focused on the human end of the food chain, looking at food choices and their impact on health. “I realized cooking was the answer to a lot of questions that I’ve been exploring in my work,” Pollan, 59, says. For “Cooked,” he apprenticed with a series of culinary experts— from a North Carolina barbecue pit master to a celebrated baker— to understand the ecological, nutritional, and cultural impacts of cooking from scratch.

“I got into this as someone who was very interested in the environment and how we engage with the natural world,” Pollan says. “I like to cook and I knew how to grill, make pasta, pretty basic stuff. But there was a lot for me to learn.”

Q. How did it happen that you turned your attention from agriculture to cooking?

A. I began to realize that if people insist on having their food cooked by fast food corporations or processed food corporations, we weren’t going to build this alternative agriculture system.

Q. Why is cooking important to one’s health?

A. The best marker of a healthy diet was whether the food was cooked by a human being. Even poor people who still cook have healthier diets than rich people who don’t.

Q. Explain how cooking and health are so closely linked.

A. If you cook, you’re not going to have french fries every day. Homemade french fries are delicious, but they’re such a pain to make. There are things built into the process of cooking that guard against those very tempting, but ultimately not very healthy, foods. You don’t even have to worry about what you’re cooking because you will naturally gravitate toward simple things. You will not make a lot of junk food.

Q. You also talk about the social benefits of cooking and eating together.

A. Cooking isn’t just about preparing the fuel for your body. Cooking is a social act and it has been since we started. Go back 2 million years, and we discover the power of fire to change food and make it more delicious, easier to digest, safer. But as soon as we do that, we have to learn how to share. Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilization. And that’s what we’re now blithely giving up. Forty-six percent of meals in America are now eaten alone. We have this centrifugal force that’s driving us away from the table. And a lot of that goes to food marketing. They make more money if we eat individually.

Q. While you were writing the book, your son suggested taking a night off from cooking to have “microwave night.” How did that work out?

A. What a surprise. To get four entrees on the table took 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to cook a very nice meal. We just never got to sit down at the table at the same time because we were each in a different stage of defrosting and eating. It was the most disjointed family meal we had in a long time and no time had been saved. We have to reexamine this assumption that convenience food is really convenient.

Q. What do you say to the argument that cooking is also expensive?

A. I dispute that. You have to pay those people to process food. It’s very labor intensive on their end, so therefore they charge. Cooking is economical. There’s still a lot of healthy food in regular markets as long as you shop the periphery and avoid the processed foods. It is more time-consuming. We have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965. I think it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.

Q. Clearly you see that cooking is time well spent.

A. My contention is that as a way to spend a half-hour or an hour of your leisure time, cooking is a really good way to do it. It has all these benefits, but it’s actually intellectually very engaging. It’s sensually very pleasurable. It’s a great way to reset. But the key is not doing it alone, I think. Get your family involved. Get your kids and your partner in the kitchen. Make it a social event.

Family dinner: drug & alcohol abuse prevention

June 28, 2011
pizza making former adolescent. Family dinner is the anti-drug. Family dinner prevents drug abuse, alcohol abuse and cigarette addiction. Family dinner is the best and most effective way to prevent drug abuse
Difficult children eventually grow up and become interesting. I have many “Ian” stories because he was so challenging. He was the third child born in 3.5 years, and has a younger sister. Ian is making pizza dough here. Making pizza together on Friday nights and watching a movie together was one of our family traditions.

I can still see Ian, above, then 17 years old, standing in the kitchen, looking down at me from his 6’2″ height, arguing in a tortured voice.
Ian: “Why do I have to eat family dinner?”
Me: “You must have dinner with us tonight.”
Ian: “It’s stupid.” Shakes hands and shoulders. Sighs.
Me: “It will only take 20 minutes. Then you can go out with your friends.” Some things are non-negotiable. Every fiber of my being sent the message that I was not going to budge from this expectation.
Ian: “I don’t see why I must have family dinner.” I give him the last word. No worries. He came to family dinner and got a dose of connection, values and love.
The primary reason to have family dinner:
Research  shows that regular family dinner (breakfast works, too) three or more times a week results in lower use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes among teens and tweens.
Family dinner interrupts the time between 2 pm school dismissal and midnight, when junior operators must be off the road. So it limits the distance and trouble they can get into.
The worst trouble one of our teens ever got into was when that teen should have been home for family dinner. Bob and I had become permissive. We immediately got back on the family dinner track.
Our family made pizza together on many Friday nights and watched a G or PG-rated movie together. Everyone put toppings of their choice on a small pizza. By middle school, they could make and roll out the dough so it was a team effort. We all pitched in to clean up. My “kids” request pizza when they come home to visit and we share an enjoyable family dinner.
And Ian? When he celebrated his 26th birthday a few months ago, do you know what he served for a bunch of friends? A dozen homemade pizzas. As they devoured the delicious gourmet pizza, friends commented, “You MADE this? Man, this is really good!”
Get some pizza pans. Connect to your kids. Look how fast they’ve grown already. They will leave home — and this will make you happy. Family dinner reduces the likelihood they will stray towards drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. This will make you happier.

Let them mess up the kitchen

May 11, 2011

Making cupcakes can be messy. Let children get their hands in the batter, lick the pans, and experiment in the kitchen. Here's a parenting tip: cook with them.

It has been at least a decade since I made cupcakes. I needed a hiatus after sending cupcakes to school to celebrate many birthdays of my four children for years.

Sadly cupcakes are banned in many schools today.

Kids still need to be encouraged to cook. As I managed the batter in and out of the bowl and made the icing, I remembered how hard it was to make cupcakes when I was in elementary school. It was hard to follow the recipe, divide up the batter neatly and evenly and to ration the icing. They had to be baked them the right amount of time and I tried my best to not spill the ingredients.

My mother never complained about the mess we made when cooking. She encouraged us to cook, even sweet treats. It saved money off the family grocery bill — always a concern when you have nine children — and gave us the life skill of cooking confidence and self-esteem.

Because she gave us free rein in the kitchen and coached us, I have the attitude that I can cook anything if I follow the recipe. I’ve saved thousands of dollars by knowing how to cook and not needing to eat out regularly.

Cooking together is an excellent way for families to bond and to encourage cooking skills in children. STart with simple recipes- especially "betty crocke"r.Today I hate to cook alone. I miss having the kids around to break eggs, mix up the batter,  lick the bowls and appreciate the results.

I licked the bowls this morning and started the day with an excellent chocolate/sugar surge.

I wish these cupcakes were destined to celebrate a child’s birthday at school. They are for a reception at a memorial service, the father from a family my children grew up with.

Life is short. Do what matters. Make cupcakes with your kids today and relish the moment. You’ll be giving them a gift that will last them a lifetime.