Oh, they each did their share of playing while I prepared meals and snacks. My son would leave Legos in the potato bin in place of the potatoes he would take out to play with. He would pull out all of my pots, pans and metal bowls to bang with a spoon. That was really fun when I had not gotten any sleep.
My daughter would shadow my every move, begging me to put measured items into a bowl. Or she would taste a soup and want to add a pinch of whatever spice was handy-just like Mommy. Of course both of them fought to lick the spoon after I was finished stirring chocolate cake batter or waited until my back was turned to snatch a couple of chocolate chips.
Then there was the day that I had just baked some bread and left it on the bread board to cool. About 20 minutes later, I was on the computer when my 3-year-old son came in munching on a big hunk of bread looking very pleased with himself. Apparently, he wanted the fresh bread and grabbed the 8-inch serrated knife to cut himself some. After a heart-stopping inspection of his little body turned up no severed limbs or arteries, I moved the knife block into one of the upper cupboards where it sits to this day.
Maybe they didn’t really help all that much, but it was cute and kept them engaged. Producing a meal for the whole family is a very “grown-up” thing to young children and it is very important for them to know that their culinary efforts are helpful and delicious.
I encouraged their participation whenever they showed the interest and, judging from the few times I have made the whole dinner in recent weeks, it has paid off.
Recently my 12-year-old daughter made a simple dinner of little pizzas made on English muffins and a poppy seed salad. It was delicious and satisfying. We had all of the ingredients just sitting on the shelf and I was quite impressed that she came up with the idea for this meal with no assistance from anyone.
If you have never made English muffin pizzas, they are easy to put together. You just split the muffin, add spaghetti sauce and top with your favorite pizza toppings. Put them under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted, and serve.
With the following recipe for poppy seed salad and a full glass of milk, I thought it very filling for such a “small” meal. My daughter was proud of her accomplishment and started planning that very night to make another meal.
I may never cook again.
Jodi Painter is a 12-year Kodiak resident and a longtime baker who writes a weekly column about tasty and affordable options for home cooking in remote Alaska.
Strawberry, Mandarin Poppy Seed Salad
Serves about 10
4 c. torn iceberg lettuce
4 c. torn spinach
4 c. shredded red cabbage
1 11oz. can of mandarin orange sections, drained
15 strawberries, quartered
1/2 red onion sliced thin and separated into rings
Sliced almonds (optional)
Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Dressing:
3/4 c cider vinegar
2/3 c. honey
1/2 red onion, diced fine
3 Tbsp. prepared mustard
3 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Dash black pepper
Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Place all of the dressing ingredients into a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Add half of the dressing to the salad mixture and toss to coat well. The rest may be used another time and stores well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to two weeks.