We all want our kids to succeed, to do well in school, to have lots of friends, to stay out of trouble, and to be happy. As parents we try to teach them, guide them, so that one day they will be able to face the world and know right from wrong. But, let’s face it; this is not a Leave It to Beaver World. In most families, my own included, mom and dad both have to work, sometimes crazy hours, just to make ends meet. We do what we have to do to get our families by, and we hope that we are giving our children everything they need.
One of the greatest things we can do for our children is simply spend time with them and talk to them. I know we hear this all the time, but it is so true. One of the easiest places to do that is around the dinner table. Sit down together, whether it’s over a carry-out pizza or a homemade meal, and discuss each others day. Renew, daily, that familial bond. Just a few minutes each day can mean so much to our children.
As parents we fight to make sure our children are getting every opportunity they deserve and to make sure they are getting what is best for them. Ultimately what is best for our children is our attention.
One of my favorite ways to spend time with my kids is in the kitchen. Whether they are telling me about their day while I am making dinner, or we are working though a recipe together, it is quality time with my kids that I wouldn’t trade for the world. And cooking with your kids goes way beyond “quality time” also. It is a fantastic learning experience for your kids, whether they realize it or not.
Putting together the shopping list can help with organizational and planning skills.
Shopping for the ingredients can teach them nutrition and financial skills.
Plus, trips to the grocery story are always a good excuse to learn colors, shapes, counting and so much more with your littler ones. “What color is this tomato?” “How many potatoes are we putting in the bag?” “What shape is this cereal box, or that frozen pizza?” A joke that my son and I have at the grocery store is in the produce section. Holding up a pineapple I ask him what it is. His reply: “Spongebob’s house!”
Preparing a recipe helps teach kids the importance of following step-by-step instructions, reading, and even math skills (especially those pesky fractions).
And what better way to boost your kids’ confidence than by enjoying a meal they prepared themselves.
Plus, cooking is a great way to spark creative thinking by improvising. Start out by taking a simple, unintimidating recipe and change just one ingredient. Before you know it you and your children will be whipping up delicious meals, no recipe required.
I handed Adrianna the cookbook one afternoon when she had decided that she wanted to conquer the kitchen. I told her to pick a recipe and she could make it and I would be her sous chef, just like on Food Network. She really liked the idea of getting to be my boss. She picked out a simple snack recipe, we made our shopping list, and off to the store we went. Since this was her meal she was in charge of picking out pretty tomatoes and deciding which brands of cheese, pesto, olives and English muffins we got. Back at home she delegated muffin-opening and tomato-slicing to me. I followed her direction and watched her go to work, creating beautiful and delicious Ladybug Pizzas.
•2 sandwich-size whole wheat English muffins, split
•4 tablespoons pesto sauce, store-bought or homemade
•1 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese
•4 slices of ripe tomato
•1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven or toaster oven to 400°F. Ask a grown-up helper (GH) for help with the oven, if you need it.
2. Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each muffin half. Top each “pizza” with 1/4 cup cheese. Top the cheese with a slice of tomato and scatter the olives over the tomato to look like the dots on ladybug backs.
3. Bake for 7-8 minutes until very crisp and the cheese has melted.
Adrianna and Heathers variation:
Since we were making this for dinner and not a snack, we made enough for each of our family of 4 to get 4 Ladybug pizzas. I had Adrianna do the math to increase the recipe.
The pesto made the English muffins a little soggy the first time we made this, especially once the tomato slice was added. The next time we made it, we baked the undressed English muffins just long enough to toast them up a little bit. That helped a lot in keeping them from getting soggy after the pesto and tomato was added.
Adrianna added a little bit more cheese on top of the tomato slice to hold down the olive pieces. She didn’t want everyone to end up losing their olives.
She also prepared Christmas Salad (see “Let’s get cookin’” for that recipe) as a side dish with the pizzas.
My whole family happily devoured Adrianna’s delicious meal and the look of pride on her face her face was indescribable. The kitchen, cookbooks, and recipes were no longer intimidating for her. She has started learning a skill that she will be able to take with her through her entire life. Instead of living from a drive-thru, my stepdaughter can become queen of her culinary world, because she knows that she can cook.
Cook with your kids. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal. Sometimes the greatest memories come from the simplest things . . . like Ladybug Pizzas.
Next time I will have one of my sons’ favorite recipes . . . good ol’ mac-and-cheese . . . with a little twist.