teaching kids to cook and instantly oatty

When a friend who works as Director of a local cooking school asked me to teach a class on cooking with kids, I thought it sounded like fun. When she asked if I’d bring my 10-year-old daughter on board to “assist,” the deal got even sweeter. I loved the idea of sharing deLizious with my kids.

In planning the class, I thought about foods that were winners with my girls as well as dishes they might have a hand in preparing. In the end, the menu featured one recipe for each mealtime (breakfast, lunch, supper) with the lunch dish able to play snack role as well.

First up: Fast Food-Style Chicken Tenders, seen here before at foodforfun. Next was Asian Noodle Bowl, made from cooked whole wheat spaghetti tossed with an Asian dressing (6 Tbsp orange juice, 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 3/4 tsp grated fresh gingerroot for 8 ounces dried pasta).

Students, ranging in age from 4ish to 10ish along with accompanying adults, took bowls of dressed noodles and tossed in favorite veggies from a colorful produce buffet that had been prepped before class. Whether tossing in snowpeas, broccoli, and bell pepper or just carrots (that would be my girl), kids were adding veggies they’d eat and making a (healthy) dish they were excited about. Besides this being a do-able lunch for school, it could also be packed as snack.

With supper and lunch/snack down, we moved on to breakfast. I’d found a fun recipe in ChopChop magazine (loving CC–a cooking mag for kids that keeps things simple without dumbing down) for DIY Instant Oats that struck me as brilliance. With all the other make-a-mixes out there, why not one for instant oats? True, old-fashioned rolled oats don’t take terribly long to cook: A hot bowl of steaming oats is never more than 20 minutes away and setting them up in a slow cooker the night before makes mornings even easier.

But how about this: Grind a cup of oats along with a handful of dried fruit, tablespoon or so of brown sugar, and small amounts of ground cinnamon and salt to powder in a blender or food processor, then add another 2 cups oats for a quick pulse. The result? A shelf-stable mix you combine 1:1 1/2 with boiling water (1/2 cup oat mixture to 3/4 cup water) for a quick-fix breakfast. It tastes way better than packaged with hearty, fresh, real flavors and has a great chew. The bowl of oats you want to fill your kid’s (or your own) tummy with in the morn? Just seconds away if you have this mix in your cupboard. And as with the noodle bowls, there was a topping buffet for this recipe, too: unsweetened baking cocoa, nuts, dried and fresh fruit, yogurt, nut butters, honey, maple syrup. (“Kid like choices, mom” was one sage bit of advice my daughter had given me as we planned this class.)

Class ended and we were on our way home before I realized I’d taken no photos. My mind had been on wanting the class to go well and not so much on capturing the food on camera. To rectify, I made myself a batch of DIY oats today, snapping photos as I went. I’d like to write that my daughters helped me, but reality had them working on homework and cleaning their room instead. But it’s good to know I have recipes to share for those times when we all have time to play together in the kitchen. And even if they didn’t have a hand in making this batch of DIY oats, they’ll be enjoying them for many breakfasts to come.

ingredients in the food processor, ready to rock

ready to rock

ground to a powder

ground to a powder

more oats added, pulsed

more oats added, pulsed

containered up, ready for action

containered up, ready for action

clockwise l to r dreamy instant oatmeal toppings: raspberries, cocoa powder, honey, mini 'mallows, almonds, maple syrup, chia seeds, coconut

dreamy instant oatmeal toppings clockwise l to r : raspberries, cocoa powder, honey, mini ‘mallows, almonds, maple syrup, milk, chia seeds, coconut

nothing exciting here, folks–just cauliflower

Fellow readers, I will warn you up front that the following post is quite average. I go on about a (healthy) side dish using a simple “recipe.” No fancy ingredients, no new and exciting cooking methods.

But in full disclosure, this is how I cook for my family. The marshmallows? Lava cakes? Crème fraîche and buttermilk ice creams? These are projects and making them is the equivalent of my playtime.

What happens, though, when lunchtime rolls around? I dig in my refrigerator for salad greens, a carrot, feta or blue cheese, Greek olives, and a vinaigrette and throw together a salad. Suppertime for the fam? I hunt down a protein (pork chops? scrambled eggs? steak? chicken? all contenders); carb–which I try to make a whole grain (brown rice, millet, quinoa, barley, etc) though sweet potatoes work, too; and one or two veggies–frozen or fresh. We dig into one of the aforementioned “projects” for dessert, but mealtime rarely allows the luxury of finding and following a recipe. I use what I have to whip up something that (usually) works.

Last night’s cauliflower side dish is a fine example and its simplicity made it a good candidate for a blog post. We’re running low on veggies, but I did have a nice-looking head of cauliflower in the crisper. My plan was to boil and mash it, just as you would potatoes. Mixed with sour cream or a bit of half-and-half and a handful of dried parsley, mashed cauliflower makes a fun veggie side. But as I cut the cauliflower into florets, roasting seemed a better option.

A quick chop into smallish florets and tossed with just a bit of olive oil, the cauliflower went onto a baking sheet. I gave it a generous sprinkle of cumin seed, smaller sprinkle of curry powder, and dusting of coarse salt. The cauliflower roasted at 425°F for 20 or so minutes, after which I tossed the roasted florets with a touch of chopped fresh basil–as much as for color as flavor.

The side went well with our oven-fried chicken drumsticks and reheated leftover rice pilaf. Gourmet it was not. (And I’ll note that my kids preferred cutting up their own carrot sticks to eating the fragrant and “exotic” curry-scented cauliflower.) But it took little time to pull together, was inexpensive as I’m using what’s already in my kitchen, and it’s as healthy a meal as they come. Maybe someday I’ll have the time (and energy) to pull off more ambitious mealtime menus. But this works well for now and leaves me time and energy for those playtime projects I love so much.

roasted curry cauliflower

roasted curry cauliflower