bringing kids into the kitchen

A couple of people have asked me* why on earth I would a two year old or even my five year old cut things up. They could injure themselves! Knives are dangerous! Since I mostly agree with this, and like my kids with all their digits intact, I gifted them each with a wavy chopper from the Montessori Services catalog. It requires both hands to push down with sufficient force to cut something, and simply isn't sharp enough to slice their little finger or for one to actually injure the other when they start bickering. Truth be told, it was a great purchase. Josie can make herself a little fruit salad for lunch, make the salad for dinner with me all by herself, and it's just handy to keep her or Jasper occupied when I'm trying to get something on the table for all of us to scarf down before bedtime.

Really, though, I've always had the kids doing something with me in the kitchen. Since I really enjoy cooking and, especially, baking delicious things like pie, it was very natural to make the kids a part of it early on. Kids are great at adding ingredients from about 2 years old, and by four can be trusted to measure with relative accuracy. Little ones can also be trusted with stirring (gently, please!) starting around 2, peeling vegetables with a peeler rather than a knife (around 3 1/2), and using a rolling pin (around 3). Whether their help is actually helpful is totally up to you :) Obviously you shouldn't leave them to stir the hot kettle of soup on the stove, take things out of the oven, turn on the mixer, etc, but the little bit of extra time it takes to work with the kids is really worthwhile when you see how much more interested in eating it makes them!

Also, I've always been happy to let the kids sit up on the counter or stand on a chair to help, but I've heard great things about Learning Tower, basically an enclosed stepstool that keeps your kids up at counter level without the risk of falling (neither Jasper nor Josie have fallen off, but I can see the inherent risk!).

Josie says that her favorite thing to make is Macaroni and Cheese, so here's a recipe to try:

Mackieroney and Cheese

1 lb pasta like cellentani, elbows, or shells, cooked al dente and drained.
5 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mustard powder (it's with the spices)
1 lb shredded cheddar cheese (we like the Tillamook x-sharp white cheddar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the butter and flour together in a 1+ quart glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir with a whisk. Microwave a minute longer, then whisk in milk. Microwave for about 3 minutes more, stir, then cook another few minutes until thickened. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in pasta, then put it in a buttered 9"x13" casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until it's bubbling thickly around the edges and is a bit brown.

My kids like it with broccoli or peas.

* look, the easiest way to communicate with me (and I'd love to hear from you) is to leave a comment down at the end of this post (or any other). alternately, you can email me at librarycollective at gmail dot com, or talk to me after preschool, which seems to be when I get a lot of my communicatin' done.
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