With the career I have and my obsession with food, a lot of my time is spent in the kitchen. So it was a logical that my kids entered the kitchen early. It all started when my son wanted to create "something" in the kitchen. He didn't want to follow a recipe. He just wanted to create something using his imaginations. (Thanks to watching me develop recipes and style food shoots). He would have one of us cut chunks of cucumber, tomato and toss it with orange and coriander, sugar, salt, apples, whatever he could find and say "Mom, take a picture of my creation." And then eat it. It made me see how much he wanted to be part of what he saw me do.
Learning to cook also helped kids pick up skills to last them a lifetime, boost their self esteem as they savour the joys of accomplishing a task, learning something important and contributing to the family. And cooking helps reinforce lessons in science, language, math and creativity. Working together as a team, whether it is with a parent or with a sibling to get the job done also empowers them to be independent in the future by learning life skills and not having to rely on unhealthy options to sustain themselves. Aman is also more conducive to eating what he has had a hand in making! Really! Maybe because of the enthusiasm of creating something themselves, they eat whatever they had a hand in making with greater gusto.
But the advent of Natasha has taught me the true meaning of the words, every child is different. Because Natasha, in not only a girl child but she is second born (they are always notorious) and a SCORPIO, the one star sign my Virgo self has never gotten on with. She is the total antithesis of her brother who is an angel even at his worst in comparison! A miniature tornado topped with a mop of the curliest curls, she has managed to turn everything I have learnt on sneaking nutrition into children on its head! She just. WILL. NOT. EAT. HER. VEGETABLES and has caught me out on every trick I have employed!
Mercifully she eats fruit, and raw carrot and cucumber so I still hope. And count like crazy on the fact that she is in a hurry to do everything her brother does so perhaps she will pick up some affinity for vegetables.
And I have one more trick up my sleeve! Cooking with her! Natasha already rolls rotis (one problem she will never face like her mother did) and wants to see and smell everything in the Kitchen, often saying : main badi ho ke aapki tarah Yummy Mummy banoongi” Well Natasha, you ask me often about the things you will do when you are bada (big) like Mama and Papa... I hope that whatever you do, you eat your vegetables!
For older kids muffin, cupcake OR cookie decorating is a great activity. Bake or just buy a batch of muffins, cupcakes or sugar cookies and set them out with bowls of icing tinted in a rainbow of colors alongside assorted decorations; gems, jintan balls, colored saunff and sprinkles. I find boys tend to eat more than decorate but girls usually save them.
Here are some of Aman Ghildiyal’s recommended recipes for kids to cook up as well.
250 g Farfalle or Fusilli, cooked
100 g cheese, diced
1 red pepper, chopped fine
1 yellow pepper, chopped fine
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sweet corn, cooked
1 cup cooked mixed vegetables such as carrots, beans and peas)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
Method: Combine everything and mix well in a large bowl!
Corny cups (Sweet Corn Salad) (Serves 2-4, Time 15 mins)
for the dressing:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
For the salad:
2 tomatoes, in small (corn-sized) dice
2 capsicums, chopped fine
500 g corn, cooked (or canned corn, drained)
½ cup coriander, chopped fine
Method: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve in little paper cups like at the movies.
Cheesy pin wheels (Serves 2-4, Time 10 mins)
8 slices bread
4 tbsp cheese spread
Dampen a cotton or linen towel/napkin and spread on table. Lay a few slices of bread on half of towel, leaving space between the slices. Cover with the other side of the towel and roll gently with a rolling pin so that bread becomes thinner and larger, thinner and slightly damp. Lay a slice of flatten bread on a board or wax paper. Spread with cheese spread leaving the edges without cheese. Sprinkle with herbs. Roll from the cream cheese edge in a tight roll toward the plain edge. Wrap in wax paper. Place wrapped rolls in a pan. Cover the pan of wrapped "sandwiches" with the damp towel used in the flattening process. When ready to serve slice into pinwheels with a sharp knife.
Russian Salad Open Sandwiches (Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side, Time 15 mins)
1/2 cup peas, cooked
1/2 cup french beans, diced and cooked
1 cup carrots, diced and cooked
1 cup boiled potatoes, cooked and diced
Salt to taste if needed
Mayonnaise to taste
Good soft white bread or multigrain bread
Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Mix well. Gently mix mayonnaise in one spoon at a time, so that your potatoes don’t break, until the vegetables are lightly coated and clumping together. Take a slice of toasted bread, spread with a layer of the salad. Top with another slice of bread or leave open and use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the sandwiches.
8 large cookies
1 c hung yoghurt/ricotta cheese
4 tbsp honey
2 c sliced fruit such as grapes, Kiwi, strawberry
1 c 100s and 1000s or other sprinkles
For the hung yoghurt: Line a sieve or small colander with a clean cloth and suspend over a bowl place yogurt in lined sieve, cover and refrigerate for at 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator, discard liquid and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1-1/2 Maple syrup, mix well and chill until required. Spread yogurt mixture evenly over cookies and arrange fruit attractively on top for pizzas, drizzle additional honey on top and sprinkle over the 100s and 1000s. For sandwiches, cover with another cookie and squeeze gently so that the yogurt comes to the edge of the cookie sandwiches. Then roll edge of sandwich in 100s and 1000s. Chill until ready to serve.
Snowy Mountain in Chocolate Lake