Friday, May 06, 2011

Ideas for cooking with your kids this Mothers Day!

So 8th May is Mother’s Day. Last year I remember I was with my mother and grandmother on Mother’s day. This time I am in Dehra Dun with my kids for the summer holidays. It is symbolic as well. We often celebrate our mother's on this day, but I am at that phase in life when Mothers day also means celebrating being a mother. So much of last year was about rediscovering my roots through cooking with my mother and grandmother for My Mumbai Cookbook and with that done and delivered, I felt an urge to set everything els aside and spend time with my kids. I bring them to Dehra Dun every summer, so they can spend time with their grandmother and also because it gives them direct access to our huge garden here to play in and learn about growing things.  So this year I wanted to share some ideas and recipes for cooking with kids, an activity we have been indulging in a lot of late. 

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. 
So I began to get him to do little tasks for me in the kitchen. And as we cooked together I learnt a few things that made me indulge him in the kitchen even more. Learning to cook helps children learn about nutrition and healthy eating in a very defining way, a way that no amount of telling them will achieve. And this is important because their generation is more exposed to fast food and junk food than we ever were. One reason why child obesity is on the rise! Teaching my son to cook has instilled eating habits I hope will last him a lifetime; love for fruit and vegetables for one. And hopefully they will also remember the more important things later like balanced diets and the importance of wholegrain.

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.
And when I watch Aman devour bowlfuls of vegetables, I am gratified.

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!

Visible UFO Unidentified fibrous Objects are rejected on sight. Sneakily smuggled in ones are detected instantly on first bite and I get the dialogue “isme sabzi/kachra hai, I no want it!” (We are also learning English. Appeal to her logical side (yes she has a highly developed one even at 3+) with the question, if you don’t eat your vegetables how will you grow strong and she comes back with “Mujhe kya farak padta hai?” mirroring something she saw on TV. How do you argue with that? The only vegetable I have been able to get into her is potatoes if they are fried. There was the one time she shocked us by eating fried okra at Indian Harvest! But that has not worked again. Unfortunately this means I have to continue giving her khichdi, something babies stop eating after the grow teeth but it is the only way I can sneak vegetables into her. 

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.
And for all you moms out there that struggle to feed kids what is good for them, kids will be more conducive to eating what they make! Really! Maybe because of the enthusiasm of creating something themselves, they eat whatever they had a hand in making with greater gusto. 

Here are some ideas.

Hens Nests
When my son was a little younger, we once made these flaky hens' nests. You will have to do the larger part of the work by melting together 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine, a bag of marshmallows and 6 cups roasted rice Poha or Murmura. Mix it all together, cover your hands with a little oil and quickly form one-third cup measures of the mixture into a nest shapes with depressions in the center. (Alternatively adapt a standard chikki recipe to make murmura chikki nests. Allow your child to decorate the “nests” by pressing in gems or nutties for eggs.
In case you are short on time I highly recommend picking up one of Pallavi’s Ilovebabycakes DIY kitchen craft kits, For the summer she has a "Aqua Activity"- DIY kit that comes with a rectangular cake ‘aquarium’, a jar of blue icing, a piping bag with green icing to pipe seaweed and an assortment of marine animal sprinkles (fish, turtles and dolphins), great to add to pool playdates this summer. She also does, cookie and cake DIY kits. Have a look at her repertoire on her website. You can contact her at

Here are some of Aman Ghildiyal’s recommended recipes for kids to cook up as well. 

Butterfly Pasta salad (Serves: 4, Time 15 mins)
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.

Cookie sandwiches and pizzas – (Time overnight plus 15 mins, Makes 4 sandwiches or 8 Pizzas)
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
4 scoops of Chocolate Ice-cream
4 slices of sponge cake
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup of Chocolate sauce
4 individual serving bowls
2 Tablespoons
1 tea strainer

Lay out the 4 bowls in a row.
With the tablespoon spoon 1 tablespoon of the chocolate sauce into each bowl.
Break the slices of cake into two three pieces each and make little piles of cake in each bowl.
Place 1 scoop of ice-cream over each cake pile.
With the tablespoon spoon some the remaining chocolate sauce over each mountain to make little chocolate rivers over the cake and ice-cream Mountains.
Take the strainer in your left hand and hold it over each bowl, spoon in some powdered sugar and gently shake the strainer so that the sugar slowly falls on your ice-cream mountain like snow.
NOTE: (You can make little flags with your kids names on them and stick them on the peaks of the ice cream mountain before you serve it...)

SAFETY TIPS: Keep your child's age and attention span in mind before starting any cooking project. Ensure all cooking is done under adult supervision. Tools and implements should be safe; plastic knives, small flexible icing spatulas for decorating cakes and cookies and blunt-edged scissors are recommended. Teach children to keep things clean (and save you more work later) by covering work surface with news paper. Make sure there are ample paper towels and damp sponges ready for quick cleanup along the way!

1 comment:

Saranya said...

NIce blog ...nice post tooo :) cute kiddos..:) first time to yo blog... a look at it wen time permits.