What happened when my kids cooked a week of plant based dinners.
The holiday break meant “kids cook” week at our house. The kids were in charge of planning and cooking (with supervision, of course) every dinner during the week. My friend This Week For Dinner
did the same thing with her 10 year old daughter and I loved the idea. Although our girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were teeny tiny, I hadn’t completely put them in charge of dinners. I suggested the idea to my girls and they were overjoyed. They alternated nights cooking, as they wanted to cook alone. We stuck to dinners that didn’t need a recipe, which is how I cook almost all the time. I guided them on how to make things, but encouraged them to use their creativity to make the dishes their own.
I know I have said it before, but when kids help with cooking there is a shift at dinnertime. They suddenly have a stake in the meal. They have the control they want. They are proud of the meal. And they eat dinner without complaints.
I encouraged the girls to create a beautiful colorful plate. I never told them they had to use any particular ingredients, but I did say things like, “Let’s use at least 2 of these veggies on the pizza.” At the grocery store I encouraged them to choose a variety of colors. They saw cooking as not just making food, but creating art as well. It was like a week of edible craft projects.
Here’s what they made:
Homemade Veggie Sushi
This truly was my 8 year old’s choice for dinner. The girls love those crunchy seaweed snacks and perhaps that’s what got them into sushi. Or the salty soy sauce. I don’t know. We have made sushi in the past so this was easy for her. I helped her cook the rice since our pot is quite heavy, and sliced the rolls since a very sharp chef’s knife is required. She did the rest. Aren’t these rolls utterly luscious?! She served the rolls with a side of crispy baked tofu and roasted broccoli (not pictured). Here’s
how to make sushi at home.
My 5 year old decided on pizza. She used dough from Trader Joe’s, veggies, store bought sauce, and nut cheese from Parmela’s creamery
in addition to fresh mozzarella. Easy peasy. This dinner is mostly assembly, which is great for a 5 year old. I obviously was in charge of the oven.
You just can’t go wrong with heaps of chopped veggies in a tomato broth with kidney beans. The chopping took much longer than when I cook, but that’s ok!
I knew my sweet 5 was going to choose burritos. They are her favorite and one of my go-to easy dinners I know the kids will gobble up. I will confess we picked up the Spanish rice from the Whole Foods hot bar. She made the guacamole, chose the ingredients, and assembled the burritos for everyone in the family.
Pasta with Homemade White Bean Marinara
This was my 8 year old’s first time making homemade sauce. I showed her how I make super simple marinara and then asked her to add what she wanted. She chose cannellini beans and chopped carrots, which was delicious! I let her take a shortcut and put together a salad from the salad bar at Whole Foods.
To make the sauce we basically just simmer my favorite jar of tomatoes
with some olive oil, garlic, and basil. I started using these tomatoes in Italy and am so happy they are now available in the US.
Guacamole for burrito night was the perfect 5-year-old recipe. I told her the ingredients, halved the avocado and lime, and let her go for it.
Although I would love love love if everyone did a kids cook week, I have to emphasize that we did this on a school break. Cooking with kids does take longer and this would have been much more difficult to accomplish if we had after school activities in the afternoons. I do think it’s realistic and a great idea to put the kids in charge of dinner one night a week.
My friend Laura has a guide on Momables
to help you teach your kids to cook by age.
The girls would love to hear your thoughts about their cooking week so please leave a comment below!
What we learned:
- The kids liked having more control over the dinners than I expected. They each wanted to have the spotlight and didn’t want much help. They were genuinely very excited every day.
- There are cooking basics that every child should learn. For example, we realized my 8 year old didn’t know how to use a can opener until this week.
- From my 8 year old: “It’s really fun at the end to see everyone’s reaction to your meal.” “I realized that some things are harder than they seem, like peeling garlic and using a can opener.” “I’m glad I know how to cook some things like pasta sauce and sushi now so that when I’m a grown-up I’ll be able to cook.” “Cooking is fun and I want to do it more often.” “I love cooking.”
- From my 5 year old: “I thought cooking dinner was going to be hard but really it was easy.”
- I felt adult sized knives were much to big for little hands. I’m ordering a set of these kids’ knives.
- Cooking with your kids is a great way to bond and have a fun evening.
Disclaimer: If you do a “kids cook week” at your house, please be sure to use common sense and always watch what your kids are doing. Make sure everything is age appropriate as ovens, burners, and blades can be very dangerous. Links are affiliate.