We asked Jennifer about the importance of getting the next generation into to kitchen and tips on how to do it. Here's what she had to say...
Why do you feel it's important for bring your kids into the kitchen with you?
If you cook with your kids, they will cherish those memories forever. It's guaranteed. Cooking is one of the most satisfying shared learning experiences you can have. And everybody gets to eat the results in the end!
These days so much of our everyday foods are packaged ones so it's a delight to show kids the actual ingredients that go into, say, crackers, pizza dough, a casserole, a batch of cookies. It connects real ingredients like eggs, vegetables and flour to things kids eat all the time. Once children feel a sense of accomplishment making something in the kitchen, it's more likely they'll keep cooking a lifelong habit. They learn to eat more wholesomely that way. I think it's always a good thing to become a "maker", to know what it feels like to roll up your sleeves and create something from scratch.
How do you make cooking fun?
You have to make sure kids can do most of the tasks on their own. They need to feel they made the recipe, not played second banana to the parent. That means you have to keep things safe. I never want kids to use sharp knives or teeter over a boiling pot on the stove. If you pick recipes where they can do simple tasks just with a bowl and a few simple tools, they'll love cooking. And parents won't stress about kids hurting themselves.
You have to pick recipes carefully. Of course, you could also pick up a copy of my best-selling cookbook, Kitchen for Kids, because it is the only kids' cookbook where the recipes are designed to be made without sharp knives, motorized appliances or hot stove tops. Kids basically just stir things together and they can make the most wonderful recipes.
What are some important safety precautions?
Look for ways to substitute for dangerous tools. For example, instead of a sharp knife, sometimes a pizza wheel will work and there's less chance of injury.
Also, make sure an adult or older sibling is around to supervise. You might not have to hang over the kids like hawks if the recipe is especially easy, but it helps to have someone older keep an eye out.
Any golden rules of cooking you must instill in children?
Have fun! It should not be a chore. Actually, this is more of a watch word for the parents than the kids. Parents have to remember that kids are not like adults, they don't want or need to rush through a recipe because they have to get dinner on the table in a rush. That's for adults to worry about. When kids cook, they take what they are doing seriously but it is about trying to accomplish something new. Don't rush them. Let them develop their skills. Let them savour their time in the kitchen.
And don't worry if something isn't perfect. Tell kids it will still taste delicious even if it's lopsided! Every cook loves praise.
What's the best "first recipe" for a child to start with?
Start with something that's easy to make and, here's the secret: - that everyone in the family will enjoy eating. Kids will beam with pride when they serve something they made to their family members and get rave reviews. That older brother is gonna be impressed! It is an unbeatable feeling for a child. Try my Kitchen for Kids Blueberry Muffins as a beginner recipe! Even young kids can do virtually every step.
Blueberry Muffins & Cinnamon Sugar
These are irresistible, especially with the cinnamon sugar sprinkle. Remember to measure the flour by spooning it into your measuring cup first, then leveling it off. Don't scoop your measuring cup into the flour or you'll pack the cup with too much flour and your muffins won't be soft and yummy.
Vegetable oil for muffin tins and spoon 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon in, level) (375 ml) 2 tsp baking powder (10 ml) 1/4 tsp baking soda (1 ml) 1/8 tsp salt (0.5 ml)
1/2 tbsp white sugar (8 ml) 1/2 tsp cinnamon (3 ml) 1 large egg 3/4 cup white sugar (175 ml) 1/4 cup milk (60 ml) 1/4 cup vegetable oil (60 ml) 1 tbsp lemon juice (15 ml) about 3/4 cup fresh blueberries (4 oz./115 g) (175 ml)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Oil 9 muffin tins. 2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl (don't sift). 3. In a small bowl or cup, mix the 1/2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon. 4. In another bowl, use a whisk to stir the egg, 3/4 cup sugar, milk, oil and lemon juice. Use a baking spatula to scrape this into the flour mix. Stir until just mixed. Pour in the blueberries and stir only once or twice. 5. Rub a spoon with a drop of vegetable oil and scoop the batter. Use your finger to push the batter into the muffin tins. Fill tins about half full. Use another spoon to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top o fthe batter. 6. Bake about 20 minutes, until the muffins are risen and golden. Cool slightly. Eat while warm.