cooking with kids

Something Slow, Something New

By Lisa

I’ve come to learn the hard way that it’s not a good idea to introduce new food on a weeknight, especially not after a long afternoon on the soccer field.  When the kids sit down to eat at 6:40 (if we’re lucky) on Monday nights, it’s cold, it’s dark, they’re covered in turf dirt, and all they want is something warm and familiar. You can’t really them. It takes energy to try new things, and an hour before bedtime is not a good time to ask them to rally.

So this week, I made the new (to them) soup in the slow cooker on Sunday. This way, if there were tears, at least it would be early in the night, bedtime wouldn’t be jeopardized, I could mitigate the damage.  As a precaution, I served the soup with the pannini they love.  They could decide what to eat.

We all pitched in with the final prep.  The soup, which is about as far as I’ve ever gotten in Julia Child’s classic cookbook (in case you don’t know, it’s the first recipe…), was delicious.  And even though they were reluctant to stop eating the warm bread and various kinds of pork on offer (Finley has taken to repeating, “Ham? Yes! HAM!!” and bouncing in ecstasy whenever said meat is offered to him), both kids  admitted they liked the soup and drank their cups without complaint.  Small victories.  More: the leftovers have kept Kory and I fed these past few cold nights.

pannini prep: ham & swiss, salami & swiss, just swiss

Dad’s kidtinis

Finn tests the immersion blender…

no kids harmed…

Ella’s table

Potato and Leek Soup

  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into rounds, including white & tender green leaves
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  1. Place all ingredients in large pot or slow cooker, cover, and bring to simmer.
  2. Simmer soup 1-2 hours, until leeks and potatoes are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add butter and blend until mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Serve immediately.

Pasta Factory

By Lisa

Some people eat long noodles, other families eat blackeyed peas, but we have a pasta-making tradition on New Years Day.   Actually, the tradition has been that I make the pasta and everyone else eats it.  Mostly, I don’t mind. Mostly, I love making pasta the way other people love meditating, or running, or taking a nap.  There are few other tasks in the kitchen that I find more therapeutic, and even fewer that have a better reward.  But this year, I just didn’t want to make all that pasta only to have it disappear a few hours later, nor did I want  to make the extra batches all by myself.  Plus, there’s no kitchen gadget my kids love more than the pasta roller. So I decided: It was about time the kids and Kory learned how to make pasta.

First, you clear the table and dump 2 1/4 cups “OO” type flour into a small hill at each work space.

Next: you make a pit in the center of your flour mountain, volcano style.  Crack 3 eggs into your crater.

(Even Finn could do this–mostly.)

With a fork, puncture the yolks, then scrambled the eggs.  Slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs.

When the dough begins to comes together, you drop the fork and begin to knead, incorporating flour bit by bit until the dough is no longer sticky. Eventually, it will be smooth and elastic and will spring back when you poke it.

It’s messy teaching kids how to knead, so I couldn’t take pictures. But you’ll trust me when I say we ended up with 4 beautiful batches of pasta.

3 batches were packed away, unrolled and uncut in ziplock bags and stored in the freezer for another day.

The last batch, we rolled into fettucine.  Actually, Ella and Finn rolled it,with some help, then cut it on their own. Teamwork. We don’t have it every day, nor did we even have it all day on New Years Day, but we had it in this moment.  This is one of my goals for this year: remembering that harmony, in small ways, matters.


by Caroline

I don’t use a lot of kitchen gadgets. I have a couple appliances which I use regularly — like the ancient rice cooker and my big stand mixer — but otherwise, when I need to chop things I get out a knife, and when I need to stir things, I get out a whisk. Most gadgets just seem to take up too much room in the drawer or be too finicky to clean easily. For a long time I even resisted buying a cherry pitter, but that five dollar purchase has more than paid for itself and the cherry pitter doesn’t get in my way the fifty weeks of the year I don’t use it.

I can’t remember now who gave us the salad dressing mixer and garlic chopper — whether it was Santa or my brother-in-law (who are not much different in my sons’ eyes) — but these two gadgets have been immediately, happily adopted by my sons. Ben just loves a gadget, and Eli thinks they make the kitchen more “modern.” I am happy that these two (small, easy to clean) devices have the boys back in the kitchen, experimenting with various combinations of ingredients and inventing new dressings each day. Last night, Eli mashed raspberries into his vinaigrette (yes, I even bought terribly unseasonal berries to support his dressing habit; tomorrow we’ll try pomegranate juice). The only problem now is the boys’ competition to use the dressing mixer every day — and the volume of dressing they are producing. But these are not problems I’m going to complain about too much, yet. For now, I like having these young scientists back in the kitchen with me.

Quick Yeast Bread

by Caroline

We love bread. And while it is very easy, living in San Francisco, to buy a different kind of delicious bread every day, we love to make it, too. I learned by watching my mom make bread every week, and my kids are learning the same way. In fact, if I can send my children out into the world with one lesson learned in my kitchen, I’d like them to feel that producing homemade bread is not a tricky thing.

I think we’re off to a good start. Ben invented his own bread recipe (which is really not half bad) when he was five, and now we’ve added another easy bread recipe to the repertoire. “Quick” and “yeast” rarely come together in bread recipes, but they do in this new one from Heidi Swanson (which she adapted from another source; I do love how recipes travel).

The next time you’ve got a hankering for fresh bread, give this a try; it’s barely an hour from the idea till you’ve got a piece of warm bread in your hands.

1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115F; if it feels neutral — not too hot nor cold — on your wrist, it’s the right temp)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoons butter, to grease the pan

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Grease an 8-cup loaf pan with butter. Turn the dough into the pan, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F, with a rack in the middle. When the oven’s hot, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

Adapted from Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker.

Ella’s Grilled Salmon Back Sandwich

By Lisa

Salmon Backs are a seasonal favorite around here. If salmon is in season, we’re sure to eat this cut of the fish nearly once a week. It’s fast, flavorful, and really economical.  I can’t afford to keep my family in salmon filets or steaks, but I can afford to feed them piles of salmon backs: in tacos, “ceviche” flavored, lox style, etc.

Earlier this week I made some on the grill and we ate it in soft Middle Eastern flatbread with cream sauce, cabbage, and lime.  As usual, it was delicious. I had to stop myself at two, and Finn at a pile with his spoon. But we still had some leftover, which Ella called dibs on, but then I had not a tortilla in the house.  I offered her crackers, a range of breads, fresh sesame rolls. She chose the rolls and made this sandwich, which is basically taco fillings on a bun. Of course  you can use another cut of fish, but it wouldn’t be the same, because this is basically the fish equivalent of a sloppy joe:  piles of light, loose grilled fish, a creamy sauce, a squeeze of lime for flavor, a bit of cabbage for crunch.

I was happy to let Ella take control of her meal, and even happier that she gave the family another way to keep seasonal eating fresh.

Grilled Salmon Back Sandwich

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs Salmon backs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • two handfuls of cilantro, leaves and stems + chopped cilantro for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • Cream sauce:  equal parts mayonnaise, sour cream or plain greek yogurt, and cumin to taste
  • shredded cabbage
  • lime wedges
  • Sesame Buns
  1. Marinate salmon for a few hours in white wine, Meyer lemon juice, salt, a few handfuls of cilantro,  garlic
  2. Grill salmon on high heat for five minutes, until just cooked through.
  3. Let salmon cool, then flake meat off the bone
  4. Pile fish on fresh sesame buns and garnish with cream sauce, cabbage, and extra cilantro and lime  as desired