This summer I set a goal to have each of my three daughters take responsibility for planning and preparing one dinner each. I remember doing that as a child myself, and rallying my brothers to join me. As I remember it, we each took turns making something from our battered and beloved copy of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children's Cookbook, but who knows, it could have been Betty Crocker. I'll have to check with my mom.
Anyway, my goals for involving my kids were to help them feel more confident in the kitchen and to experience (and hopefully enjoy) the process of putting a meal together for their family. I see too many adults who lack confidence and comfort with preparing meals so I want to do what I can now to help my kids gain skills they'll need later in life. Plus I really want them to enjoy food. My kids have helped me to varying degrees in the past in the kitchen, but this summer I wanted them to take on a little more responsibility. Each had her turn and I will describe what each one made in separate articles, starting today with my youngest, my 8 year old daughter.
Her first idea was to make mashed potatoes and fruit kabobs. While I am very open to non-meat meals, I wanted to help her create a more balanced menu including a protein. Also, I wanted her to be able to do most of the work herself and the draining of a pot of boiling potatoes was something I felt was beyond her ability. So I sent her back to our collection of cookbooks and she decided on Oven-Fried Fish, McCain's Smiley Fries, and fruit kabobs.
While preparing the fish, she also learned the lesson of improvising recipes using ingredients you have on hand. The recipe called for seasoned bread crumbs, which is typically a staple I have in my pantry, so I was surprised to find that I did not have them when it was time for her to cook. Instead, she substituted panko bread crumbs.
This is what she made, adapted from a recipe from The Everything Kids' Cookbook, 2nd Edition, by Sandra K. Nissenberg:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
1 pound tilapia fillets
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spay a large baking dish with cooking spray.
- Put the milk in a shallow bowl.
- Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in another flat dish.
- Dip the fish into the milk and then into the bread crumb mixture.
- Place the fish into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until fish is fully cooked (white and flaky).
For her fruit kabobs, she used some of her favorite fruits: watermelon, strawberries, and grapes. Fruit on a stick just always seems to be so much more appealing!
My daughter's take on the experience: "It feels so cool eating something that you know you made."