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Thursday, March 15, 2018 12:01 am

A kid’s place is in the kitchen

The kitchen is the perfect place to let children experience firsthand the relationship between choice and consequence.
Ashley Meyer


Research shows that cooking from scratch and regularly sharing family dinner improves both physical and mental health in many ways. But there is one benefit of cooking at home that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: eventually, your kids will cook for you and be better able to take care of themselves.

When her mom, Betsy, began her congressional primary campaign, then 18-year-old Kathryn Londrigan, aka Cookie, donned an apron and volunteered to make dinner. 

“I was really busy with the campaign, so I thought making dinner during the week would be a good way to help out. My mom is a really good cook and makes dinner most nights, but we’d been eating out a lot. I didn’t want family meals to just die, so I started making them myself. My mom had gotten a Blue Apron subscription for her birthday, so I started with that, and it was actually really helpful because I’d just broken my ankle and shopping was difficult. It also helped teach me how to put a dinner together and I learned about new ingredients, like bok choy.”

Although she’d not actually cooked much beyond some baking and basic dishes, she knew her way around a kitchen and had watched her mom cook over the years.

“I’m not a very good meal planner,” Betsy told me,  “and we’d stop at the grocery store on an almost daily basis and pick up whatever’s fresh for dinner. The kids would roll their eyes at me because every day on the way home from school I’d ask them what we should make for dinner.”

The meal service was eventually cancelled, and Cookie now grocery shops and comes up with meal ideas on her own. She told me that more teenagers are cooking than you realize.  “I’m always running into other kids at the store,” she told me.

As I talked with other friends who have kitchen-savvy children, a consistent theme began to emerge. When family meals are made a priority, and kids watch adults cook and clean as they go, they pick up on those skills and make them their own.

I was chatting with Kemia Sarraf, a friend and founder of the local nonprofit genHkids, when she told me about an evening recently when she and her husband had dinner plans. 

“My son Joseph was going to be babysitting his brothers,” she told me,  “and he asked if he could have a couple of friends over. When we left he was making tacos for everybody, and when we got home the littles were asleep and the kitchen was clean… well, not ‘mom clean’ but it was acceptable.”

Another friend, Becky Croteau, teaches biology at Lincoln Land Community College and is the mother of two extremely busy teenage kids. She told me how her son Renee converted his boy scout troop into asparagus lovers on a scouting trip, sautéing it over the fire with onions and soy sauce. Her son Ryan, busy with choir rehearsals, makes his own dinner several nights a week – a stir-fry or salad, depending on how much time he has. 

“Kids need practice making choices and experiencing consequences,” Becky told me. “If you wait until they’re teenagers to start giving them choices, the results can be really bad. The kitchen is the perfect place to let them experience firsthand the relationship between choice and consequence.”

Chicken Marbella a la Cookie

• 2 cloves of garlic
• 4-6 chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)
• 6 prunes
• 2 tablespoons of capers or olives
• A tablespoon of sherry vinegar
• ¼ cup of water
• 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoon oregano
• 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and line a cookie sheet with tin foil.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides and spread them out on the cookie. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat.

Bake for about 15-17 minutes.

Heat a pan to medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.

Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and add them to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they start to brown.

Quarter the prunes and add to the pan along with the capers, vinegar, water, sugar and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat a bit and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted.

Add the chicken to the pan (along with any liquid and oils from the cookie sheet) and continue stirring, flipping the chicken periodically or spooning the sauce over it. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon

• 1½ pounds of potatoes
• 2 lemons
• Olive oil
• Rosemary

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash the potatoes and thinly slice lengthwise. Toss in olive oil and spread out on cookie sheet in a single layer. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Juice the lemons and coat the potatoes when they finish baking.

Contact Ashley Meyer at ashley@realcuisine.net.


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