Let’s Talk Food: Cooking with children

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One of my passions is teaching children how to cook. I used to teach cooking after school at E.B. DeSilva Elementary School, at the summer school program at Hawaii Community College as well as cooking classes at our certified kitchen. I try to involve my grandson Quentin when I cook, whether it is a simple chore like cutting green beans, or cracking eggs for me. He helped to plant the beans, then even helped pick them, until his dad noticed that the plant got pulled out of the soil. Quentin used a butter knife to cut the green beans, careful to tuck his fingers under so he won’t cut them. When we cooked them, he ate them enthusiastically, knowing that he grew those beans.

Quentin was excited for me to make a green salad with dinner with the radish he planted and pulled out. Quentin even took the radish out of the refrigerator at breakfast to remind me that I needed to make a salad with the radish he picked.

You can treat cooking like a science and talk about chemical reactions, as Quentin’s father is good at.

Their recent experiment was mixing malic acid with eggshells, which is used to fertilize tomato plants. The carbon dioxide released due to a chemical reaction was captured in a balloon.

Both Quentin’s mom and I stress a balanced meal so he knows he has to eat his vegetables along with his fruit, carbohydrates and protein.

We really try to live the Hawaii 5-2-1-0 philosophy of 5 fruits, vegetables or roots a day, 2 hours or less of screen time, one hour of more of physical activity and play time and 0 sugary drinks a day.

Teaching them at a young age helps to create healthy eating habits throughout their lifetime, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research.

Quentin was on a milkshake kick for a week or so, putting fresh and frozen fruits in a blender, with adult supervision, adding milk and ice and whipping up some fruit milkshakes.

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Kids can help build a parfait made with yogurt, fruit and granola.

Blueberry and Maple-Pecan Granola Parfaits

Serves 4

2 cups vanilla fat-free yogurt

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup maple-pecan granola

Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt into each of 4 parfait glasses, top each serving with 1/4 cup blueberries. Top each serving with 1/4 cup maple-pecan granola, 1/4 cup yogurt, and 1/4 cup blueberries.

Maple-Pecan Granola

Makes 4 cups

2 cups regular oats

1/2 cup pecan pieces

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine oats and net 5 ingredients (through salt); spread on a large jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store In airtight container for up to one week.

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This peanut butter cookie would be fun for the kids to form, but it is sticky and needs clean hands.

Peanut Butter Jammies

Makes 3 dozen

1/3 cup all-purpose flour, about 1-1/2 ounces

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

6 tablespoons strawberry jam

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Place peanut butter, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Add flour; stir well. Shape dough into 36-one inch balls, place 1-inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or golden. Remove from pan, cool on wire racks. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon jam into the center of each cookie.

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If you have silicone candy molds, these easy gummies are something Quentin loves to make. He even made some for our neighbor Jim, who they see daily when they take their walks,

Fruit Juice Gummies

Makes 12-15, depending on how much gets spilled

1/2 cup fruit juice such as apple, black cherry, or cranberry

2 packages unflavored gelatin or 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons sugar

Mix all in a small pot, mix gently. Heat on low heat to dissolve sugar. Do not stir too vigorously or there will be bubbles.

Place in a squeeze bottle and let the kids fill the molds. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set, remove and unmold.

I like this recipe the best over the ones that call for using Jello. It has a cleaner flavor and is less sweet. I also like to use black cherry juice as it helps to promote overall health and wellness.

Black cherry juice seems to relieve pain caused by gout as well as improve sleep, cognitive function, and recovery from pain after strenuous exercise.

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There are guidelines for age appropriate jobs for children of different ages and you are the best judge of it. I have had Quentin clean raw eggs off the flour and counter, but now he is very good at cracking and stirring eggs without egg shells in the bowl.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.