Grammy Can I help cook

Teaching children basic cooking skills by using simple recipes that demonstrate safe procedures and tools. Teaching children nutrition by using USDA's MyPlate model to identify recipe food group(s), and individual portion size.


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Preschooler and Grammy Prepare a Simple Cheese Quesadilla and Learn to Use a Box Grater

My 5-year old granddaughter and I had the opportunity to spend some time together this past Monday. This gave us a chance to whip up a simple cheese quesadilla for breakfast and learn a new skill: grating cheese using a Oxo Good Grips box grater. This grater has a non-slip grip and bottom ring. I’d prefer a smaller grater, but this one has many child-friendly advantages. Sure – you can buy shredded cheese, but this is a useful skill on the learning curve towards culinary expertise. We had fun. Our time together also included: watercolor painting, and hunting for empty snail shells, as Nicole rode her new Razor scooter.

Nicky’s Cheese Quesadilla– 2 servings

2 – 6″ flour tortillas ( you can also use whole wheat tortillas)

1/4 cup grated Reduced Fat cheddar cheese (or 1/4 cup packaged shredded Reduced Fat cheddar cheese)

olive oil pan spray

Directions:

1. Grate cheddar cheese

2. Place one tortilla on plate; sprinkle grated cheese on this tortilla; top with second tortilla

3. Ask Grammy to: spray non-stick skillet or electric skillet with olive oil pan spray; heat pan on medium high heat

4. Ask Grammy to: place quesadilla in the skillet; cook until bottom tortilla is browned, about 2 minutes; using a silicone pancake turner flip quesadilla, and cook until second tortilla is browned, about 2 minutes

5. Ask Grammy to: remove the browned tortilla to a cutting board using the pancake turner; cut quesadilla into 4 triangles using a pizza cutter

6. Place 2 triangles on your plate (or 1/2 of the quesadilla)

Pan Set Up

Pan Set Up

Ingredients

Ingredients

Grating Cheese

Grating Cheese

Grating Cheese

Grating Cheese

Nicky Sprinkles Grated Cheese on Tortilla

Nicky Sprinkles Grated Cheese on Tortilla

Grammy Browns and Flips Quesadilla - Nicky Helps

Grammy Browns and Flips Quesadilla – Nicky Helps

Grammy Cutting Quesadilla - Nicky Helps

Grammy Cutting Quesadilla – Nicky Helps

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

Fruit = 1 cup mixed fresh fruit (NIcky saved 1/2 cup of her breakfast fruit for a mid-morning snack)
Grains = 6″ flour tortilla = 1 ounce (Nicky had 1/2 of the quesadilla)
Dairy = 1/8 cup Reduced Fat shredded cheddar cheese = 1/2 cup (Nicky had 1/2 of the quesadilla)
+ 1 cup low-fat milk
Protein = 1 hard-boiled egg = 1 ounce

7. Ask Grammy to: go to Food-A-Pedia to check on the Empty Calories in 1 cheese quesadilla: (remember Nicky had only 1/2 of the quesadilla)

1 cheese quesadilla:

Counts as: 2 ounces Grains + 1 cup Dairy            + 78 Empty Calories                   = 267 Total Calories

The Empty Calories come from solid fats in the tortilla and Reduced Fat cheddar cheese. Nicole’s 1400 calorie Daily Food Plan  includes a limit of 120 Empty Calories, or calories from food components such as added sugars and solid fats, that provide little nutritional value. One half of this cheese quesadilla = 39 Empty Calories towards this limit.

Example:

Tortilla, flour (wheat)
Choose an amount:
2 tortilla (6″ across)
    Food Info
            Nutrient Info
Total Calories: 187

Food Groups
Limits
Grains 2 oz.
Empty Calories* 34
Solid Fats 34 Calories
Added Sugars 0 Calories
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium** 382 mg
Cheddar cheese, reduced fat
Choose an amount:

 ¼ cup, shredded
    Food Info
           Nutrient Info
Total Calories: 80

Food Groups
Limits
Dairy 1 cup(s)
Empty Calories* 42
Solid Fats 42 Calories
Added Sugars 0 Calories
Saturated Fat 3 g
Sodium** 205 mg
“Grammy Post-It Note:” The following Sunday was Mother’s Day. We met up with Nicky and her parents for brunch, a walk on the beach, and a dip in our pool. Nicky picked me a bouquet of flowers from her own garden. It was a lovely day.
“Grammy Post-It Note:” Recently Nicole had her school checkup in preparation for starting kindergarten in September. She weighed 42 pounds and was 43 inches tall. We looked at photos of baby Nicole, and remembered together how tiny she used to be.

Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills

Skill Age Safe Tool Safe Work-around   Tool* Date Skill:
Grating cheese 4 and up Cuisinox
cheese grater
5/6/13
Browning quesadilla
Flipping
4 and up
Grammy demonstrate
and Nicky helps
spatula electric skillet with a
cool-touch handle
(I used a non-stick   skillet on stove top; Nicky watched)
5/6/13
MyPlate presentation 4 and up child’s plastic dinner plate 5/6/13

* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stove top unsupervised until age 10-13 years old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)

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Preschooler Makes Carrot Cupcakes With Grammy Using a babycakes® Cupcake Maker…..”cupcake maker $29.99, cupcake maker cookbook $15.99, the look on Nicole’s face… priceless.”

My 5-year-old granddaughter Nicole and I made carrot cupcakes using my new babycakes® cupcake maker. This cupcake maker produces 1-2 bite cupcakes. One small cupcake counts as 1/2 ounce of Grains, and contains 94 Total Calories. Nicole’s 1400 calorie Daily Food Plan  includes 5 ounces of Grains.

Nicole’s 1400 calories Daily Food Plan includes a limit of 120 Empty Calories, or calories from food components such as added sugars and solid fats, that provide little nutritional value. Empty Calories are part of Total Calories. Most of the time Nicole’s Empty Calories are tucked away in the nutrient rich foods that she enjoys from the five Food Groups, but they still add up quickly. For example 1 regular slice of whole wheat bread contains 13 Empty Calories. One small cupcake contains 48 Empty Calories. If you want to look up or compare Food Groups and/or Limits of your favorite foods you can do this by using Food-A-Pedia, a MyPlate SuperTracker tool as below:

Cupcake, not chocolate, with icing or filling (Twinkies, Tastykake Krimpets, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, Hostess Snowballs)
Choose an amount:
1 small cupcake
Total Calories: 94

Food Groups
Limits
Grains ½ oz.
Empty Calories* 48
Solid Fats 11 Calories
Added Sugars 37 Calories
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium** 100 mg

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

1 small carrot cupcake with cream cheese icing =

 1/2 ounce Grains
(94 Total Calories which includes 48 Empty Calories)

Nicole Enjoys Her Cupcake Snack

Nicole Enjoys Her Cupcake Snack
Bread, 100% whole wheat
Choose an amount:
1 regular slice
Total Calories: 69

Food Groups
Limits
Grains 1 oz.
Empty Calories* 13
Solid Fats 7 Calories
Added Sugars 6 Calories
Saturated Fat 0 g
Sodium** 132 mg
The cookbook that accompanies the cupcake maker has many recipes for cupcakes and icing. I also purchased a larger cookbook with 175 collection of best recipes. There are endless possibilities for decorative creativity with colors and flavors for: cake, icing, and topping.

Nicole and I prepared and iced carrot and vanilla cupcakes. She gained experience with the basic skills of: measuring, sifting or whisking dry ingredients, stirring dry into liquid ingredients, filling the cupcake liners on the counter, and using a piping bag to decorate with icing. The cupcake maker does get hot, like a waffle iron. It does work-around the oven, but it still bears caution with the heat hazard. I had Nicky pre-fill the babycakes® cupcake liners on the counter, and then I lifted the filled liners into the cupcake maker. These small cupcakes bake in 6 to 8 minutes. The cupcake maker does not need to be preheated, but once it is hot you can bake batch after batch of cupcakes in succession. Going fast keeps pace with the preschooler’s attention span – mine too! I removed the baked cupcakes to the cooling rack.

Grammy’s Carrot Cupcakes* – 20 small (22 g) cupcakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour – measure by spooning the flour from the canister or flour sack into a dry ingredient measuring cup, and level off with a dull table knife or straight edge spatula.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour — measure by spooning the flour from the canister or flour sack into a dry ingredient measuring cup, and level off with a dull table knife or straight edge spatula.

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

_______________________________________

1 1/4 cups shredded carrots (about 3 medium)

1/2 cup chopped pecans (can buy chopped)

_______________________________________

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Sift together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt onto waxed paper. (or you can also whisk these dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.)

2. Ask Grammy to: pour the sifted ingredients into a medium bowl, using the wax paper as a funnel.

3. Ask Grammy to: shred carrots using medium shredding disc Cuisinart DLC- 837 (or fine shredding disc DLC-8). The DLC-837 disc comes with the Cuisinart food processor. (or shred by hand using a grater). The convenient bags of pre-shredded carrots, that are sold in Grammy’s supermarket, are too coarse a shred for this recipe

4. Stir in carrots and pecans, tossing lightly to coat. Set aside.

5. Ask Grammy to: beat sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla for 1 minute or until light-colored, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed.

6. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until blended.

7. Place 6 cupcake liners on the counter.

8. Ask Grammy to show you how to: fill each liner with 1 1/2 tablespoons batter, using a leveled medium cookie scoop. Now you do it!

9. Ask Grammy to: transfer the 6 filled liners to the hot cupcake maker; bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; use the fork tool to transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

*(The original cupcake recipe appears in the 175 best babycakes® cupcake maker recipes  pg 33. I modified this recipe by using: 1/2 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. I also had Nicky practice sifting the dry ingredients, although the cookbook authors say this isn’t necessary; I didn’t toast the pecans.)

Ingredients

Ingredients

babycakes®

babycakes®

Nicky Safely Peels a Carrot

Nicky Safely Peels a Carrot

Shredding Carrots

Shredding Carrots

Shredded Carrots

Shredded Carrots

Set Up Dry Ingredients

Set Up Dry Ingredients

NIcky Measures Flour

Nicky Measures Flour

Nicky Whisking Dry Ingredients

Nicky Whisking Dry Ingredients

Fill Cupcake Liners on Counter

Fill Cupcake Liners on Counter

Nicole Filling Liners

Nicole Filling Liners

Cooling Rack

Cooling Rack

Grammy’s Light Cream Cheese Icing (you can’t pipe this icing)

6 ounces Reduced Fat cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons honey

Reduced Fat Cream Cheese

Reduced Fat Cream Cheese

1. Ask Grammy to: beat cream cheese, in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth. Add honey; beat 1 minute more.

2. Ask Grammy to show you how to: spread this icing on cupcakes with a small straight spatula. Now you do it!

Grammy’s Cream Cheese Icing (pipes like a dream)

1 (8 ounce) package regular cream cheese, at room temperature (Do not use Reduced Fat)

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Ask Grammy to: beat cream cheese and butter for one minute or until light and creamy, in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed.

2. Ask Grammy to: gradually beat in confectioner’s (powdered) sugar until blended.; beat in vanilla.

3. Ask Grammy to show you how to: ice the cupcakes either by spreading on with a small straight spatula or using a piping bag. Now you do it!

Nicole Piping

Nicole Piping

Finished Piped Cupcakes

Finished Piped Cupcakes

“Grammy Post-It Note:” MyPlate is now on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MyPlate

“Grammy Post-It Note:” MyPlate is now on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/myplaterecipes/

“Grammy Post-It Note:” since we started all this bonding over cooking skills Nicky and I are closer, more cuddly. It was subtle at first, and then I began to realize that all this togetherness and cooking is reaping cuddle benefits, and so much happiness. Of course, we still do Disney puzzles, go to the library, swim in the “hot” pool, and play Old Maid, UNO or Hide & Seek together.

“Grammy Post-It Note:” I like to work-in practice sessions whenever we have some free time, even if we don’t actually prepare a full recipe. Examples: measuring dry ingredients or peeling carrots – less TV more cooking skills practice, as long as Nicky agrees.

“Grammy Post-It Note:” I was surprised at how easily Nicole used the piping bag. I demonstrated once and she was able to apply enough “squeeze” pressure to complete the turns. The finished product looks at least as professional as store-bought cupcakes.

Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills

Skill Age Safe Tool Safe Work-around Tool* Date Skill:
Peel carrots 4 and up safe vegetable peeler 3/2/13
3/15/13
Measuring dry: flour,   baking powder, soda, salt 4 and up dry measuring cup,   measuring spoons 2/16/13
3/15/13
Sifting or whisking dry ingredients together 4 and up sifter and wax paper, or whisk, bowl 4/12/13
Stirring: dry into liquid 4 and up wooden spoon, bowl 3/15/13
4/12/13
Fill cupcake liners   on counter 4 and up
Grammy demonstrate and then Nicky
cupcake liners, medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) 4/12/13
Icing with spatula 4 and up
Grammy demonstrate
small straight spatula
Icing with piping bag 4 and up
Grammy demonstrate and then Nicky
piping bag, tips 4/12/13
MyPlate presentation 4 and up child’s plastic dinner plate 3/15/13

* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stovetop unsupervised until age 10-13 years old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)

USDA Selected Messages for Consumers:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.


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Preschooler Helps Grammy Shop for Drawer Organizer and Spice Rack – also Humpty Dumpty Tool Allows Preschooler to Safely Cook Eggs

I went on a shopping trip to The Container Store with my 5-year-old granddaughter Nicky. Nicky is one of those people who was born with sorting and organization skills. Nicky commented, “The last time we were here we got that box for my shells.” I said, “That’s true.” Last summer we purchased a 24-compartment plastic box, to organize her growing shell collection. Sorting and organizing her shells was fun for Nicky; she took a long thoughtful time to do this. She’s the kind of kid that cleans her room during nap time; she stores things in order under her bed. She has “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I couldn’t have a better partner to help me organize my kitchen. Nicky has always had her “special drawer”, another lower kitchen drawer. I’ve always placed special surprises in there for her like: margarine tubs, big calculators, non-skid pads, “safe” giveaways from meetings like stress reliever squeeze balls, laminated baby photos of Nicky with her family, and tiny toys. We’ll turn this “special drawer” into convenient storage for Nicky’s child-size safe cooking tools.

Despite the temptation to fill the cart with so many extra items I successfully stuck to my simple list: drawer organizer and spice rack. It would be so easy to go crazy in either The Container Store or Bed Bath & Beyond; the very thought that my kitchen could look put away, and clutter free is reason enough to indulge beyond my budget. When I really think about it I feel that a “garage-cupboard” for my small appliances would accomplish the same goal. Currently I’m accumulating more small appliances as I purchase safe work-around  tools to use with Nicky like the: Egg Central, electric skillet, rice cooker, and my growing collection of crock-pots.

Nicky pushed the cart; I prefer this to her habit of hitching a ride on the side of the cart. She did a very good job of navigating the aisles, safely avoiding other customers. I’m really glad that they don’t have Cozy Coop carts at The Container Store. Trying to navigate a supermarket Cozy Coop cart is like driving a semi. We selected two items:  a Expand-a-Drawer Cutlery Tray (for Nicky’s drawer) and a  24- SpiceStack (for my nightmare of a spice cabinet). As we approached the check out we both simultaneously saw it – a little purple transparent plastic piggy bank. Last summer I told Nicky, “I will remember how much you admire it, and add it to your Christmas or birthday wish list.” Well I had forgotten. Since her 5th birthday was coming up very soon I told her we could buy it;  Nicky has never begged for anything. I’m just saying. The cashier gave her the bag with the piggy at check out. Needless to say she skipped to the car.

Nicky's Drawer Before

Nicky’s Drawer Before

Upon arriving home I emptied her drawer, and put all the baby toys in a bankers box. I wiped out the drawer, and installed the Expand-a-Drawer Cutlery Tray in seconds. It fit perfectly. Meantime Nicky was loading her new piggy bank with plastic toy rings and other small trinkets. I offered pennies, but she turned down the offer. She said, “Grammy, this piggy bank isn’t for pennies.” Together we placed all the new child-size safe tools, purchased on our Bed Bath and Beyond trip, into her drawer. Nicky cut off the tags with her child-size safe scissors. I put an old-fashioned egg beater in there also. I found this egg beater in one of my drawers. Nicky said, “What is this?” She was fascinated with it, and started whirling the beaters. To tell you the truth I probably haven’t used it in at least 20 years! I thought, “Does anyone use an egg beater these days?” This is truly “her grandmother’s” egg beater!

Nicky's Drawer After

Nicky’s Drawer After

Nicky's Cabinet

Nicky’s Cabinet

We placed some larger items, like the bowl, colander, and two sifters in the adjoining roll-out cabinet.

Spice Cabinet Before

Spice Cabinet Before

During Nicky’s next visit we worked on the SpiceStack. You have no idea how good it felt to remove all the spices from the messy cabinet. I was always searching for a spice every time I started preparing a new recipe. Most times I’ve had to remove at least half of them in order to find the one-two the I need.

Spices On The Dining Table

Spices On The Dining Table

Dates of Purchase

Dates of Purchase

I piled all the spices on the dining room table. I decided not to affix the pre-printed labels to the drawers of the SpiceStack, because I may purchase additional spices at later dates. I helped Nicky alphabetize the spices, and insert into the new rack. This went well as we grouped all the Bs, Cs, and so on, but even I got confused as I tried to explain that we needed to alphabetize  the second letters as well, example: Black Pepper, Basil, Bay Leaves and so on.  Nicky commented, “But Grammy I have all the Bs (and C’s…) together?” I replied, “Yes, yes, you do.” As I wiped out the spice cabinet she loaded the SpiceStack and closed the drawers. She announced, “All done.” It was fine.

Nicky Alphabetizing Spices

Nicky Alphabetizing Spices

Spice Rack After

Spice Rack After

I placed the new SpiceStack inside the cabinet, and we finally had an organized system for viewing spices. From now on, every time I buy a new or replacement spice, I’ll write the date in permanent marker on the container.

Nicky Pours the Water

Nicky Pours the Water

Nicky Loads the Eggs

Nicky Loads the Eggs

The same day we prepared hard-cooked eggs using Humpty Dumpty or Egg Central. I swear it t looks exactly like Humpty Dumpty. We purchased this safe work-around tool during our trip to Bed Bath and Beyond. Previously I had taught Nicky how to use it, and this was her second time using it. I was so impressed with her retention. She stood up on her stool, poured the pre-measured distilled water from the beaker into the base; loaded the eggs into the rack. I pricked the top of each egg with the  spike on the beaker bottom. This is actually a job that Nicky can do from now on. She felt the spike, and I allowed her to prick several eggs. She did them perfectly with one swift punch – making a tiny pinhole in each egg. She placed the cover on Humpty Dumpty and turned the switch to On.

When the hard-cooked eggs were done, as signaled by the beep, I removed the hot tray of cooked eggs and dipped them into ice water waiting in the sink. The eggs were perfect!

Nicky Peels Egg

Nicky Peels Egg

These Humpty Dumpty eggs peel like a dream. Now she can prepare hard-cooked eggs all by herself without hurting herself.

The next day Nicky helped me doing other simple tasks. We prepped a healthy lunch together. After a simple demonstration she handled the vegetable peeler safely. She always washes her hands and puts on her apron.

Nicky Washes Tomatoes

Nicky Washes Tomatoes

Nicky Safely Peels a Carrot

Nicky Safely Peels a Carrot

Nicky Loves Carrots

Nicky Loves Carrots

Nicky Safely Peels Cucumber

Nicky Safely Peels Cucumber

Remember, "I'm five."

Remember, “I’m five.”

I must remember that Nicky just turned five this week. She took all her child-size tools out of her drawer and set them up with her stuffed animals. Each pet had a nice food bowl, and she had a lot of fun playing with the tools (that doubled as toys especially my “old-fashioned” Grammy eggbeater)

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

Fruit = 1/2 c fresh strawberries
Vegetable = 1/2 cup grape tomatoes + sliced cucumber   (+ 2 BIG carrots that Nicky peeled – bonus snacks)
Grains = 3 whole grain crackers = 1/2 ounce
Protein = 2 oz Lean deli-turkey (6 thin slices) + 1 Tablespoon peanut butter = 1 ounce
Dairy = 1 c low-fat milk  + 1 stick (21 g) natural Light string cheese = 1/2 cup milk

Grammy Post-It Note: the Kambrook Skillet Frypan 9.5 inch Round Model Number KFT, with the single long handle, as used by little Caspar in Kids In The Kitchen, is only available in Australia. I haven’t given up trying to find a similar model in the US, but most I’ve seen in-store and on-line have two small side handles. Please comment. Thanks.

Grammy Post-It Note: At five-years-old Nicky can alphabetize using the first letter of each word. I must remember that Nicky is only five-years-old. It’s okay for her to take all her child-size safe tools out of her drawer and use them as toys. During her visits we also took trips to the park, library, “hot” pool, and ran errands. We can’t stay in the kitchen all the time.

Grammy Post-It Note: Nicky has excellent retention. She prepared the hard-cooked eggs perfectly the second time. Nicky jumped to it when I said, “Grammy can use some help in the kitchen. Can you peel these carrots…. (or wash these tomatoes).” She likes to help and be praised for her efforts.

Grammy Post-It Note: Nicky eats what she prepares. After she peeled and ate the BIG carrot as a snack in the morning, she asked me if she could peel another in the afternoon. She also ate that one. Previously I’ve given her peeled baby carrots from a bag in the refrigerator.

Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills

Skill Age Safe Tool Safe Work-around Tool* Date Skill:
Hard cook eggs 4 and up Cuisinart Egg Central 2/15/13 – demonstrate
3/1/13 – by herself
Alphabetize spices 4 and up SpiceStack 3/1/13
Peel carrots 4 and up safe vegetable peeler 3/2/13
Peel cucumber 4 and up safe vegetable peeler 3/2/13
Wash tomatoes 4 and up stool, small colander 3/2/13
MyPlate presentation 4 and up child’s plastic dinner plate 3/2/13

* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stove top unsupervised until age 10-13 years old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)

Nicky won’t be back at my house for two weeks. I have a lot planned: skills and recipes.


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Nicky’s Healthy Taco Filling: preschooler combines her cooking skills and the electric skillet (cooking with heat). Well almost

Nicky, my almost 5-year-old granddaughter, came over last weekend. Saturday we prepared a simple taco dinner for Grammy, Grampy, Mommy and Daddy. She’s always very excited when her parents come to pick her up. She hides and tries to fool them. At the end of each visit, before they arrive, I gather her toys, clothes, shoes, socks, and you name it from the living room floor. She always asks, “Am I going home?” and I always tell her, “Yes, you’re going home today, but not until after lunch”, or “after we get back from the pool.” We planned her dinner to coincide with Saturday’s pick up time. She was able to showcase her new cooking skills, and receive praise in return. We decided to prepare the taco filling in the morning and re-heat it in the microwave later.

Washing Hands

Washing Hands

Drying Hands

Drying Hands

Nicky’s Healthy Beef Taco Filling– 4-6 servings

1 pound Lean ground beef  (93-95% lean)

1 large onion, peeled, chopped

2 bell peppers (green, red, yellow, or orange), chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon paprika

* You can use 3 cloves peeled, minced garlic, but the garlic press can be hard for little hands to press

Directions:

1. Please wash your hands

2. Ask Grammy to show you how to: peel, quarter, and chop the onion using the “safe” vegetable chopper. Be sure to quarter the onion before putting it in the vegetable chopper. Grammy will help you to push down hard until you hear the click.

3. Ask Grammy to show you how to: quarter, and chop the bell peppers using the “safe” vegetable chopper. Be sure to put the shiny skin side up in the vegetable chopper. Grammy will help you to push down hard until you hear the click.

4. Ask Grammy to show you how to: set the non-stick electric skillet on Medium heat (350 degrees). It shouldn’t be necessary to spray the non-stick pan with cooking spray. Put the ground beef in the skillet. Hold one of the cool-touch skillet handles with one hand. Using a wooden or silicone spoon, stir with the other hand until beef is broken in small pieces. Continue to cook, stirring, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. You can turn off skillet, but don’t wash it yet.

2. Ask Grammy to: set a strainer over a mixing bowl. Spoon the meat into the strainer. The liquid will drain into the bowl. Lean ground beef will have little, if any, fat, but DON’T pour the liquid down the drain. Put it in a container and throw it away. Set the strainer containing the meat aside.

3. Ask Grammy to show you how to: (if you turned off the skillet) set the same electric skillet to Medium heat (350 degrees). Add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Cook until crisp tender, stirring for about 3-5 minutes.

4. Add 1 cup water; cook until the water has evaporated and vegetables are softened, another 3-5 minutes.

5. Add garlic powder, tomato paste, salt, chili powder, cumin, and paprika; stir. Buying tomato paste  in a tube, like toothpaste, is such a good idea – no waste. This amount of chili powder, and other seasonings should be mild enough for kid’s taste buds.

6. Add back the cooked ground beef from the strainer; stir.

5. Ask Grammy to show you how to: set the electric skillet to Warm.

6. Ask Grammy to: heat the taco shells. Whole wheat flour tortillas 6″ or corn taco shells 6″ are healthy and tasty. Traditional corn tortillas usually have a very short and simple ingredient list; they are traditionally made with only ground corn and water. Modern corn tortillas have the same basic ingredient list, but they can also contain preservatives. You may see lime on the ingredient list indicating that they likely were made in the traditional way. However, companies search for ways to bypass this method.

7. Fill small serving bowls with:

  • diced fresh tomatoes (ask Grammy to dice; you can watch)
  • shredded lettuce (ask Grammy to buy shredded)
  • Reduced Fat shredded cheese (ask Grammy to buy shredded)
  • Light sour cream
  • salsa or guacamole

8. Ask your family to build their own tacos with toppings. This is so much fun

Our family enjoyed this healthy taco filling and building our own tacos. I warmed Reduced Sodium canned pinto beans on the side. We also enjoyed a mixed fresh fruit salad.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Nicky's Healthy Taco Filling

Nicky’s Healthy Taco Filling

“Grammy Post-it Note”: we tried to do too much: to learn new skills, and use new safe child-size and work-around tools for the first time. This lesson would be better for a pre-schooler if divided in half; for example:

1. Learning to use the vegetable chopper, measure spices and water

2. Learning to use the electric skillet, stirring over heat

Chopping Onions the Safe Way

Chopping Onions the Safe Way

“Grammy Post-it Note”at first Nicky was apprehensive to cook with the heated electric skillet.  I didn’t push her, but began browning the ground beef. She eventually came over, climbed up on her stool, and tried it. I showed her how to hold the cool-touch handle with her left hand and stir with her right hand. Today I’m going to purchase a new electric skillet with one long cool-touch handle. I hope I can find one just like little Caspar’s in Kids In The Kitchen. I’m sure she was hesitant because of the heat. It’s no wonder, after all those little early scoldings, as tiny hands reached for something hot, “Hot, No, No hot, don’t touch.”  I was sure to ask my daughter if it was okay with her to allow Nicky to try cooking with the electric skillet set on Medium. There is no direct flame and the skillet is stable on a non-skid pad. I hope a new skillet with a long handle will help to ease her apprehension, but I’m not going to push it; helping out is just fine at this learning stage. I’ll re-introduce cooking with heat later on.

Hesitant to cook with heat

Hesitant to Cook with Heat

Nicky’s attention span was shorter than I anticipated. This is certainly natural for a child of her age. After we browned the ground beef, and while I was straining the liquid off, she jumped off her stool and set up a Disney puzzle. She called out, “Grammy, I’m going to need help with this, it’s a hard one.” I had trouble coaxing her back to the her skillet, but she  finally did climb back up to help cook the vegetables. Before we started this project I had to brush her hair and have her dress for the photos. No more Saturday ‘jama time – “Not.” As you can see she wore her ‘jamas in the photos.

She enjoyed measuring the spices using her new measuring spoons. We did this at the table. She doesn’t understand fractions yet, but she can read 1 and 4 (1/4) or 1 and 2 (1/2). She selected the correct measuring spoon each time after I pointed out the amount in the recipe. I found this wonderful  measuring tutorial Measuring Different Ingredients in Cooking. We followed the procedures in this tutorial to dip and level. We also used the vegetable chopper at the table vs the counter. We both had to push hard on the lid to chop the onion. Be sure that the onion is firm and quartered. Bell peppers chop like a dream in the vegetable chopper if they are quartered and shiny side up. For the water I marked the 1 cup level on a 2 cup clear plastic liquid measuring cup using a post-it.

All in all she did well, but the lesson was too long for the attention span of a preschooler. I feel that this lesson did help to ease, but not overcome, her apprehension of cooking with heat (under these limited safe conditions ) Well almost.

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate

Fruit = 1/2 c mixed fresh fruit
Vegetable = 1/4 cup Reduced Sodium canned pinto beans +
(shredded lettuce/diced tomato in taco topping + cooked onion and green pepper in taco filling)
Grains = 6″ corn taco shell = 1 ounce
Protein = 2 oz cooked Lean ground beef
Dairy = 1 c low-fat milk  + (Reduced Fat shredded cheese taco topping)

Some USDA Selected Messages for Consumers:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills

Skill Age Safe Tool Safe Work-around   Tool* Date Skill:
Measuring dry: spices 4 and up measuring spoons 2/16/13
Measuring liquids: water 4 and up clear plastic measuring cup 2/16/13
Chopping vegetables:
onions and bell peppers
4 and up Williams-Sonoma
vegetable chopper
2/16/13
Browning/stirring:   ground beef (Heat) 4 and up
Grammy demonstrate
and Nicky helps
wooden spoon electric skillet with a
cool-touch long handle
Cooking/stirring:
vegetables (Heat)
4 and up
Grammy demonstrate
and Nicky helps
wooden spoon electric skillet with a
cool-touch long handle
Draining juice from   ground beef Grammy demonstrate colander
small non-slip bowl with handle silicon spoon
Assemble taco:
tortilla (soft or hard)
ground beef
shredded:
lettuce
tomato
cheese
4 and up serving spoon
small tongs
2/16/13
MyPlate presentation 4 and up child’s plastic dinner plate 2/16/13

* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stovetop unsupervised until age 10-13 years old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)

I look forward to your comments. Thank you for sharing.

Some USDA Selected Messages for Consumers:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.


2 Comments

Preschooler Age Appropriate Cooking Skills Using Safe Tools: practice has many benefits

I want to establish a good foundation of age appropriate cooking skills that will be incorporated into the simple recipes. There are so many benefits to learning how to cook by practicing these basic skills, and progressing to the next level. First I did some Internet research on what are considered age appropriate cooking skills (jobs or activities). In general there is a consensus  as to what is a kid appropriate task at each age category. I have become so much more conscious of the other benefits to the child that learning to cook provides, ie the benefits beyond the motor skill. For example some social benefits are: boosting self-esteem, creating family time and bonding, and working together as a team, just to name a few.

Certainly all of the resources that I consulted agree we must protect our preschool children from using heat or sharps in the kitchen until they are older. Children don’t worry about being burned or cut from these hazards. The problem is that they’re sure they won’t hurt themselves because they’ve never hurt themselves. We must protect them, while progressing their skills to the next level. Another thing is that all my grandchildren always want to “do it myself”. I will try to demonstrate the correct way to perform a skill or task without taking over for them. After all we are building self-confidence and pride through practice. I came to the realization early on that this was my experience as I progressed through the curriculum at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA): mathematics, food safety, product knowledge, skill development, nutrition, and purchasing – just to name a few of the courses. We were provided with a basic tool kit to which we added unique tools as time went on.

I decided that for this Sunday I will get started with age appropriate cooking skills practice using safe tools. Simple recipes will be introduced as she accrues more skills. I can also assess which skills my 4-year-old granddaughter, Nicky, has already learned. For example: she already cracks eggs perfectly, no shells, without any instruction or demonstration. She spreads the appropriate amount of margarine on the toast, again with no instruction. This skill reminded me of pasting at Lakeshore on Saturday mornings.

Nicky and I are planning on going to Bed Bath and Beyond to collect some replacement tools for my worn out ones, and provide Nicky with her own basic  tool kit for her drawer (just like the Culinary Institute of America). I’m going to prepare a shopping list for a basic safe tool kit. We’ll also look for ideas to organize the kitchen cabinets.

In the meantime my mind will figure out some safe work-around tools for avoiding the safety hazards of heat and sharps. This will allow my preschooler to contribute to the entire family meal without getting hurt, for example: the crock-pot, or the rice cooker. I was trying to allow my preschool age grandchildren to prepare more than cookies. It seemed that as a young child I made more cookies than anything else. It wasn’t until I got older that my mom allowed me to prepare the protein/meat portion of the meal. I do remember that when the Connecticut summer day was very hot and muggy my mom would allow me to prepare a “cold” no-cook evening meal for the family. We would eat outside in the backyard on a picnic table. I would enjoy preparing tuna salad, hard-cooked eggs, fruit salad, and many other refreshing cool dinners that didn’t require the use of the stove. This past experience provided me with safe “no heat hazard” ideas for the preschool cook.

Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills

Skill Age Safe Tool Safe Work-around Tool* Date Skill:
Washing hands 2 and up stool, hand soap, towel 1/27/13
Washing strawberries 2 and up stool, colander 1/27/13
Spreading 4 and up small dull butter knife 1/27/13
Peeling a hard-cooked   egg 4 and up 1/27/13
Cracking an egg 4 and up small non-skip bowl   with handle 1/27/13
Whisking 4 and up small whisk 1/27/13
Flipping practice 4 and up spatula 1/27/13
Cutting an apple 4 and up apple cutter (sharp:   needs Grammy supervision) 1/27/13
MyPlate presentation 4 and up child’s plastic dinner plate 1/27/13

* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stovetop unsupervised until age 10-13
years  old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)

We set up her breakfast on her Dora the Explorer plate. She has been using this plate since she can remember. This visual presentation reinforces the USDA’s MyPlate food model. Nicky will be able to see the Food Groups displayed on her familiar plate. There are also MyPlate portion plates available. Nicky almost always has a mid-morning snack of at least 6 baby carrots. This completes the Vegetable section at breakfast, and fulfills one of USDA’s Selected Messages for Consumers Messages: “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”

Next time we will go shopping for Nicky’s basic Tool Kit (just like the Culinary Institute of America). I will prepare a shopping list for us. I want to replace my worn out tools, and purchase some organization tools as well like a spice rack.

I welcome your comments on your own experiences teaching your children or grandchildren to cook.

Basic Skills that Nicky practiced this past Sunday 1/27/13:

Washing Hands

Washing Hands

Washing Strawberries

Washing Strawberries

Spreading

Spreading

Peeling a Hard-cooked Egg

Peeling a Hard-cooked Egg

Cracking an Egg

Cracking an Egg

Whisking

Whisking

Flipping With a Spatula

Flipping With a Spatula

Cutting an Apple (with supervision)

Cutting an Apple (with supervision)

MyPlate

MyPlate

MyPlate Presentation

MyPlate Presentation

Nicole Ready to Cook

Nicole Ready to Cook
(her apron has been handed-down for 4 generations)