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


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



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





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.


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

Food Groups
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
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
Browning quesadilla
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)
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.)



Shopping with Grammy for Preschooler child-size safe cooking tool kit

My almost 5-year-old granddaughter Nicole and I decided it was time to clean out “her” drawer in the kitchen. For the last five years it has been filled with all kinds of fun things. Until this past year, she has looked forward to checking it out for new stuff on each visit to Grammy’s house. My plan was that we would fill it with child-size safe cooking tools. Nicky would have her own tool kit, just like I did at the Culinary Institute of America. She would keep all these tools in her drawer and an adjoining lower cabinet at my house. This was our plan: on Saturday my daughter would drop Nicky off in the afternoon, and we would go to Bed Bath and Beyond loaded with discount coupons. I would allow her to select items, but I will guide her towards appropriate safe choices. While we’re there I would begin updating my worn-out tools, and look around for some work-around safe tools to add to my small appliance collection. I have an electric Cuisinart Egg Central in mind. Work-around tools, like the Egg Central, avoid the hazards of heat and sharps, but still get the job done. Most work-around tools still need adult supervision. For example: removing the hot tray of cooked eggs from the Egg Central at the end of the cooking cycle.

First I made up my proposed shopping list divided in two sections: Nicky and Grammy. I checked out suggested tool lists from other resources on the Internet. A Montessori website actually markets child-size tools for: preparing food, baking, serving and clean up, and snack time. Another resource, Sassafras, markets a simple collection of kid’s kitchen tool kit. Another choice for child-size safe cooking tools is HeartSong. I wanted to include at least one cookbook to start off her collection. My first choice was, Kids In The Kitchen. This cookbook also has a suggested list for a starter tool kit. Both Nicky and I love the photos of little Caspar demonstrating the basic skills and cooking in an electric fry pan. Co-author mom, Kylie D’Alton, suggests a kid’s drawer just like Nicky’s, and a lower kitchen cabinet with shelves for easy access. These resources gave me ideas, but I wanted to create my own list. We will add to the tools as her skills progress, and we progress to simple recipes.

I decided that for this first shopping trip we would look for:

1. plastic measuring cups (for dry ingredients)

2. plastic measuring spoons

3. small silicone spatula (one piece)

4. non-slip plastic mixing bowl with a handle

5.  small wire whisk

6. “safe” vegetable peeler

7. 2 stainless steel sifters: 3 cup and 5 cup

I already have:

8. small and large colander

9. apple cutter

10. small turner/spatula

11. “safe” electric can opener

12. child’s  apron

13. small wooden spoon

14. small and large flexible plastic cutting board

15. egg beater

16. child-size spreader

17. dull butter knife

18. timer

As they say, “the best laid plans….” Although I was hoping to depart earlier for our shopping adventure Nicky didn’t arrive until 5:00 pm. Myself, Grampy and Nicky immediately went to Bed Bath and Beyond.

At Bed Bath and Beyond all the small kitchen utensils are hung on the walls in one corner of the store. I allowed Nicky to choose the colors and designs that she liked. She loaded them into our cart. You could go crazy in there, but despite temptation, I tried to stick to the list. The sales staff is so helpful; it took about an hour. We found the work-around tool the Cuisinart Egg Central as well. Be sure to bring along your Bed Bath and Beyond discounts. They even allow expired coupons. Since I’m looking forward to kitchen organization I suggest purchasing a drawer organizer and spice rack as well. This will be a future shopping trip.

Needless to say besides the benefits of learning more about safe tools Nicky, Grampy and I shared some quality bonding time. We laughed a lot. She also learned to be patient and accept a change in plans for the family goals.

Nicky Shopping

Nicky Shopping

Ready to Sift

Ready to Sift

Just the Perfect Colors

Just the Perfect Colors

For Peeling Carrots

For Peeling Carrots

My Whisk - just my size

My Whisk – just my size

We're Done

We’re Done

Drawer Before

Drawer Before

Our Purchases

Our Purchases