Feeding the Family: Getting Children Involved in the Kitchen

Mother with kids in the kitchenWinter and cold weather have arrived in some parts of the country! Many families are looking for recipes to help warm up after playing in the snow or commuting on a cold day. Or perhaps families are staying indoors to avoid the wintery air and need to find something to do at home. We’ve compiled a few favorite recipes from La Leche League cookbooks that we hope you’ll try out, plus some suggestions for including your toddlers and older children. We encourage you to adjust the ingredients to suit the taste buds of your own family.

Many parents find that involving children in the cooking process can make trying new foods feel more exciting! Depending on their ages and abilities, many children love to have a job in the kitchen. Consider if your children can help you wash veggies, mix ingredients, or even start to practice knife skills with close supervision.

These next two slow cooker meals may be just the right place to start for your winter meals. Mixing, combining, rinsing, and sprinkling are all things that little ones can do with some help from you!

Slow Cooker Chuck Roast with Carrots, Tomatoes, and Potatoes from Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family p. 177 – serves 6

  • 6 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 2 ½ pound beef chuck roast

Combine the carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, thyme, bay leaf, corn starch, and a pinch of salt and pepper in the bowl of a slow cooker. Toss until evenly coated, then spread in an even layer. Pour the tomatoes over.

Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chuck roast. Place on top of the vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5 hours. It is done when the meat is fork tender and the vegetables are fork tender.

Transfer the roast to a cutting board and cut into slices across the grain. Serve with the vegetables and pan juices.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili from Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family p. 136 – serves 4

  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed, and drained
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Combine the tomatoes and 2 cups water in a slow cooker.

Stir in the beans, carrots, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 6 hours. It is done when the beans and vegetables are tender.

Serve with the cheese, sour cream, and cilantro.

Another great way to stay busy this winter with children in the kitchen is with baking! Little ones can help by lining muffin tins with paper liners, greasing a pan, whisking, sifting, pouring, and of course taste testing when fresh baked goods come out of the oven.

Apple Bran Muffins from Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family p. 146 – makes 1 dozen

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup wheat bran
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup finely diced Granny Smith apples
  • ½ cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the oil, applesauce, and eggs in a large bowl until well blended. Add the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Fold in the apple and raisins.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Carrot-Zucchini Bread from Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family p. 239 – makes 1 loaf

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan.

Sift together the flours, baking powder, allspice, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until well blended. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the carrots, zucchini, zest, and nuts. Transfer to the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Unmold and let cool completely on the wire rack.

What recipes does your family enjoy this time of year to help stay warm? How do you let your children help in the kitchen? Did you try any of these recipes we’ve featured? We’d love to hear about it! Send your favorite recipes, breastfeeding stories, and story ideas to Kylie at [email protected]

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