Looking to put some “spring” into your home cooking routine? We asked the head chef at a kids’ cooking school to share handy tips and a delicious recipe.
By Wendy Chou
Cooking for kids can feel like a thankless task. When kids reject new foods and haven’t got a clue how much effort went into prepping a meal, it’s easy to get frustrated. Now consider cooking with kids. Having your kid help in the kitchen can break down some of their prejudices and teach them to appreciate where real food comes from. ActivityHero talked with Chef Cindy Roberts of the popular Bay Area-based “La Toque De Cindy” cooking school to hear how an expert helps kids learn to cook.
Cooking is Fun… and Practical
Each of Roberts’ weekly summer camps showcases a different type of cooking: chocolate, world cuisine, and handmade pizzas and pastas are just some of the tempting offerings this year. She likes to emphasize the joy and creativity inherent in cooking. Cindy Roberts started cooking at the age of 3 and believes cooking can inspire as well as educate. “I focus on the “fun” aspect of cooking,” Roberts points out, “but it’s my sneaky way to teach them the health, cost and taste benefits of home cooking.”
Getting Kids to Try New Things
Roberts knows one way parents can broaden the palette of picky eaters: give them a say. “Have them taste test something… and suggest improvements,” advises Roberts. In her cooking classes, asking the kids to experiment directly with ingredients “gets even the most finicky eaters trying out what we made and giving it a second chance.” In other words, the more they know about how a dish is put together, the more they can keep an open mind, even about foods they weren’t keen on at the outset.
Amazed by Their Own Potential
When asked what the kids in her classes find most surprising about cooking, Roberts says that young chefs are completely “surprised at how easy it is to make some of the products they buy packaged at the grocery store,” including basics like chicken stock and mayonnaise. The homemade versions wind up being fresher and better-tasting. Empowerment and self-confidence: these two ingredients are welcome on any family menu.
Try It at Home
Here’s a savory spring-inspired recipe for you to try at home with your kids. The kid chefs at La Toque loved it (and ate their vegetables)!
Leek and Olive Tart
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Serves 6-8
- Adapted by Cindy Roberts from Field of Greens cookbook
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2/3 teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium sized leeks, white part only, cut in half then thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 small whole olives, pitted and chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- 3 or 4 eggs (use fewer if using jumbo eggs)
- 1 ½ cup half and half
- ½ teaspoon minced lemon zest (optional)
- 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, about 2/3 cup
- MAKE THE SHELL: Mix flour, salt, butter and shortening until mixture has the appearance of small peas.
- Add water a little at a time until dough holds together. Press into greased quiche pan (or pie pan).
- MAKE THE FILLING: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Saute the leeks for a few minutes until starting to wilt with ½ teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper. Add the garlic, cover and sweat for about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and sauté 2 minutes more.
- Mix leeks in a bowl with olives, thyme and parsley.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Beat the eggs with the half and half. Add ½ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and optional lemon zest.
- Spread the cheese over the bottom of the tart dough, followed by the leek mixture. Pour the cream mixture over. Bake for 40 minutes until set.
Chef Cindy’s Tip:
The amount of participation is easy to modify depending on age. “Kids as young as 4 could assemble. At age 8, kids could make the crust themselves. By age 10 they could make it all on their own!”
Ready to explore more cooking? Find cooking camps and classes near you by visiting ActivityHero.com.