The idea of giving a twelve year old a sharp knife, boiling oil, and a meat tenderizer in the name of teaching them how to cook is certainly a precarious one. However, handing down the traditions of food culture to your children is one of the most sacred gifts a parent can give, and getting them started early could pique their curiosity in a way that becomes more difficult once they discover the glorious distractions that come with adolescence.
These 3 recipes are easy enough to not require expert technique or understanding of how to develop flavors in any sort of sophisticated way. They are designed to teach your kids some important aspect of cooking so they can catch on quick and still be eager to learn more.
You might not be willing to hand your pre-teen a 13-inch butcher’s knife just yet, but you can plant the culinary seed that might someday grow into a beautiful flower.
1 | Cheese Arepas
1 cup pre-cooked cornmeal or corn arepa flour
1 cup warm water
⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, grated
2 tbsp vegetable oil to cook
Salt to taste
The cheesy Colombian staple is a great way to teach your kids about making a quick, easy dough. Not only that, but even the pickiest of eaters will have a hard time putting down this glorified quesadilla.
Simply combine the above ingredients in a bowl (minus the oil), mix thoroughly, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Then knead the dough for about 3 minutes being sure to keep your hands moist with water to prevent drying out.
Form 4 small balls, roll into disks and flatten with a heavy pot between two layers of wax paper. Fill a cast iron skillet with a small pool or vegetable oil and fry the arepas until lightly golden brown. For an extra kick of cheese, slice the dough open, fill with more shredded mozzarella, and cook in the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese melts.
2 | Albondigas
1 pound ground beef
½ yellow onion, diced
3 cups chicken stock/broth
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
This Mexican meatball soup is as simple as it is delicious. Cook the onion slightly in a bit of olive oil until translucent, then add to the ground beef with salt and cumin, mixing thoroughly. Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and set aside.
Heat up the broth in a stock pot and bring to a simmer. Carefully drop the meatballs in the hot liquid and cook for around 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the balls. Ladle into bowls and serve with a warm flour tortilla.
This recipe teaches kids about working with hot liquid and even how to dice an onion (if you’re brave enough to had over the knife, that is).
3 | Shredded Chicken Tacos
4 large chicken breasts
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 head of chopped romaine lettuce
Shredded monterey jack cheese
Your favorite hot sauce or salsa
Small corn tortillas
This recipe is all about the chicken, and will teach kids how to develop some basic flavors through slow-cooking. Put the chicken breasts in a crock pot or slow cooker and coat in the spice mixture above. Add salt and pepper to your preference. Slow cook the chicken for about 4 hours, adding water if it gets dry.
Pull the chicken out, shred it with two forks (the kids will love this part), then put the shredded chicken back in the pot to stew for another half hour or so.
Heat the tortillas in the oven for a few minutes, then pack full of chicken, lettuce, cheese, and salsa for a gourmet street taco your kids can be proud of.