One of the best gifts you can give your kids is confidence in the kitchen.
Story by Jenny Hoff, Photos by Jenny Hoff, Calum Lewis and Hannah Tasker
One of the best gifts you can give your kids is confidence in the kitchen. It will help them understand the importance of whole foods, allow them to make their own healthy snacks and prepare them for life outside of the home one day. Cooking together is a great way to bond while also being productive, letting you check one more item off your list: making food everyone in the family will enjoy eating.
I started cooking with my 4-year-old son when he was about 18 months. Whether it was helping me add ingredients to a bowl, rolling dough or even just licking the spoon, including him in the process, I felt, would make him more open to trying new foods and give him the satisfaction of contributing to a meal we would all enjoy. Years later, we are still cooking together almost every day, with his 1-year-old brother as our newest partner. Not every recipe is a hit, and we always leave a messy kitchen in our wake, but we love experimenting with new ingredients, new spices and new twists on old favorites.
Since we’re in Austin, I thought I’d share an easy starter recipe kids love to make and eat: tortillas. Unlike the bag of tortillas you buy at the grocery store, this recipe has only a few ingredients, all recognizable and pronounceable. What I love about tortillas is you can use them as a base for tons of recipes, and I’ve included two of my favorites: healthy black-bean burritos for dinner, and apple-and-nut-butter roll-ups for a satisfying snack.
The key to cooking with your kids is finding recipes that are both easy and fun to make. So, let’s get our kids in the kitchen, get our hands dirty and have fun making this essential favorite in Texas cooking.
3 cups unbleached flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup hot water
- Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and mix, slowly adding in the olive oil.
- Add hot water and start kneading the dough for a few minutes until it becomes a ball. (This is a favorite for kids.) Cover the bowl and set it aside for 30 minutes.
- Have your child divide the dough into 12 to 15 balls, depending on how big you want your tortillas.
- Roll each ball out into a circle on a floured surface. (Add some flour to each ball before rolling it out so the rolling pin doesn’t stick.)
- Cook each tortilla in an ungreased skillet on high heat. Flip them when brown blisters start to form on the cooked side. Repeat with all of the tortillas.
- Serve the tortillas warm, if possible. Store the leftovers in an airtight container.
Healthy Black-bean Burritos (Serves four)
4 large flour tortillas
1 can or pouch unsalted organic black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 container cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Heat the black beans in a small saucepan and add the Mexican seasoning and turmeric, as well as sea salt to taste.
- In a separate bowl, mash up the avocado with a fork (another fun activity for kids) and squeeze in the juice of a small lime. Add salt to taste.
- Spread the avocado mixture on a tortilla, add a spoonful of black beans and top with some freshly chopped tomatoes. Add cilantro, salsa or hot sauce to taste. Roll up and enjoy!
Apple-and-nut-butter roll-ups (Serves one)
1 flour tortilla
1 tablespoon nut butter of choice
1/2 teaspoon ground flaxseed (optional)
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
- Spread your favorite nut butter on one side of a tortilla. If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want to add some brain-boosting omega-3s to the snack, sprinkle on some ground flaxseed.
- Thinly slice half an apple and add the slices on top of the spread. Add a dash of high-quality ceylon cinnamon, which is so delicious that your kids will never know it’s one of the healthiest spices you can find.
- Roll up the tortilla and enjoy as a satisfying afternoon snack.
While these are tried-and-true recipes, don’t be afraid to experiment. If there is an ingredient your kids don’t want, try substituting it with something else. Unless you’re baking, there are few hard-and-fast rules when cooking. I love it when we try something new and it doesn’t work out because I’m teaching my sons it’s OK to make mistakes in the kitchen. Cooking shouldn’t be scary or stressful; it should be a fun and artistic experience. A good reminder: It’s just one meal. If something gets burnt or doesn’t turn out perfectly, the next meal is just a few hours away. Bon appétit!