Our kitchen has become the "hub" of our home. When it's time to cook, we're all hanging in there - even the pets who are hoping for food to dropped. ;) I don't have the arguments other parents sometimes have at mealtime because my daughter is involved in the process. She "helps out" with menu planning, and I give her a choice between adding one dish or another. When it's time to create the meals, she's in the kitchen helping. She helps me "shop" our pantry and food storage, so she's learning ingredients to add to the dishes. By keeping certain ingredients on certain shelves, even though her reading skills are still extremely limited, she can help pick out those ingredients by herself.
She also has her own things to use in the kitchen, such as her own aprons, and smaller utensils. I get help with mixing ingredients in. By preparing a few things ahead of time at the beginning of the week - such as chopping vegetables, or cooking meat ahead - I am able to have my daughter more involved in the finished product and not worry that I can't watch her enough because I'm busy on the stove. One recommendation I have is to purchase a study kid size table that can be easily cleaned if necessary - this way, you don't have to worry about younger children falling off the counter or off a stool. She can mix and prepare things at her own height, and it gives her confidence.
You have to make cooking fun - if you are having fun, kids will have fun. If kids are having fun in the kitchen, they are more likely to be adventurous and eat healthy! Did you know that studies show that when you begin preparing your meal with rice, you end up with a meal that's better for you? The great part about rice is that it's economical and versatile to add to so many dishes!
Uncle Ben’s is encouraging families to get in the kitchen to cook and eat together to connect, one meal at a time. Not only can you gain quality time together, you can win something great in the new contest, Ben’s Beginners. If you have children between the ages 5 to 12, submit a 2 to 3 minute video of you cooking a rice-based dish with your children. You could win $20,000, a $50,000 grant towards a cafeteria makeover for your child’s school, and a chance to appear on the Rachael Ray show! How cool would that be? For more information, and to enter, check out Uncle Ben's over on Facebook.
We use rice here on a regular basis because we love eating it. I buy small containers of the specialty rices like Jasmine and Brown rice, and then I purchase our white rice in bulk in 25 pound bags. I use it to make everything from the Honey Chicken & Pineapple you'll see on this week's menu, to adding it to soups and stews, to yes, even our homemade dog food. I purchased a small rice cooker several years ago for under $20 that has made cooking rice so much easier. (I'm not fond of appliances and gadgets, but this one is almost as important to me as my slow cooker! lol I highly recommend investing in one if your budget allows it!) I can purchase fresh veggies and meat on sale, add in a bit of sauce, and we have an easy meal that our whole family enjoys.
To make eating rice even more fun for your kids, check out your local Asian grocery store. I found some adorable chopsticks at ours with Hello Kitty and Buzz Lightyear on them! It might take kids a few times to get the hang of using them, but once they do, I bet they'll super excited for when you make rice!
I hope my post inspires you to bring your family into this kitchen tonight and try making a new dish together. If you decide to enter Ben’s Beginners contest, good luck! Let us know in the comments!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.