My son loves to be in the kitchen.
Maybe it's because when he was a toddler I would sit him in his high chair and explain what I was doing as I cooked dinner. Maybe it's because we watch a lot of Food Network, Top Chef, and MasterChef. Maybe he was just born with an interest in food.
Whatever the reason, the older he's gotten the more his interest has grown, and the more he's demanded a role in making our meals. This came to a head over the summer when he saw an episode of Master Chef Junior. He took one look at all those kids on step stools cooking elegant dishes and gave my husband and I a look as if to say You've been holding out on me! I can do more in the kitchen!
And while he's only five, I decided if he wants a more active role in the kitchen he should have one. He may not be the world's next great chef, but odds are he will live on his own at some point and will need to feed himself. And I thought the extra responsibility would help him build confidence, positive self-esteem, and a healthy relationship with food. So for Christmas we gave him a cookbook and declared Saturdays "Kid Cooks Days." He gets to pick the meal we cook on Saturdays, and takes a more active role in its preparation.
Saturday was the first day we did this, to much success. Our son took a few days to flip through his cookbook before deciding chicken chow mein should be our first meal. He helped me with the shopping list, and while he typically goes food shopping with me, the trip had a new level of excitement since we were buying ingredients for his meal.
As for the preparation itself, he made the sauce and sauteed the chicken and vegetables. He was so excited! And he really enjoyed the meal, too, going for seconds. Overall, our first "Kid Cooks Saturdays" was a huge success!
Chicken Chow Mein
Recipe modified from Little Cookies
Makes 6 servings
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
- 1 15-ounce can baby corn spears
- 12 ounces snap peas
- 2 cups frozen Asian-style sliced peppers, thawed
- To make the sauce, in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut oil, and cornstarch. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain.
- In a lrage saute pan or wok over high heat, warm the canola oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the baby corn, snap peas, and peppers to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the vegetables and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the cooked chicken to the pan, add the noodles, and toss to mix.
Note: The original recipe called for the following ingredients, which we omitted due to personal tastes. Mix and match ingredients to your preference.
- 1/2 pound small shiitake mushrooms, halved
- 3 heads baby bok choy, chopped
- 1 cup bean sprouts