“Cooking with kids.” It’s a phrase that can conjure up some pretty frightening images for parents of toddlers and young kids… “That’ll be a hassle! It’s going to be so much work to prep… and the cleanup? Oh gosh, the cleanup!”
I’ll admit, these were the thoughts that ran rampant through my brain whenever I even considered having my two-and-a-half-year-old help me in the kitchen. But, I’m going to be honest… it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!
When “Little L” joins me in the kitchen, it tends to be on days that didn’t go so well for him — he woke up too early, didn’t nap, had a meltdown at daycare, etc. — and he is stuck to my side when I get home from work. How do I push a sad, little toddler who just wants to be by my side out of the way, so I can make dinner? I can’t! So, I prop him up on his stool to help with things like grating cheese, putting veggies in the (cold) frying pan, pushing the button on the food processor, and even peeling potatoes and carrot (with assistance!).
Extra mess aside, there are so many benefits to having him in the kitchen:
- Bonding (he tends to be a daddy’s boy).
- He is learning from an early age how to prepare his own food which will carry forward into his adolescent and adult years — you’re welcome future wife!
- It gets him interested in what he is eating – local or otherwise! The process of making the food can encourage him to eat more of the meal he made.
- It also builds confidence, creativity, helps with communication and develops his fine motor skill – added bonus!
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is easier than you think! Start by making the things you know they love… and in my case, I know that “Little L” loves pizza!
For this pizza recipe, I wanted to utilize as many local, in-season ingredients possible, which meant I had to get creative! After referencing our Ontario availability guide, I discovered there are a variety of greenhouse items, as well as potatoes, parsnip, onions and mushrooms, that grow through Ontario’s winter months! I came up with a parsnip, potato and garlic sauce, topped with local cheese, caramelized onions, mushrooms, bacon and spinach. YUMMY!
I swear I didn’t make any of this up, many, many parents have wrote about the importance of letting your kids help in the kitchen; Janene Dutt, Scary Mommy blog talks about it here; and Andrea and Danielle, Crafting Connections, rave about the exploration and education side here.
Love Local PizzaPrint Recipe
- 1 large Ontario parsnip, peel and cut into 1/2” slices
- 2 white Ontario potatoes, cut into 1/2” cubes
- 1 clove Ontario garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) milk
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil, divided
- 1 medium sweet Ontario onion, halved and sliced
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
- 10-12 slices Ontario bacon, diced
- 113 g (4 oz) package Ontario shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 3 cups (750 mL) baby spinach
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups (750 mL) Ontario mozzarella cheese, grated
- 2 packages prepared pizza dough, raw
In a large sauce pan, add parsnip and potatoes. Cover with cold water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 min. Drain and cool slightly.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade add cooled parsnips, potatoes and garlic clove. Replace lid and process until no large pieces remain. Add milk process until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese pulse until combined; set aside.
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, sauté until lightly browned, about 5 mins. Increase heat to medium-high and add 1/4 cup of water, cook until water is evaporated, about 10 min. Remove onions to a bowl and return pan to stove top reducing heat to medium.
Add diced bacon, cook until crispy, about 5-8 min. Remove with a slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add shiitake mushrooms to bacon grease and cook until lightly browned, about 5 min., stirring frequently. Remove mushrooms to bowl with onions and bacon. In the same frying pan, over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and baby spinach, sauté until wilted, about 5 min. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper.
Prepare dough according to directions, top with sauce, onions, bacon, mushrooms, spinach and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is browned.
Remove from oven, cool 2-3 min, slice and serve.