Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cooking School: Week 1

When my brother and I were kids, my mom let us have the first week of summer to do absolutely nothing. We could goof off and play and run around the neighborhood and eat popsicles as much as we pleased. On Monday morning after that week though came The Talk. Oh, how we dreaded The Talk. The Talk consisted of telling us how we were going to constructively spend our summer. We had swimming and tennis lessons scheduled for various weeks at the park district. We had summer camp in Michigan scheduled for July. In the afternoon each day, we could have leisure time. The mornings, however, belonged to Mom. We were to be up and ready and at the breakfast table by 8. Then we were to do our chores. My mom just told me recently that was my dad's thing. He would tell her every year "You need to put those kids to work." He sort of overlooked the fact that we lived in the suburbs and between him and Mom, both the inside and outside of the house were immaculate always. So, she had to dream up stuff for us like picking up any stray sticks in the yard, sweeping the walks, dusting and vacuuming every day.

After our chores were finished we could do a number of things. We could read. We couldn't just dip into a Trixie Belden or Hardy Boys book though, because we were doing that all the time anyway. We had to read a mind-improving book, such as a classic far above our reading level or a missionary biography (missions were big at our house. Are you picking up on that yet?). We could listen to classical music and identify the composer. Or we could look at my mom's art prints and learn to identify the artist, what period of style they belonged to, and what made it distinctive. I probably wouldn't admit this to my mom, but once you got into it, it was sort of fun. And when one of our friends came over to visit and said, "Why do you have a weird picture of some guy up in your hall?" my brother and I could say in a superior way, "Duh, that's a Van Gogh self-portrait." Come to think of it, we didn't have all that many friends. Huh. Wonder why that was.

So, in the spirit of my mother and not wanting my own dear daughters to be deprived of such delightful activity-filled summers, I came up with the idea of having Cooking School each Tuesday for the next few months. Last night was our first session.

Here is my little cook, all ready to go.

We'll be using this book. The recipes are fun, obviously kid-friendly, and I love especially that they're broken down by age group. We're starting in the 4-6 section, but I think we'll graduate to the 7-11 section before the summer's over.

Our menu for the evening was Italian alphabet soup, cheesy soup dippers, and oatmeal bars (the oatmeal bar recipe was not one of Rachael Ray's). Lucy did a fantastic job. I can see that this will be a great project for any number of reasons, not the least of which it's going to help her focus for longer periods on time on certain tasks. She's also learning to read fractions, measure, and LISTEN.

Here she is with her final product:

Here are some close-ups. (Guys. This was THE best vegetable soup I've ever eaten. I'll post the recipe below.)

Here are the cheesy dippers, including someone's hand making a grab for them.

Unfortunately, the oatmeal bars did not fare as well. We followed the directions, but when we went to cut them they crumbled into, well...this:

However, not to be deterred, I added this....

...and everyone was happy.

And now we have this left over for breakfast:

So, all in all, Week 1 was a great success. We all gave Lucy a round of applause at supper, and Elaine told her, "Good soup, Luce." She was really proud of herself for having made us a whole dinner--plus she ate it all, including vegetables, which is another reason I'm teaching her to cook: so that she'll be less of a picky eater.

Here's the recipe for the soup--I'll just write the basic instructions; the cookbook gives excellent instructions for what the child can do and what the GH (grownup helper) should do.

Italian Alphabet Soup courtesy of Rachael Ray
1 wedge Parmigian Reggiano cheese with rind on
2 cloves garlic, skinned
2 T extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO in Rachael-speak)
1 small onion, chopped (we only used half because we don't like onions, and that worked fine)
1 cup marinara sauce
5 cups chicken stock (1 quart-size box and 1 8-oz box)
1 cup alphabet pasta (we used Mickey Mouse pasta because it's even more fun than alphabet)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

Shred the parmigiano reggiano cheese (this is for topping your soup and for making the cheesy dippers). Trim the rind off and save it (this is the kid's "secret ingredient"--Lucy loved that part). Throw the chopped onion and skinned garlic into a soup pot and add the evoo. Stir and let cook on stovetop for 2-3 minutes. Add marinara sauce and stir. Pour chicken stock in slowly. Put lid on pot, turn heat up high, and get it to boil. When boiling, stir in the pasta and add the cheese rind aka SECRET INGREDIENT. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 6-7 minutes. Add vegetables and cook a few minutes more on low. Add S&P to taste. Remove cheese rind and serve (top with leftover grated cheese).

Enjoy; it is really fantastic! Let me know if you make it and what you think!

Oh, and if you're wondering where Elaine was this whole time, she started out with good intentions and her apron on but ended up spending the entire time in the powder room, washing her hands. So really, everyone was happy.


Juliet said...

What a great idea! You have been a busy Mom lately...music added to your blog. (something I don't know how to do YET)

Enjoyed It is Well!

Ann-Marie said...

Oh great. Now, I'm hungry for soup. :-)

Tell Lucy she can practice her cooking on me anytime!