I have always loved cooking and as such, have involved the kids in cooking since they were old enough to stand on a chair and hold a spoon. Both kids enjoy looking at cookbooks and picking out recipes to make – my son is known for bringing home cookbooks from his school library instead of novels. This year has seen them learn how to chop vegetables and start to man the cooking of simple things on the stove. All of which has been great. But …
Our herbs and salad greens finally started to take off this week, which meant I was much more comfortable taking cuttings to add to our meals. Every morning, the kids and I go out to the back porch and snip some kale, parsley an basil to throw into my salad, which turns into them each taking a taste of the various things we have growing.
Yesterday, we got a bit too aggressive with our basil cuttings, so I had leftover which I decided to throw into a pan with some tomato and kale and eggs for my breakfast (for those of you that are curious, I melt a generous teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan, add in some chopped frozen kale – I’m using up the last of the frozen stuff for my morning eggs and when it’s gone, I’ll start using the fresh stuff from my garden – a diced tomato and whatever herbs I may have picked. When the veggies are warmed through and soft, I crack 2 eggs into the pan, stir them around so the whole thing becomes a sort of scrambled egg omelette. It’s not the most elegant of meals, but it does taste AMAZING). When the eggs were cooked, I gave each kid a taste. And immediately they wanted their own, even though they had each just had their own fried egg. Seeing the excitement on their little faces as they realized just how good food could taste was a wonderful moment for me.
It is so hard today not to get overwhelmed by the images of stunningly gorgeous food and the millions of recipes that bombard us every day – recipes that when you dig a little deeper turn out to contain multiple hard-to-find ingredients, take a relative eternity to prepare, and end up either not working, not looking anything like the pictures you’ve seen, and/or not tasting particularly good. Then there are all the articles telling us how we should eat, what we should eat, and when we should eat it in order to optimize our size and our health. Add in working parents, kids, homework, after-school activities, and it’s hard not to just throw up your hands, run to the local grocery store, buy some pre-prepared meal and throw it on the table for the kids, and maybe a bit later in the evening for the adults.
But if we strip everything back to the very basics – forget about making those ridiculous recipes – and instead go back to cooking simple, good food that tastes good, not because it’s filled with additives and sugar and artificial flavours, but because it’s made with the best ingredients that taste good on their own. If we can re-learn how to cook that way, maybe we’ll start to remember how good real food tastes, and we’ll start craving the prepared/processed food less (which in turn will make us healthier, leaner and overall happier).
And while this may be very optimistic, I’m hoping that by instilling in my kids at an early age, how amazing real food tastes, how amazing it is to use ingredients from our own backyard, and how fun it is to cook together, as they grow up, they will continue to crave this good food over the chemical-laden food choices they will be exposed to. And maybe, they might even convince some of their friends that “real” food eating really is better.
And now for the “recipe” part of this post . . . Last weekend, the Husband picked up a ton of chicken thighs – the kind that have both bones AND skin. He made a simple marinade out of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary from our yard. The thighs all got barbecued, some were eaten for dinner that night, and the rest were used for dinner and my lunches the following week. Tuesdays are a quick turn-around day for us – meaning we don’t have much time between getting home from school and needing to be back out the door for baseball. So, last week, I used the leftover chicken as protein portion of our dinner (it was actually a neat experiment for the kids comparing how the cold chicken tasted versus how it had tasted when it was fresh off the barbecue). I chopped up a plate of veggies for us all, and then I made a side dish of my favourite pesto sauce that I served over pasta (I do allow us one pasta night a week. We can all tolerate gluten relatively well, as I’ve said before, and everyone loves it.) The kids LOVE peeling and chopping garlic and picking basil from our backyard (it was supplemented with some from the store), and then getting to use the Cuisnart made for a fantastic 20 minutes in the kitchen with them – time so much better spent than having me alone in the kitchen and them watching a show or just hanging around.
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please use the good stuff)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1-3 cloves of garlic (this depends on how garlic-y you like things, what your kids will tolerate, and how big your cloves of garlic are – use your discretion)
- Rinse off the basil leaves, and throw them into the bowl of a food processor. Add in the cheese and garlic. Pulse a few times until the basil has been chopped up finely and everything looks pretty well combined.
- Through the feeder tube of the food processor, with the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Keep the processor running until all the olive oil has been added and the sauce looks well mixed.
- Serve this over pasta, quinoa, tomatoes, or just as a salad dressing . . .it’s delicious!