The Things My Children Observe and Learn in the Kitchen

s in the kitchen

I love cooking with my children, even though it is something I have been criticized for in the past. In my opinion, cooking is also a great way of teaching your children a variety of new skills. Spending time with them in the kitchen is a great way for them to observe and learn and is also something that they enjoy!

The most obvious skill they learn is how to cook. It astounds me how many people reach adulthood without having learned to cook because nobody taught them when they were growing up. Not everyone is going to become a brilliant cook, but there are basic skills that everyone should learn so they can make themselves a simple, healthy, and nutritious meal.

There are many other skills that children can learn in the kitchen. For example, the whole process of cooking is quite scientific and reading instructions from an ingredient packet or recipe book is an easy way to get them reading without them noticing. There are some great opportunities to teach them math skills, too. Measuring, temperature, and counting all come into preparing food at some stage.

More important than any educational lesson I can teach my children in the kitchen is the value of spending time together as a family. Meal times are family times in my house and this goes from the meal preparation to dining together. It is the only time of the day when we are all in the same room and it is when we share the events of our days. 

boys at tea

 

Written in response to the prompt ‘observe’.

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RECIPE: Easy Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

tomato and basil sauce

Italian food is a favourite in my house and I enjoy cooking this cuisine because it consists of simple ingredients and flavours. Italian food is also usually really quick and easy to make and well-suited to those who are cooking on a budget. One of the easiest things to make is pasta in a tomato and basil sauce. This is something that you can also liven up by adding a vast range of ingredients to this basic dish. Making your own sauce for the pasta is simple and far more delicious than anything you can buy out of a jar. Here is an easy recipe for tomato and basil pasta sauce.

Ingredients for Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the crushed garlic and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and sugar to the pan. 
  4. Increase the heat to bring the tomato sauce to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  6. Add the torn basil and season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Cook for another two minutes and then stir into cooked, drained pasta.

 

RECIPE: Braised Steak in Onion Gravy

braising 6

Braising steak is usually one of the cheaper cuts of beef, so it is a fantastic choice for those on a budget. It is also a good choice if you are a fan of slow-cooking techniques and like to prepare a meal in the morning before leaving for work so that serving dinner takes very little effort when returning home. I made this delicious braising steak with onion gravy for tea yesterday and served it with potato gratin (recipe here), fine green beans, and julienne potatoes. Below is a picture of how much the boys in my house were enjoying eating their braised steak, which was literally falling apart because it was so tender. Here is an easy recipe for braised steak with onion gravy to serve 4 people. 

boys at tea

Ingredients for Braised Steak with Onion Gravy

  • 4 braising steaks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 heaped tbsp gravy granules
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Braised Steak with Onion Gravy

  • Preheat the oven to a low setting.
  • Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat on the hob. 
  • Season the braising steaks on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Put two of the steaks in the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side to brown.
  • Transfer the steaks to an ovenproof dish.
  • Repeat with the two remaining steaks.
  • Add the onions to the pan and fry for approximately 3 minutes or until turning brown
  • Transfer the onions to the ovenproof dish with the braising steaks. 
  • Boil a kettle of water and pour enough over the steaks and onions to cover plus an extra inch.
  • Add a lid to the dish or cover with kitchen foil. 
  • Put in the oven and cook on a low heat for 4-5 hours. (If you are out of the house for longer, it is fine)
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the gravy granules. Stir into the water and juices.
  • Turn the oven up to 180C/ gas mark 4.
  • Recover the dish and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and serve with your choice of potatoes and vegetables. 

REVIEW: Whitegate Inn Beefeater, Manchester

beefeater

The other day I posted that I was excited that I was going out for a meal with my in-laws as it was a while since I had eaten out. You can read that post here. As promised, I can now review the restaurant in which we ate. 

whitegateWe visited the Whitegate Inn which is part of the Beefeater chain of restaurants in Failsworth, Manchester. There were ten of us eating and we hadn’t booked in advance. As a result, we didn’t have a table straight away but we were happy to wait and enjoy a drink in the bar area. 

Once we were seated, our lovely waitress quickly took our order. My partner and I both ordered the sirloin steak with chips and pepper sauce. Most others around the table also ordered various steak options, although two of our party opted for burgers. 

As the restaurant was so busy, it took a while for the food to arrive. This gave me time to assess the restaurant better. Everyone in the place seemed to be having a good time and I couldn’t see any food being returned- always a good sign. The place had a comfortable and fun vibe and there were several families with children eating at the restaurant. Our waitress kept us topped up with drinks until our food arrived.me and mike fail

 

When the food arrived, the steaks were cooked perfectly as requested. Everyone at our table was happy with the meal they received. Some went on to order puddings, but I was full. 

Overall, the food was what you would expect from a chain steakhouse and the prices were reasonable. The waitress was friendly and helpful, answering all our questions and bringing us extras and sauces. A good time was had by all. 

RECIPE: Chilli Con Carne

chilli

Chilli con carne is a favourite in my household. My children have quite diverse tastes as I have brought them up eating a variety of cuisine, so spicy dishes are not an issue. Everyone loves this Mexican-inspired meat dish and I serve it in a variety of different ways. Most commonly, we eat it with rice, tortilla chips, soured cream and guacamole. However, it is also a great filling in tortilla wraps, jacket potatoes, or loaded potato skins. Here is how to make chilli con carne for six people.

Ingredients for Chilli Con Carne

  • I kg lean minced beef
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • I beef stock cube
  • 2 chillies, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Chilli Con Carne

  1. Dice the peppers, crush the garlic and finely chop the chillies.
  2. Add the oil to a pan and put over a medium heat.
  3. Add the chillies, peppers and garlic to the pan and cook for two minutes.
  4.  Add the minced beef to the pan and brown.
  5. Once the mince is browned, add the chilli powder, paprika and cumin.
  6. Stir in all the spices and leave to cook for a further ten minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the mince.
  7. Crumble the beef stock cube into 300 ml of hot water, stir, and then pour over the mince in the pan.
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.
  9. Stir the mixture thoroughly and then bring to the boil.
  10. Turn down the heat so the mixture is simmering and place a lid on the pan.
  11. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  12. Drain and rinse the kidney beans and add them to the pan. Stir into the chilli mix and bring back to the boil.
  13. Leave to stand for ten minutes to allow the flavours to develop and then serve.

Tips

Spice levels- In my house, we enjoy spicy food. However, if you prefer your food less spicy, it is easy to adapt the levels of spice. SImply use fewer chillies and less chilli powder, cumin and garlic.

 

 

 

Nothing Like Egg and Chips

eggn chips

As a home cook, I am enthusiastic about using lots ingredients, spending time on the preparation of food, trying new things, and experimenting in the kitchen. However, there is sometimes nothing like some good old comfort food that is quick and easy to make. While I usually try and make meals that incorporate vegetables and I am not a fan of fried foods in general, my favourite comfort food is egg and chips.

I spend hours every week deciding what to make, choosing ingredients, preparing family meals and then, quite often, writing about foo either for my own blog or the writing work I do for other people. 

Sometimes, though, I just can’t be bothered with the effort of it all and want to make something that is quick, greasy and comforting. Egg and chips is a favourite in my house, closely followed by sausage and mash. These meals may not be fine dining and they are certainly not for those on a diet, but there is something very satisfying about dipping a chip into a perfectly cooked egg yolk.

There are no complaints from the kids or my partner when I don’t spend hours slaving in the kitchen. They are just as happy to eat a quick and simple meal as a dish that includes lots of flavours and that requires a lot of preparation. My partner appreciates the fact that I work full-time and feels lucky to have a partner who enjoys cooking and produce a variety of meals.

Egg and chips is a very typical English meal, as is sausage and mash. What quick and easy meals do you make when you want something comforting? Feel free to comment below.

Waste Not, Want Not

ingredients

Many people are dubious about cooking with leftovers. However, there are many delicious things you can make and it makes economic sense for those on a budget to make the most out of the food they have paid for with their hard earned money. This is certainly the case in my house as I have to sit in front of the computer writing for many hours to earn the cash to put food on my children’s plates. Therefore, I quite often transform the leftovers into new and delicious meals for the children. The saying in my house is ‘waste not, want not’!

Something that I cook every week is a joint of meat and I usually serve this as a roast dinner. There are three reasons why I cook a joint of meat:

  • The whole family loves roast dinners
  • There is always enough meat left for a meal the next day
  • It saves both time and money

On the second day, there is a wide range of meals I make with the leftovers, depending on the type of meat I have cooked. Typical meals include stews, curries, and stir-frys. Even a novice in the kitchen can make a delicious sandwich or salad with the leftover meat. 

As my ethos is not to waste food, you will see several recipes and cooking suggestions for ways to use leftovers on this blog over the next few months. Hopefully, I can help to give others some ideas that will stop them wasting food while also saving them time and money.