One of the best ways to get kids eating what we cook for them is to have them help us in the kitchen. But only on occasion, because any more than that and no one would ever eat a hot meal. If they make it, they will eat it. If you make it, they might scrunch up their noses. It's one of the tenets of parenting.
The most important rule when cooking with kids is to choose a simple recipe with minimal ingredients and even fewer steps. Now is not the time to try your hand at a soufflé, unless you want the kitchen to look like the Hulk and Godzilla battled for the last piece of cake. So, make something simple, that they can get their hands into, and that satisfies children's need for instant gratification. There's nothing worse than waiting for something to come out of the oven when you're six years-old.
Tater tots are a universal favourite in the under-20 set, but switch out the potatoes for cauliflower and you have the satisfaction of cooking a fun and healthy side dish or snack.
Makes 24 cauli-tots.
Canadians love their celebrities as much as the next guy — albeit in a polite way — and once we've welcomed people into our homes on a weekly basis, they become friends. At least, that was my thinking when I met Lynn Crawford and three other celebrities asked to design their ideal home kitchens by IKEA.
IKEA launched a new line called SEKTION, whose premise is that a kitchen should be versatile and customizeable to suit any design requirements. To help them, they enlisted the help of four familiar faces: chef Lynn Crawford, real estate and contracting expert Scott McGillivray, TV personality Jessi Cruickshank, and interior decor expert Jillian Harris. The celebrities, who all had different esthetic and functional requirements, designed original and stylish kitchens that work for home chefs with busy family lives.
Lynn Crawford is a world-class chef who's passionate about food and where it comes from, up for any adventure — as we saw on four seasons of Pitchin In — and my new best friend. She showed me around her perfect kitchen and we spent 20 minutes chatting about kitchens, family, travel, things too gross to eat, and I even dropped appetizers on her pristine IKEA kitchen counters, so that puts us in friends territory.
Crawford's requirements are simple: a big work surface using clean lines with a few antiques thrown in, and a shelf to display her favourite cookbooks. A great cookbook tells a visual story and she's inspired to cook by beautiful images. She's not a fan of filling the kitchen with gadgets and single-use appliances and says the most useless gadgets are a bean slicer and garlic press. The one she can't live without? A microplaner. She practices what she preaches; Crawford's kitchen design was functional and clean, and the emphasis was on space.
Crawford's new project is The Great Canadian Cookbook — a celebration of Canadian food to air on the Food Network — and she says she's loved meeting people at curling rinks and community centres across the country to share meals and potlucks of simple, delicious food. There’s a heightened awareness of good food and where it comes from, and that comes through in a desire to get back to our cultural roots.
Her piece of of cooking advice: Don't overcomplicate food; keep your recipes and ingredients simple.
We all know that Scott McGillivray is the man to go to if we want the real goods on a functional, useable space thanks to his popular HGTV show Income Property, and his approach to the IKEA design was just as practical and stylish.
McGillivray went with no base cabinets, but instead chose to install drawers and he would recommend that to anyone looking to maximize space. We all know about the dreaded back of the cupboard problem, things placed — or shoved — back there are never to be seen again until the day you move and you're all, "So that's what happened to the stemware gift from Great Aunt Mildred." Anyway, if you want to avoid a giant mess or a family feud, drawers are where it's at.
I drooled a bit at the drawers dedicated to dry goods and kids' crafts. It's such a smart use of space. And maximizing space when you have a family is important. How often have we pulled open a cupboard only to have a tower of mismatched containables scatter all over the floor? Almost daily, right? McGillivray's main advice for anyone considering a minor or major remodel is to not break the traffic flow and to keep the kitchen work triangle (fridge, stove, sink) intact. He says this is the biggest mistake he sees people making and they always regret it.
Once the tour was over I got to the really important question and asked his top three choices for a kitchen dance party: "Uptown Funk," "Bang Bang," and "Shake it Off" were the first ones he threw at me, so now you know what he and his family are dancing to when dinner rolls around.
Jillian Harris's kitchen is all about the classicly pretty combined with lots of functional elements, and it's this style that permeates a lot of her design work with clients, and on Love It or List It Vancouver.
Harris recommends taking the time to think about how you cook and entertain before planning any sort of renovation. Do you need a space for family to sit while you put finishing touches on a meal? Do you like colour? Harris believes a kitchen should be timeless because it is such a large investment, so she chose a white and grey kitchen with pops of colour reserved for accessories and small appliances. The accessories can be changed with the seasons or style changes without costing us a fortune.
For her dance party song mix, Harris sticks with songs that are relatable and welcoming (like she feels a kitchen should be): "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and anything by Otis Redding.
Her kitchen was warm and inviting and I could have sat there all afternoon.
"Junk drawers are key." That's the first thing Jessi Cruickshank told me as we toured her IKEA kitchen design. We can all agree on that piece of advice. Her kitchen is very much like her: funky, modern, and warm. Cruickshank prefers clean lines with a mix of vintage and she had a select collection of old cameras and other objects on display.
When Cruickshank isn't hosting TV shows, interviewing celebrities, or teaching drama to a group of special needs children, she loves baking and eating her own creations, so she had her heart set on an antique flour sifter. She had images of using it while baking up a storm. The reality is while it may be pretty to look at, it makes a mess of epic proportions and has become her pick for most useless kitchen gadget.
As in most homes, the kitchen is where her parties end up, and Cruickshank's kitchen party mix includes "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott and Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love."
Who's redesigned their own kitchens? What advice would you give? And what's on your kitchen dance party playlist?
If you play your cards right, and you're willing to share the goods, you may get lucky in the kitchen when you serve up an Irish-inspired old family favourite.
Lucky can mean so many things: Will today be the day the kids empty the dishwasher? Probably not. Will the secret stash of chocolate still be safely hidden? Unlikely; you ate it in a post-workout, ravenous fit. Mint is also a known aphrodisiac that works to stimulate the senses and we all know what dark chocolate can do, so basically this recipe is a trifecta of luck - kind of like an Irish clover.
Don't say you weren't warned.
It's that most wonderful time of the year, when every bar and artisinal, hand-crafted noodle maker greens their wares, so let's do the same, too. Whip up a batch of Rice Krispie treats with a dash of mint and some food colouring and you've transformed the easiest dessert ever into a treat fit for a leprechaun.
Makes 15 squares.
Based on a recipe from NeighborFood.