One of my favorite mom moments to date happened while on lockdown when I discovered that my boys, now 5 and 8, like flipping through cookbooks as much as I do. A friend loaned us a few of her favorites and I asked the kids to look through and flag any recipes they wanted to make. My heart swelled so much when I saw them there on their bunk beds fully engaged in the cookbooks.They loved this activity and were entertained by it for quite a while, and suddenly we had a bunch of new ideas for what we could make together.
While many people are finding new recipes mostly online these days, the beauty of a printed cookbook that includes pictures is that even kids who can’t read can look at it and show you what looks good to them. This has become something my kids and I do regularly together and I like that it is a tech-free activity that we all enjoy and is useful too. They pick out some recipes, we shop for the ingredients together, they help with the prep, and magically they end up trying new things. I credit this to them being involved in the process and feeling proud of and connected to the finished dish, more willing to accept it than if it just showed up like a suspicious stranger in front of them at the table.
One of the most recent books we have gone through is Dr. Rupy Aujla’s new book, Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1. This book is ideal for this activity because I already know that the nutritional quality is solid and the recipes aren’t too hard to make. Plus Dr. Rupy uses so many flavorful herbs and seasonings so I know that I will enjoy whatever the kids select too. His concept is “3 portions of fruit and veg, serving 2 people, using one pan.” This works great for us on so many levels as it’s just me and the boys (I’m a single mom/widow), so the quantity is perfect for us though we do tend to have some leftovers which I also like, and having everything cook in one pan saves me time on clean up.
One of the recipes that both of my boys wanted to try was the Tempeh Red Curry. This was the perfect stretch for them, with enough familiar ingredients like coconut milk and peanut butter for the sauce, and then the tempeh (a fermented soybean cake) which they had never had before. They like tofu, so I figured it was worth a try. As Rupy notes, “I know tempeh isn’t everyone’s favourite ingredient but trust me, it’s because you haven’t experienced it at its best.” After trying this dish, I fully agree with him that tempeh works great with the flavours and the cooking method used in this recipe.
The boys had fun trying to find the tempeh at the store and helping come up with some seasonal swaps for the veggies. The recipe called for sugar snap peas and asparagus, but neither of those were in season so we chose to use broccoli and a bit of Savoy cabbage instead.
They helped prep the veggies and slice the tempeh. They tasted some tempeh raw and didn’t care for it, but they were both willing to try it again once it was cooked in the sauce, and sure enough they loved it in the finished dish. We will definitely make this recipe again.
I’m sharing it below, with Rupy’s permission, and I definitely recommend getting a copy of the full book to try out more of his recipes. It’s available on Amazon UK and US (and many other outlets). We still have so many flagged that we want to make, including an Almond Chicken Curry, Herb and Walnut Crumbled Fish with Pickled Red Cabbage, and Spring Green and Broad Bean Shakshuka.
In summary, here are some steps for trying out a new recipe with kids:
- Pre-select a cookbook that you know you trust in terms of nutritional quality and ease. (I highly recommend Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1 as one to try.)
- Invite your kids to flip through the book and flag things that look good to them.
- Select a recipe to make together, allowing for any seasonal swaps or swaps based on family preferences. For example we used broccoli instead of asparagus as asparagus was out of season.
- Shop for the ingredients, preferably together (It’s ok if this isn’t possible).
- Involve the kids in age-appropriate prep of the ingredients and preparation of the recipe.
- Enjoy together and talk about what they like about the dish or what they would do differently with it next time.
Dr. Rupy’s Tempeh Red Curry (from Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1)
Prep 10 minutes/Cook 20 minutes
2 tbsp coconut oil
200g tempeh (or firm tofu), broken into 2cm pieces
160g red onion (about 1 medium), thinly sliced
1 tbsp red curry paste (or any curry paste)
50g piece of root ginger (about 5cm), grated
160g mangetout or sugar snap peas
160g asparagus spears, roughly chopped
2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
400g tin coconut milk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To serve: juice of 1 lime, 20 fresh coriander (chopped), 30g unsalted peanuts (chopped)
- Melt half the coconut oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, add the tempeh and fry for 3-4 minutes until browned all over.
- Remove and set aside, then add the onions to the same dish with the rest of the oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the curry paste nd ginger and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes until coloured.
- Add the mange tout, asparagus, peanut butter and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
- Return the cooked tempeh to the dish for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Serve with the lime juice and garnish with the chopped coriander and peanuts.
For more recipes ideas that you can make together with your kids, see our book, Sugarproof.