By Joyce Parslow
Parenting is tough – so many basic life skills to teach our kids in so little time and with so many distractions!
I’m a firm believer that teaching cooking skills is one of the fundamentals – one has to learn how to make meals for all kinds of reasons: cost-savings, good health and for socializing too – making a meal for someone is a gracious act and cooking at home builds family ties and traditions. After all, food is a source of pleasure and joy – it’s meant to be shared.
So in my efforts to raise a fine young man for the world (and some nice girl), I’ve been working to get our son Joseph into the kitchen.
Joseph’s interest in things-culinary seems to be a bit hit and miss – he took great pride a couple of years ago in his ability to cook bacon – complete with ski goggles to protect him from spatters. But cooking just can’t hold a candle to those darn video games –the competition is fierce!
Enter Hamburger Helper – and suddenly, there is a bit of allure in the kitchen. You see, although I can cook up a pretty nice Beef Bourguignon, Joseph is most impressed with foods that seem a bit more ‘with it’ than cooking from some old recipe. And I’m no food snob when it comes to getting Joseph cooking – you gotta keep your eye on the prize!
With the rattle of some packaging, and the flash of the fancy box, Joseph was hooked!
We printed off a recipe from www.lifemadedelicious.ca , Minestrone Casserole made with Hamburger Helper Lasagna (True confession: I just have to add things when I’m cooking or else it just doesn’t seem like cooking). We assembled the ingredients and equipment –pretty basic stuff – and fired up the stove!
Joseph liked the fact that he got a dish that he really likes to eat – he is a big fan of ground beef and noodle dishes. And I liked the fact that he got to learn some valuable cooking skills without even knowing it!
Here are just a few of the lessons he learned:
- That ground beef comes in different kinds of packaging and that the ‘tube-type’ means ground beef can last longer in your fridge – and that it is great to play football with while you are cooking (Lord help me!). See our blog post all about this.
- Chopping onion makes you cry – we needed those goggles that he used for cooking bacon.
- That it takes patience and good muscles to break up ground beef while you brown and pan-fry it – he has a better appreciation for just how resilient and strong his mom is!
- One really does need to stand (not sit) and pay attention while cooking (Lord help me – again!)
- That cooking kits are cool and that you can add lots of stuff to them from your kitchen to make the meal stretch further (like when your Grandma drops in for dinner). I wanted to add kidney beans but he barred me from the stove at that suggestion.
- Cooking can be flexible. We added frozen peas (since we didn’t have corn), chopped celery and onion and stewed tomatoes (since we didn’t have a can of plain tomatoes). He even commented on the esthetics – that the frozen peas really added to the colour and attractiveness of the dish.
- Some basic safe-food handling skills: hand-washing, keeping raw meat juices away from uncooked foods, cooking ground beef thoroughly and chilling leftovers promptly.
- Making meals can be easy and it doesn’t need to be Beef Bourguignon to have a very yummy dinner. Joseph’s dad was so happy to be reunited with Hamburger Helper – he wondered aloud “Why don’t we have Hamburger Helper more often??” OK, I’m somewhat of a food snob.
- And the greatest lesson of all was that kids can still have fun in the kitchen – especially if you get to play football with the ground beef!
It’s all good – Lord help me!
Joyce Parslow (Canada Beef’s Consumer Culinary Manager for over 10 years) has what she thinks is the best career in the world, combining her love for food and agriculture. As a busy working mom, with 2 kids under-roof, and a nomadic spouse, Joyce is often wrestling with that age-old problem of how to get a wholesome affordable meal on the table (or at least in the bellies) and get out the door in time to make 2 soccer games in 2 different cities. It is this and other mom-type cooking conundrums that fuels Joyce with new ideas for Canadian beef. Her approach: “problems are really just solutions in disguise”.