When our kids were toddlers they really wanted to do something with you in the kitchen, or trip you so you’d break your neck. I always opted for letting them help, especially with an easy Native American recipe for kids. With the exception of the twins, I usually had one at a time to deal with and that was easy; just plop them on the counter and give them an “important” job. Sprinkling or stirring stuff always did the trick, and was fun for them.
Kids are so different, one granddaughter spreads batter with care; the other makes you run for a paper towel or dishcloth to wipe up often. Of course, you should never let them use an electric appliance until they are older, and you know they can handle it. When you throw caution to the wind, it usually comes back to hit you in the face—the bigger the bowl, the smaller the spill, hopefully.
If you plan to make something complicated instead of an easy Native American recipe for kids, gather the ingredients and set then aside in order of use on the right and place to the left when used to reduce confusion. I say that because there is usually so much giggling and laughter going on, it’s easy to forget what you used last. If making dough, make extra because kids really love to get their hands messy, and it will keep them busy.
Vegetables are the most fun, and can be quite an ally. Spread cream cheese or peanut butter on a stalk of celery, add a few craisins or raisins and a couple of walnuts—you’ve got a walking salad. My own mother used to play on my sympathy and say, “here, eat this little tree, he loves you” and hand me a stem of parsley. To see kids grow and become foodies is rewarding because I think it is all my doing. One of my sons does all the cooking for his family; another should own a restaurant. Both daughters are fine cooks, and are always experimenting.
With spring around the corner I think about early foraging when I was young. Violets were abundant in our yard. There were so many, my mother sold them in bunches from a basket in front of our house. They are edible and delicious, too, like their sisters, nasturtiums, day lilies and pansies. It is never too early to take children on walks and show them as much as you can. If you live in an urban area, check out parks, florists and specialty grocers. You would be amazed by what grows out of the cracks in the sidewalks.
All of that said, what is an easy Native American recipe for kids? How about some granola?
3 cups of oatmeal
½ cup wheat germ
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pine nuts
½ cup walnuts
½ cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Now the fun part, add ½ cup each dried fruit like cranberries, raisins, or pitted dates.
Heat the honey and oil in a small saucepan to blend.
Heat oven to 300 degrees, use two flat baking pans with 1-inch sides. Spread the granola evenly and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it starts to brown. Let cool and store… never mind, it will be gone before you need to store it.
Teaching kids to cook is “child’s play” so have fun with it, if you do they will!
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.