Kids in the Kitchen

by Leanne Ely, The Dinner Diva


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The kitchen is the perfect place to be together with your children. This is where the meals are made and, if your dining table is in the same room, it's where they're eaten too. Giving children the opportunity to learn how to cook and prepare meals has amazing side effects. Believe it or not, you'll even find your picky kids are more willing to try something they've made themselves.

When my son was 7 years old, he still wouldn't eat salad. I had my children rotating through the kitchen every other day as my kitchen helpers, and when it became his day again, I decided it was time for him to make the salad. I showed him how to wash the lettuce and spin it (we have a salad spinner), I showed him how to cut veggies (yes, they can do it with close supervision!) and I showed him how to toss the salad with the dressing once it was time to serve it.

Sitting down at the table that night, my very proud son asked everyone if they liked HIS salad about 10 times! He ate two servings himself and from that day forward, he's never been picky when it comes to salads. I call it "hands on nutrition." This type of involvement helps to mold good habits and gives children an opportunity to exercise some personal responsibility over the food they consume, which is a big boon to their own personal nutrition when they go off to school and need to make decisions for themselves.

As many of you know, I have a website called Saving Dinner where I provide weekly menus, recipes and shopping lists for my subscribers. I can't tell you how many times I've received emails from subscribers needing assistance with some very basic cooking skills because they've never been taught how to cook. Or other ones emailing me and telling me how good they feel about themselves because they're starting to get how to put a meal together! It is so important that we equip our children with the skills they'll need for life. Motherhood is the only job I know of that you work hard to work yourself out of a job! We want to see our children succeed and knowing how to cook is a basic life skill; it's essential.

So bring the kids into the kitchen this week. Even the littlest ones can be good helpers! Make being together in the kitchen a part of your life together as a family. Think of the memories you'll make! And to get you started, here is a great family recipe that kids will love helping you to make:

Crunchy Honey Mustard Chicken Fingers
Serves 4 hungry kids. Double up for the rest of the family!

4 small, boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup honey, warmed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a small bowl, mix Dijon and warmed honey together until well mixed. Put crushed corn flakes in a separate bowl. Slice chicken into 3/4-inch strips. Dip in honey mustard mix. Then roll in crushed corn flakes and put on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until done.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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