Cooking with Kids


Portabella Tuna MeltLast night, Jesse and I got to spend some time together alone. As most school nights go, he finished his homework as I began dinner. After his reading was done, Jesse strolled out to the kitchen to see what I was doing. As a rule of thumb, I try to attempt new recipes on nights when we don’t have much planned. That way, we can try something new and won’t have the disaster of scrambling for a replacement quickly if the recipe does not work out.
My family has gotten used to these “experiments” by this point in time, and Jesse did not blink an eye as I told him that we were going to have tuna portabella melts and strawberry swing smoothies. In fact, Jesse’s interest was sparked as I pulled out the large mushroom caps. He was eager to know how they would be cooked and what needed to be done to prepare them. I smiled and told him to pull up his stool and wash his hands.
Having never prepared portabella caps before, I admit that I was forced to watch a YouTube video on removing the gills…but I had company, as Jesse took it all in beside me. I attempted the scooping process on the first portabella cap to realize that it actually was not that difficult. I handed Jesse a spoon and a cap and let him try his own. Jesse lit up at the new challenge. Tongue out, he concentrated hard on carefully scraping the gills just the way that Mom had. I watched in amusement, as we continued to prep the mushroom caps side-by-side.
He continued to be a great help, studiously brushing the caps with olive oil and making his own suggestions about flipping them over for cooking. As we prepared the tuna mixture and tasted, we both became optimistic about the outcome. Jesse was excited when he saw that our mushrooms had baked nicely, flattening as they did so. I will admit that I was pretty darned proud myself, this being my first experience with them as well! My son watched as I stuffed the mushrooms and told me how good they would be, topped with tomato and Swiss cheese slice. I stuck them in the oven to heat everything up, and he helped me to clear the counter for the strawberry swing smoothies.
By the time that everything was finished, Quentin and Kayden returned from Kayden’s doctor’s appointment. Quentin was very impressed with the newfound meal, and Jesse and I beamed with pride. Jesse piped up, as he ate happily, “Mmm…This recipe is a keeper!”
My kids have been helping me in the kitchen since they could stand. Whether it be stirring, pouring, or even just bringing me things, cooking has been a strong lesson in which I believe firmly in. Not only are the boys learning meal preparation, but they are also getting small lessons in math, portions, and fine motor skills.
Cooking is one of the most valuable forms of life skills. As my children grow, they’ll develop their abilities and learn an appreciation for many different types of foods. The ability to cook will not be something that will be placed on the “back burner” for them, as it is something that can be utilized throughout the rest of their lives. I truly hope that Jesse and Kayden will remember these days in the kitchen with Mom–creating wonderful foods and lasting memories.

Portobello Tuna Melts
 4 lg. Portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and removed of stems and gills
 Olive oil, for brushing the mushrooms
 2 cans tuna, drained
 2 stalks celery, chopped finely
 4 tbsps. red onion, chopped finely
 4 tbsps. banana peppers, chopped finely
 3 tsps. lemon juice
 4 tsps. olive oil
 ¼ tsp. salt
 ¼ tsp. black pepper
 4 tomato slices
 4 slices thin Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350°. Brush both sides of the mushroom cap w/ olive oil. Place on a baking sheet, top side up. Bake for 10 min., or until tender. While the mushrooms are baking, mix together the tuna, celery, onion, peppers, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the mushrooms are finished, drain excess liquid and flip the caps over carefully. Stuff w/ tuna mixture, creating a mound in the middle. Top w/ a slice of tomato and cheese for each mushroom, and bake until the cheese is melted.
Serves 4.


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