Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mommy's Little Foodie

One of the first things that Rachael Ray* taught me about cooking (other than how to make some killer homemade nachos) was to get your kids involved in cooking the meal and helping out in the kitchen.  She always said that kids were more likely to want to eat that which they helped to prepare.  I felt that this concept made sense and for years couldn't wait to have a child of my own to share the experience of cooking with.

Maraea is finally reaching that age where she can help in the kitchen.  Or, "help", rather.  You saw in my enchilada post that she likes to stand on a chair on the other side of the counter from me, and, at the very least, watch and munch while I do the work.  I don't mind this at all, -- except for when she reaches for the knife block -- and she has shown more interest in tasting the things I have on my cutting board or the things I'm stirring around in bowls.  She says "Me?  Puh-leeeez?" when she wants to try something.  In recent months, she has tried things like queso fresco, prosciutto, ricotta cheese, pepper jack cheese, beef prepared for tacos, and country ham.  All of these delicacies were promptly followed by "MMMmmmm!"  This makes mama so very, very proud.

She is also starting to mock my behavior.  She has a little plastic knife from a kitchen play set I bought her months ago, and we let her use that with our smallest cutting board to pretend that she's dicing and chopping like me.  We'll put cheese or pretzels on her cutting board and she will cut them with her knife and then eat them.  She exhibited this copycat behavior while I was shooting my husband preparing chilaquiles for the cookbook project I'm working on.  I was so proud I nearly cried.  :)

Needs salt!!!
Maraea is a fabulous eater, and I firmly believe that she is so for two reasons.  First -- I prepared my own baby food for her when she graduated from rice cereal.  And second -- I let her help in the kitchen.  There have been numerous occasions where we will all sit down for dinner and she will ask to try or eat what's on our plates if we've prepared something different for her (we usually only do this if we're making something really spicy).  One night we ordered takeout and I ordered chicken fingers for me and her to share, a salad for me, and Aaron ordered a gyro.  I put the chicken fingers and some veggies from my salad on her plate, she pushed it away, turned to Aaron, and said "Me?" because she wanted to try his gyro.  She then helped him eat it -- beef and all.  We never deny her anything she wants to try, and always offer what we're having (unless we think it will burn her mouth off).  She eats pizza like a big girl -- by the slice.  I know plenty of kids even older than Maraea who won't eat pizza unless it's cut up into tiny little geometric shapes.  She eats corn on the cob like a big girl.  She dips, she licks her fingers, she licks her lips, and she enjoys food as much as we do.

I could not be any prouder of my Little Foodie.

Nomzing on one of Daddy's special homemade burgers

Helping Daddy!

* Rachael Ray was the first Food Network personality that I watched when I first got into cooking.  I still like her, though I know she gets a bum rap with the foodie community.  She is enthusiastic, and she's creative.  Though my cooking style and tastes have advanced more to the likes of Ina Garten, I still rely on Rachael's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy recipes and ideas from time to time when cooking with and for a child.  Rachael Ray doesn't dumb down my foodiness, she adds a different element to it.

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