Cafe del Soul
247 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
China Kennedy is chef and owner of Café del Soul, an all-natural and organic café in Mill Valley dedicated to customer nutrition and enjoyment. Chef Kennedy, the mother of two young children, says “the first thing is that cooking with kids should be fun, because then it can stay with them for life.” With this in mind, she suggests not getting them involved in anything that takes too long to prepare. “The other ingredient that all children seem to like is to get their hands messy in some way, so mixing brownies and cracking eggs with some flour will all add to making it into an adventure. If at the end, there is something that they can eat knowing they have had a part in producing it, well that is the cherry on the cake! Practically speaking, focusing on hand washing is key before you start preparing and working with food (same as we do in the restaurants) as it greatly minimizes the risk of cross contamination,” she says.
“I also recommend giving kids tasks that are in line with the level of responsibility they can assume at their age and motor dexterity. For example, my three year old can wash vegetables but not cut them, my four year old can crack eggs and both can mix well even if it’s best for me to get them started,” Kennedy comments. Chef Kennedy knows what her children like to eat, and as they begin to cook together, she uses organic ingredients at home. She aims to teach her kids to eat well by showing them how delicious healthy ingredients can be.
Weekend mornings are perfect times for kids to get involved in preparing the family breakfast. Chef Kennedy says “French toast can be messy for sure, but it’s fun.” Her breakfast recipe for French toast is very simple.
- 4 pieces of bread (white or wheat)
- 4 eggs
- 0.5 teaspoons of vanilla
- 0.25 teaspoons of cinnamon
Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl until you can lift the eggbeater high above the eggs and have a long thin strand of egg coming from the eggbeater down into the bowl. This means the eggs are well beaten. Add in vanilla and cinnamon and mix again. Then heat a non-stick frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Dunk one piece of bread in the egg mixture, making sure both sides are wet but not too saturated. Next, add a bit of butter; just enough to ensure the bread does not stick to the pan. After two minutes, flip the bread over and cook the underside. After an additional two minutes, transfer the toast to a plate. Add maple syrup or fruit jam.
Here is a lunch recipe Chef Kennedy’s children love to help cook and eat.
- 2 cups dry quinoa
- Canned and drained black beans
- 0.5 cups of feta cheese
- 0.25 cups avocado
Cook the quinoa using a rice cooker. As the cooking time for the quinoa ends, begin heating the black beans on the stovetop using a larger sauce pan than is needed for the beans alone. When the beans are heated through, begin to mix in the quinoa until the beans and quinoa are well blended. Portion out for the kids, and top with feta cheese and sliced avocado.
Chef Wayne Pratt
Station House Café
11180 Highway 1
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Station House Café is a gem of a neighborhood café in Point Reyes Station, the sweet hub of the bucolic Point Reyes National Seashore area. Café Chef Wayne Pratt takes a novel yet practical approach to cooking with kids. He sees cooking together as a “huge learning device” that helps children learn the importance of knowing where their food comes from. He sees cooking time as lessons in science and math as they apply to food preparation, using fractions and weight to measure ingredients. Chef Pratt says kids may think food comes from a box or a package, but with him they learn otherwise. During cooking-with-kids demonstrations at the Point Reyes farmer’s market this summer, Chef Pratt and his young charges made their own salt, butter and pasta. Chef Pratt tells parents to keep recipes simple and think of cooking time with kids as opportunities to learn. Here Chef Pratt discusses preparing a tasty dinner entrée with kids.
“The farmer’s market talk involved making a pasta dish with homegrown vegetables like summer squash, onions and garlic. First we made the butter by filling a mason jar one third of the way with cream and then shaking it until it separated into butter and buttermilk, then straining it. Then we took seawater and boiled it down until it was just salt, then spread it out on a cookie sheet and put it into a low oven until all the water was gone. Then we made pasta dough: 1.5 pounds of flour, 4 ounces semolina flour, 5 eggs, 10 egg yolks and salt. We combined the ingredients in a food processor, then kneaded until a glossy texture and refrigerated for a half hour. We then rolled out the pasta until desired thickness and cut it into strips, then cooked it in boiling water for 5 minutes. We then sautéed the vegetables in the butter, threw in the pasta with some salt and put garlic and herbs in it. Done.”
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Melanie Graysmith is a freelance writer and artist based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Melanie is a member of an independent filmmaking group and aims to spin her stories into film. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.