This post is sponsored by Mangia! children’s recipe books.
Shells Bolognaise – the whole family loved this dish!
We all know cooking with your kids is important for so many reasons…but how many of us actually take the time to really get our kids involved in cooking as often as we’d like to?
There are a million reasons not to: soccer practice, a scouts meeting, the baby is sick, you’d have to run to the grocery store first, or even just the fact that it’s nearing the end of a busy day and you’re beat and take-out is sounding pretty darn good. Even so, despite every reason not to cook with your child there is an even more important reason to do so: it’s one of the most important skills you’ll ever teach them and one of the deepest passions you’ll instill in them. Marilyn Cappellino, author of the children’s book series Mangia! makes it easy.
Marilyn has authored three children’s recipe books to date…
Mangia! Zuppa is a delicious collection of soups.
Mangia! Insalata will have your kids craving salads.
And Mangia! Macaroni is the beauty that started it all.
I recently made Marilyn’s Shells Bolognaise recipe with my 10-year-old niece. My niece and I cook together frequently and I usually give her jobs to do as I’m reading through a recipe, but this time we took a different approach. As Marilyn suggests, I let her really take the lead; the roles were reversed: she was the head chef and I was her assistant.
My niece read the recipe and gave me jobs to do. She not only took on a leadership role as she orchestrated the cooking of the whole meal, but I noticed that as she was cooking, she used other skills without even thinking about it: math (to measure ingredients), science (as the ingredients cook), reading comprehension (as she read the recipe and instructed me on what to do), and even nutrition (as she talked about how it’s good to make recipes with lots of vegetables or serve a salad on the side). It was amazing. I can see how taking this approach to cooking with your kids on a regular basis would enrich their lives in countless ways.
I will let Marilyn tell you a bit more about herself and her children’s cookbooks…and how your child can benefit from them!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am neither a teacher nor a chef; rather, I am simply a writer recording some traditional recipes and customs that I learned as a child. My background includes journalism, technical writing and a 25 year career in Public Relations. I graduated from University at Buffalo with a major in communication.
2. How did you get started writing cookbooks for children?
In 2006, just as one of my grandsons was turning 5 years old, he asked me to buy him a cookbook as a Christmas gift. Knowing he wanted to cook real meals, I began searching for an age appropriate cookbook that provided mealtime recipes. I found none. At the time, all cookbooks written for children focused on party foods, snacks, and sweets. Jonathan was far more interested in making pasta dishes and soups. Being I writer, I saw a sign in this, and the following year, I began working on Mangia! Macaroni.
3. What is your motivation for writing this kind of book?
The Mediterranean diet remains among the most healthful diets in the world. Meals made according to its principles need not be complicated, expensive, or time consuming. If I can promote that awareness through my books, and that in turn helps bring young families back to the nightly “dinner table,” I would be thrilled!
4. Have you thought about writing a cookbook for adults?
I have recently been asked to collaborate on an adult cookbook, and I am considering that.
5. What are some of the benefits of cooking with your children?
Here is what I see when I lead a cooking class that is open to kids from ages 4 to 12: participants get exceedingly absorbed in cooking opportunities, which allows them to effortlessly bring whatever skills they possess to the task including math, science, reading, writing, art, and engineering. Younger children look to older siblings or classmates or friends to help, and the help is readily available. I am always impressed at how kids of all ages co-mingle in a group-cook setting. Most importantly, I think kids are eager to experiment with nutritious foods when they are involved in the process. Mothers routinely tell me they are shocked that after a Mangia! cooking class: their 4 year old now loves tomatoes; their 10 year old is eating broccoli; her kids now see beet salad topped with carrot shreds as a favorite lunch item. My young students have learned to make and prefer fresh squeezed lemonade over mixes; to opt for agave nectar over white sugar; to choose fresh pizelles, made with unbleached whole wheat flour over pre-packaged cookies. This nutritional learning is the greatest reward.
6. What is the best age to start teaching children how to cook, and the best way to get them interested?
Three year olds start appreciating being in the kitchen, playing with utensils, experimenting with simple ingredients, imitating the adults they see there. By four years old, with guidance, of course, I think children are ready to enjoy the accomplishment of real food preparation. If they start enjoying making meals in those early years, they will likely enjoy it for life.
But there is something else to this that I think is important. We live in an era that places great demands on young parents to provide their children with nearly constant organized activities. Young families are always rushing to the next event: a soccer game, a reading club, a swim meet, tennis lessons, baseball, music lessons, gymnastics etc. These are all good things, but still things pulling families away from the home. Parents often don’t cook because they simply aren’t in the house long enough to prepare even a 10 minute meal, and still have time to enjoy eating it. I suggest that at least a couple of times a week cooking with kids becomes the fun or enriching activity parents want to give their children. In my opinion, this activity, which has mom or dad as a participant rather than merely a driver, is as rewarding to the parent as it is to the child.
7. Your cookbooks are recommended for children ages 4 and up; however, many of the recipes require ingredients to be chopped or cooked on the stovetop. You use an innovative “StoveMaster” denotation; can you explain what that is?
Because nothing is more important than child safety, it is always assumed that an adult is in the kitchen with a young child.
In Mangia! books, the StoveMaster is the adult who handles the stove or any sharp or otherwise potentially hazardous object. My recipes attempt to minimize the StoveMaster’s activity, but in some instances, assistance is necessary. In all cases, we try to deliver the idea that the child is the chef, and the StoveMaster is the chef’s important assistant.
8. What is your approach to children who are picky eaters?
I don’t believe in forcing or nagging children to eat certain foods. Rather, I let them have fun while experimenting with mixing tastes, textures, and color. Typically, a child allowed to participate in food prep is more willing to try new dishes. In Mangia! Insalata, for example, we don’t talk much about making salads, we talk more about making rainbows. The emphasis there is on mixing colors to create beautiful and edible works of art. Children respond to that.
9. What is a good first recipe from your cookbooks to try with a child who is cooking for the very first time?
Peas and Macaroni is a fun, easy, and fast dish that kids like. “Painting” garlic bread with olive oil is also a good choice. Combined, these two recipes make a complete dinner that first-time cooks are usually very proud to present to their family.
10. What is the most popular recipe in your cookbooks and/or at your cooking classes?
Again, I have to say Peas and Macaroni from Mangia! Macaroni has been very popular. Runner-up is Mangia! Zuppa’s Chicken Soup.
11. Where can your books be purchased?
Mangia! Macaroni, Mangia! Insalata, and Mangia! Zuppa are all available for order on Amazon. In the Buffalo, NY area, the books are sold through independent bookstores Talking Leaves…Books and Monkey See, Monkey Do…A Children’s Bookstore.
12. Do you have plans to write another cookbook?
I am working on a children’s book of Italian desserts. Did you know that true Italian, particularly Sicilian, desserts are typically much lower in sugars and richer in nutrients than are most sweets served in the United States? Portions are smaller as well. I think most people have a different impression.
In the way of research for the Mangia! dessert book, I am running an Italian Cookie Recipe contest. More information on the contest is available at www.MangiaMacroni.com and Mangia Cookbooks’ Facebook page.
If you would love the chance to cook from Marilyn’s cookbooks with your children, you are in luck because she is giving away a set containing all three of her cookbooks to one lucky reader!
To participate in this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite meal to cook with your kids is; if you don’t have kids, tell me what your favorite meal was as a kid.
For extra entries, you can do any of the following (please leave a separate comment for each):
You do not need to have a blog to enter this giveaway. For shipping purposes, this giveaway is only open to U.S. residents. This giveaway ends on August 30, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST. Once the giveaway ends, the winner will be chosen randomly, notified via email, and will have one week to respond with their mailing information. If they do not respond, a new winner will be randomly chosen. Good luck to all!