It's no secret we love to cook. When we built our house, I wanted our kitchen island to be the compass point, and didn't just envision these years cooking around it, but years down the road, too. I pictured little kids chasing each other around it, and someday, big kids gathered around it, helping me chop peppers or just sitting across from me while I cook, telling me about their day at school or how hard their finals week was. I ran into one of my colleagues on campus the other day and all she could talk about was how excited she was for her kids to come home from college and spend three weeks together. I think about these days sometimes, and wonder what our family will look like and what kinds of things we will look forward to doing together. I have a feeling they might involve the kitchen.
On Friday night, we engaged the kids in our first ever Jorgensen Top Chef. With a snowstorm in the forecast for the weekend, I thought if might be fun to spend a night cooking together, and with nowhere to go, drag things out and give the kids some independence in the kitchen. I made a game out of it early last week, using this cookbook, and giving the kids some sticky bookmarks to mark their favorite recipes. Then, based on prep time and cook time, I chose two that would be doable for them and able to be cooked for dinner. Cruz chose a pan of ultra chocolatey brownies, and Mila chose strawberry smoothies.
Now that drinks and dessert were taken care of, Beau and I each chose a course that would accompany the time frame, and our kids' picking eating habits. While my ideal Top Chef would involve trying creative, highly nutritious plates, I decided to let that go for this first one and choose things the kids would enjoy eating. Build their excitement for the event, which would hopefully spark some more adventurous eating down the road. Like when they're 18. :)
I got all the groceries Friday afternoon and spent a little bit of time measuring out ingredients and organizing our space before inviting all my helping hands to the kitchen. But when we were ready, the space was theirs. We put on music, let them get messy, did a little teaching about cooking techniques, and for the most part, let them do the work. While I had envisioned us sitting at the table with all four courses at once, I loved that it evolved into a progressive dinner - first, prepping Cruz's brownies so they'd have time to bake, then, serving my nachos as an appetizer, followed by Mila's smoothie and Beau's original "pizza-dilla" as our main course. We all helped each other with each course, practiced giving good feedback to each head chef about what we liked and what could be improved, and finally voted for our favorite dish, with the one exception that you couldn't vote for your own.
It was a tough fought race, but Cruz's ultra chocolatey brownie won the grand prize. I, personally, was a big fan of Beau's conception of the stuffed crust pizza-dilla, although Mila's smoothies were a refreshing balance with everything else. And had we had the chance, I'm pretty sure we would have each voted for our own dish. It was quite competitive around here!
One of my favorite little videos from my phone. "Use two hands!"
Watching my three around that island Friday night was exactly the picture I envisioned two years ago. Mila intently watching for Cruz's lead as he cracked eggs in the bowl, and Cruz at the stovetop, stirring and watching in fascination as the chocolate chips melted into a runny, buttery perfection. And as I picture years down the road at Christmastime, as I anxiously await our big kids to come home from wherever they are, I hope they look forward to Top Chef night, with a love of cooking, that same competitive spirit, and a comfort of being around our kitchen island with the music up and the fire on.
Let's just hope we've moved on from the pizza-dilla by then. :)