Family Fun: Cook Something New

turtlebreadFor me, March is a month for cooking. Why? It started when I taught first grade in rural upstate New York, where the winters are cold and seemingly endless. March was the most depressing month of the year. It sounded as if the weather should be getting warmer, but no such luck. March was always cold. So, in an effort to raise our spirits, I always saved my favorite teaching units for March—notably the unit on nutrition, so the children and I could cook (and eat) a lot. March was a cooking month.

This year in Michigan, we are having exactly that sort of March. The piles of snow by my driveway are still as tall as I am. And so, for me, it is time to cook. Fortunately, cooking offers lots of opportunities for both fun and creativity. Enjoy!

1. Invent a recipe. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Find something new that can be combined with peanut butter to make a new sandwich. Add something different to mac and cheese, or your favorite cookie recipe. What could you strawberriesmix together for a new punch or smoothie? (This brings memories of my home wedding, during which a punch recipe mistake resulted in my siblings dumping pretty much anything liquid into the bowl until it tasted good!) If you want a more sophisticated approach, learn about the trend for “improvisational cooking”—just like grandma’s kitchen.

2. Make something you usually buy. Make cheese, make butter, or bake some kid-friendly basic bread. Aside from being delicious, understanding how such basic foods are created helps us look at them in a whole new way.

3. Make food that looks like something else. Start with a recipe and build from there. When I was a little girl, I thought Raggedy Ann salad was the most fun ever. Start with that, or a clown face salad or flag pizza. But don’t raggedyannsaladstop there—those are just a bit of inspiration. Collect the veggies in your refrigerator and see what kind of picture-salad you can invent, or create a pizza landscape. The only requirement is that children may only use ingredients they are willing to eat.

4. Ever wonder why food in magazines or food blogs doesn’t look like the dishes on your table? Learn some of the tricks of food photography in Foods that Fool You. If you’d like to try photographing your own efforts, here’s a simple place to begin. I’d love to see the results.

5. Finally, I just can’t resist sharing two favorite food fun websites. This link, from Bean Appetit, includes a delightful slide show of food ideas from pear penguins to a starry night of rice and cheese. This slideshow of adorable bread shapes will inspire the bakers among you. As always, let these ideas be a place to start, and let the creative cooking begin!

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