Raising good cooks: part three

Just like in carpentry, you need the right tool of the right job. I don’t mean a lot of fussy gadgets to clutter your kitchen, but the basic tools necessary to create almost anything you want to make in the kitchen.

There is a skill to setting up a good kitchen. With ten basic categories you can have a well-prepared kitchen that will be ready for any dish you want to prepare.

  • cookware. Quality cookware is a must. And knowing when to use what pan is a skill in itself. A basic set with a saute pan, a skillet, a stock pot and a couple of sauce pans will get you going.
  • cookbooks. Two basic, complete books are really all you need.
  • Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. Having the right tool makes cooking so much easier.
  • utensils. Whisks, slotted spoons, colanders, spatulas, a non-porous cutting board and ladles make cooking so much easier.
  • bakeware. It is hard to bake without a few basic pans and baking dishes. Two round cake pans, a sheet cake pan and an 8X8 square pans are three to start with. An maybe a glass dish for casseroles.
  • measuring tools. It’s impossible to cook accurately without quality measuring sups and spoons.
  • storage containers. You need somewhere to keep your leftovers so you aren’t storing food in your serving dishes or cookware.
  • mixing bowls. It’s hard to mix a cake in a cereal bowl. Three sizes are adequate.
  • electric tools. A mixer and blender are almost indispensable. Others you may want to invest in include a microwave, a food processor, a crock pot and a toaster oven.
  • rags, oven mitts and towels. You can’t get hot food out of the oven without one. And you need rags for cleaning too.

Raising good cooks: part 2

Becoming a good cook isn’t about being flashy or complicated. I think the best cooks are a ones with a few simple techniques that they do well. There are some things that will give any cook confidence.

  • Reading a recipe. Knowing how the recipe will flow helps you be a more confident cook. And also knowing if you have the ingredients/equipment on hand is good to know too.
  • Knife skills. Learn chopping, dicing, peeling, and the right knife to use.
  • Measuring. Liquid measuring cups are different than dry measuring cups. They should not be interchanged. Learning the abbreviations for measurements is important too. And how to accurately measure dry ingredients like flour. Math is important here, because you want to try your hand at doubling or tripling recipes or seeing if you have enough of an ingredient on hand.
  • Greasing and/or flouring pans. Not hard, but useful.
  • Methods for mixing. Whipping, folding, stirring, etc. are the most basic food preparatory skills.
  • Reading food labels. Eating healthier begins with knowledge of what you are buying.
  • Planning a menu. Food choices are fundamental to good cooking. This would include a shopping list and budgeting.
  • Culinary lexicon. It is necessary to know terms such as braise, simmer, saute and soft ball. Learning basic terms will make you a better cook because you will know what you need to do.
  • Equipment. Know what basic tools are and how to use them. These are basic tools like whisks and electric tools like blenders.
  • Food safety. This is a biggie. Know when food is unsafe, how to store food properly and first aid too (treating burns and cuts, for example).
  • Cleaning up. Sanitation, or how to properly clean cutting boards, counters, non-stick pans and knives. You may want to include stain treatment/removal.

Next: Part three–the top ten tools to have for a cook’s basic kitchen.

Raising good cooks: part one

When it comes to preparing your children (daughters and sons) for adulthood, kitchen skills can be a little overwhelming. All that goes into keeping a good kitchen is daunting, especially if you are a perfectionist or feel you lack skills in this area. Pick recipes from a favorite cookbook or family album and get to practicing.

Part one in this series is a list of recipes. A good cook does not need a hundred recipes. Ten simple recipes are all you need to master. This will give your child a wide variety of menus that will serve them well. Once you master each of these recipes you are able to improvise and create an almost endless menu. And they are all easy to double or triple for crowd pleasing meals too. When you are able to cook for yourself, it opens up a whole new world. You can control what goes into your food, what you eat and how you can entertain.

  • Pancakes. Making good pancakes takes skill, and making the batter from scratch is helpful. Adding a couple of Tbsp of oil transforms it into waffle mix. You can shake things up by adding fruit or other toppings and pancakes are a winner for breakfast or dinner.
  • Soup. Knowing how to make a basic soup is essential. Whatever soup your family loves most, learning a basic soup is important. Once you do, you can vary the ingredients to make an infinite variety for any season of the year. (And your college student will never have to settle for instant ramen or canned soup!)
  • Basic spaghetti sauce. This is the basis for almost any variety of Italian dish. A good tomato based spaghetti sauce can feed an army of friends and family and it’s an inexpensive way to impress someone you love. Ladle it over pasta or veggies for a winner every time.
  • Casserole. Casseroles are another dish that you can change up a million ways. Once you understand the basics you can add any number of ingredients and always get it right.
  • Baked bird (for meat eaters). Another simple skill that will take you far in the kitchen. Start with a chicken. And when you are feeling ambitious, try your hand at making gravy with no lumps!
  • Cookies. Knowing how to bake cookies is essential. They are great gifts and snacks. They are easy to make and fun to serve.
  • Cake. There is really no substitute to homemade cake (except maybe angel food!). Basic cakes are not difficult and the results are tasty. And a college kid or newlywed can afford to make a cake a lot easier than buy one.
  • Chili. Another dinnertime staple. Vegetarian or meaty, leftovers are great too. Good chili will keep people coming around.
  • White sauce. This is a foundation for many things like casseroles, mac and cheese and some soups.
  • Bread. Again, this is a money saver. Making your own rolls and bread is all natural and you can’t beat the smell of fresh baked bread. There are tons of recipes out there to experiment with to find one that is easy and mistake-proof (most of the time). Cornbread, quick bread, yeast bread, pick something and work on it.

These ten basic recipes are things your kids can work on from upper elementary age so that by the time they leave your home they are armed with simple but tasty recipes that will save money and keep them–and their friends–happy for years. Of course, there may be things that your family loves that you wish to substitute. Optional extras to learn: pie crust, eggs of all kinds.

Next time: 10 basic kitchen skills to master

Making the most of public speaking

One thing all kids need is confident public speaking. The ability to persuade, inform and entertain is a priceless ability, and homeschooled kids have many terrific opportunities to hone their skills–and tools to help them do it better.

TED talks are very popular, and with good reason. If you aren’t aware of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) then visit their archives for public speakers and topics that run the gamut. They are interesting to watch, especially when looking with a speaker’s eye. Older kids and high schoolers can glean a lot from a TED talk. Things to watch for: the choice and use of visuals, the length, the manner of speaking. YouTube is another place for tons of terrific videos of speakers on any subject you can think of.

To gain public experience, there are opportunities everywhere. Home, church, clubs, nursing homes, teams–there are lots of places to get in some speaking times. Maybe you could head over to the local retirement home or homeless shelter. Or create a video on a topic you enjoy and teach someone something. Create a need and fill it with a speech.

What do you want to talk about? Maybe a poetry reading, an original story or reciting memory work. Almost anything you can think of would make a good topic. Sermons and great speeches from the past are great practice for unsure speakers.

Even speaking at home can be helpful for shy speakers. An audience that is familiar, loving and supportive can go a long way to boosting the confidence of a kid who is apprehensive about public speaking. If it would help, practice with an audience of stuffed animals.

I hope you’ll give your kids many opportunities to speak publicly. It’s a necessary skill that will take them far in life.

Chore age chart and chore questions

I thought I would share this handy chart I found a while back. I’ve had it for years and it’s really great. It breaks down different chores into age groups. I converted it to PDF for easy viewing and printing.

Download PDF Chore Age Reference List chart

  • Some questions you can answer if you are so inclined:
  • Do your kids do a lot of chores?
  • Do you give a lot of thought to their age, in relation to the task?
  • Are there things you won’t let your kids do around the house for one reason or another?
  • Do you offer incentives in your family, like points or allowance, that is tied to chore completion?
  • Is excellence important or is it just about getting the job done?
  • Do your children have the same jobs all the time or do they switch it up?
  • Do you assign jobs according to your child’s strengths in an area?
  • Feel free to link to this chart. (Please give me credit for it.)

I am trying to get more into a habit of daily chores for everyone. To this point it has been hit and miss. For me it is about teaching a life of excellence and integrity. I am concerned about teaching the self-government necessary to achieve a balnced and orderly life. I want them to see in God’s Word the principles of diligence, industry and perseverence. These are invaluable in life.

We should live our lives in a way that makes God look good. I mean, we should have neat homes, clean clothes and healthy food to eat. We should take care of our bodies and care for the needs of others. Now that is easier said than done, but I believe it is possible. So let’s get that floor mopped!