Since I home-school three elementary-aged children and work full-time and have an infant and am married to a graduate student trying to finish his dissertation, I am CONSTANTLY looking for short-cuts and time optimizers. The Girls really enjoy helping in the kitchen, so we made the decision to try putting them in charge of dinner one night a week (actually, The Boy loves helping in the kitchen even more than the girls do, but he needs a little more supervision and isn't quite as helpful as he wants to be yet).
One of the girls will be in charge each week, and the other will be the sous chef. They get to choose the menu. They have to make a list of ingredients they need before the weekly grocery trip. They do the preparation and cooking with as little supervision from me as possible.
Tonight was our first try.
The Older of The Girls was in charge this week. She had chosen a Louisiana Style Corn and Crab Chowder from one of my cookbooks (corn and crab chowder!?!) and a big tossed salad -- I let her choose what she wanted; I had never made this before. She gave me the list of ingredients last week. This afternoon, she read and followed the recipe with very little help from me. I did step in to cut the round vegetables (potatoes and onions), which are a little tricky when first wielding a sharp knife (and made mom a little nervous), but as soon as they were no longer round, she did the dicing. She bumped the hot soup pot a couple times, and quickly learned to keep her distance. She diced tomatoes and yellow pepper and string cheese and hard-boiled egg for the salad. Her sister helped by peeling the potatoes and peeling the eggs and setting the table. She also made a pretty arrangement of crackers and carrots to "decorate" the table.
I was very proud of them. And they were VERY proud of themselves, especially the head chef. And I was able to get a little more work done.
I am looking forward to next week! Mangiamo!