Little Chef Izzy

If you’ve ever enjoyed watching the food competition shows that feature children–Top Chef Junior, Kids Baking Championship, Chopped Junior, and MasterChef Junior, just to name a few–they might just take you back to your days as a child in the kitchen. Or not. While it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch kids wield the kind of culinary technique most adults can only dream of, many of us who grew up cooking had much more modest skills that were honed only later in life.

If you’re on Instagram you might also have come across a precocious British three-year-old named Little Chef Izzy, who has actually been on the platform since September 2019. According to a story about her in MyRecipes, she’s been baking cupcakes, gingerbread men, pizza, and more since before she was two.

Little Izzy may have talents way beyond what we had at that age but it does make you think about what kids are capable of and how we should encourage them in the kitchen. After all, isn’t that what molded us?

“My mom had me at the counter watching and helping at three,” recalls APPCA member Christine Robinson. When asked how she helped and what was the first dish she made by herself, it wasn’t quite up to Instagram’s Little Chef Izzy, but instead more relatable to those of us whose adventures in the kitchen were more, well, childlike. What I love about Christine’s cooking adventure was just how resourceful she was.

“Um…that was the ill-fated creamed potato experiment,” explains Christine. “I was under specific instructions to never turn on burners nor the oven and to never use the sharp knives. So my mom made the best creamed potatoes. All I knew was that there were potatoes, sour cream and butter. But how to make them on my own without breaking my restrictions? I got out a small stainless saucepan and cut the (not peeled) potato with a butter knife, dumped sour cream in with a stick of butter and climbed on the counter to utilize the only heat source I was allowed to use, the metal toaster. I set the pan atop the toaster and proceeded to turn it on to its highest setting, hit the switch, and stirred furiously with a metal fork. I chose all conductive metal for the project. Every time the toaster would, pop I would press the switch down again and resume stirring.

“This went on for a good 15 minutes,” Christine continues, “until my mom walked in and started screaming I was going to electrocute myself. Needless to say, it was a failed experiment. I lost toaster privileges and we moved on to supervised baking after that.”

Okay, pull yourself together and stop laughing. Christine was just more creative than most kids.

Yes, we all have stories. Here’s mine. I was about three–and this is my first memory period–when my dad decided to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. Yes, I was way behind Izzy… Instead of putting me on a step stool, he held me over the stove and gave me the spatula to let me stir the curds into what would become breakfast. I was never a science geek but watching the runny yolks and whites solidify into soft pale yellow buttery mounds was transformative. I ended up learning how to make all sorts of dishes from my parents, from meatloaf (how much fun is it to sink your clean hands in a bowl with cold ground beef, a couple of eggs, ketchup, matzo meal, and spices and mush it all together), roast chicken, flank steak spirals, and lamb chops. I made salads and set the table. I made coffee in the morning for my parents and still recall the pop of opening a new can of MJB and the heady aroma that burst out. Or arguing with my siblings over who got to lick the spoon and the bowl from the cake or brownie batter and cookie dough we made with our mom. Yes, we three were raised in the kitchen.

As soon as APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel was tall enough to reach the stove, she recalls making spaghetti and meat sauce. And, like many of us, there were what we now call “dump cakes.”

“My mom used to keep boxed cakes in the house for my friends and me to make,” Shelbie says. “She said it was good for us to read the directions and learn to measure… this was probably fourth to fifth grade.”

Jennifer Grawburg asked her mom to teach her at age 13. The dish was Jiffy Blueberry Muffins. “My grandma and my mother were good home cooks and inspired me to be the chef I am now.

Grandparents make learning how to cook and bake special. Anne Blankenship says that she was probably seven or eight years old when she made “kitty kat pancakes (two circles and ears) with her grandfather. “I was lucky to have a mother, grandfather and two grandmothers from whom I learned to cook,” she says.

So, what are you doing to help a new young generation of children to learn how to cook? Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, there are all sorts of dishes you can teach them to prepare–at the level they’re at. It could be starting with measuring ingredients or stirring them together, learning how to read a recipe, or just offering tastes to get them interested in new flavors. Older kids can learn knife skills, how to sauté or fry or bake a loaf of bread. Teach them favorite family recipes and recipes that are deeply part of their heritage.

Teach them how to feed themselves and those they love and gain a skill that helps them be independent.

And then teach them how to do the dishes.

How old were you when you first learned to cook? What did you make?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership. 

And if you are a member and have a special talent or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

While many in the greater world are just discovering their kitchens, thanks to lockdowns, you chefs have tons of expertise is all aspects of meal making. But there are things we do by habit or were taught that could be improved on, whether it’s to save time, save clean up, or just be more effective.

We thought it would be interesting to learn what some of your favorite kitchen hacks are so we asked people on our Facebook pages to share. Here’s what they had to offer:

  • “I grate my eggs when preparing egg salad. I create a simple sauce with lemon mayonnaise mixed spicy mustard and seasoning. Mix in capers and serve with butter lettuce salad.” Allyson Demlinger Shapiro
  • “I zest my lemons holding the lemon and using the zester facing up. It holds the zest and I can see how deep I’m going. It’s backwards but makes more sense to me.” Jennifer M. Grawberg
  • “Using a jumbo paper clip — opened to like a “C” — to truss the legs of poultry before roasting. Way easier than twine.” Kim Jones
  • “Using a frozen stick of butter and a (preferably flat) grater, peel down paper on stick of butter and grate butter into flour for pastry dough; then combine with pastry cutter or fingers.” https://www.facebook.com/designedcuisine/videos/712702312420776/  Anne Blankenship
  • “A year ago I bought a wooden oyster holder from France … I broke it eventually and looked for a replacement at Sur La Table … replacement was made of plastic and rubber … accompanying knife was dangerously sharp … I have reassembled my broken wooden French version … and will take my chances … how do you open oysters?” Walter Newell

And, because who doesn’t love a great kitchen hack, here are some others I found around the Internet:

  • Employ a “garbage jar”: If you love baking and find yourself with bits of leftover ingredients like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts, and dried fruits, put anything less than half a cup into a jar. Next time you bake a batch of cookies or Rice Krispie Treats or the like, shake up the jar and add your collection to your recipe. From MyRecipes 
  • Flattening parchment paper from a roll: Got parchment paper that won’t stop curling up on the pan? Easy fix–just crumple it up in a ball and then flatten it out. From Food & Wine
  • How to clean your spice grinding: Remember the old coffee grinders we used to use for coffee. We’re so sophisticated we use burr grinders for the beans and use these for spices. But cleaning them is a drag. Unless you use a hunk of bread. Bonus! You wind up with spiced bread crumbs! Don’t want to use them at the moment? Put them in a bag and store in the freezer. From Epicurious
  • Juice your lemon without cutting it: If you only need a teaspoon of juice from a large lemon, why cut it when you stick a skewer into the non-stem end and squeeze out just what you need? Then put the lemon in a bag and store in the fridge. From Southern Living
  • Get more use from your loaf pan than banana bread: Make smaller casseroles, meatloaf, a terrine, a stacked dessert, pull-apart bread. From MyRecipes
  • Get rid of static plastic wrap syndrome: Simple–store it in the freezer. From Southern Living

What are your favorite kitchen hacks?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership. 

And if you are a member and have a special talent or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

Both of my grandmothers were terrific cooks and one, my mom’s mother, was also an accomplished baker. I have a collection of recipe cards from her, my Nana, but when I was in my 20s I asked her to make me a cookbook of her recipes. By then she was closing in on 80, if not that already. Her memory of exact recipe ingredient amounts was sliding and her handwriting had become a bit wispy. But she accommodated my request and within months presented me with a blue denim three-ring notebook filled with handwritten recipes. I adore that book. It’s on my list of items to grab in case of evacuation.

I’m going to take a big leap and assume that you, too, have some stacks of cherished family recipes in a drawer or box, or shoved into cookbooks. Would I be right as well in assuming that on some to-do list somewhere is a goal of organizing them for yourself or your kids? I ask because I happened upon an article in My Recipes that has all sorts of wonderful ideas for how to turn old family recipes into heirlooms. Sure, there were the expected takes, like the notebook and box for index cards. But the author also surprised me with some unexpected ideas I just have to share. Because it seems to me that if you’re stuck at home looking for a new project to take on after binging on all your favorite shows and mastering baking sourdough bread, creatively corralling all those recipes–perhaps even your own, if not those of parents and grandparents–could be a satisfying activity.

What does the author suggest?

First, the photo album, of course. I’m partial to this idea, along with the next, because I love being able to hold the pieces of notebook paper, the backs of the envelopes, and the stained index cards with my Nana’s or mom’s sprawling handwriting.

Then, there’s the recipe box. This can be as well-ordered with section markers or totally random for the fun of discovery. When my mom sold her house following my dad’s death a few years ago, she gave me a hefty orange recipe box that I periodically riffle through. I even found what had been someone’s (my little brother’s?) art project with a recipe lightly written on it. Was it the first thing she grabbed to take down a recipe from a friend on the phone? I’ll have to ask her.

Now, you could just buy a recipe box on Amazon. Or you could get creative and make one or get a bare bones box and decorate it. Or have a kid decorate it. Or scour Etsy for the recipe box of your dreams.

From inmyownstyle.com

Then the writer surprised me. How about framing favorite old, handwritten recipes? She demonstrates this with recipe cards and burlap as the matting, but whatever works for your style could be wonderful. This is where inspiration from Pinterest could come in handy.

Next came the idea of creating a memory recipe box. This is quite a bit different from gathering and organizing family recipes. Here you’re hitting on a recipe or group of recipes that strike you where you live and build a sort of altar to them, placing them in a shadow box with photos and other items that represent what those recipes mean to you.

WeeCustomDesigns on Etsy

Finally, there’s this very cool idea of transposing a cherished family recipe onto a tea towel or cutting board. Imagine this as a gift idea for relatives who all know and love Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies or lasagna. It can be a DIY project (you can go to the original story for a couple of sources) or you could have an artisan do it for you–and you can find them on Etsy.

Do you have a collection of family recipes that need organizing? How have you pulled them together or displayed them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership. 

And if you are a member and have a special talent or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

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