Teaching kitchen survival skills to teens and inexperienced cooks

Posted August 13th, 2013 by Mimi

DD13 is nearing the end of her first year in high school, so we are going through the subject selection process.

The spread of the subjects from which she can choose is dizzying and there has been much discussion on which things to choose to allow her to pursue her chosen career path...which in itself, is somewhat hazy just now...lol!

One thing is for sure. As much as I see the value in learning cooking at school for some students, for this student, cooking, nutrition and kitchen hygiene can easily be taught at home, freeing up a slot for a different subject choice more attuned to her ambitions.

There is more to teaching teens kitchen skills, then just putting a recipe in front of them though, I've found.

She can already cook pancakes, crepes, savoury mince, spaghetti bolognaise, Thai beef salad, crustless quiche, coconut rice or fried rice and Asian inspired soup.

It's really more about preparing her for those first few years out of home, possibly as a student or first time participant in the workforce, on a limited budget and with limited time.

It's also about teaching her the skills to clean, tidy and make an area food safe, as much as anything else.

So lesson one was on Sunday night. None of us felt like cooking (or even reheating what I'd prepared in the freezer), so the vote was an economical BBQ chook from the local IGA. At just $7, a good choice for a takeaway style meal.

Chicken was purchased, and of course DD13, just wanted to dive in and tear it apart and have it with salad, which she imagined was going to magically appear on the bench.


So, I marshalled her with apron donned, and here's what she did...with supervision.

Part one of the lesson was how to turn a bought chicken into a meal and have leftovers for at least two more dishes.

1. Pop the chicken into the oven on LOW to keep it warm.

2. Throw three washed potatoes into the microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. While they're cooking, make a potato salad dressing with half mayo, half light sour cream, and a teaspoon of seeded mustard. Chop some celery and a shallot (spring onion). Remove the cooked potatoes (reminding her that escaping steam can burn and blister so be careful when removing a lid or cling wrap from a hot microwaved dish), chop them using a fork to hold them, and toss them with the dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Assemble a salad from whatever she wanted. She chose lettuce, rocket, cheese, grated carrot and pickled cucumbers, with capsicum garnish. Chopping board hygiene and knife safety lesson here.

4. While there, she made yoghurt parfaits for dessert. Just drizzle of caramel syrup in the bottom of small glasses, home made greek yoghurt on top, crumbled GF biscuits over that.

Fifteen minutes have passed and she's got dinner and dessert ready.

We eat and pay her many compliments...well, we want her to do it again, don't we. But to be fair, she's done a sterling job. The chicken was pre done but she did the rest herself.

We returned to the kitchen, and I showed her how to remove every skerrick of remaining meat from the chicken, shred it and store it properly. Part 2 of the lesson was the next day, so see below.

Then the cleaning....

1. Rinse everything and stack the dishwasher. Now most teens would think that's that. But I want her to learn to clean the kitchen properly.

So, 2. Brush all dry crumbs from the bench with a teatowel into her hand and bin them. She will be sweeping too, so it's okay if a few go astray.

3. Run a little hot water and detergent into the sink and rinse the dishcloth really well. Squeeze the dishcloth out until it's almost dry to use it. Do this each and every time. And rinse, rinse, rinse.

4. Use a scourer to clean any gunk from the hotplates, and wipe over with the clean dishcloth. Polish with the teatowel (we have ceramic cooktops).

5. Rinse the dishcloth and wipe over the inside of the microwave. Dry with the teatowel.

6. Rinse the dishcloth and wipe over all benchtops.

7. Remove the bin and take the rubbish out. Line the bin with a new liner.

8. Wipe out the bin recess with the dishcloth. Rinse the dishcloth and put it straight into the washing machine, along with the used teatowel. It will be washed, dried and replaced in a jar with white vinegar, water and essential oils. I use microfiber cloths and use a new one every day. The teatowel is also replaced daily.

9. Get out a new cloth, and wipe over all surfaces to disinfect and deodorise. Rinse the cloth and wring it out really well. Hang it over the tap to dry.

10. Get out a new teatowel and hang it up neatly.

11. Sweep the floor and remove the debris with a dustpan and brush.

NOW you're finished.

This took about 20 minutes under supervision, but in reality should take no more than ten minutes, ordinarily.

DD was really proud of herself, and actually wants to know when she can do it all again.

Next time SHE roasts the chicken ;0)

Part 2 of this lesson, was to show DD that you can get more than one meal from a takeaway chook.

So the next morning, I showed her how to make a French Onion Dip (which she loves) with a tub of Sour Light Cream and half a packet of French Onion Soup. She was very impressed and it's easy to forget how these simple things are really impressive for teens.

She mixed a small handful of the diced chicken with some dip and turned it into a salad in a lettuce leaf cup for her school lunch. I showed her how to toast slivered almonds in a dry pan to make a garnish. She ate it and pronounced it delish yesterday :)

Last night we tossed most of the balance of the chook with rice noodles and steamed veges, some sesame oil and a little more dip, to make a sort of Noodle Salad for dinner.

This morning, we used the last bit of chicken to make sushi for her lunch.

She was utterly amazed that we'd made that many things from one bought chicken.

Now we are only a family of three these days, so I realise it's different for everyone. But even stretching a bought chicken to dinner and sushi or dinner and soup will show your teens that eating well can be inexpensive and simple.

A bought chook is a good place to start. So long as next time, you show them how to cook the chicken themselves :D

Start small, and go from there.

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