Tips When Cooking with Your Kids – From Chef Tara

As we continue to search for activities to do with our kids while we’re all stuck at home, cooking as a family is becoming more and more popular.

Tara Schie runs the kitchen at Shy Cellars in Strasburg, which is owned by her mother, Sherri. She is a master of delicious foods of all sorts and artistic plate presentations, but she’s reminding the parents out there that at home, things don’t have to be so ‘perfect.’

Here are Chef Tara’s top five tips when cooking with your kids.

1.) Be Flexible!

Now more than ever we are forced to be flexible and improvise recipes based on what is in our pantries, and what we can find in the grocery store. Don’t let the lack of an ingredient rattle you. Keep an open mind and be flexible in meal preparations. If you are not sure if the recipe can be made without an ingredient, google that ingredient to see if a substitution can be made. Most of the time, you can find an easy and delicious substitution!

2.) Plan and Assign Tasks

I am a planner! I enjoy planning out family meals and have certain spots in my kitchen for certain tasks. When the kids are in the kitchen with me, I’ll assign tasks or jobs to them. It’s a way for them to help and save a little bit of your precious sanity by knowing who is where and who is doing what, so you are not tripping over each other in the kitchen.

3.) Don’t Expect Perfection

Speaking from someone who is a little OCD about food… ok A LOT OCD about food, when your family is in the kitchen with you, things will not look perfect. That’s ok! My restaurant habits kick in full gear when I’m plating up family dinner. They love to laugh and tease me that everything doesn’t have to be in a certain spot on the plate and that if a couple drops of sauce aren’t where they should be and I go to clean them off the plate, it’s ok! When the kids are in the kitchen especially, things aren’t going to be perfect, but celebrate the victory of accomplishing something together.

4.) Encourage your kids to play with their food.

This is something my mom has always said! Play with your food! When prepping out your family dinner and the kids are involved, use it as a learning tool by playing. Make your own pasta together, make your own pizzas at home, create a burger or taco bar, create an evening where the kids can dive in, get their hands dirty, and eat the end result!

5.) Laugh, have fun and always have a dessert on standby!

Every meal you make is not going to be a home run, and what’s important to remember is that’s OK! Perfect example… Just last week I was in the mood for brownies, so I made a batch before dinner. Dinner time came and my family was in the mood for Mongolian Beef (one of my favorites, so I was all for it!). I made the noodles, perfected the sauce, then it came time to finish the steak. I didn’t take into account the smaller pieces of steak I was using (versus the larger pieces that the recipe calls for), and in the recipe, you have to dredge your steak in cornstarch before you pan fry it. Well because of that I had WAY too much cornstarch. Turned out, in my family’s words, I made TAR. Even though my day had not been the greatest, I couldn’t help but laugh and say “Well, I guess it’s a good thing I made dessert! I’m glad we will all have room left for it!” Speaking from an executive chef, you are going to have off cooking days, do not take it to heart. Laugh and have fun with your family. Let the screw up be a learning experience and an excuse to eat more dessert!

Shy Cellars is continuing to offer a variety of takeout options amid continued stay at home orders. Check them out on Facebook to stay up-to-date on what’s available and for their reopening when mandates are lifted.

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