Since the day they were born, the girls have been with me in the kitchen in some capacity. It’s a happy place for me, yes, but it’s also a place with so much to learn; whether that’s math, science, safety, patience, logistics, flavour, appreciation, and, of course, the ability to develop skills to support the fundamentals of sustaining life. Someone joked with me the other day that they attended university with friends and classmates who didn’t know how to prepare a meal for themselves, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. Well, not my girls! While they have always been with me as helping hands, this past week we decided that it’s their turn to start driving, and they were in charge of preparing and serving dinner. It was delicious.
Now then, a kitchen is full of hazards and I want to make it clear here that I am not irresponsibly leaving my children alone while they handle sharp knives and burn themselves. This is a supervised activity; I am their sous-chef when they need me, and when the situations arise where the might hurt themselves I take an opportunity to teach. I won’t be hanging out in their university dorm room later in life to explain to them why grabbing a hot tray with a wet towel is a remarkably bad idea, so why not instil the basic survival skills and knowledge now, while I have the opportunity? PSA aside, let’s dive into the experience.
As mentioned: the kids are no strangers to the kitchen. They have helped mix, stir, pour, measure, flip and portion for as long as they’ve been alive. On this momentous day, however, they’re reading the instructions themselves, and prepping it all from start to finish, including coming up with a meal plan; and what’s on their inaugural menu? Mac and cheese with ‘mummy’ dogs. Perfection. I won’t bore you with the play by play, but I will say that they did a bang-up job of serving the family a most delicious affair. They say things taste better when made with love from someone else (to this day I have never been able to make a sandwich taste nearly as good as when my mom or my wife makes it for me), and this was no exception. A simple meal made with pride and joy, and served with absolute elation. Their first Michelin star.
With any luck, this will become our new routine, when each Wednesday the kids will choose a meal to prepare and I will commit to supporting and teaching them to the best of my abilities. As mentioned in a previous post, or multiple posts for that matter, I fondly recall being in the kitchen with my mom when I was young, and I’m excited to repeat that experience from a different perspective; an exercise I encourage each and every one of you to replicate. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it doesn’t need to be elaborate, and it certainly doesn’t need to be expensive. Understanding the inner workings of a kitchen and a meal does not need to break the bank. In fact, the more you understand how ingredients work together, the further your pantry can take you. One rib-eye, one chicken, or one dozen eggs can each feed you and your family across multiple meals with consideration and the application of a few fundamentals. Of course, I’m not quite there with the girls yet, but we have to start somewhere, and if mac and cheese is the gateway to that, then I’m all-in on taking that journey with them.
The meal itself was wonderful, but perhaps the best part of it all came for me the following morning, when Alison sent me a text to advise that the girls wanted to wear their kitchen aprons to school so that they could let everyone know that they made dinner for their dad, all by themselves. The joy I felt in that moment, in recognizing that I’m succeeding, at least in some part as a parent, is one thing, but for them to step out into the world, proud, confident and excited, is something else altogether. Being Easter weekend, there is obviously no shortage of cooking and prep work to be done, and I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen with my growing little helpers.
Happy Easter, everyone.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe…sans raisins
~1/2 cup “micro” mini eggs
3/4 cup warm milk, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1/2 cup, +1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Large pinch ground nutmeg
- In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the warm milk with the 1/2 tsp sugar 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. Stir and let sit at room temp until nice and bubbly
- In the bowl of stand mixer combine the remaining 1/2 cup warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup of butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir until butter is fully melted
- Add the eggs and proofed yeast mixture. Stir in 1/1 tsp ground cinnamon and the nutmeg
- Using the dough hook attachment, mix in 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup at a time until soft dough forms. Knead \until smooth and elastic.
- Mix in the micro-eggs
- Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm area 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume
- I like to use the over set to 100 degrees
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 equal sized pieces.
- Roll dough into balls and transfer to a greased-up 9×13″ baking pan.
- Return to the 100 degree oven, or cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm space for 30-minutes
- Preheat oven to 375˚F.
- Brush the tops with an egg wash and bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
- Once cooled (mostly) mix the powdered sugar and about milk, transfer glaze to a piping bag, pipe a cross shape over each of the buns