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Our family watched MasterChef Junior Friday night on television and we were blown away by the cooking skills of some of the contestants. Amazing! And I’m stilling pouring Cinnamon Crunch cereal into my ten year old’s bowl.

This is Fox’s second season of MasterChef Junior where children ages eight to thirteen years old compete to win 100,000 dollars and the MasterChef Junior trophy.  The children cooked dishes that were hard to believe were created by children as young as eight. For instance, take episode 4.

A mystery box filled with unknown ingredients are handed to the children and they have to put together an impressive meal using those ingredients. Episode four’s mystery box contained “foods kids hate” like, liver, kidneys, snails, Brussels sprouts, sardines, artichoke, blue cheese, olives, dates and fennel. Some of the contestants’ entries included a blue cheese soufflé; deep-fried sardines with a cabbage, Brussels sprout and fennel salad; snail chowder with herb oil and baked eggplant peels; and a sticky toffee pudding with candied fennel, a Chantilly cream and a fig-lemon puree. Pretty amazing!

As parents, we take pleasure in feeding our children – introducing them to new foods – and watching them grow and build strong muscles. But after watching this show, two of my three children (11 and 11) were inspired to create their own delicious meals. The fifteen year old not so much.  Just bring his plate into his bedroom for him and close the door behind you and he’s happy.

Here’s what we did.

  1. Poured through my old cookbooks, magazines and Internet

Kids take to learning new things best when they have a stake in the outcome, so empower them to be part of the process. I let them pick out what they wanted to make. Their meal – their decision. They could make an appetizer, main course, or dessert. It was totally up to them. We gauged the difficulty of the recipe by the number and familiarity of ingredients. We steered away from recipes with ingredients they couldn’t identify. We looked for recipes with step-by-step procedures.  Most of the websites were better than the cookbooks because they had videos, pictures, ratings, and comments from people who tried the recipe.

  1. Explain cooking terminology

Kids don’t understand cooking terminology like fold, julienne, sear, sauté and blanch. We wanted to use the correct words, so we looked them up on YouTube and watched videos of chefs performing the cooking method. I didn’t expect them to walk away talking like a four star French chefs, but little by little they’ll learn the names of the cooking terms and how to perform them.

  1. Safety first

As a mom I look around the kitchen and see ‘danger’ stamped all over it. Start with projects and tasks that are easy for them to perform, like picking out the ingredients, measuring and putting into bowls, stirring, setting the table, etc. Supervise closely without being a helicopter parent and let them do what they can.

  1. Time to talk

Teaching kids to cook gives opportunity to work together and talk. We discussed our family history and culture.  We looked at my mother’s Betty Crocker Cookbook and her writing in the margins about different recipes. We also looked at her personal recipes written by hand. Some still had marks on them – splattered sauce – buttered fingers, drops of something or other.  My mom passed away before my children were born so they really enjoyed learning about her through cooking some of her favorite recipes.

  1. Keep the goal in mind

Your ultimate goal is not to make restaurant-quality dishes, but to have a happy kid who’s excited to spend time in the kitchen.