Are your kids eager to help in the kitchen this Thanksgiving? They may not be able to lift the turkey into the oven or slice up those notoriously hard yams, but there is plenty children can do to help out on the big day.
We asked three local foodie parents — a dad chef, a mom food blogger, and a mom cooking show host — for tips on how to put eager kids to work in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Here is what they had to say.
Stephen Coe is the chef at BOKX 109 in Newton. He’s also a dad to 4-year-old Adalide, 2-year-old Bryton, and 6-month-old Camden Chase.
“People tend to shy away from having their kids help in the kitchen,” said Coe. “But they love to be involved and there are plenty of safe and easy tasks that let them contribute to the meal.”
Let them help make dessert: While you work on the main meal, why not put your kids to work on the all-important dessert? Let them roll out dough or stir pie filling. They can tear up bread for bread pudding.
Put them in charge of decorating: A pre-Thanksgiving walk around the neighborhood can be a fun gathering time. Collect pine cones, leaves, and pine needles for the decor.
Ask them to be “the official Thanksgiving taste testers:” “Not only does this feel like a big responsibility for a little person, but you might even get them to try some of those “scary” foods that they would refuse any other day of the year!” said Coe.
Janelle Malafronte Snarsky hosts a cooking show in her Braintree kitchen called “Heaven’s Kitchen With Janelle.” She is the mother of two children, 20-year-old Tommy and 17-year-old Kaylene.
Make homemade cranberry sauce: “Nobody makes a homemade cranberry sauce and it’s as simple as can be,” said Malafronte Snarsky.
This recipe is good for grade school and preteen age kids, she said. Just monitor them as they stand at the stove and stir in the ingredients. They take 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup water, and ¼ cup orange juice and bring it to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add one package of cranberries and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst and sauce begins to thicken.
“You just keep stirring it and it turns into this magical emulsification that a 7- or 8-year-old would feel magical making,” she said. “When they can do their very own dish on the table that they’ve had everything to do with, it’s sensational.”
Then remove from heat, stir in ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
Make a simple appetizer: “My kids used to peel the carrots for me,” said Malafronte Snarsky. “A grade-school kid can use a peeler safely. Just show them the technique.”
Next, arrange the carrot sticks and celery on a plate with hummus dip.
Turn Oreo cookies into turkeys for place cards: Malafronte Snarsky has turned Oreo cookies into festive (and edible!) place cards for Thanksgiving with the help of her children. Warning: You may want to do this the night before, as it takes a little time.
Malfronte Snarksy, who suggested we find a YouTube video to demonstrate how to make the turkeys, said she adds a toothpick in between the “feathers” and places the name of her guests on a tiny sign at the top.
Leah Klein is a Cambridge mom food blogger at www.leahslife.com (you can also find her on Twitter at @bffoodie). She has two children, 7-year-old Henry and 9-year-old Isabelle.
Help make mashed potatoes: Give little kids a colander filled with potatoes and have them scrub them with a brush. Older children can help peel. “We put on some good music; my daughter, her great-aunt, and my dad sit around the table peeling potatoes and chatting,” said Klein.
Measure ingredients for baking: “When baking, you can involve kids of any age,” said Klein. Older kids can read recipes and help figure out doubling the recipe. With little kids, use smaller cup sizes (for example, the ¼ cup instead of 1 cup), so they get more turns adding things to the bowl.
Set the table: “Setting the Thanksgiving table can be done by little kids, even if you have to adjust it later,” said Klein. Kids can draw pictures or use stickers to decorate place tags. They can write the menu on a chalkboard frame or paper. Older children can polish the silver or glasses.
Kristi Palma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @kristipalma.