Get Cooking!

So it is Monday morning, first day of the half term holidays and you check the weather forecast to make some vague plans for the day with the kids.  The forecast is not bad, well it is not raining all day so there will be opportunities to escape outdoors and let the kids burn off some energy. 

So what to do indoors when it is wet outside?  Cook of course!  I don’t know many children who would say no to some messy fun in the kitchen and there are lots of great reasons to get cooking with the kids.  Here are a few reasons why, whatever the age of your child.

1.    Helps build self-esteem - ‘look, I made this!’

2.    More willing to try new foods

3.    Teaches maths skills: weighing, tin sizes, cooking temperatures

4.    Improves motor skills with weighing, mixing, grating, slicing, even decorating fairy cakes!

5.    Learn about origins of foods and different cultures

6.    It is a lifelong skill and we all need to know how to do it!

Now, as a children’s dietitian and mum, I know that getting your child to try new foods can be quite a challenge.  By touching and smelling new foods during cooking can help them become familiar with them.  They may even take a bite.  Whatever happens, over time they will get more comfortable with new foods and be more willing to try them, especially if they have cooked them!  

Making pizza is a favourite with my kids.  They love the feeling of the dough, squishing it between their hands and rolling it out.  I’ve got mini rolling pins which really help but I have been known to delve into the play dough tub for extra supplies!  I put the toppings in bowls for them to taste while we assemble the pizza which they think is great.

These days you don’t have to make your own pizza dough although it is very easy.  Supermarkets stock pizza dough in the freezer section and there are fresh pizza bases available.  If you want to try making your own pizza dough then use this simple recipe.  Enjoy and happy cooking!

Quick Pizza Dough    

500g     Strong white bread flour

5g          Salt

7g          Fast-action dried yeast

40ml      Olive oil

320ml    Cool water

Put all the ingredients except the water in a bowl.  Add just 240ml water initially and with one hand mix the ingredients together.  Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a soft, sticky dough and all the flour has gone from the sides of the bowl.  You may not need to add all the water as flours have different absorbencies and the dough will become less sticky as you knead.  Pour some oil on the worktop and start to knead.  It will take 5 - 10 mins to turn into a smooth ball (may take a little longer with kids!).  Place the dough in an oiled mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel until it has tripled in size - approximately 1 1/2 hrs.  Uncover the dough and knock out the air.  Divide the dough into two or four depending how large you want the pizzas to be and get rolling.  Place the rolled dough on greased baking trays and then start to build your pizzas.  I usually use passata (sieved tomatoes), selection of vegetables such as pepper, sweetcorn, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and ham topped with grated mild cheddar.  Cook in a preheated oven at 220’C/200’C fan/GM8 for about 15 mins until golden.