I would call myself a good eater. Obviously, I eat pretty healthy, but it’s more than that. I’m not picky, in fact, I can only think of three foods I don’t like – papaya, red apples and sea urchin (tastes like snot). I’m an adventurous eater, never afraid to try something new. Although my usual eating habits are healthy, I don’t feel guilty when I indulge my not-so-healthy cravings (umm like this place) or overeat a delicious dish. All in all, I think I have a pretty good relationship with food.
It wasn’t always that way. When I was four, I went through a phase of only eating food that started with the letter P. I survived on pasta with parmesan. Through elementary school I would only eat a turkey sandwich with chips, gushers and fruit that ended up in the trash can for lunch, simply because that’s what the cool kids ate. I had a horrible sweet tooth, often stashing junk food under my bed. In high school, I skipped meals and binged on junk food after school. When dietitian Rachael looks back on kid Rachael’s eating habits, she’s pretty horrified.
My clients often tell me similar stories about their kid’s disordered, picky, unhealthy and sometimes just plain odd eating habits. They want to know if it’s a phase, something that will resolve on it’s own, or if they should do something about it. It’s usually impossible to know if they’ll grow out of it without intervention, but I always encourage them to do something about it.
So what did my parents do? Certainly, they didn’t do everything perfectly. They packed a mondo with with every lunch, let me put a good 2 tablespoons of sugar in my cherios and kept a regular supply of Swiss chocolate rolls in the house. The one thing they did do, and I’m fairly confident it’s the reason I’m writing this post instead of bingeing on oreos right now, is that they taught me to cook.
I remember my mom showing me how to make matzoh ball soup with Thanksgiving leftovers. I stood by my dad’s side as he prepared chicken a la Wallace, thinking how cool it was that we had a dish named after us. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago after a failed google search I learned the name was made up. Bummer. My parents always let my brother and I experiment in the kitchen, sometimes regrettably (remember the chocolate milk and croutons, Michael??).
It’s not just me. Studies show all sorts of benefits for kids who learn to cook. They are more likely to try new foods and choose healthier foods. Teaching kids to cook strengthens the family bond by making them feel like a contributing part of the family unit. Kids who cook are even less likely to experiment with drugs! In my opinion, a lack of cooking skills is one of the greatest contributors to poor health in adulthood.
Children’s health is a huge concern and problem in this country. As you can probably tell, teaching kids to cook is something I’m passionate about. That’s why I’m thrilled to spread the news of an incredible business with a fun and unique solution!
Healthy Hands Cooking empowers children with cooking skills through interactive cooking classes, birthday parties and cooking camps. HHC was founded by Jan Pinnington, a busy, working mom (who happens to live right down the road!) after realizing her kids lacked basic cooking skills and were falling in to poor eating habits. I was truly inspired after talking to Jan and hearing the story of how she turned small classes taught to her kids and neighborhood friends into a successful business with instructors throughout the US and Canada. If that’s not girl power, I don’t know what is!
Healthy Hands Cooking is looking to expand to 10,000 instructors nationwide and they are looking for passionate people to lead classes in their community. As an instructor, you keep 100% of your instructor income. You don’t have to have prior chef skills or nutrition education, just a passion for cooking and children. Although you’re in business for yourself, Healthy Hands Cooking gives you the support you need to succeed, from weekly phone calls from a marketing coach, to lesson plans and a professional website. This would be an incredible opportunity for teachers to earn a little extra cash in the summer or for stay-at-home moms looking for a flexible schedule. I can even see this as a career for someone who wants to work with food and nutrition but can’t go back to school. Learn more about becoming a Healthy Hands Cooking instructor here –>
For today’s recipe, I chose one of the first things I learned to cook – soup! This recipe is simple, veggie packed, impossible to mess up, adult and kid friendly, and delicious, making it a perfect dish to cook with your kids. There’s all sorts of tasks your child can help out with, depending on their age, from measuring ingredients to destemming the greens or even chopping the vegetables if they’ve been taught safe knife skills.
Disclosure: I am part of the Healthy Hands Cooking affiliate program, meaning I earn money when someone signs up to be an instructor from my referral. This is paid by the company and not by you. For more information about my disclosure and affiliate policies, please see my policy page. But here’s the gist of it – I’m highly selective about the brands, companies and products I endorse. I only endorse things I truly believe in and would personally spend my own money on.
- 1¼ cup dried cannellini beans
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tomato, squashed
- 1 small potato, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small red onions (or one large), peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks of celery, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
- 1 14-ounce can plum tomatoes (these and these are BPA free)
- 1 bunch kale, destemmed, leaves chopped
- 2 slices stale (or toasted) 100% whole grain bread, torn into chunks
- ½ cup loosely packed basil
- ½ cup pesto (I used a kale pesto)
- The night or morning before cooking the soup, soak the beans in a large bowl of salted water. When ready to cook, drain and rinse the beans and add to a pot with the bay leaf, tomato and potato (this flavors the beans, or flavours as Jamie would say). Add 10 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes until the beans are tender with a little bite. Fish out the potato, tomato and bay leaf and discard. Drain the beans over a colander set over another pot to catch the bean cooking liquid, which will become the broth for your soup. If you have a pressure cooker (and you should, as it's one of the handiest tools in my kitchen), place the same ingredients in the pressure cooker and cook on the bean setting, or for 6-8 minutes on high pressure. Fish out the veggies and bay leaf and drain as described above.
- In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute until tender, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel and crushed chili flakes and cook a minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes with juice and cook a couple minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the bread in a small bowl. Add a couple ladles of the bean cooking liquid and let it soak and soften. Mash it lightly with a fork to break the bread apart.
- Add the beans with their reserved cooking liquid and the kale. Stir in the soaked bread and liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes until the beans and kale are tender, but not falling apart.
- Before serving, stir in basil leaves and let them wilt. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with pesto.