Are you looking for tips and tricks to make meal prep easier and save time during the week? In today’s video I’m going to show you how I take a weekly meal plan and prep some of the ingredients and meals ahead of time to make eating fresh meals all week long possible!
Have you been wondering at what age your kids can start helping out in the kitchen? What is appropriate and what isn’t for them to do? I have put together a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen. This will help you teach your kid how to cook by age.
See my girl? She is 8. Little by little I’ve taught her basic kitchen skills. Sometimes, she assures me she doesn’t like “X” and I tell her that she still needs to help me make the recipe.
Bonus: she can read! She can slowly read the meal plan recipe and help me make our food.
I believe that teaching our kids a new kitchen skill should not be done during bewitching hours. Instead, use the weekends and non rush-hour times. I’ve found that I’m more patient (and not as critical) when I’m more relaxed.
Here is a breakdown of some age appropriate kitchen tasks:
2-3 years old – At this age, kids need high supervision. Focus on basic tasks like setting the table, squeezing lemons, learning to match the silverware as you empty the dishwasher, using the salad spinner, picking the leaves off fresh herb stems, gentle stirring, and mashing potatoes, for example.
4-5 years old – Motor skills are more defined and they can focus better. This is a frustrating age for many parents because many kids will be doing the 2-3 age group while others the 6-7 -it depends how involved and interested they’ve been.
6-7 years old – Fine motor skills are developed so they can take on more detailed work, like using measuring spoons and forming meatballs or nuggets. They still need a lot of guidance and reminders of where to keep their fingers during grating and peeling. Some of the things you can teach them to do at this age are: dicing and mincing vegetables (use a pairing knife and start with soft foods like strawberries), peeling raw potatoes with a peeler, slicing and scooping avocados, greasing pans, using a microplane zester, draining and rinsing canned beans, pouring liquids into containers, and decorating dishes.
8-9 year olds – This is my favorite age group. They can read! They can take on every task prior to this age group and teach new things based on their interest. You’ll have to decide if they are mature enough to work at the stove; but you can start with easy toaster oven type of recipes if not.
This age group can use a pizza cutter and can opener, scooping batter into muffin cups, scraping down the batter and using the stand mixer, putting away leftovers, rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, pounding chicken, skewering food, make sandwiches and wraps, and chopping most foods (nothing much bigger than a paring knife or small serrated knife).
10-12 years old – This age group can usually work independently in the kitchen. Make sure they have learned basic kitchen skills and moved on up on skill level before they are left to make meals (even under supervision). Rules still apply (and often need reminding) like use mittens and wash hands after touching chicken, can do basic stove tasks like scrambling eggs and flipping pancakes.
One of the questions I’m often asked: what if I haven’t taught my kids kitchen basics in each age group? Don’t stress.
My suggestion is that regardless of when you start; teach with patience and be careful to not talk down to your kids when they are doing it wrong (I’m guilty of this). Talking “down” can be as simple as “let me show you” and… “hurry, let me take over” or as simple as our tone.
If you aren’t “feeling it” then skip the teaching moment. We can do it quicker and avoid any hurt feelings -trust me.
If you’ve got teenagers in the house they can make nearly all the recipes in our meal plans. Win-win.
I want to encourage you to teach your kids one skill each month. Just one.
Cooking along side our kids is a great opportunity to talk about life. It gives us the opportunity to connect and teach our kids about the things we find important (like our food and health).
In the past, my refrigerator shelf life for berries was pretty short, especially if I was dealing with strawberries or raspberries. It seemed I would bring them home from the store and find them spoiling within a few short hours.
Now, thanks to a quick kitchen trick, I know how to keep berries fresh, giving me more time to use them as needed.
The secret to extending the life of fresh berries? White Vinegar. Check out this short video that shows you how to wash your berries or read step by step directions below.
Wasn’t that so easy? Wash strawberries, blueberries, and even blackberries! Note: I don’t recommend washing raspberries, washing them will actually cut their lifespan. With raspberries, refrigeration is key.
How To Keep Berries Fresh
Once you bring your fresh berries home, the key to keeping it fresh is to kill any spores on the fruit. The pH of vinegar does that job.
Place the berries in a large bowl and wash them in a vinegar-water bath: 1 cup of white vinegar and 8 cups of water.
Let the berries sit in the vinegar-water bath, gently moving them to help dislodge any dirt, grime and letting the vinegar kill spores and bacteria.
Drain the berries in a colander and then thoroughly rinse the fruit (to remove any vinegar flavor).
Thicker skinned fruit (like strawberries or blueberries) can be dried in a salad spinner but delicate berries such as raspberries and blackberries should be dried on a towel, patting them with paper or cloth towels.
Store the washed and dried fruit in a sealed container that has been lined with paper towels — if using an air-tight container, leave the lid slightly open to avoid natural moisture build-up. When I handle fruit I have purchased from my grocery store, I wash the original container and then re-use it, making sure to line it with paper towels.
Other Options To Keep Berries Fresh
A quick hot-water bath (30 seconds in 125 degree water for strawberries, raspberries and blackberries; 30 seconds in 140 degree water for blueberries) has been shown to kill bacteria, resulting fewer berries going bad.
Commercial produce cleaner, such as EatCleaner, are another good option for cleaning fresh berries and elongating their life in the refrigerator. This is one of those multi-use products because it also happens to keep your apples from browning.
Wondering How To Keep Apples From Browning in the Lunchbox? Look no further – here are three ways to keep sliced apples fresh!
Apples are a favorite school lunch addition for many children and moms love their year-round availability and budget friendly prices. But, one question we often get when we share school lunch menus is “How do you keep the apples from browning?”
Fortunately, there are several options for preserving fresh apples, keeping them as crisp and white as the moment you cut them. AND, these methods will let you cut and store sliced apples for the entire week, saving you time as you pack lunches for your children. Who doesn’t love that idea?
The main ingredient to preserving apples and keeping them from oxidizing is simple: citric acid. In its very basic, natural form it is found in lemons, limes, oranges, pineapple and other citrus fruits. It is also dehydrated and crystalized for a shelf-stable preservative and, in a variety of forms, is perfect for keeping sliced apples ready for lunch or an easy snack!
Here is just one method that I use to pack apples for the week and make fruit cups for school.
Three Ways To Keep Apples From Browning
1) Citrus Fruit Juice: lemon juice is our family’s favorite as we love the flavor combo of tart lemon and sweet apple. But, if your children don’t like lemons, any fresh citrus fruit juice will work. Pineapple juice is yummy on apples!
Simply squeeze the juice of one lemon (or other citrus, if desired) into a bowl of sliced apples. Toss lightly to coat and then store the apples in a sealed container within your refrigerator. With this method, apples stay ready for 4-5 days worth of use.
2) Fruit-Fresh: this powdered, natural preservative is made from citric acid and is most often used by home-cooks when canning fruits and vegetables. It can also be used on fresh produce to halt the oxidation process.
If using it on a few sliced apples, simply sprinkle it lightly on the fruit. To preserve up to two cups of sliced apples, mix two teaspoons of Fruit-Fresh with two tablespoons of water, and then toss the sliced fruit with the liquid. Store in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.
3) Eat Cleaner: an all-natural, tasteless and odorless produce and food cleaner that was created by a family dedicated to creating a safe product that would remove wax and residue from the items sold at our grocery stores. Because it has citric acid in it, it also keeps produce and fruit from browning! This is a 2 in 1 product: you can clean your produce from nasty pesticides, waxes and dirt (even organic!) and use it to keep the food fresh. Win win.
There are a variety of wipes and products in the Eat Cleaner family; follow the package guidelines for spraying and keeping your apples fresh.
Yeah, you say it all works but how about some proof?
In the interest of science (of course), our family tried out the three afore-mentioned methods for keeping apples fresh. After six hours of sitting on the kitchen tables, the treated apples were all brighter and whiter than the apples that had been left untreated. I now cut my apples on Sunday night, treat them and then I have easy “grab-n-go” apples for the duration of the week!
Regardless of which method works for your family and budget, you will find each to work perfectly at saving your apples from turning brown!
Have you ever boiled eggs and discovered that they weren’t “pretty” once you peeled them? What about nicking off half the egg because you couldn’t get the shell off?
You can watch this 1 minute video on how to make easy to peel hard boiled eggs or read the step by step directions below.
Note: 13 minutes is for LARGE eggs. If you are using medium or fresh yard eggs, you might want to do 11 minutes.
Refrigerated hard boiled eggs will not peel well. Peel your eggs once they’ve cooled down to room temperature.
These are the two most frustrating things about cooking hard-boiled eggs. The yolk isn’t pretty and the shell is difficult to get off. Now, before you decide to head over to the grocery to purchase those overpriced and convenient hard boiled eggs; check out how easy it is to get them perfect at home-every time. Before my husband met me (or so he says), he had no idea that hard-boiled eggs COULD be over-cooked.
That dark gray-green ring around the yellow center of an egg? He thought that was supposed to be there. The poor boy didn’t know that ugly ring was a sign of an over-cooked egg. Perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs aren’t difficult — and, when you do it right, not only do you have an exquisitely yellow center but you also have a hard boiled egg that is easy to peel. There are 3 things / tricks to keep in mind:
Eggs must not be fresh (10+ days)
Don’t let them boil forever, and
After cooking, let the eggs rest in an ice-bath to “shock” them.
If you remember to do this, you’ll have perfect, beautiful eggs every single time for your child’s lunch, an after-school snack or your favorite recipes.
Word to the wise: super fresh eggs are going to be hard to peel regardless of what you do, so it’s best NOT to hard-boil eggs the same day they are purchased. The best eggs for boiling are at least a week to ten days old.
For best peeling results, wait to peel your eggs when they have cooled down to room temperature. Fully chilled eggs don’t peel as well. You can peel your eggs ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator.
How To Make Perfectly Cooked and Easy-Peel Boiled Eggs
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1 Tablespoon Salt
Place your raw eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with at least 2 inches of cold water.
Add 1 tablespoon of salt.
Place the pan over high heat until it reaches a boil.
Turn off heat, cover and let it sit for 13 minutes.
After exactly 13 minutes, remove the eggs from the pan and place them in an ice-water bath and let them cool for five minutes.
Carefully crack the eggs shells (making sure the majority of the shell is cracked).
Gently begin removing the shells. The ice-water bath will “shock” the membrane in between the egg-white and the egg shell, loosening the shell and allowing you to peel it off in nearly one piece.
As needed, you can dip the egg (as you are peeling it) in and out of the water to remove any slivers of shell.
Serve immediately, use in a recipe or store in your refrigerator for three days.
The salt won’t affect the flavor of your eggs; it helps solidify the proteins within the egg, helping create an easier to peel egg! I have used both iodized (table) salt and Himalayan rock salt (the pink salt in my photo) and both have worked perfectly. Test one egg first, if for some reason it’s a bit undercooked, put eggs back and bring to boil, turn off heat. You need to fully cover eggs with at least 2 inches of water for this to work. less water means that it will cool down quicker and your eggs won’t cook throughly.