Kids in the Kitchen

I knew it would only be a matter of time before my daughter, Kyra, would be coming up with her own recipes. Still, it surprised me a bit when her first real recipe (as defined by having involved more than one step and more than three ingredients) was a savory side dish instead of something like dessert. That said, her Baked Double Taters make an excellent accompaniment to meat loaf:

Now, I'll be honest and say this recipe is really a collaboration project that involved both her base recipe and two tweaks by me. Still, the idea of mixing red potatoes and sweet potatoes was hers, as well as the addition of garlic, paprika, and yogurt in the mash. My contributions to what you see above was the idea of putting that mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkling it with fried shallots (or fried onions), and giving it a little time in the oven before serving it. I gotta say, we make a good team! I don't know if I'll ever make my meat loaf again without having this to serve alongside it. Even my husband, who isn't a big potato fan, liked this combination!

Some people ask how I get Kyra to be so adventurous about food and eager to tell people about her favorites: which include a lot of vegetables. For me, the answer is pretty simple. Food isn't just something that gets put in front of her. From very early on, she's been involved in growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs that end up in our meals. She's been to farms that provide everything from eggs to hamburger. She's not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get involved in the kitchen. And she's curious enough to ask about what ingredients are or why a particular technique is used. Since she's encouraged to explore all things culinary, it's a world that she is a part of, rather than something that gets foisted upon her night after night. Her enthusiasm about cooking has even led her to declare that paprika is her favorite spice … plus some other ones, of course!

So when she decided to mix red and sweet potatoes and then wonder aloud about what else to add, I was all about helping her put together something of her own. Then, I told her I liked what she did so much that I wanted her to help me make it again and add a few things of my own to make it a team-inspired recipe. The next thing I knew, we had a great recipe for comfort food meals. I bet this would be amazing alongside grilled pork chops or roasted chicken. Hmm, maybe that will be our next adventure!

So next time you're trying to involve your kids in meal ideas, don't just stop with asking what they'd like for dinner. Have them help pick out produce at the market, spend time in gardens and at farms, explore in the kitchen, and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Even setting a youngster up with a butter knife and a cucumber can be the start of a new fascination with vegetables, so take the time to get them involved now and you'll set them up with skills they'll keep thanking you for when they're all grown up. And besides, the memories you make will be treasured long after the meals you make are forgotten!

Baked Double Taters

  • 2-3 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced into chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into chunks
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2-3 T. plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. fried shallots (or onions)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Place the red and sweet potato chunks in a medium saucepan and fill it with enough water to cover the poatoes. Add the salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 20 minutes.

When the potatoes are done, drain away the water and add the garlic, paprika, and yogurt to the pot. Using either an electric hand mixer or a potato masher, mash the potatoes until they are well-incorporated and only a few chunks remain. Spoon the mashed potatoes into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the top of the dish with the fried shallots and bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes or until the top of the mixture is lightly golden.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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