What’s Cooking with YOUR Kids – Beyond Baking…and Shrimp Heads

I love today’s story from Laura at the Spiced Life.  Her trepidation is something we can all relate to and I am so grateful for her honesty!

When I first spoke with Michelle about doing a guest post on her fabulous blog about cooking with my kids, I automatically assumed I’d be baking.  My kids are still pretty young (3 ½ and 5) which can really limit how much help they are when cooking—especially for an all-too-frequently impatient mom like me.  Measuring baking ingredients and stirring?  Sure!  Chopping veggies and stirring at a stove?  I’m not ready for that!  But as I discovered in the meal, the key to cooking with your kids is thinking outside the box.  The little tasks that you do in 2 minutes and don’t seem exciting (like sorting herbs, for example) are really exciting to a preschooler.

My mom had recently cleaned out her freezer and gave me a whole bunch of Gulf shrimp caught and immediately frozen last fall when my uncle from Louisiana came to visit.  My girls love shrimp—the only catch?  It needed to be peeled.  A-ha!  Something they could do!  Throw in helping me cut fresh herbs from the garden and this was the perfect family cooking meal.20100713-IMG_0376

First we went out to my herb garden, Alex, the 5 year old, carrying her scissors and Sammy carrying a bowl.  The original recipe I was working from (another reason I am not easy to cook with is because I am always fiddling with the recipe as I cook) called for mint and lemon, so I thought maybe we could play with spearmint, lime thyme and lime basil—all of which are so prolific that I knew I could relax about Alex snipping at them.

Back in the house we first set about sorting the herbs.  I wanted the thyme separate from the basil and mint since it benefits from longer cooking, and additionally the thyme had flowered, so the flowering stems needed to be separated from the stems with just leaves.  After we did that, Alex was almost gleeful pulling the thyme leaves off of their stems.

20100713-IMG_0386Next we pulled out the thawed shrimp.  I confess it was my first time peeling shrimp, and I won’t lie, it really icked me out.  I did my best to hide this reaction from my girls—because I do think it is important to know where our food comes from—and I think I did an ok job because Alex really got into it.  Sammy, however, who is bug phobic in her day to day life, was not buying it.  I think she touched one shrimp head and declared she was not touching another one. So Alex and I peeled the shrimp alone, twisting off their heads, pulling off their legs, and peeling off their shells.

At this point, the girls did the dishes and I took over the majority of the work.  In our new house, most dishes can be put away below20100713-IMG_0398 counter level, and so the girls have learned early on that to make dinner happen, dishes must be cleaned.  Another way in which I involve the kids in my cooking is I talk to them about what I am doing.  I have done it since they were babies, explaining various steps, spicing decisions, etc.  Alex especially was extremely excited for this meal and asked to watch it cooking more than once.  It did not disappoint.


Citrus & Herb Shrimp with Tomatoes, Peas & Goat Cheese

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 T extra virgin olive oil
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs shrimp

10 oz frozen green peas
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/3 cup white wine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 large tomatoes, fresh picked and ripe, diced

1 T minced fresh lime thyme

1/3 cup chopped fresh lime basil

2 T chopped fresh spearmint leaves
crumbled goat cheese

angel hair pasta for serving

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute or until browned and fragrant. Add the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and the thyme and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and green onions and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes or until it is mostly pink.  Add the peas and cook until the peas are heated through and the shrimp is pink—do not overcook the shrimp.  Turn off the heat and mix in the lemon juice, lime basil, spearmint leaves and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with crumbled goat cheese and serve over angel hair pasta.


Does your child have a story they’d like to share about an experience with food or in the kitchen?  How about you?  My readers love to see how parents interact with their children in the kitchen.  The more stories we can share about cooking with kids, the more likely it is that other people will try it, too.  I post these stories every Monday and would love to share yours!

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3 Responses to What’s Cooking with YOUR Kids – Beyond Baking…and Shrimp Heads

  1. This post bought a smile to my face. My eldest son actually enjoys peeling shrimps (or prawns as we call them Australia), and that’s fine with me. One job I’m happy to pass on to the younger generation.

    I like your way of involving the kids by talking them through the steps. I’ll try this one.


  2. Love your comment. We have prawns here too, but they are larger than “shrimp”… “jumbo shrimp” is such a funny expression, but sort of like that!


  3. Pingback: Penne with Crimini Mushrooms, Sausage, White Beans & Escarole | The Spiced Life

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