Planning, Preparing, and Enjoying a Family Potluck

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As part of Sobeys commitment to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day they are hosting a potluck challenge. A family potluck is a perfect way to get the kids involved with cooking and meal preparation, a skill that as parents we need to share with our kids. Here is how I got the kids involved and made our potluck run smoothly.

PLANNING THE POTLUCK

Pick Your Potluck Day. School and work projects, and extracurricular activities mean evenings and weekends get booked quickly. This year we have my youngest daughter’s first communion and all the classes to add to the mix. Cooking with kids requires patience and a little more time than just you making a meal. We planned an evening that was free from other distractions to cut down on any preparation stress.

Choose and Assign Your Dishes. With our family potluck each member, kids included, contributed a dish to the meal. My kids loved planning the meal, pulling out all our cookbooks and going through them for inspiration. We also reviewed the Potluck Challenge Pinterest Board I created for some additional recipe inspiration. This also presents a great opportunity to show the kids how to use a cookbook, finding recipes based on meal course or main ingredient.

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With each dish selected we reviewed the ingredient list and instructions together so my kids (and I) knew what was involved with making the meal. The purpose of getting the kids involved in cooking is to discover the joy and independence that can come from making their own food. Working on a recipe that is too advanced, one that gets them (and you) stressed out, detracts the whole experience. I then had each child go through the recipe and write down all of the ingredients needed. With a list in hand we then went through the cupboard together and crossed off items we already had.

PREPARING THE POTLUCK

Plan Your Meal Preparation Schedule. With three kids in a not-so-big kitchen I like to plan dishes so not everyone is in the same room at the same time doing different dishes. Working from home offered me the option to do most of my meal preparation during the day but you could also choose meals that can be prepared the day before or use helpful tools like a slow cooker. This also enabled me to be free to help and oversee the kids when they were working on their dishes.

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Explain Kitchen Hygiene and Safety. My kids have heard it from me before but I always go over the basic kitchen hygiene rules when we’re making a dish:

–       Washing their hands before starting to cook

–       Ensuring their hair is tied back (all 3 of my kids have long hair)

–       No long shirt sleeves, jewelry or other items that can get caught

–       Wiping hands on their apron should they get messy versus licking their fingers

–       No using appliances (stove, mixer, etc.) without supervision

These are just a few rules we go over before any work in the kitchen. Do you have different or additional kitchen rules in your home?

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Give the Kids Freedom. The hardest part for me about letting the kids cook is stopping myself from jumping in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a great cook but I have had more kitchen experience. It’s so easy to step in and mix ingredients when you child spills some on the counter or gets eggshell in the bowl when cracking an egg. Things won’t go smoothly but like everything we do, we get better with practice. Avoid having your children second-guessing what they are doing by judging each step in the meal process. Perhaps provide them with tips on how to mix dry ingredients so it doesn’t go everywhere versus just taking the task over. This is one of the hardest parts of cooking with kids but it does get easier and perhaps with their skills they’ll be making you a complete dinner someday.

ENJOYING THE POTLUCK

The best part of a potluck is eating (and drinking). Everyone’s hard work leads to this fun family feast why not make an event of it?

Decorate for the Occasion. My kids love making menus for big dinners, highlighting the dishes prepared. Sometimes they will even set-up a restaurant reservation station. It turns a meal at home into something different.

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Introduce the Dishes. It may just be a pot of macaroni and cheese but if your son made it all by himself share in his pride. Before eating dinner have each person who contributed a dish share why they chose to make that item and their favourite experience when preparing the dish. My son loves tomatoes so he made mini traditional BLT sandwiches along with his favourite bruchetta recipe from the DELISH Cooking School Cookbook, one of my favourite cookbooks for a non-cook like myself. My oldest daughter chose to make this potato salad recipe from our potluck Pinterest board. Even my youngest contributed by putting together homemade ice cream sandwiches (we used Sobeys Chocolate Pretzel Cookie recipe). I also contributed making Rose Reisman’s Corn Salsa and these Southern Style Baked Beans also from our potluck Pinterest board.

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Plan for Your Next Potluck. Every time I get the kids involved in cooking they start to plan their next meal before we’re even finished the first one. Making the cooking experience fun not only exposes your kids to important life skills but it will more than likely stir a desire to cook again. Something good that your kids want to do again and again is a pretty good end result. My kids have already started make notes of other recipes they would like to make.

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Don’t forget to share your potluck fun on twitter or instagram before Food Revolution Day on May 16. For each tweet or instagram photo shared using the hashtag #PotluckChallenge Sobeys will donate $1 to the Cooking Toward Independence Project, in association with the Children’s Aid Society (up to $25,000). So share away.

And don’t forget, the family that cooks together cleans up together right? At least that’s what I’m telling my family.

I have received consideration from Sobeys or Sobeys’ media partners in exchange for this content.  Sobeys has not reviewed these claims and is not responsible for the content. All opinions and experiences are my own.

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