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More tips and recipes for Making Food a Family Affair.

Make these kid-friendly recipes with your children tonight.


Cooking with Kids

By Chefs Mary Sue Milliken
and Susan Feniger

Mary Sue: I start my kids cooking as soon as they're walking. I figure if they're old enough to be upright, they're ready to stand beside me whisking pancake batter or spinning lettuce leaves dry. Since I spend so much time in the kitchen, it's a great way to include them.

Susan: Just for the record, that's the home kitchen, not the restaurant kitchen that Mary Sue is referring to. Last time I checked there was no one under age 10 at the restaurant.

Mary Sue: Each child is different, but most kids look at cooking as yet another chance to get messy and have some fun. I find that if you give them real tools instead of baby stuff you're more likely to keep their attention. Kids can whir the blender, handle full-size ladles and whisks, and chop with the same knives you use. The trick is to stay nearby to offer guidance and a quick rescue, if necessary.

Susan: Mary Sue's ability to delegate kitchen tasks is inspiring. In the restaurant she's known as the commandant.

Mary Sue: Another way to get kids' attention is to make something that everyone wants to eat, like tacos. Children love foods they can pick up with their hands and exert control over and tacos are perfect. Each one is a personal creation and another reason to get their hands dirty. All you do is place the fillings in the middle of the table and watch the kids make their own. Just hope they don't inhale it all in under five minutes!

These authentic soft tacos filled with seared steak are lighter than crisp tacos, so my kids can safely compete to see who eats the most at one sitting. With a small portion of protein, lots of nutritious fruits and vegetables and the tortilla as the starch, they make an easy and complete meal. I broke the recipes down to show how I might divide the tasks in my own home. It's important to give the kids ownership of little tasks because they are so smart—you don't want them to come away thinking, "Mom really made it, but she pretended that I helped."

Susan: After all, if you play your cards right like my partner, you'll have the kids cooking dinner for you in no time.

Nutritional Information
per serving of meal
Calories : 527
Total fat : 17g
Saturated fat : 3g
Protein : 31g
Sodium : 650mg
Cholesterol : 55mg

Carne Asada Tacos
Makes 8 tacos (2 per person)

1 pound skirt steak
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil
1 lime
8 corn tortillas


  1. sprinkle the steak all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Place a cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat and lightly coat with oil. Sear the steak about 2 minutes per side and place on cutting board to rest for about 5 minutes.
  3. can cut the limes in half, pierce the juice side with a fork and twist to release the juice all over cooked meat.
  4. Cut steak into thin slices across the grain and then let cut each slice into bite-sized pieces for bringing to the table.
  5. can warm the tortillas by dipping first in water and then placing in a dry pan over low heat. Use tongs to lift out and wrap in a towel to keep warm.
  6. can assemble the tacos at the table with salsa fresca and guacamole. It's easy to replace the steak with chicken or fish.
Mary Sue's son Declan, 11, adds the steak to the pan.

Salsa Fresca
Makes 2 cups

4 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion, minced
2 jalapenos, seeds optional, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Salsa should be a . The only item that needs adult attention is the jalapeno and its seeds. For more heat, keep the seeds and chop.
  2. Younger can chop the cilantro while mom dices the tomato, onion and peppers. Be sure to have the put everything in the bowl and handle the mixing.
Mary Sue's son Kier, 3, prepares the tortillas.

Makes 3 cups

2 ripe Haas avocados
bunch fresh cilantro, leaves chopped
1/4 medium red onion, diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and finely diced (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Cut the avocados into halves and remove the seeds. Peel the fruit and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Have mash avocados with a potato masher or fork until chunky. (Good luck stopping them from mashing into a thin paste!) They can add the remaining ingredients (after grown-ups have chopped the jalapenos) and mix with a fork.

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