Every since I discovered that I CAN cook without tossing $50 worth of steaks in the garbage cause not even a knife would cut through them, the kids have found their love of the kitchen as well. Nia has been no exception.
It all started when I was pregnant with Nia and was bedridden for quite a long time with morning sickness combined with a nasty bout of pneumonia. Food Network was my choice of TV shows to zone out on for several weeks. What I learned in those weeks completely changed my life in the kitchen.
Because of it, I am left with four Sous Chef's who are determined to do exactly what I do, when I do it. It creates a hell of a lot of chaos in the kitchen sometimes. Yes, I HAVE tried alternating days they can help me; there is still borderline pandemonium at times as everyone wants to do what I am doing.
A lot of times, I just let the kids create on their own recipes, and experiment in the kitchen to instill that healthy dose of independence in each of them so that none of them come to me at the age of 35 and ask me to make them scrambled eggs in the morning cause they can't figure out how/where to crack the egg and if turbo-high is the setting they should put on the stove in order to cook them.
Plus I want them to know what is actually in the food they are putting in their mouths these days.
They all do pretty well in the cooking, baking, and cutting department. As I said previously; Nia is NO exception. I was making tacos last night and she was adamant that SHE dice the tomatoes. She knows what dicing is now at a ripe old age of four, and luckily, she knows the proper knife to use that will ensure all her fingers stay intact till she hits kindergarten next year,
No sudoku knives for this girl yet!
Well, lately, she has been getting into making her "culinary concoctions". She's been taking a few of the leftover scraps of veggies normally tossed out, and using them instead to make her own pretend soup.
Things escalated fast after a couple of days of this cause night before last, she took scraps, spices, beef broth, kosher salt, and the peppermill that she's addicted to these days. She also added some torn pieces of bread, more spices, and several star anise.
Mmmmm...... beefy licorice soup! Always wanted to try that.
Before I knew it, Nia had plopped that brew into a pot and sat it on the stove and, in true Nia style - put her hands to her hips and firmly said "Cook please."
"I" had now been demoted to Sous Chef in my own kitchen.
Well, Julian was left to clean the kitchen after dinner that night as Nia's "soup" simmered on the stove. After baths, brushing teeth, fighting over who got to play Poptropica on the computer, and begging everyone to get their things ready for school the next morning - the soup was........
for - got - ten.
Needless to say, it bubbled to a dry hump of ca-ca on my stove. Nia was in tears that her "creation" had been ruined by her brother cause he didn't watch it for her while he cleaned up. She promptly turned around with those hands on the hips again and screamed "YOUR FIRED JULIAN!", in true Trump style!
Well this morning, she decided to make a go of it again before I had to take her to Pre-K. She snagged a fresh pepper that had just been picked from our plant outside and began to cut it in bite sized pieces. The next thing I knew, she had pulled the chair to my spice cabinet (which is rather large and still growing), and proceeded to choose her flavors of the moment.
This was gonna be one spicy morning.
There was no star anise, but there was plenty of chili powder, onion powder, whole peppercorns, garlic, some celery seed, and half a bottle of white pepper thrown in that bowl; and less she not forget - Emeril's BAM spice! She decided midway that it needed to be a salad instead as she swiped a few pieces of lettuce off the cutting board that Julian had left after making himself a BLT for breakfast this morning. The leftover tomatoes went in as well.
After noticing that half my bottle of white pepper (which is not that cheap these days), disappeared in her mixing bowl, I had to put the brakes on. See, I value my spices because without them, most recipes taste like, well..... crap! They are my babies, and after watching Nadia and Julian dump $100 worth into a mixing bowl with some mud and water when they were three, I have vowed to watch over them more carefully; like behind lock and key if I could.
Luckily Nia didn't throw too big of a tantrum when I laid down the big "NO MORE!", on her flavorful nosh. She quickly switched into "TRY IT!", mode which I was highly resistant to do, but I finally succumb to because, after all, she's my cute little four year old with lot's of spunk!
Translation: Trying to avoid a major meltdown before school and I have to explain to her teachers why she looks as if she has been crying for a month because the top of her outfit is completely soaked with tears, and her eyes are red and swollen.
DOWN THE HATCH!!
My God! I thought someone had taken a torch to my lips, tongue and upper palette! Actually, the torch would have been much kinder than what I had just laid my mouth around. After tasting this, I was afraid that I would never again be able to enjoy the taste of anything other than "numb with a dash of bland" again. That hint of lemon she had thrown in hit at the last moment after everything else was burning down my throat taking esophageal tissue with it! Talk about insult to injury; like salt on a wound; like freaking glass in my eye!
"Mmmmmm Nia - this is SO YUMMY!", I proclaimed as tears streamed down my face.
"Mommy - are you crying?"
"Oh, I just got a gnat in my eye sweetie.". Cause we were sitting outside at this point cause the "fumes" of the spices were burning my nose, which should have been a damn hint NOT to try this.
"Do you LIKE IT!", she gleefully squeals as I take a second bite.
"Oh Nia, you can cook with me anytime since you did such a good job.", I say knowing that a part of me is lying through my spice encrusted, burning lips. I was just hoping she wouldn't notice that part of me.
After a glass (a BIG glass), of milk, a couple of capfuls of mouthwash in an attempt to cool the incessant fire in my own palate, it was time to take the midget chef to school.
As we were entering the school, Nia solicits in her own unique perky spirit; "Mom am I a good cook?"
"Sure Isaboo, you did a great job this morning!", I say with lips still singeing.
"Well, it's because I learned everything I know from you!", she sings back.
I'm gonna try to take that as a compliment at this point.