My youngest son wants to be a chef one day. He is constantly planning and revising his restaurant, from theme to decor to menu. Although only 6, he has a good grasp on the hours that restauranteurs work and has already told us if we want to see him on holidays we will have to come to him. But he’s promised us free food, since we already do so much for him. And he’s even offered to feature me as a guest chef once a month.
For Christmas this year one of his gifts was a Williams Sonoma cookbook, Cooking Together. As soon as the craziness of Christmas day was over, it was the first gift he went back to. He climbed up next to me on the couch with a bookmark and asked if we could look at the book and decide what recipes we wanted to try. Before long, he realized his one lonely bookmark would not possibly be enough to mark all the tasty recipes in the book, and after a moment’s consideration about turning down pages – which he rejected – he asked me to make a list. Our initial list had over twenty dishes on it!
Since he is still a new reader he asked for some help making sense of the recipes, but no sooner had I read an ingredient or a step than he asked if we could “change that a little bit?” I smiled, knowing he learned that trick from me. One of my favorite hobbies is perusing recipes, in print or on the web, but rarely (or never) do I make a recipe exactly as written. For years, I made substitutions to reduce calories or accommodate our food allergies, now I have certain ingredients I just don’t use (i.e.: vegetable oil), and I am also cursed with some picky eaters who require me to switch up or leave out ingredients altogether. In addition, over the years I have honed a number of go-to techniques and sauces that I use time and again for a variety of purposes. I honestly think these natural and almost unconscious switches are what makes me a true cook. So, I was delighted to see my budding-chef making switches in his head as well.
This first recipe he targeted is a twist on a dish that we eat pretty regularly – yogurt and fruit. But, presented in a fancy dish, with a variety of fruits and a sprinkling of granola, these “Yogurt Sundaes” as they were called got my attention too. My son immediately asked if he could get up early and help prepare these as a back to school breakfast when holiday vacation ended. I, of course, agreed, although even the thought of the end of vacation had me sobbing.
Together, we made a grocery list, subbing Greek yogurt for the plain yogurt the recipe called for. He also wanted to add raspberries to the parfaits and omit the kiwi, because not everyone here likes that. He suggested we sub diced peaches for the mango as well, because where we live ripe mango is a rare treat. Then he mentioned that we don’t eat a ton of granola, but asked if I thought those crispy brown oats I do in the oven would work. I assured him they would. Finally, he changed the name to Yogurt Breakfast Parfaits, because that sounded “just as fun but more healthy for the morning.”
As promised, he bounced out of bed yesterday morning and was super excited to make breakfast for his siblings. Before bed the night before we had washed our berries: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and cut the strawberries into small pieces. Then we divided the berry mixture into two bowls – putting more in one bowl than the other, and added the died peaches and 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice to the fuller berry bowl to marinate overnight. The other berries we left plain to use as “decorations” in the morning.
When we awoke on Monday morning, we combined 1 cup of old fashioned oats with 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup of flax seed, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar a 2 tablespoons of melted butter. We spread the mixture out in a single layer onto a large baking sheet and popped it into a 35o degree oven for about ten minutes, stirring twice, just until the oats were lightly browned and fragrant.
Then we assembled our parfaits beginning with a scoop of yogurt, followed by a spoonful of the marinated berries and toasted oats, and then repeated with an additional layer of all the ingredients. Finally, we added some fresh berries to the top for garnish. And voila – a healthy and delicious breakfast was served.
The Breakfast Yogurt Parfaits were a huge hit! Just look at those smiles -on the first morning back to school after Christmas vacation no less. We even had enough ingredients that I got a parfait too. And it was delicious!
I have so much fun cooking with my kiddos. Even something as simple as yogurt parfaits can amuse and delight and make them feel like such a big help. Plus, cooking is a fundamental skill that we all need to live healthfully – so I say why not get them started early!