Eating well


All the makings for a great Mother's day :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Bev Bennett

Not too long ago, my children shooed me out of the kitchen and announced they were cooking dinner. With trepidation bordering on total anxiety, I ceded them the task.

There was no disaster; no awful punch line to the story. In fact, their meal of beef tacos is one I'll always remember.

With Mother's Day approaching, your children are looking for ways to pamper you and I can think of no better gesture than to feed you. Your children will be delighted with this role reversal and pleased with their accomplishment.

"It's a wonderful thing that will make moms feel so good," says Peggy Ryan, an instructor at Kendall College's culinary arts program in Evanston.

Ryan, the Evanston mother of a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, encourages her children's food gifts.

"When it's my birthday or Mother's Day, my husband Roger and the children make breakfast in bed for me," says Ryan, who is often served poached eggs on toast.

Although breakfast for mom is a time-honored tradition, there's no rule about the best meal for children to make.

Afternoon tea is elegant and no more complicated, says Shelley Young, owner of two Chopping Block cookware stores and schools in Chicago at 1324 W. Webster Ave. and 4747 N. Lincoln Ave.

"I suggest the classic tea dishes, such as sandwiches, that children can easily prepare," Young says. "Children can make cucumber and butter sandwiches for mom and peanut butter and jelly for themselves."

Presentation is emphasized over cooking skills for an afternoon tea. Children can trim off bread crusts or shape sandwiches using cookie cutters. Or they can arrange store-bought cookies on a paper plate they've decorated.

Whether your children cook a meal or assemble a platter, they're looking for your appreciation, not criticism, says Ryan.

"I think it's very important to not have your expectations be too high. Instead, enjoy the time you're spending with your children and think about what a wonderful skill you're passing along," Ryan says.

Here are the guidelines to the sorts of dishes your children might enjoy making, along with tips for different age groups.

Ages 4-6 Tea sandwiches made by cutting off crusts using round cookie cutters. Spread bread with a softened filling.

Tea "brewed" in a microwave with adult help on timing and carrying the tea.

Ready-to-serve boxed soup topped with croutons. Involve an adult to help with timing and carrying the hot food.

Tossed salad with bottled dressing.

Ages 7-10 Pizza. Start with a prepared pizza crust and add canned sauce, chopped or sliced vegetables and shredded cheese. Provide adult help getting the pizza into and out of a hot oven. Scrambled eggs.

A hero sandwich with layers of sandwich meats, sliced cheese, lettuce and a surprise pepper.

Chocolate chip or sugar cookies with adult help for getting the cookie sheets to and from the oven.

Ages 11-13 Hamburgers or meatballs.

Roast chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs.

Spaghetti and meat sauce.

Baked potatoes.

Tear out the following tea sandwich recipe and put it out as a gentle hint.

Tea sandwiches 8 slices thin white bread 1 small container whipped cream cheese in plain or chive flavor 1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced Peanut butter Strawberries, thinly sliced optional 1 banana, peeled and thinly sliced, optional

Use 2½- to 3-inch cookie cutters to cut each bread slice into a round. Spread 4 trimmed bread rounds with either cream cheese or peanut butter. You can use cream cheese for two slices and peanut butter for the remaining two slices if you like. For cucumber sandwiches, arrange 3 to 5 cucumber slices over cream cheese and cover with a second bread slice. For peanut butter sandwiches, arrange 3 to 5 strawberry and/or banana slices over peanut butter. Cover with second bread slice. Makes 4 tea sandwiches; 4 servings.





Susan Dodge is Ben's mother and a writer living in northwest Indiana.

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