Side Orders: Let dads take the lead with kids in kitchen

Side Orders: Let dads take the lead with kids in kitchen

June 13th, 2018 by Anne Braly in Life Entertainment

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Celebrity chef Jeff Mauro looks forward to Father's Day each year primarily for one reason: He can take time off from his busy schedule to spend time with his wife Sarah, his son, Lorenzo, and his dog, JoJo. They'll spend the day playing games, watching movies whatever they want to do, including, for him, eating whatever he wants — this one day only.

"Such as lots of pepperoni deep-dish pizza — eating to the point of discomfort," admits Mauro, who is host of the popular Food Network show "Sandwich King," co-host of "The Kitchen," winner of the seventh season of "Food Network Star" and a spokesman for Juicy Juice.

Cooking with his son is also at the top of his list. It gives them a chance to bond, but also, in a time when childhood obesity remains a national epidemic, it teaches kids how to eat right.

"Dads can influence the way kids eat by leading by example," he says, "but more importantly by bringing them into the kitchen. A tactile experience will help children have a greater appreciation for the food they put in their bodies."

And starting at a young age is the best way to make them feel comfortable in the kitchen. Give them jobs like pouring liquids for a sauce, grating cheese or cracking eggs.

"Trust me, when they help with the meal, they are more apt to taste the final product — even if it contains ingredients they may have never tried before," Mauro says.

Here are a few of his tips to get you started enjoying cooking with kids.

' Honesty is the best policy. As a dad, instead of hiding ingredients, I'm direct and use food to teach my son about new flavors and cuisines. Food can be a fun way to educate kids about their heritage or share something nostalgic from the past.

' Quiz reluctant foodies. If your child is adamant and won't even try something, ask him or her questions to find out more about their palate. Maybe it's a texture issue or the taste is too bitter. Ask your kids to provide a critique of their food when they take a bite. Have them describe the flavor in great detail, much like a Food Network host does. Have fun with it — who knows, you may have a future TV star on your hands!

' Don't give up. Studies show that it can take kids multiple exposures to a certain food before their palates adjust. Lorenzo used to always give me a hard time about eating mixed green salad, but now he eats it all the time.

And at what age should we start working on getting kids to try new things? "As soon as they start chewing," Mauro says.

But is there a way to make things more palatable?

Try making smoothies, Mauro suggests. Start with a base of ice in the blender. Next, layer in your liquids like whole-milk Greek yogurt, which provides protein. Then pour in your favorite flavor of 100 percent juice, add in some fruit such as sliced bananas and kale for greens and minerals. "Voila, fruits and veggies in one drink," he says.

Cooking together is a bonding experience, but so is eating together. As both chef and dad, mealtime is important in the Mauro household. It's a time when cellphones are silenced, a record gets put on the turntable and father, mother and son dine together as a family.

"It's really the most important thing a family can do," he says. "Often undervalued, dinner time is the glue that keeps family together. It's a beautiful thing and my favorite part of the day."

In his role as spokesman and flavor expert for Juicy Juice, Mauro has created several kid-friendly recipes, one of which is a favorite when he cooks with his son.

If cooking is a new experience for any of you dads, this is an easy, delicious way to get started that's perfect for the whole family. Maybe it will become a weekly tradition in your home.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Smoky BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders

3 pounds of boneless pork shoulder

2 tablespoons of garlic salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 cups of tropical or apple flavor Juicy Juice

1 cup of your favorite smoky barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons of chipotle in adobo

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1 pack of Hawaiian slider buns (buttered and grilled in a non-stick pan or oven-toasted)

Dill pickles

French-fried onions

Season all sides of pork shoulder with garlic salt and black pepper. In a slow cooker, mix together juice, barbecue sauce, chipotle in adobo and apple cider vinegar. Place seasoned pork in pot, cover and cook on low for six hours or until it is super tender. Using two forks, lightly shred the pork, and mix with all the residual juices. Season to taste if necessary. Place pork on slider buns, top with a pickle and french-fried onions. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.