Easy Weeknight Meals Cooked by the Kids! (with Simple Chicken Pot Pie recipe)

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on September 17, 2013

I admit it–I am slowly training the kids to take over bits and pieces of the various household duties.  This summer they have really learned to do the laundry, and although their folding leaves a bit to be desired, well, at least it is getting done.  They can set and clear the table, load and unload the dishwasher, and run the vacuum cleaner.

The next task on my list of skills for them to master was to help with the cooking.  I sometimes find that between blogging, freelance writing, the garden, processing food and just trying in vain to keep up with the house, well, dinner time can sneak up on me. Even WITH a meal plan.  There were a few times this summer when I was hip deep in mulch and planting that I was able to direct Princess or Buddy to get a frozen pizza in the oven. . . but the times when dinner was Ramen Noodles or the classic “whatever you can find” were a bit too frequent.

So the kids and I had been talking.  I had suggested that it would be a good idea if they each learned to cook a couple of very simple meals that I would be able to ask them on the spur of the moment to either begin or else to prepare in it’s entirety.  They both thought that was a great idea!

And wouldn’t you know it, in the kismet that seems to define my life, Walmart asked me to do a post highlighting “Easy Weekday Meals”.  They suggested that we might all want to share a weekly meal plan and discuss how to make those hectic weekday evening easier.  Well, I already share a meal plan with you all weekly, so I told them about my plan to start teaching the kids how to make easy weeknight meals and asked to share that instead!

Perfect, right?  It gave me the incentive to get going!  The kids each picked one simple meal and we took the time to make them together.  Of course I went to Walmart and bought all the ingredients for both recipes–they were both made with “staple” items like flour, sugar, butter and fresh vegetables.

Buddy Making Pancakes

We usually do “breakfast for dinner” at least once a month, so Buddy chose to learn how to make pancakes.  We pulled out my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (my go to for basic recipes) and looked at the recipe.  We talked about how important it is to read the recipe through completely and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand BEFORE you start, and to refer back to the recipe as you cook to make sure you don’t forget anything or miss a step.  I had Buddy do all the reading, measuring, mixing and cooking.  I showed him how to correctly level his flour and his baking soda, and we talked about baking in general–what things make food rise, how it’s more of a chemical reaction and that it’s important to follow the directions so that you get the result you expect from a recipe.  He even cleaned up as we went so the kitchen was in pretty good shape when he was done!

I was impressed with how well he followed the directions and how accurately his measurements were.  Although at 10 he’s very responsible, I’m not sure that I’d let him run the stove completely on his own without any supervision–at least not until I had watched him a few more times.  But just the fact that I can have him measure and mix everything without supervision is a great help–it means he can start supper and I can just come in for the final stage.

Princess chose a bit more of a challenging recipe–Chicken Pot Pie.  We started out with the recipe from the cookbook–but I adjusted it to suit our tastes (see my recipe below).  Although Princess actually makes a mean pie crust (Nana taught her!–I’m not good at crust) in keeping with the “easy” concept we used a premade pie crust from Walmart.

Princess Making Chicken Pot Pie

As I’ve told you all before, I actually do a lot of cooking without an actual recipe.  If you know the general composition of a dish and how flavors go together, you can usually make something good from what you’ve got on hand!  I want Princess (and Buddy of course) to have that skill–so we started out the cooking session with a discussion of what a Chicken Pot Pie is.  Deconstructed, it’s simply a crust with meat and vegetables in a thickened gravy.

Well that’s pretty simple right?  You could actually make it with any meat and any vegetables and just use a broth that matches the meat.  And if you KNOW that then you can make pot pie out of whatever is in the fridge, cupboard and freezer!

Then we moved on to chopping.  I showed her how to cut the carrot in half in order to create a flat side that could lay against the cutting board, making the dicing more stable and safe.  She was careful and confident with the knife, and with my cast iron skillet when she got there.  I did remind her that cast iron will heat up the handle as well as the pan itself and to use a potholder.

We followed the directions for measuring and creating the gravy, and it all went together well.  Princess kept snitching little tastes–of the sauteed celery (you know Mom, I don’t usually like celery all that much but it tastes pretty good cooked like this), of the chicken  (Mom–this is the best tasting chicken I’ve ever had, fresh and hot out of the pan like this, can I have another piece?) of the completed filling. . . She was surprised at how you added the flour to the pan with the veggies and butter and THEN added in the liquids–but of course it worked out just fine.

She ladled it into the crust (I admit-I put the top crust on for her) and then she pinched it all together and cut slits.  I pulled out a cookie sheet and we talked about why it was a good idea to put the pie onto one before putting it in the oven (hell0-I’ve had way too many pies bubble over!).  It came out GREAT–everyone had seconds.  Not only did we enjoy some fun time together (she did tell me “thanks for cooking with me Mom, this was fun”) but she learned a good skill, got a lot of positive feedback from the rest of the family and will be able to help me in the future!

Do/Did your kids help out with weekday meals?  At what age did you start them and with what meals.

Simple Chicken Pot Pie

Simple Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • Frozen Pie Crust
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 2 C Chicken Broth
  • 3/4 C Milk
  • 1/4 C Butter
  • 1/4 C Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Sage
  • 1/8 tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • -Preheat oven to 400.
  • -Line pie plate with pie crust.
  • -Cube raw chicken and saute in a bit of oil until cooked through.
  • -Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  • -Dice onion, carrots and celery and saute in the butter until soft.
  • -Stir in flour, salt, sage, and pepper.
  • -Add chicken broth and milk all at once and stir until thickened.
  • -Stir in cooked chicken.
  • -Spoon chicken/gravy mixture into pie crust and top with second crust. Pinch together and cut slits in the top to release steam.
  • -Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  • Even Simpler Version:
  • Substitute a package of mixed frozen vegetables for the celery, carrots and onions and use 2 cans of cooked chicken (or 1-2 cups of leftover cooked chicken) for the chicken breast.
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Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening September 18, 2013 at 8:21 am

I think you are wise to get them started on cooking. It was also smart to let them pick what to cook, giving them a sense of being in charge. I try to emphasize to my kids that we are a team all working together, and our goal is to all be working so we all have time for the things we want to do. Some of my older kids started cooking before they were 10, but that’s a measure of how desperate I was to have help! My youngest, 11, just team-cooked her first meal with Mom (Sloppy Joes), but she can already fry herself an egg or make oatmeal.

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Ruth S September 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

I did this with my son, Daniel, and at 34 he still cooks all the time, and frugally. He’s getting married in October, and he and his fiance are doing half of the cooking for the wedding themselves, including the cakes. I still get asked for recipes or techniques sometimes, mostly for things I came up with on my own. He also does basic sewing. It’s served him well these 14 years he’s been on his own.

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Cat September 18, 2013 at 11:44 am

FROZEN pie crusts!!?? You wound my heart! No, really, a good simple handmade pie crust is easy to make, and only takes minimal time, can be prepared ahead and frozen. About the ONLY thing I picked up from my Grandmother was a proper pie crust. I hear a lot of people complaining about time restraints, and how difficult it is to make a light, fluffy, flaky pie crust. It’s not that hard, people!
Really great job on this one. I’ll try this and let you know how it turns out. :-)

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate September 18, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Well, I was going with the quick and easy on the crusts :)

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JoannaTopaz September 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm

My seven-year-old has the basic concept of muffins down (mixing the dry and wet ingredients separately, then putting them together), but we haven’t really started on “real” meals yet. My “plan” has been to get her comfortable fixing breakfast and lunch things, then work on dinner — but that plan kind of goes in fits and starts. Right now, we mostly make muffins or cookies together.

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