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We’re Making Memories

The COVID-19 crisis has challenged, changed, and redefined how families have spent time together at home. We have adapted to new methods of working or schooling, learnt new skills, and may have collectively eaten more meals together than we have in a lifetime. We have tackled stress and anxiety, and we have come to the realization that life might not ever be quite the same. As parents, we have been required to parent, teach, and coach our children all while managing our own workloads and self-care. Through all this craziness, we have also seen shortages in flour and yeast, proving that we are not only in this together, but also together in our kitchens!

Times of nostalgia, in one form or another, are often related to cooking and food. Some of the greatest gifts we could have received, holding significant memories and importance in our lives, are recipes passed down through generations. If we are lucky, these difficult times have given us opportunities to open old family recipe boxes for the first time in years, bringing back dishes that our parents and grandparents used to enjoy. Perhaps we already called grandma to get her scrumptious cookie recipe? We find ourselves recreating favorite deserts our mom used to make, trying to make pasta for the very first time, and baking bread that takes hours of kneading and rising, all in an effort to occupy our time. These are delicious, nutritious, entertaining, and no longer overlooked due to busy schedules.

An Activity with and for Your Family

Wouldn’t it be great to find an activity that keeps everyone busy and provides enjoyment and documents your family’s recent experience in a positive light? An activity that helps your children create a positive memory to be revisited in years to come? Why not create your own family cookbook? You can challenge each of your children (and adults too) to contact relatives for past favourites, and do some research to find new creations. Make them for the family, take a picture, and ultimately create a unique family cookbook.

Many online websites can help amateur cooks organize their recipes and create their own personal cookbooks. They provide fun and simple steps to guide anyone through the process. Some even offer the option to order professionally printed copies.

Creating a family cookbook can be a cherished gift to be passed on for generations to come. It will also teach your children to understand what goes into making a meal healthy and how certain ingredients are better choices than others. You could go one step further and have them include footnotes to their recipe, depicting how COVID is impacting your family and community from their perspective. Here are some guidelines and suggestions to get started.

Your Family Cookbook

  1. Start by trying to use ingredients already available in your home—the pantry, fridge and freezer—with no shopping for additional items. This will not only use forgotten items, but also allow them to be creative and learn substitution in their cooking.
  • How flaxseed meal can replace an egg
  • How milk and vinegar can be a substitute for buttermilk
  • Swapping zucchini for pasta noodles

Knowing your ingredients and their role in cooking makes for a better and healthier cook and provides an appreciation for the ingredients we use. As they progress, teach them to plan their recipes ahead of time and add required ingredients to the shopping list.

  1. Their meals should meet a particular nutritional threshold—high in fibre, low in sodium, sugar-free, etc.
  2. Their recipes should be original in some way, giving the dish their own personal twist.
  3. Kids should include at least one recipe that they could take to school with them when it starts again—something beyond a sandwich or green salad. This will allow them to appreciate the time and thought that go into lunch-making, but will also enable them to understand why certain ingredients like peanuts are banned from school and how to navigate around them in a recipe.
  4. If you choose to include the time-capsule twist, kids could write about what was happening in the news that day; their interpretation of a significant moment in time, as they lived through it. Add an image of the event, and a photo of them!

Coordinate your family cookbook into easy to navigate sections: Breakfast, Back to School Lunches, Dinner, Healthy Snacks, COVID Cravings, Grandma’s Recipes, etc. Include an optimistic Party Favourites section! And if printing, be sure to leave some blank pages at the end of each section so you can add to it beyond the COVID lockdown. Encourage your kids to continue cooking in the kitchen with you as often as you can. By creating a fun experience for your family, you will have set the grounds of healthy eating and independent cooking in the future. A lifelong skill that they will appreciate and thank you for encouraging them to do.

Summer Plans Turned Upside Down?

Summer plans may have been turned upside-down as well. Regardless of the situation with borders opening, we may not be in a financial position to travel anywhere this summer. You may need to change vacation plans to “staycation” plans. It is essential to discover new ways to safely entertain our children while taking advantage of the outdoors. In sticking with the family cookbook concept, you can explore local markets or farms to purchase produce that can be brought back home for a family meal. What a treat for young children to pick their own food and better understand where it comes from. A day of berry-picking can lead to a weekend of making family jam recipes, learning how to sweeten with less sugar using natural sweeteners. Pickling and fermenting food after a day at a farm or creating canning recipes from your garden can have great rewards. Talk to kids about the health benefits of fermented foods on our gut health. Be sure to add instructions for canning, pickling, and preserving your favourites to the family cookbook!

Explore your extended community and province this summer, discovering all they have to offer while creating a family cookbook of delicious recipes, complete with memories to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Tammy-Lynn McNabb, RHNC

A Registered Holistic Nutrition Counselor and television host/producer of Health Wellness & Lifestyle TV. She believes that eating healthy shouldn’t be difficult and should never compromise taste.