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A Great Way To Get The Family Cooking!

Updated on February 8, 2015
Focus and finesse. In an 11-year-old boy??!
Focus and finesse. In an 11-year-old boy??!

Food, fun and frenzy in the kitchen.

If, like so many of us, an excess of activities, sports, and video games is wreaking havoc on your family time, read on! Here's a great recipe for bringing the whole family together for a couple hours. It's inexpensive. Enormous fun for all ages. Highly creative. And puts dinner on the table too. What's not to like?

Sitting on the couch one evening watching the popular cooking competition show, Chopped!, it occurred to our family of five that this would be a really fun way to cook dinner together, and experiment with new dishes. (Even picky eaters are usually willing to try something that they have prepared themselves.)

Ready, steady, cook!
Ready, steady, cook!

Here's how:

Loosely following the format of the show, we split into two groups, "chefs" and "judges". The goal is for each chef to concoct a unique and tasty dish using four ingredients selected by the judges. We chose to tell the chefs ahead of time which ingredients they would be using (on the show, the chefs only discover this last minute, but our chefs wanted time to think, and plan their creations...). Chefs are also permitted to use any other ingredients of their choosing.

Now for the fun! With the ingredients at the ready (see photo), the clock is started (we chose 40 minutes), the baskets ripped in to, and the frenzy begins. I can tell you that, as the everyday short-order cook in this house, it was extremely entertaining being judge and watching my family sweat and toil over their chopping boards. The judges can sprinkle a little additional stress into the situation now and then by shouting out "5 more minutes, chefs" etc.

When the bell finally rings, the chefs, as on the show, must step back from their creations, hopefully now plated, garnished and ready to go. As you sit down to eat, the judges give their opinions based on presentation, taste and creativity. (In the interests of maintaining family peace, we passed on the "chopping" feature of the show where one chef is eliminated by the judges. This would have led to an all-out food-fight in our house!)

Fun and games aside, this is also a great way to bring the whole family together ...why not mix in the grandparents and cousins, too? While playful and competitive, this activity is ultimately about encouraging and supporting each other, sharing ideas and opinions, all at that timeless and universal cornerstone of family life: the dinner table.

Bon appetit!

A practical tip: choose ingredients to match the chef's age and ability. We gave our high-schooler sword-fish and pine-nuts, but our 11-year-old ginger-snaps and ice-cream. You want everyone to be creative, but also successful!

Voila! Not bad for a couple teenage boys and their rarely-wields-a-can-opener dad.

Check out these titles to inspire your young chefs:


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    • poowool5 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from here in my house

      Thanks Steph and Laura! As the kids get older, it gets harder and harder to find things that everyone wants to do, (Laura, you'll find out in about 10 years!) but this one was an all out winner with all of us. In fact, it was my 18-year-old son's suggestion. Go figure!

    • LauraGT profile image


      6 years ago from MA

      Great idea! I love cooking with my kids and this is such a fun idea. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Oh my GOSH!! What a fun idea for cooking as a family. You get a gold star for involving teenage boys, who also manage to look like they were having fun (shhh... I won't tell)! My oldest son does love to cook, but would not publicly admit it. You have totally inspired me - bookmarking and rating way up! Best, Steph

    • DearBandit profile image


      6 years ago

      Yummie, the photo of the food, has just made me really hungry!


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