Melinda Kessler's advice for cooking with your child at home:
* Make your child feel welcome in the kitchen. "Children want to see what's going on and they want to contribute to being a part of the family," she says.
* Work in a step-by-step pattern. Repetition is important. Take your time; don't give them too much to do at once.
* Let them mix and learn how to hold a bowl.
* Avoid electrical appliances. "But if children are well-supervised, I don't see why they can't push a button on a blender," she says.
* Although she doesn't use knives in the Tiny Chefs program, Kessler feels children can handle a dull or plastic knife if supervised. "They're ready for that. They have a respect for utensils," she says. "Go over the safety factors first, then gently remind them if they put the knife in their mouths."
Here are three recipes used in the Tiny Chefs program: TINY CONES Lettuce Flat-bottom ice cream cone Cottage cheese Raisins Cherries Mandarin oranges
Shred the lettuce with your fingers and fill the cone almost to the top. Add a scoop of cottage cheese and press firmly into the cone. Add a few more pieces of lettuce around the top of the cone for the hair. Next, add two raisins for the eyes, a slice of cherry for the nose and a mandarin orange segment for the mouth. TINY PIZZAS (Makes 10) 1 envelope active dry yeast 1 cup warm water (about 115 degrees) 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon salt 2 3/4 cup unbleached flour 2 cups tomato sauce Oregano and basil 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded Mushrooms and green peppers (optional)
Add yeast to water and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour together. Combine yeast mixture to dough and knead until smooth--about 3 to 5 minutes. Cover dough and let rise for 5 minutes. (It is not necessary for the dough to rise considerably.) Oil and flour hands with remaining flour and knead dough again. Divide the dough into 10 small balls and flatten it into a pizza shape. Pinch edges up with thumb and index finger so sauce doesn't run over crust. Top with tomato sauce and sprinkle with oregano and basil. Sprinkle with cheese. Add sliced mushrooms and green peppers if desired. Place on cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. TINY FRUIT PIES (Makes 8) 16 1-square graham crackers 3 tablespoons melted margarine 1 pint sour cream 15 1/2-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained 11-ounce can mandarin orange segments, drained 1 cup shredded coconut Candy decorating sprinkles 8 maraschino cherries
To make each pie, place 2 graham crackers on a paper plate and break them into small pieces. Cover the crackers with a second paper plate or waxed paper and roll the pieces into a fine dust with a rolling pin. Remove the top plate and add about a teaspoon of melted margarine to the crushed crackers. Mix together and spoon into a muffin cup. Press firmly with the bottom of the spoon. In a bowl, combine the sour cream, pineapple, oranges, coconut and blend well. Spoon an eighth of the mixture over the graham cracker crust and top with sprinkles and a maraschino cherry. Repeat procedure for each pie.