Helping kids get comfortable in the kitchen.

Helping kids get comfortable in the kitchen.

This year my kids, especially Sarah (age 10), are obsessed with cooking.

It started over the winter when we found MasterChef Junior (thanks to your comments on this post). Our whole family loved watching it together. It even changed our dinnertime conversations: (Great “cook” on this chicken. These ingredients really work together. Your plating is gorgeous.)

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My kids have logged many hours in the kitchen over the past few months, especially Sarah. When she first asked for cooking lessons, I looked into local options, then decided to order a family plan from Blue Apron, a ready-to-cook meal service that makes it easy to cook dinner at home. They deliver farm-fresh ingredients to your doorstep, in exactly the right proportions, and provide detailed step-by-step recipes so even novice cooks can make dinner from scratch, all by themselves.

To my mind, it was like cooking lessons in a box: a self-contained kit with very detailed directions that Sarah could put together herself, much like Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts. (When our first delivery came, I told her it was “like Kiwi Crate, but for dinner.”)

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That experience boosted her confidence, so much so that she put herself on a schedule: she now makes dinner for us every Monday and Thursday. (Don’t hate me yet: Will and I do all her dishes and they are brutal.)

When our latest Blue Apron delivery arrived last week, it became clear to me how much more at ease all my kids are in the kitchen now compared to March. Everyone could help this time, and everyone wanted to.

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Our dishes were Chicken Pallairds and Fresh Linguine with Summer Squash and Cherry Tomatoes and Italian Meatball Sandwiches with Caesar-Style Romaine Salad, and they came with step-by-step, full color instructions. You can view many more Blue Apron recipes here. (No account required; they’re free and available to all. And stay tuned for info on getting your first two meals for free.)

We approach Blue Apron as a learning experience: it’s a cooking class at home, with a set menu, simplified prep, and pre-portioned ingredients, and step-by-step instructions. But compared to cooking classes, which start at $50 a person around here, Blue Apron is a deal—especially because we get family dinner out of our “classes” instead of tiny tasting portions.

The family plan costs $8.74 per serving, or just under $35 for a family dinner. (Blue Apron’s family plan contains all the ingredients needed to make two meals of four adult portions each. It also works for my family of six, because the younger kids eat smaller portions. Blue Apron also has a two-person plan.)

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My kids immediately honed in on the new ingredients and techniques these recipes required. They’d never cooked with fresh pasta, fresh mozzarella, or panko breadcrumbs. They didn’t know what a paillard was, or how to make meatballs, or a simple summer vegetable sauce.

Sarah kept saying things like I could make this again, I could try this same method with pork, I’d like to try it with mushrooms next time, which made me very happy for all the Mondays and Thursdays to come. (I adore reading while she makes dinner.)

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The kids enjoyed both recipes, although Will and I ate most (but not all) of the squash. We’re already plotting our next family dinners from the recipes on the Blue Apron site: the kids are eyeing the Shrimp and Pineapple Soft Tacos and Will and I want to try the Blood Orange-Roasted Salmon.

Hot tips: Blue Apron says their meals can be prepared in 40 minutes or less, but we double this time estimate when the kids are cooking. It has been true for us that when the kids make it, they’ll at least try whatever is served. And you might want to slip those pretty recipe cards in a plastic protector before you give your kids free reign of the kitchen: those cards are great for using again, but not when they’re covered in tomato sauce. (Ours isn’t, but it was a near miss.)

It’s also worth noting that my kids aren’t Blue Apron’s intended audience, not that that bothered them any. I think this would also be fun for novice cooks, newlyweds, or as a housewarming or new baby gift.

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If you want to try the service, here’s your chance: the first 50 readers will get 2 meals off their first Blue Apron order free. Click here to get started.

Thanks to Blue Apron for sponsoring this post. 

23 comments | Comment


  1. Jazzgirl205 says:

    When my dd was 8, she cooked her first meal entirely by herself (I stayed out of the kitchen). It was vegetable soup with alphabet pasta. In celebration, I ironed a tablecloth and napkins, and set the table with the fine china and silver. I only use these things for special occasions but I consider many many things “special occasions.”
    Seriously, a home-cooked meal served on a well-laid table teaches children a surprising number of things including generosity and beauty.

  2. I just actually read another review of Blue Apron, and was intrigued. I really love that you are using it as an opportunity for home cooking lessons! The fact that they are getting to try so many new ingredients and cooking methods is great. And the fact that they are the ones doing the cooking is definitely nice too. 😉

    My kids are still young (the oldest just turned 5) but they do enjoy cooking with me pretty regularly. We watch America’s Test Kitchen together and when something catches their eye at the grocery store, I try to go with it and let it be an opportunity for us all to try something new. When my son saw the clams resting in the ice in front of the seafood counter, he really wanted to try them. It was the first time I had ever cooked fresh clams, but it made for a great memory and a yummy dinner of clam linguine!

  3. Theresa says:

    I have recently tried blue apron as well.we are receiving our third box of meals this week. I have been cooking with my daughter and she is 11. She really likes It since we are spending time together and I do too. I am teaching her how to cook (ie basic knife skills, etc) using this service and after a few more times, I am thinking she could do it by herself. Now to get my 12 year old son interested next!

  4. Anne says:

    I talked to my husband last night about how you use this service. (We were talking about how we are menu planning fails right now! 😉 )

  5. Melodee says:

    I was just thinking about your kids’ cooking adventures last night, as I was reading a cookbook I got at my baby shower on Saturday — that’s right, my sister-in-law bought me a cookbook for children (“Look and Cook”) packed full of adorable vintage/retro illustrations and practical recipes. It will be many years before I can use it with my daughter, of course, but I thought it was such a neat gift!

  6. Kayris says:

    My ten year old (11 soon) started cooking dinner over the winter. On a Friday after school, he wanted pancakes but I wasn’t feeling well. So he chose a cookbook, chose a recipe, and made them himself. He needed some clarification on a measurement but that was it. The pancakes turned out great. (But as you mentioned, I did the dishes and my kitchen was basically a disaster. )

    He has cooked some since then, although it went to the side during lacrosse season because of lack of time.

    Last month, a neighbor having a yard sale let him have a cookbook. Once we get back from vacation, he’s excited to choose recipes from it and start cooking again.

    Big plus side: he’s always been on the picky side and this has opened him up to new foods.

  7. Ana says:

    I’ve heard of Blue Apron but it sounded way too expensive for a way to get dinner on the table. BUT for a cooking lesson—its super economical! Great idea Anne! I’ll have to look out for this (or similar) when my boys are a bit older. I fully intend to use them (errr…I mean…offer the educational opportunity) to cook a few meals for us!

  8. Kristina M. says:

    I was going to order last time you wrote about them, but I was sad to learn they don’t deliver to my area. Oh well I can still look at their recipes and maybe pick out the ingredients myself.

  9. Breanne says:

    I love the idea of using a service like this as a cooking class! They don’t deliver to Canada (no surprise there!) but I like that you can access their recipes and they are seasonal recipes. I’ll definitely be checking out that part of their site!

  10. 'Becca says:

    This is great advice! My 10-year-old likes “WQED Cooks” which now airs for hours every day on one of the digital sub-channels of our local public TV station–not that I let him watch for hours straight (unless he’s sick) but it’s nearly always available when he feels like watching. Some of the shows can be viewed online. The host chef is an appealing role model for little boys, being male but friendly and humble rather than a snooty chef. He has local people come on to cook their family recipes, etc. Nicholas has been able to replicate some of the dishes even without getting the written recipe; most successful were jam-filled cookies that look like peaches. He also learns about cooking techniques and ingredients that aren’t part of our everyday repertoire and makes suggestions. Here’s one of his inventions: Bean Wraps with Smoked Gouda and Pineapple.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the show recommendations! We’re out of MasterChef Junior episodes and the next season doesn’t air til November. 🙂 I’m impressed that he can replicate dishes without a recipe: I think that shows he’s really learning something.

  11. Marcy says:

    Hmm… intriguing and tempting, but since my 2yo is too young for a cooking class still… 🙂 And since the discount is basically *one* free meal for two people. Not sure I can afford one week, even with the discount. Although… $40, for three meals for two people (possibly with a little person thrown in)? Or $50 for two meals that will definitely be enough for all of us, plus leftovers? Of restaurant quality food that I have to cook, but not go out and buy? Okay, that’s really not bad. Sending my husband some texts now (he’s picky, so no guarantee he’d like the food, might make things a little complicated). Thank you for offering this! Very cool!

  12. s says:

    Have you Three Many Cooks? I loved it – mostly a memoir told by Pam and her adult daughters along with recipes at the end of the chapters. One of my favorite books this year…family and food!!

  13. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I signed up with this offer and received our third shipment today. It’s like a party on the porch each day our box arrives. My husband was skeptical about the cost (and I agreed), but he did note that if it reduced the number of times we eat out he is all for it. Dinner around the table and cooking lessons too? Sold. Thank you for the recommendation.

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