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Guest Blog: In the Family Kitchen – Blogs from The Kids Cook Monday Initiative

By Nara Sandberg, The Monday Campaigns

The Kids Cook Monday (KCM) loves that ChopChop Family aims to inspire families to find time to cook and eat meals together.  With the hectic back-to-school season, parents and children will face the challenge of finding time for cooking and eating together. However, with some planning and adjustments, families can incorporate this important ritual into their busy lives.

Kids Cook Monday shares the story about how a family in Indianapolis finds time to cook and eat together, even with two parents working full-time. Janine Shapiro, an Executive Director and owner of a therapeutic clinic, and Ron Shapiro, a physician share their tips on how to eat family meals together during busy back-to-school days and involve their three children in the cooking process.

KCM: How do you find time to eat together as a family during the busy back-to-school season?
The Shapiro’s: Both of us work long hours at demanding jobs.  The only way to eat together as a family is to have dinner close to 7:00 pm during the week.  Each day when our children come home from school, our nanny prepares healthy, filling snacks for them that serve as a “mini-meal” to tide them over until we can sit down and enjoy our meal as a family.
KCM: How do you incorporate cooking with your kids into your busy schedules? What are some ways you recommend getting the whole family involved in cooking?
The Shapiro’s: By the time we get home, we’re tired and hungry.  So we typically start our meal preparations on Sunday afternoon after a grocery store run earlier in the day.  
Cooking involves lots of tasks besides those that occur in front of the stove!  Our children help us brainstorm ideas for meals. We then have them assist with determining the ingredients needed and identifying them at the store.  My one son loves math, so he’s tasked with price comparison.  And I always remind my kids that the meal isn’t over until the kitchen is clean.
KCM: Do you think it’s important to make time to cook and eat together as a family?
The Shapiro’s: We all have different schedules and obligations, but we all have to eat.  Since each one of us needs to eat, it makes sense to do it together and to use the opportunity to have conversations about events that occurred that day and to enjoy each other’s company.  Because we shop over the weekend, we typically have the most options on Mondays, so the kids are particularly excited to get to pick what’s on the menu that night.
KCM: What’s one of your favorite recipes to cook with your kids?
The Shapiro’s: My family is Jewish and baking challah, the ceremonial Sabbath bread, is an activity that I love doing with my children, because I still remember doing it with my mother, and I know the tradition goes back generations.  My nanny prepares the dough with my children and then when I get home from work, we braid one big loaf for the family, as well as individual loaves for each person.  The kids also like to decorate their individual challahs with sprinkles which we tailor to the season and upcoming events. For example, burnt orange sprinkles in support of our alma mater, the University of Texas, and blue sprinkles for Hanukkah.

Try baking challah with your family with the recipe below. Learn more about how to get your family cooking with The Kids Cook Monday and sign up for the Family Dinner Date e-newsletter for free.

Grandma Sarah’s Challah

A modern adaptation of Blog Author Nara Sandberg’s grandmother’s original recipe. Makes 1 loaf.

9 cups sifted, unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading
2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing baking sheet
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning (mixture of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes, garlic flakes, and sea salt)

1. Place 6 cups of the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, mix the yeast into 1 cup of lukewarm water until it dissolves then pour into well. Stir around the well with a fork, gradually mixing a fourth of the flour into the yeast mixture. Let the bowl sit in a warm space.

2. After 45-50 minutes, sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the flour mixture. Add 3 (of the 4) eggs, the oil and sugar. Add 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and blend again, first with the fork and then your hands. Add 2 cups of flour and knead for about 10 minutes. If the mixture is still too sticky, add more flour (up to a cup). Shape into a ball, cover, and let sit 20 minutes before placing a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding a little flour to the board to prevent it from sticking. Place the dough in a floured bowl and coat lightly with flour. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough on a flat surface and knead. Remove 1/8 of the dough, knead, shape into a ball, add a bit of flour and let it sit briefly. Repeat with remaining 7 pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a long rope.

4. Line the ropes up side by side. Pinch the tops together, one at a time. Separate the ropes down the center, 4 to a side. Braid them by bringing the outer right rope over toward the center next to the inside rope on the left. Bring the outer left rope over toward the center next to the inside rope on the right. Repeat this process until the loaf is fully braided. When the last ropes are brought over, pull and stretch them a bit as needed. Once braided, gather the bottom ends of the ropes together to attach them.

5. Generously oil the bottom and sides of a large baking sheet. Lift the braided loaf and place on baking sheet. Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf is doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
6. Beat the remaining egg, and brush the loaf with the egg wash and then sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning. Bake in 325° oven for about an hour—until the loaf appears puffed and golden.

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