When Nathan was barely 2, I found it really easy to incorporate him into the kitchen by way of our Juiceman juicer. Of course I would do all the cutting and prep work, but with the simple rule of only using the push-rod (and not your bare hand) to push the fruits/vegetables into the juicer, it was a very safe and enjoyable activity. As a little boy he loves it because it’s a noisy, food chomping machine. Messy and loud, right? That’s all they need! I like that we produce something, and something that is healthy. I also like that it requires safe practice and following directions. This past weekend we got the juicer out, and now as a 3 1/2 year old, there could be more thought, planning, and discussion about the process and outcome than we’d had last year.
Juice is a funny, and almost special thing in Nathan’s diet. As you probably know from our site Nathan has Cystic Fibrosis. CF is pretty well known for the respiratory troubles it brings, but it also comes with complicated and unique, digestion and dietary requirements. Right off hand they don’t digest fats and proteins at all. So enzymes are taken with EVERY meal containing either. That also means that they are on a high calorie diet to compensate. That’s right! In a low-fat, low sodium, vegetable priority world, the CF kids are actually being told to eat more bacon cheese burgers! Ok, not exactly.
It’s more like add avocado, fatty nuts, potatoes, extra butter on your broccoli, sauce on your noodles, spread on your sandwich, milk shakes with eggs, butter, peanut butter, chocolate…etc. Sounds like a dream come true, right? The complication comes with following a few simple rules: there is a limit to the number of enzymes per day, based on weight, so you have to plan the number of meals and snacks; enzymes can only break down so many fats and proteins, so the rest comes out with cramps and with extra bathroom time. And certain beverages like fruit juice, or fizzy drinks break down the enzymes before they can do their job. So a drink with a CF child’s meal can be milk, tea, water, or ‘junk juice’ (cool-aid, pure sugar types, or sugar free – AND fizz-free) As where fruit juice, tomato juice, or soda for instance all become separate snacks. How about root beer floats at a birthday party? NOT GONNA HAPPEN since there will be fizz+protein….so you can see how those few simple rules really complicate a little boys life.
“Everyone else can have juice with snack. Why not me?” He asks. Or “When [she] turns 3 will she take enzymes too?” Long story short, in a high calorie diet meals prioritize around just that, calories. I started making juice with him as a special treat he didn’t get as often, as well as to add fruit and vegetable nutrition to his diet, and really, it’s just fun to do together.
So here is our weekend ‘cooking’ project: Making Juice
We started by deciding what kind of juice to make and ended up with lots of ingredients! Shopping together we brought home green and red apples, grapefruit, cranberries, tomatoes, carrots, and celery.
We discovered a little while ago that the bread knife that came in a Great Harvest Bread Gift Basket is actually nearly impossible to cut one’s self with, and the blade isn’t pointed. It has become ‘Nathan’s Knife.’ With a serrated edge, it’s great for little arms and unsteady hands. It’s perfect for potatoes, but he also helped with the apples and grapefruit for this project. Along with this he gets to practice proper knife handling; watching out for his fingers, always using cutting boards, no waving or walking around….and that cutting something into 2 parts makes ‘halves.’ Life skills!
We carefully prepped the ingredients for each cup of juice then added them to the machine. Then on to the next ingredients and cup. So on, and so forth. In the end we made 7 kinds of juice. Along the way we made guesses about what color each juice will be and which ones we think we will like the best. We got a HUGE surprise and a great kick out of discovering that the cranberries pop out of the machine like wild popcorn when you load them! We talked about how home made juice looks different because it hasn’t been filtered, but it still tastes just as great (or better!) And we definitely laughed at the silly faces we made when we taste something that is sour!
Nathan said, “I like the part of turning it on and pushing the food in.”
We made (from back to front) green apple juice, red apple juice, red apple cranberry, grapefruit, carrot, tomato, and veggie: tomato, carrot, and celery.
Nathan’s favorites were the red apple juice and the carrot juice (which we drank a lot of when he was younger) and although he’ll drink it store-bought, he didn’t like the sour grapefruit juice. We both agreed that tomato by itself is boring, and there was WAY too much celery proportionately in the veggie mix. I however REALLY liked the cranberry apple blend. I will be doing that again! Maybe for Thanksgiving! OOOH!! A mulled apple cider with cranberry! We also have plans for using the fruit and vegetable pulp that was left over from juicing.
We enjoyed ourselves very much, and learned a lot of fun and useful things. This is really what being in the kitchen together is all about for our family. Perhaps you too, can have some great semi-serious cooking adventures with your children. We’d love to hear all about it!