Cooking with Kayla

We’re in a deep freeze here in my neck of the woods. Frigid temps all last week. I believe it was a ridiculous 3 degrees when I got up this morning. BW lets me know how vicious the cold every day when he gets home. Fortunately for me, I work at home, and had a good, solid, warm writing week.
I ain’t going out there till I have to.
Poor guy even had to go out on Saturday, twice. Me? I had a stellar Saturday in the kitchen, cooking with my 13-year-old granddaughter. Kayla has a fresh and fun interest in learning to cook, and I’m delighted to have the time and opportunity to tutor her. In fact, Friday night when her mom and brothers came for dinner, I served as her sous chef, and had her make the bulk of the meal. And very well, too.
But Saturday gave us the whole day.
I’d decided on chicken and dumplings. It’s really cold, and who doesn’t like some comfort food in February? Since my girl came up mid-morning we pretty much dived right into the day. After she–claiming starvation–ate a bowl of three bean and ham soup I had leftover from earlier in the week.
I show her an easy marinade–just Italian dressing and white wine. And while the chicken’s soaking that up, we decide we should bake something. She looks through my personal cookbook, finds my mother’s outstanding sour cream pound cake. I don’t have any sour cream in the house, it seems, but it goes on the list for next time. I think, when we make that pound cake, there will be three generations in my kitchen.
But today, we settle (ha!) for chocolate chip cookies.
I’m reminded as I now serve as the cookbook, sitting back and letting her do it all, of first guiding her little hands through the process, and the mess made when she was surely no more than two. Now she’s as tall as I am, so grown up, and I’ll just say: Now add this. She’ll measure it out, say: Is this right, Nana? As I give her the nod, I imagine her baking in her own kitchen one day, and hope she’ll remember lessons at Nana’s.
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Naturally we have to sample the cookies, warm from the oven, and I love she’s excited she’ll take a bunch of them home, surprise her family. I love she’s excited for Grandda to get home and find cookies (one of his favorite things) she baked. When he does, his reaction is just what she was after.
But now BW is starving, and gets out the left-overs from Friday night’s dinner. Which prompts Kayla into starvation yet again. So it’s warm up some pork loin, roasted potatoes and carrots, some herbed up steamed broccoli. She has two servings. I don’t know where she puts it. She’s my height, 5’4″ (though I have a quarter inch more than that, she’s really anxious to beat) and weighs 90 pounds.
The very first time I saw her, in the warmer in the hospital after birth, I thought: Oh, look at you, my long, lanky girl. That hasn’t changed. She’s all leg, slim as a wand. And eats like a stevedore.
Now it’s time to head into the main meal. I didn’t have a whole chicken, as I’d usually use, but am adapting to the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I do have, so I have her use my handy-dandy multi-tool (shout out to Laura for telling me about this wonder) and mince up some garlic, which she sautes in olive oil. I have her add a whole carton of chicken stock and a good dose of white wine. Then herbs–some harvested from my garden and in freezer bags. This interests her, the little cubes of frozen herbs. In they go. I’ve run out of my own rosemary, so show her how to crunch up the dried herb with her fingers. Salt, pepper, so on. Stir it up! Add the chicken. This is my job as she refuses to touch raw meat, something she’ll get over one day.
I have her use the wonderful multi tool, dice up carrots and potatoes–let’s add some hearty to the comfort. She adds them in, and while they’re simmering along, we sit, talk, surf the web for dresses for her Eighth-Grade Formal this spring. We just hang out awhile.
And as she objects to touching the cooked chicken, I show her how I shred it. But she does slide it off the cutting board and back into the pot. She hangs with Grandda awhile, helps me with a couple chores as the aroma of cooking fills the kitchen.
I tell her how to make the slurry with flour and water for thickening the broth, how to add it, stir it. When it’s time, I sit back again, telling her how to make the dumplings. Is this right, Nana? You bet–exact measurements are not my thing when it comes to cooking. The girl loves dumplings, and gets a charge out of making them, out of just dropping them into the simmering stew in the pot. And how they change with the cooking until we have a very pretty pot of chicken and dumplings on the stove.
She asks how the dumpling mix still on her fingers will taste. You won’t like it. (It’s not like cookie dough!) But she has to try. Then drink a very large glass of milk to get rid of the taste.
Now I’m starving. The two of us each have a bowl of the meal we’ve made together, and we’re very happy with the results. She wants to take some home, so I tub some up, bag up a bunch of cookies.
When she leaves, she hugs me–she’s a champion hugger–and says: Thank you for letting me cook, Nana. Thank you for loving me.
That’s my long, lanky girl, and I’m honored, truly, to know I’m not just teaching her to cook, but showing her cooking is love.

52 thoughts on “Cooking with Kayla”

  1. I love cooking with my grandkids too. The most wonderful feeling.

  2. Sounds like an awesome day. I hope I’m as lucky when my grandchildren grow up.

  3. So sweet! And she will remember that one day while she’s fixing chicken dumplings in her own kitchen with her own granddaughter. She will thank of you and tell the story of learning to cook from her Nana. Happy Valentines Day!!

  4. So lovely to share these wonderful times with your granddaughter, and that she wants to spend time with her Nana learning to cook is so heartwarming! There is nothing like grandkids. You picked two of my comfort foods: stew or chicken with dumplings and chocolate chip cookies. Can’t beat it. (I’m a bit like Kayla about handling chicken or raw meats, so I have a box of disposable gloves on hand, that fit tight for easy handling. ). I know you’ll have more wonderful days like this. Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a wonderful Saturday! I heart you’re your comment about how cooking is love. I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to see how people feel when they eat what I’ve made. I could use some lessons myself, so recently went to a friend from works Italian mamas house. We watched the pope bless us in Italian on tv (translation for me provided by that Italian mama), then I learned how to make minestrone soup and penne a la vodka! Divine, and I felt loved in that kitchen, too. Thanks for sharing, and am wondering if you ever are willing to share any of your recipes?

    1. As Nora’s chicken and dumplings looks very different from mine, I would love to have her recipe.

  6. Wait till they are in their thirties and cooking the family historic recipes for you. It melts your heart every time.

  7. Loved cooking with my grandaughter. She moved into her first apartment in NYC just this week and is already sending pictures of what she cooking. Granddaughters are wonderful!

  8. My daughter never cared for learning to cook – and good thing her hubby loves to. It is such a joy now to cook and bake with my grands. Like you, they started by mixing the pancake batter when they were about 2. I hope they will look back and say “remember when Mimi showed us how to make….”

  9. What a lovely girl and what lovely memories you’re giving her. She will remember! The love, the lessons, the joy of making food for people she loves. My mom didn’t like anyone in her kitchen with her. It was the grandmothers and one of the aunts who taught me, and the memories are something to cherish. I’ve got a prehistoric version of that tool – I just may need to update! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I so enjoyed reading this. There is nothing in the world like grandkids. Like the joke says, if I knew how much fun they were, I would have had them first. I only have my 16 year old granddaughter local- the rest live in another state. I’m also 5’4″- but she is 5’9″, and a black belt to boot. I’d love to cook with her- but she is too into her Ipad & games.

    I have a Braun wand that I use to put into soups, to mash up the veggies. I see yours has a wisk for whipping- that’s great! No need to take out the mixer. But I don’t get one thing- how does it chop up the carrots & potatoes?

    1. This Braun multi-tool comes with the wisk, the immersion blender and a blade. It’s like magic!

  11. Thank you for this Valentine’s gift. The cookies make me think of the cookies from the Bakery in Boonboro. The memories are being in the kitchen with my grandmother learning to cook and make desserts. Thank you.

  12. I, too, do not handle raw meat with my fingers. I have plenty of utensils for that! When I make a soup or stew with chicken, I put the whole pieces in, let them cook, and then remove for dicing or shredding. Simmering in the liquid keeps the meat moist anyway. Love dumplings, and when I make an 8 quart pot of chicken and dumplings, I triple the dumplings because we can’t get enough of them.

    I always keep sour cream on hand for tacos, mashed potatoes, and topping Mexican lasagna, but I have found that the reduced fat version is a good compromise for indulging without sacrificing taste. Same for cream cheese in cheesecake. And you don’t miss the extra fat grams. Fat free means taste free. Found that out the hard way when I made a cheesecake with it, and, after cutting and sampling one small piece, the rest sat in the fridge until I threw it out a week later. It was that awful.

    I’m so envious of you getting to spend time with your grandchildren on a regular basic. Mine live too far for me to see more than maybe twice a year. Thank goodness for Skype!

  13. I enjoy making cookies with my granddaughter. She is nine and her specialty is making oatmeal raisin cookies. Her oldest brother and her uncle love them.

  14. What a lovely time you had with your grandchild. Mine is still little at 5 years but he likes to help with what I feel is safe for him. Like others I wonder if you would share your recipe of the chicken and the dumplings. Thank you again for sharing your good time with your granddaughter.

    1. I didn’t really use a recipe, just more or less made it up as we went along. That’s mostly how I cook.

  15. Oh,Nora, what a lovely and precious day you had. Absolutely, the very best days of this time of life are spent with my grands. Your story brought tears…they grow so fast. Precious moments and expressions of love to cherish…nothing better!

  16. It’s 2 pm and only 8° here in Connecticut. My 13 year old granddaughter is with her other Grammy this weekend so she will be here next weekend. My lean and lovely girl loves baking, you guessed it, chocolate chip cookies too! In the kitchen, her grandpa built for me. We truly are blessed, aren’t we, Nora?

  17. Thank you for sharing Nora. I will be a new grandma in may and i hope to have many times like this?

  18. What a wonderful way to spend a day. I love cooking for friends and family. When my nephew was younger (from 13-18) he would come to visit me every November to celebrate his birthday. The year he was 16, he asked me to teach him how to cook, so I showed him some simple meals. He also always helped me with making my Christmas (fruit) cakes.

  19. Thank you for sharing your day with . I remember when she was born and later when Logan came along. It’s a treat to watch these kids grow and to see what a great relationship they have with their Grandparents. I will make a prediction that someday Kayla will teach her Grandchildren how to cook and regal them with stories of her cooking with Nana. Someday there will be 4 generations making chicken dumplings in her kitchen. {{Hugs}}

  20. Wow, that is so amazing. I wish I was taught to cook when I was younger, the lesson might have stuck then… As an adult I have been show a few recipes and those turn out mostly edible but anything else, is a disaster and there were those few times where I almost burned down the building. So I don’t tend to cook often. But I love hearing about and seeing kids who love to cook and get mentors to guide them along. This is a heart warming story and I’m so happy for both of you and anyone else enjoying the delious results

  21. How wonderful, making memories that will last and good food that will soon disappear,lol! You are both lucky

  22. I spent last Friday with my grandson and he made chocolate brownies with a bit of help on his own, he is ten, we had a lovely time.

  23. What lovely memories you all are making. I love days with my grandbabies, who at 16 & 12 aren’t really babies any more, and am fortunate to see them nearly everyday. But, we do have those special times where we make special memories.

  24. Sounds like a fun day even if its cold outside, snowing now here in Wisconsin, warming up too after single digits yesterday. The cookies and the rest of the food look very tastey.

  25. There’s nothing like an adventure with a granddaughter! Mine will be four later this month. She calls me Mimi and I call her perfect. So much love! Your post made me hungry! Off to forage!

  26. Isn’t it just awesome to spend time with your granddaughter just cooking and hanging out? Same with my little girl who is 7 and loves helping me set the table and put this in that and then taste testing. One of my favorite photos is of her and her auntie Karyn baking cupcakes when she was 4 or 5 years old. They are memories that she will treasure for many years! Chicken and Dumplings along with Chocolate Chip Cookies and your granddaughter…. Now that is what I call comfort on a cold cold day!

  27. What a great way to make memories! I love making them with our grandkids, although ours are only 5, 2, and 2, with another on the way.

  28. Think I am the only one who would notice such a silly thing, BUT, saw that bottle of Pepsi in the background there. I guess because I’ve always been a PepsiHolic, I see these things then remember that Eve’s fav (outside of coffee) is a “tube” of Pepsi! Always wondered what that “tube” would be like.
    Anyway, beyond the frivolous, a day like this with the granddaughter and on such a cold day, looks wonderful. Especially the chicken and dumplings!

  29. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and actually teared up when Kayla thanked you for loving her.
    I can’t wait until my grands get old enough to teach them to cook. Jasper is three, and shows no interest in cooking or for that matter,feeding himself. oh he can, but he wants Grammy to do it so he can play. ( I spoil him ) Zoey is only five months so I’m hoping she’s more interested when she’s older.

  30. Thank you for sharing this day making beautiful memories with your granddaughter – your love for each other comes through your words. We have 2 grandsons and our 7yr old has spent the last 2 Thanksgivings helping Pop-Pop make his special sausage & bread dressing for the turkey. Our 3yr old likes to break the eggs & roll up the crescent rolls. Our days are always special & blessed when we share them with the boys.

  31. Thanks for sharing some personal times with us. You are making precious memories with your granddaughter and she will thank you time and again for everything you are teaching her. You are a wonderful grandma!

  32. Thank you for the memories of my grandma and me that this brought back, my heart is so full of her now.

    That is just how we cooked, I can still make homemade pie crusts because of her and have no clue how much of each ingredient to use. I just “know” how it is suppose to feel and that it will make enough for 4-5 pies.

    Thanks for sharing your special day with us!!

  33. I can’t get over how grown up she is — I remember when she was born… even before she was born. Time sure flies. 🙂

  34. I loved reading this post. Love is about creating memories for those we cherish. We have one grandson and three granddaughters all born in less than 5 years and we did it all together…now they are in high school, college and married and all come back to Nana to learn what they want to know. My son and daughter each moved to their own homes with a book of hand written recipes from family, friends and me including those passed down to me that were family recipes in the 1920s. I made a copy for my grandson and his new wife and will give one to the 3 girls, each in turn. I miss the days of 4 short people covered with flour making cookies and gingerbread houses, dipping chocolates, icing cupcakes, kneading home made bread. Big celebrations were held when one was big enough to safely use a knife or go to the oven alone and every time a project was finished we ‘toasted’ the success with ginger ale. There were many more things we did including making quilts – 4 machines lined up on the dining room table and each went home at the end of the week with their own bed-sized quilt. The 5 yr old littlest one was so proud to have finished first. And stuffing 6 golf bags into the car and playing 18 holes at Disney World. Driving from Florida to Boston with lengthly stops in D.C. and N.Y. is a real experience when they’re in charge of the map. A six week trip seen thru the eyes of small people who simply don’t run out of energy til the hotel pool closes for the night. The long trip from Orlando to Oahu and all the adventures of island hopping. And that cruise when 9 yr old grandson asked to speak with the chef! He wanted to know where they kept all that food.
    Now there is a great granddaughter standing on my kitchen stool dumping handfuls of nuts into the brownies but she’s only 16 months and would rather sit on the floor licking the bowl. The important thing is she wants to be in the kitchen with Nana…..just like I did with my Nana so long ago.

  35. Thank you for sharing! What lovely times for you and Kayla. I keep strongly encouraging my almost 17 year old son to cook… he did take on a salmon recipe last weekend. It turned out bland (and neither of us are big fish eaters), but at least good, and he did it all himself. Explaining mincing was a real treat for teacher mom to hockey playing, no patience teenager! 🙂

  36. You’re turning into a Nadia Stanislaski 🙂 – sharing recipes and stories with and for the generations to come.

    It’s sweet and endearing to watch kids cook. Create in fact.

    My daughter who is older than Kayla – she’s 17 – who until now wasn’t even very sure where the kitchen was in the house 😉 it’s turning into a talented – but also temperamental (and being a tomboy, and latin, she reminds me of some Carlo’s diva antics) – Chef 🙂

    I could blame shows like Master Chef Junior when she does but to be honest is sweet to pass along recipes, traditions and those shared moments of companionship and love.

    Kayla is gorgeous – and looking at her makes me feel old (I still remember when her name showed up in a book and your lovely and hopeful inscription when she was born in a novel I’ll have to search for now. Yep, old and soon “tired” LOL) and you’re all very blessed. Snow included (here it is “just” that wind and rain mayhem 😀 )

    Enjoy and Stay Warm and Safe!

  37. This reminds me so much of my granddaughter (Kadie) and I. She is 4 and still requests to bake with Grammy whenever she visits. She is still into baking anything with sprinkles or baking chips – which she HAS to sample before adding! I still have a video of her in one of my aprons (yes, I have taught her to wear an apron and washing her hands before we bake, since she too has to sample) “smash”ing peanut butter cookies with sugar coated fork! Love, love, love your blog and books!

    1. Kadie was only 18 months old, when I started teaching her to bake with Grammy.

  38. I deeply wish I could cook like that with my young niece but she is much closer to you than me. LOL I adore those cold days spent creating in the kitchen. Yesterday for me was loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls to freeze in pans. Now I’m craving dumpling soup. 🙂 I’m allergic to meat so no raw meat has to be handled. LOL Mine is more along the line of vegetables and dumplings. Stay warm, or come to Oklahoma. Supposed to be 78 by Thurs. 😉

  39. How blessed you are!! Thank you for sharing!! I just love these posts so much!!!

  40. Your darling Kayla will absolutely remember cooking with her Nana. I am turning 60 this year, and still cherish the time I spent cooking with my grandmother.
    I can still hear her laughing and telling me to keep cutting the butter into the pie crust.
    Enjoy your time together, and know that you are making memories that will last her lifetime, and more.

  41. A truly lovely story that reflects the simplicity of a simple love of sharing and finding time for each other. Thanks for sharing Nora it made me smile with a tear xxx

  42. That is so awesome and brings back memories of watching and helping both my mom and Grandma in the kitchen. And realizing that by not doing much cooking myself anymore, I’ve completely let my son down on having his own experiences like this. So I hereby vow that I will take the time to spend in the kitchen with my own teenager, showing him some of the great family recipes that mean “home” to me.

  43. I so should not have read this! I have been wanting chocolate chip cookies for weeks, and yours looked so delicious. I will soon see my granddaughter and I’m afraid the first thing I will do is suggest we make cookies.

  44. I love cooking with my boys. Chicken dumplings and chocolate chip cookies sounds like a party, lol. I’m always looking for great recipes.

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