To Get Kids Into The Kitchen, Teach Them To Cook

Aug 14, 2013
Originally published on August 14, 2013 2:11 pm

Sally Sampson founded ChopChop magazine to get kids to eat healthier by getting them interested in cooking.

The magazine won a James Beard award earlier this year and this week, Sampson published the book “Chop Chop: The Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family.”

The recipes have detailed instructions for kids and their parents, as well as taste tests so kids can find out how they can change the flavor of a basic ingredient, such as a potato, by adding curry powder and a little salt.

Sampson joins us and shares two recipes: White Bean Dip and Little Lasagnas.

White Bean Dip

(printer-friendly PDF)

From “Chop Chop: The Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family” by Sally Sampson.

Sally’s Note: When you puree beans, they make a rich, creamy dip that’s delicious with French bread, pita chips, or raw vegetables. Or use it instead of mayonnaise, as a spread for a ham or cheese sandwich—it will add lots more flavor and nutrients.

Adult needed: Yes

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 1⁄4 cups

Kitchen gear

Can opener

Measuring cup

Colander or strainer

Food processor (adult needed)

Sharp knife (adult needed)

Measuring spoons

Large spoon

Serving bowl


2 cups cooked or canned white beans, drained and rinsed

1–2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or chopped

1⁄4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper


1. Put the white beans, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the food processor fitted with a steel blade. Put the top on tightly and process until completely smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash everything using a fork or a potato masher. It won’t get as smooth but it will definitely be yummy!)

2. Spoon into the serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Note: Don’t worry if you run out of carrot and celery sticks! Not only are there loads of other great veggies (bell pepper strips, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices), but dips also make great sandwich fillings, roll-up spreads, and burger toppings.

Fancy That!

When you add the beans, add one or more of these:

  • 1–2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, parsley, or
  • cilantro leaves, or snipped chives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1–2 tablespoons chopped or pureed olives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño peppers or hot sauce (if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon pesto

Be Creative

Substitute black beans for the white beans, and lime for the lemon.

Little Lasagnas

(printer-friendly PDF)

From “Chop Chop: The Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family” by Sally Sampson.

Sally’s Note: It’s fun to get your own cute little lasagna! And this is an easier, quicker recipe than the big-pan lasagna. Plus, this recipe will give you some good math practice, too.

Adult needed: Yes

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 Hour

Makes: 12 little lasagnas

Kitchen Gear

12-cup muffin tin Measuring cup Measuring spoons

Box grater (adult needed) Pot holders

Butter knife


1⁄2 cup hot tap water

2 1⁄2 cups tomato sauce,

World’s Quickest Tomato Sauce (page 121) or store- bought

1⁄2 pound (1⁄2 box) spaghetti (any kind is fine)

3⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1⁄2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


1. Turn the oven on and set it to 350 degrees.

2. Put 2 teaspoons hot tap water in each of 12 muffin cups inside the tin.

3. Add 1 tablespoon tomato sauce to each muffin cup.

4. Count out 48 spaghetti strands. Break up 4 spaghetti strands and add them to

the first muffin cup, then continue, adding 4 broken spaghetti strands to each

muffin cup.

5. Top each with 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese.

6. Top each with 2 teaspoons shredded mozzarella cheese.

7. Top each with 2 teaspoons tomato sauce.

8. Repeat, starting with step 4 (the spaghetti strands).

9. Repeat again.

10. Carefully put the muffin tin in the oven and bake until the top is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes. Slide the butter knife into the inner edge of each muffin cup and gently go around it, loosening up the sides. Carefully remove the lasagnas from the tin and serve right away.


  • Sally Sampson, founder of ChopChop magazine and author of “ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family.”
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit



And there is good news on the child obesity front. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new study that showed, for the first time in decades, there was a drop in obesity rates among low-income preschoolers. First Lady Michelle Obama gives some of the credit to her Let's Move! campaign to get kids to be more active and have healthier eating habits.

But better eating is also the mission of our next guest, cookbook author Sally Sampson. Three years ago she founded ChopChop, a quarterly magazine filled with healthy recipes that parents can cook with their kids. The magazine won a James Beard award in May. And now Sally has published a cookbook. It's called "Chop Chop: The Kids' Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family." And Sally Sampson joins us in the studio with more. Welcome.

SALLY SAMPSON: Thank you very much.

YOUNG: Publication of the year, that's a big deal.


YOUNG: What do you think, first of all, about the recent news that there has been a dip in childhood obesity?

SAMPSON: Well, it's thrilling because so many people are doing so many different things to combat obesity. Of course we really believe that it's because people are cooking more, and they're becoming more and more educated about the importance of it.

YOUNG: Do you think that?


YOUNG: Because so many people - more and more people are working, have less time to cook. But that's the hope, right, that they're...

SAMPSON: That's the hope, but also what a lot of people are saying who were in this study was that they know more about how important it is. And if you're going to eat healthfully, you really do have to cook.

YOUNG: Well, maybe you've been a little part of that, knowing more...

SAMPSON: I hope so.

YOUNG: ...about it, because this book, it's so much fun, filled with recipes. They tell you when adults should be involved, for instance. Oh, here's one for white bean dip. And when you note that there should be a food processor - you can probably do it with a blender - adult needed, sharp knife, adult needed. So what's your thinking about kids and cooking? I mean it's obviously not just send them into the kitchen and let them have at it.

SAMPSON: Well, I think you can get kids involved in cooking immediately, really, really, really at a young age. Obviously you don't give a two-year-old a knife, but you can get a two-year-old interested in putting tomatoes in a salad. You can get a two-year-old interested in ripping things apart. You know, as they get older and get more and more accomplished, you can keep adding on.

YOUNG: Yeah. And you have a starter that's a lot of fun where you ask the kids - you address the kids reading the book. So the forewords are to them. And they can do a taste test with a piece of potato.


YOUNG: What's that?

SAMPSON: We do this now in every issue of the magazine, where we give the kids something very bland that they can then dip into many different things. So it could be spices. It could be - in this case we were trying to get them also to add on different flavors. So what happens if you take a potato and you eat it by itself? It's bland. Well, what happens if you dip it in curry powder?

It doesn't taste that great. But if you add a little salt to the curry powder, then it's great. So we try to get kids to understand that flavors can build on each other and that they really can make this one thing taste so differently.

YOUNG: What a terrific idea.

SAMPSON: It's really fun. And in this particular one, we - when we were done, we said to the kids, OK, you're finished now. And they just kept on going. We could not get them to stop.

YOUNG: Let me taste this. Let me taste this.


YOUNG: You also, you know, tell the kids - again, for people thinking, well, I'm not going to send my kid to the food processor, in the list of basic tips, one is pay attention.


YOUNG: Don't look out the window while you're chopping onions.

SAMPSON: Exactly.

YOUNG: Keep your eyes on a sizzling pan. Read the recipe as you go. Think ahead to make sure you have the ingredients.


YOUNG: So you're helping them all along the way. Let's go back to that bean dip, because producer Emiko Tamagawa, a child at heart, made it for us. Now, this is kind of exotic for some kids. What's your thinking with putting a bean dip in?

SAMPSON: Well, I mean beans are in almost every cuisine. So I think that, you know, at this point now people are really used to eating hummus.

YOUNG: Yeah.

SAMPSON: So this is really just hummus with a different bean. I don't think of it as esoteric at all, actually.

YOUNG: Probably not anymore. But it calls for cooked beans or I suppose a child in a household where somebody's cooking the beans. They could do that as well. Lemon juice. Kosher salt. I love that you tell kids, we prefer kosher salt in cooking.

SAMPSON: We do, and you know, it really brings out flavor without adding a lot of saltiness, and we really use it for everything.

YOUNG: I'm going to taste what Emiko ended up doing. Mmm, that was very good. I'm just testing it. I'm just testing it because I wouldn't want some child, you know, to stumble across this. It's delicious. And you suggest that maybe they use that instead of mayonnaise.

SAMPSON: Exactly.

YOUNG: What do kids say to you when you suggest that?

SAMPSON: We actually do not find kids to be resistant. It's really adults who say, oh, no, that's really weird or - we've never had a kid say I'm not going to try it.

YOUNG: Or maybe adults who presume that kids aren't going to like it, right?

SAMPSON: Exactly.

YOUNG: Which I think I just did.


YOUNG: But also you tell them - and it's interesting because I know a young man right now who thinks - he's concerned about his weight. He's just a little kid. It's sort of the opposite of the obesity issue. He's petrified he's going to become obese and won't eat. And this is maybe a way of reminding him, you know, white beans have as much protein as meat...


YOUNG: ...which you say in the book.


YOUNG: What are the things do you try to get across to kids when they're also just cooking, which is fun?

SAMPSON: The idea of the book is that we teach you the basics. So if you take the white bean dip, for example, we teach you how to make it sort of in this basic way. And then we say, do you think it needs more lemon? Do you think it needs less lemon? And we call for rosemary. Do you want it to be basil? Do you want it to be cilantro? We're trying to teach kids this very basic way to cook, and then to add on based on their own preferences.

YOUNG: You know, I love the little lasagnas made in a cupcake pan. That is so sweet.

SAMPSON: It is sweet. It is really sweet.

YOUNG: So kids can make their own little lasagnas - muffin tin, it's made in. We're going back to school, and I know the next issue of the magazine will be devoted primarily to that.


YOUNG: What do you want people to think about when it comes to kids and cooking and going back to school?

SAMPSON: Well, as much as possible, we recommend that kids make their own lunch. Now, obviously there are kids who go to school where the meal is served, and it's an adequate meal. But what I did when my children were little was I sat down with them on the weekend and said, all right, let's think this through. What are the foods that you like? What are the foods that you want to make? You know, I controlled it to some degree. I sort of said this is the world of ingredients you can choose from. So I went to - the kids made a list. We went to the store together. I said they could pick things out. We came home and made certain things. So sometimes it might have been a soup that you could make on a Sunday but you could eat on a Wednesday, and maybe you might have it even for dinner on Sunday. Or it could be hummus, which you could make yourself.

And so what I did was I got the kids involved as much as possible. Now, obviously they didn't cook everything. And I let them make what I considered then to be somewhat wacky combinations.

YOUNG: Like?

SAMPSON: Well, I wouldn't think it's wacky now, actually. But - so my son is 19, and he used to eat hummus and ham sandwiches...


SAMPSON: ...which seemed really weird, except that I thought ham was good and hummus was good. He ate them together. I didn't really mind.

YOUNG: But what do you say to the parent who says, but you're a cookbook writer, you know, you can do this. I can barely get the snack pack from the box that has 20 of them packaged into a bag to send a child off to school. I don't know if I have time to oversee them cooking.

SAMPSON: Well, it will be worth it. That's why you want to get them involved, because they'll do it. My children made their own lunch at a certain age. You know, I can't even remember the last time I made lunch. Now, they're old. But one of the things we say in the cookbook is think about it. You're children will start cooking for you.

YOUNG: Yeah. That's Sally Sampson, author of "ChopChop: The Kids' Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family," her new cookbook. She's also the founder of ChopChop magazine, which just won this year's James Beard Award for Publication of the Year. And it's a quarterly. We'll let you know how you can get a hold of that at Sally, thanks so much.

SAMPSON: It was a pleasure.


SCOTT DURBIN: (Singing) In the kitchen, it's the place to be. We need a recipe for a delicacy. Call mom and dad because you'll need their help and take the cookbook off the shelf. Grab the pot...

YOUNG: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.