The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It

The “Jewish Rachael Ray” makes the case for messy kitchens—recipes inside.

Jamie Geller launched her multifaceted, global-reaching culinary brand, Kosher Network International, from one simple question: “What’s for dinner?” When her husband (who she got engaged to after two weeks of dating and married to just two months after that) sat for his first meal with his new Orthodox Jewish bride, he never expected what was to come next. Having experimented with a traditional chicken soup for Friday night dinner, Jamie ladled a whole onion, a full-sized carrot and so much parsley he could hardly see the broth into his bowl.

She took his preference of liking “everything in his soup” quite literally. “I didn’t know the difference between a spatula and a saucepan,” she says. Many rounds of trial-and-error later, several of which were spent cooking side by side with her husband, Jamie has become a true pro, known for the signature Jewish panacea on her JOY of KOSHER website and magazine. Raised in Philadelphia by Romanian parents, she was always encouraged to be a career woman. She studied journalism at NYU and then became a producer at CNN and HBO, where she hit the red carpet at the Oscars, Emmy’s and VH1 Fashion Awards to interview celebrities like Barbara Walters, Eminem and Gwenyth Paltrow. The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It

Now a celebrity of her own right, she has appeared on the Today Show, Good Day NY and The Couch, and has been designated the “Jewish Rachael Ray” by The New York Times. With her book Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes, she strives to make her recipes easy for working moms to cook alone—or in good company. Jamie has six kids and savors the time she spends with them in the kitchen at their adopted home in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. To make it an enjoyable experience for all, she advises to avoid cooking with children when entertaining or up against the clock (and forget the tricky special equipment like food processors, if possible!). “You have to realize it’s an activity. It’s what we do on our Sundays. Once you understand that and you’re not cooking under pressure, that’s when you’re going to enjoy it.” Jamie shares seven reasons why splitting stove-space with your kids is good for everyone and includes four recipes below. 

1. Cooking helps kids succeed in school

For kids, cooking spurs both reading and comprehension. Following instructions step-by-step teaches them an ordered way of thinking. In terms of math, if we’re doubling the recipe and it calls for two and a half cups, I ask them, “How many cups do we need now?” There’s all of these great learning moments. 

2. It sparks their creativity

My kids love to do things that they can put their stamp on. Chocolate bark is a great recipe they can customize. If there’s 25 toppings, they can decide to make a s’mores one, a peppermint one and a fruit version with a little bit of sea salt. Cupcakes are also a really fun recipe they can make and present as their own. 

3. Organizational skills come with the territory

We have to have all the ingredients before we start. I read off the ingredients and they’ll start grabbing them from all around the kitchen. Then, they’ll look at the instructions and start reading them to me.

4. Critical thinking and problem-solving opportunities abound

So many people write to us saying things like, “I didn’t have this teriyaki sauce so I couldn’t make the recipe.” It can be hard to think outside-of-the-box and expand your mind. If I don’t have a certain item, what do I do next? That’s a skill set for anything in life. I don’t have this creative asset or this talent, but I want to achieve this end goal. We learn about linear thinking so much in school, but this kind of problem-solving and critical thinking is great in the kitchen. 

5. Inspire passion

Getting involved in the arts (whether it’s musical arts or culinary arts) has helped so many kids who are not great students. It’s vastly important to expose kids to a different kind of career path or something else they can be passionate about. When you’re growing up and in your teenage years, there’s so much insecurity and lack of confidence. When you find something you’re passionate about and good at, it changes the whole way you feel about yourself. It can make those awkward years and your future very different. 

6. Enjoy quality time together

The nicest thing for me is the time I spend with them. When you’re working, you do miss out. I don’t know many women who can make their schedule so they can be at every soccer game. My husband always says to me, “It’s quality, not quantity.” When you’re cooking with them, it’s an opportunity to talk, hang out, bond and just love them.

7. Celebrate an accomplishment

People are scared of cutting, but you can have kids start to cut earlier than you think. There are a lot of techniques we teach them. Make a bridge and cut in between. There are smaller cutting boards and smaller knives that are serrated. We have six kids and we have six peelers. When it comes to mashing, the whole city knows about my five-year-old daughter’s mashed potatoes. People call her to ask for the recipe. It gives her such a sense of pride.



The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It


Classic Chicken Soup

Serves: 6-8
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 90 min
Total: 105 min

By Jamie Geller from Quick & Kosher

Tip: Avoid having to fish peppercorns out of your dishes by using a bouquet garni—a little bundle of herbs—to flavor stews and broths. Just place the herbs in a small muslin bag or piece of cheesecloth and tie securely with cotton string.


  • 1 (3 ½ pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 12 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large turnip, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 medium stalks of celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 (1/2 ounce) chicken consommé stock cube (optional)
  • 1 bouquet garni of 15 parsley sprigs
  • 15 dill sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • Additional fresh parsley or dill, for garnish (optional)


1. Rinse chicken and place in a 6-quart soup pot. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim any foam, residue or fat that rises to the surface using a large spoon or skimmer and discard.
2. Once boiling runs clear, reduce heat to a simmer and add carrot, parsnip, onion, turnip, celery and salt. Add stock cube, if desired. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. 3. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the bouquet garni and then remove before serving. Remove chicken meat from the bones and place a few pieces into each bowl.
4. Ladle soup and vegetables over chicken. Mince dill or parsley and sprinkle on immediately before serving, if desired. Or cool the soup and refrigerate overnight.



The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It

Kosher Southern-Style Chicken

Serves: 4
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 60 min
Total: 70 min 

By Jamie Geller from Joy of Kosher

Tip: Substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil for the mayonnaise or just use 3 tablespoons of olive oil or mayonnaise if you are not quite the Dijon fan that I am.


  • 1 chicken (3 ½ pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fried chicken seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • ¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Non-stick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Pull off skin using a dry paper towel and place in prepared pan. Rub fried chicken seasoning into the chicken.
3. Mix mayonnaise and mustard to blend, and then spread over chicken, coating all surfaces. Coat both sides of chicken with bread crumbs and arrange in prepared pan. Liberally spray non-stick cooking spray over chicken.
4. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Chicken should be nicely browned and crunchy.
5. Serve immediately.

The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It

Honey Sesame Side of Salmon

Serves: 6-8
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 90 min
Total: 105 min

By Jamie Geller from Joy of Kosher Magazine: Summer 2013 


(For salmon)

  • 2 pound side of salmon, skin on 2 cubes frozen crushed garlic or 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 generous tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds 2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • Seared lemon halves for garnish

(For sauce)

  • ¼ cup Dijon or yellow mustard
  • ½ cup regular or light mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Place salmon skin-side down on prepared pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, oil and honey. Pour and brush glaze all over salmon. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
3. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.
4. To sear lemons: Cut in half and sear cut-side down in a medium sauté pan over high heat for 5 minutes or until nicely browned.
5. To prepare sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice and dill.
6. Serve salmon warm or at room temperature with dipping sauce, and seared lemon halves for garnish.


The Skill Set: 7 Reasons Why Cooking with Your Kids is Worth It

Salted Almond and Pistachio Bark

Serves: 25
Prep: 8 min
Cook:  min
Total: 130 min 

By Jamie Geller from Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes 


  • 1 ¾ pounds good-quality 60% cacao semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups roasted unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups roasted shelled pistachios, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse flake sea salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it in a microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring often, until smooth.
2. Add 1 cup of the almonds, 1 cup of the pistachios and the vanilla and stir well to coat the nuts. Use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet. 3. Sprinkle the salt and the remaining ¼ cup almonds and ¼ cup pistachios over the top. Cover and refrigerate until the chocolate is set, 2 to 4 hours.
4. Break the bark into pieces and store in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the pieces. The bark can be stored for about 1 week.



Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump Illustration by Cybèle Illustration