Excerpted from FAMILY TABLE BY ROBERT IRVINE
One of the easiest ways to get kids involved in the kitchen is to make a muesli containing oats, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, milk (cow’s milk, almond, or soy are all fine), nut butter, yogurt, and honey. It makes a tasty, nutritious breakfast, but the real reason muesli is so great: There’s really no way to mess it up.
I could give you a precise recipe, but that’s missing the point. Here you have a chance to teach your kids about the beauty of being imprecise and “feeling” your way through the process of creating something. As you can see in the picture opposite this page, I have a lot of fun doing this with my wife Gail and my daughters Annalise and Talia. All kids, especially young ones, will have fun when they realize there are no rules to break.
They’ll also learn about proportion. If it looks too soupy, they can add some more oats or sliced pears and apples. If it’s too dry, a little more milk and/or yogurt.
If you’ve ever been to my live show, you know that one of the challenges I undergo is rescuing a dish once audience members have had their way with it, dumping everything from gefilte fish to Fruity Pebbles in the same bowl. By constantly tasting, adjusting on the fly, and trusting my innate sense of proportion, I’ve been able to change some pretty disgusting messes into food that isn’t just edible, but dishes that people actually love.
The same principles are at work when you make a muesli. When I recently did this with Gail, Annalise, and Talia, we combined just a few ingredients: oats, peanut butter, honey, almond milk, and raisins. We all tasted it along the way to make sure it was just a little sweet and that the peanut butter—which is a very powerful ingredient— hadn’t taken over the entire dish.
Once we had a nice consistency—not too thick, and just a tiny bit runny—we put it in the fridge. By the next morning, the oats had absorbed all the excess liquid and it had transformed into a delicious meal that was big enough for the entire family. We did it with zero planning, using only what happened to be lying around the pantry, and in less than five minutes of prep time.
Remember: Food just has to taste good. It doesn’t have to be high-brow or sophisticated. I’m damn good at what I do and I have confidence that I can make any dish taste great. But your family doesn’t care how long it takes to make something or what kind of techniques you had to learn to make it. I recently asked Annalise what her favorite dish of mine was from when she was growing up. You know what she said? Bacon on a Martin’s roll. Yup. Something so simple that literally anyone on the planet could make it. Sometimes you’ve got to laugh—and be thankful that kids are so great at being honest.