Kids in the Kitchen

By now, the staggeringly high childhood obesity rates in this country should come as a surprise to no one, and neither should the health issues that go hand-in-hand with what’s become the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than 30 perc

Jun 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm
Cooking with Kids
Cooking with Kids

By now, the staggeringly high childhood obesity rates in this country should come as a surprise to no one, and neither should the health issues that go hand-in-hand with what’s become the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than 30 percent of children in the U.S. As a result of obesity, more and more children and adolescents are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep disorders and more. The most troubling aspect of all this is that these health problems have traditionally been complications that primarily affect adults.

These statistics weigh heavily on the minds of husband and wife Sean and Jennifer Kagy, both of whom are full-time chefs. Jennifer is a corporate chef for Matson Money as well as a private holistic health and nutrition coach/chef, and Sean is the executive chef for the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State. Both have recently become managing partners of Tavern on the Hill in Mount Adams, and if that didn’t keep them busy enough, they’re the parents of two very active teenagers, Christian, 15, and Alexandra, 12.

The Kagys take an active role in making sure that their children are eating a wholesome, well-balanced diet, visiting farmers markets and purchasing fresh foods without additives. They follow a mostly plant-based diet, and thanks to a recent Mother’s Day gift of a Breville juicer from Alexandra, their fridge is stocked with glass jars filled with jewel-toned fruit and veggie juices.

“I love it when we visit the farmers markets and everyone is digging into the bags, eating things before we even get home, especially the vegetables and Blue Oven bread,” Jennifer says.

Outside of shopping together, the Kagys get their kids invested in what they eat by bringing them into the kitchen to help prepare their own meals.

“We’ve brought them into the kitchen since they were old enough to stand on a stool and stir and chop,” Jennifer says. “Cooking teaches valuable life skills, so they’re not buying every meal out or buying frozen dinners. They learn math skills as well. We put a heavy emphasis on the healthy side — like how to make food taste really good so you don’t need all of the extra sugar and fat, all the stuff that’s not good for you.”

Getting the kids involved isn’t difficult at all. “I like it. It’s fun,” Alexandra says.

“A lot of times the kids just jump in,” Jennifer adds. “We eat at home six days a week. We pack school lunches every day. They just jump in wherever they’re needed. Christian will make pancakes, eggs, even homemade french-fries from a recipe he got from YouTube.”

The Kagys’ healthy eating strategy isn’t limited to the younger generation. Even the grown-ups need help once in a while.

“We’re trying to get Sean to eat more vegetables,” Jennifer says.

This grilled cauliflower recipe is a family favorite and perfect for summer. Kids can help whisk and brush.

Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks

Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 large cauliflower heads
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges, to serve

Instructions: Remove the leaves on each cauliflower head and trim the stem end until you can set the cauliflower flat on the cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to trim off the sides, and then cut the cauliflower into 3 to 4 thick “steaks.” Reserve the florets that fall away for another recipe.

Whisk the olive oil with the lime juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the grated garlic and honey or agave syrup. In a separate bowl, mix the lime zest, paprika, chipotle and salt.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high. Brush one side of each cauliflower steak with the olive oil mixture and sprinkle generously with the chipotle powder mixture. Place the seasoned side down on the hot grill. Brush the tops with the olive oil mixture and season with the chipotle mix.
Cover the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and carefully flip the cauliflower. Cook covered for an additional 5 minutes or until done to your desired texture.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately with lime wedges on the side. ©

Another easy, kid-friendly recipe Jennifer recommends are Sriracha deviled eggs. 

Siracha Deviled Eggs 

Serves 12 


  • 12 hard-cooked eggs 
  • 1/3 cup Sriracha Mayo (recipe follows) 
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish 

For the Sriracha Mayo: 

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/3 cup Sriracha 
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste 

Instructions: Split the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the egg yolks. Using a fork, break up the yolks in a mixing bowl. Stir in the Sriracha Mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper, blending well. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. Top with the chives. Serve or cover and refrigerate immediately. 

For the Sriracha Mayo: In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Feel free to adjust the amount of lime juice to bring the thickness to your liking. Refrigerate promptly. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Use as a spread or a dipping sauce for your favorite recipes that call for mayonnaise.