For many home cooks, having a child in the kitchen can be stressful, especially if they are trying to help.

After all, we want whatever we’re making to turn out great for the dinner table. Most evenings, we’re also trying to get the task done quickly. Having a pair or two of little hands in the kitchen can make both the timing of the meal and the end product itself slightly unpredictable.

But perhaps it’s time to embrace the unpredictable. “It’s the journey, not the destination,” right? The same can be true of dinner. Some of my favorite moments in the kitchen have been when my kids were cooking at my side. That’s not only because they’re learning a skill and perhaps a favorite family recipe, but because it’s a great opportunity for some one-on-one time.

I’ve had a lot of good talks with my kids over the kitchen counter. It seems easier to take the time to listen when my hands are busy tearing up lettuce or slicing tomatoes.

When I know I’m going to have my children cooking with me, I often plan to make a dish that requires a lot of work with my hands, such as homemade ravioli or pot stickers. These are the dishes that are fun to make, yet not so difficult that they demand too much focus on the dish and not on the conversation.

Potato, Poblano and Corn Empanadas definitely fit the bill. These savory little pastry pockets of carb-filled goodness will keep the kids entertained as they roll out the dough and crimp the edges.

In order to enjoy the experience, though, you have to let go of your inner Martha Stewart and remember it’s not important that every empanada, pot sticker or ravioli turn out perfectly. Who cares if the corners don’t line up, if the pastry isn’t completely sealed or if some ravioli are missing filling while others are bursting at the seams? Never mind how it looks. It will all taste great and your kids will remember how much fun they had cooking with you.

Even Martha would agree: That’s a good thing.


Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.