Lizzie Marie Likness Talks Cooking With Kids

Lizzie Marie Likness picture

Lizzie Marie Likness presents her Pompeii Pasta Salad at Taste of Atlanta. Credit: Doreen Likness




As parents, many of us battle to get our kids to eat food that's good for them. While there are plenty of TV and Internet foodies and health experts who can back us up, maybe our kids are more likely to absorb the message if it's delivered by someone they can more easily relate to -- someone like 10-year-old food enthusiast Lizzie Marie Likness.

Lizzie, a Web personality who hails from Woodstock, Ga., wants kids and parents alike to know that mealtime can be full of foods that are healthy, delicious and appealing to all ages. She's an advocate for better eating, through a series of instructional cooking videos she's produced for her website, www.lizziemariecuisine.com.

Whether she's whipping up Green Eggs and Ham with a prosciutto-and-pesto twist, or a classic minestrone full of fresh veggies and a "secret ingredient," Lizzie is continuing a journey that began four years ago when, at the tender age of 6, she approached her parents, Doreen and Jeremy, with the idea of baking and selling nutritious goodies at an area farmers market as a means of paying for riding lessons.

She paid for the lessons, all right, but along the way discovered a deeper love of cooking, and a gift for communicating her commitment to wellness -- a passion shared by her family. This realization led Lizzie to ask her dad for help in creating her website -- which, in turn, has opened the doors to numerous opportunities to share her message: that food can be healthy and yummy at the same time.

We caught up with Lizzie by phone recently, as she was preparing for both her third annual appearance at Taste of Atlanta and a book-signing event as one of the featured tweens in DoSomething.org's new book, "Do Something! A Handbook for Young Activists." She gave us the skinny on what it's like in her culinary corner of the world.

ParentDish: Would you describe yourself as more of a cook or more of an educator about food?
Lizzie Marie Likness: It's a combination of both. I would definitely say that I educate people on making healthier choices on what they eat and what they make for their families. I do cook a lot, but I can't call myself a chef because I haven't had any (formal) training.

PD: Is that something you would try to incorporate at some point so that you could have that label of "chef?"
LML: It's not immediately in the plan. I do have other interests in mind that I might want to pursue for a while, but I definitely do think that I would like to go to a culinary school. I think Le Cordon Bleu is a really cool school, and it'd be really fun to go there.

PD: Is your message aimed more at kids or at parents?
LML: I get asked that question a lot, and my answer is always the same: I want to direct it toward families because I feel that if I direct it mainly toward kids ... kids can't go into their kitchens and make their parents dinner a lot of the time, just because most kids aren't allowed to use the microwave or use the stove or knives or anything like that. I'm really all about getting the kids in the kitchen and the parents in the kitchen, working together as a family to make healthy meals together so that's it's not mainly focused on adults or kids, but it's really a combination of both.

PD: When you've gone to schools to speak to (students), what has their response been?
LML: If you're an adult and you tell a kid, "Oh, you've got to eat healthy," then they're going to know that you're telling them what to do. So me, being a peer to them, they find it to be, I guess, more comforting because I am their age and I can relate to them -- because I do love my cookies and I do love my ice cream. I just know how to keep it in moderation.

PD: Where do you get your recipes?
LML: A lot of our recipes are family recipes. A lot of (other) recipes also come from everyday recipes, like one of my recipes for Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies. We took a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe, but we made it healthy and different by adding espresso, oatmeal and whole wheat flour.

PD: It seems that parents sometimes discourage kids from cooking because they don't leave the kitchen looking so clean. Got any tips for solving that problem?
LML: I can guarantee that whenever I am baking, I will spill flour all over the place, and the kitchen is a wreck by the time I'm done. But one of the things we do is, we divide the work. If I make a recipe ... my mom will volunteer to clean up the countertop, and she'll have me soak the dishes -- because it's all about teamwork. It's really about sharing the responsibilities. It's not saying, "You can't cook because you make too big a mess." It's saying, "You can cook -- and I appreciate that -- so I'm going to help you clean up."

Here's Lizzie's signature recipe for Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Ingredients:
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1¾ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
½ t. sea salt
1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 T finely-ground espresso
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place parchment paper on baking sheets. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer until fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl; then add eggs and vanilla extract.

Finely chop oats in a food processor; add white and whole wheat flours, baking powder, soda, salt and espresso. Stir half of flour mixture into creamed butter mixture. Add remaining flour mixture and stir until blended. Add chocolate chips.
Drop a spoonful of dough onto baking sheets (about a 2-inch size piece of dough). Bake cookies for 17 minutes. (Do not overbake until browned.) Remove from oven and let cookies cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes; then move to a cooling rack.
Servings: 3 to 4 dozen, depending on size of cookies.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.