Jess Bedsole said when she moved out of my parents' house and moved in with now her husband; she didn't feel like she knew how to cook anything.
"But my mom told me you've had 21 years of cooking lessons. You just didn't know it," said the Inverness cook. "I sat in the kitchen every meal, and I watched her and helped her cook."
Jess now is working to instill those lessons upon her boys, Billy, almost 3, and Simon, almost 1, by letting them be a part of the experience in the kitchen.
"It is such an important life skill. In their lives, they are going to have to make a lot of tough decisions with the world that we're living in today. Being able to make the correct decisions for their body and their health is so important to me. I want them to know how to make a healthy meal and how to make healthy choices and how to provide for their families through cooking."
Jess has started getting Billy involved at an early age and looks forward to the daily ritual of helping her prepare dinner. Whether it is adding cut up vegetables to the pot or adding items to the compost pile, Jess said she realized there are so many simple tasks that don't involve using the knife or heat that he can do.
"My son will come to me every day at 4:30 when he knows it's time to start getting ready for dinner," she said. "He loves to stand at the counter and help me in any way that he can, and if he can't help me, then he loves to just watch. We listen to music, and we have dance parties while cooking. I make it a whole event. It's part of who we are as a family."
But Jess acknowledges that like every aspect of parenting, it sometimes is tempting to do it all herself. While it is important that the kids get involved, there are some "I can't even" days too.
"This morning I wasn't feeling great, so I opened a package of breakfast biscuits and gave each boy a banana. There was no cooking involved. It's rare that I don't give the boys a hot breakfast, but when I do, they feel like it's a splurge."
Knowing time is of the essence, Jess said many dinner dishes are Asian inspired. Fish also is a quick option the boys like. She's also learned that if any dish starts with garlic, they are happy.
"So if I want to go Italian, I start with garlic and olive oil. If I want to go Asian, I grab garlic and sesame oil, and I can build with any type noodle and any kind of vegetable and any type of protein and make a healthy, nutritious meal that I know the boys will enjoy," she said.
Jess also has earned the title from her husband as the "soup specialist" and prides herself to make a soup using anything they may have and cater it to any ethnicity they are craving.
"If I add cilantro and lime at the very end to a chicken noodle soup, then it has a Mexican flair, or if I want something more comforting, I add potatoes and cream and then it's more of a chowder," she said.
The key to her dishes is using fresh ingredients, which is as far as their backyard where her husband maintains a garden filled with fresh vegetables and herbs.
"He grows it, and I cook it, and I will cook whatever he chooses to grow. Some years he picks broccoli and Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. We tried Swiss chard last year, and then we have the staples like zucchini, cucumber, yellow squash. It's an adventure every year."
Jess said she appreciated growing up where she learned the importance of making your meals. Raising her family planning and preparing healthy meals, she realized when talking with her friends they were not familiar with all the options to feed your child. They were floored that a 6-month-old could be eating shrimp tacos, she said.
"So many think it's only chicken nuggets and string cheese. You also can offer them cilantro lime quesadilla, or you can offer them a rice noodle stir fry and they will learn to enjoy it. If you expose them to it, they will learn to enjoy it," she said.
The idea to create an Instagram account, @whatIfeedmykid was born. Working with two friends, who all have children of varying ages, they post at least one meal each day that they prepare. Reaching about 4,900 followers, Jess attributes the popularity to utilizing good photography, simple hashtags and quality meals.
"It's a great tool for new and experienced moms alike just to get inspiration for what you can feed your kid," she said.
• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to [email protected]
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