App makes cooking with kids fun and easy

SideChef is an award-winning app that offers interactive, step-by-step directions using video, photos and text



Recently, my parents left on a cross-country, sans-offspring jaunt, leaving me to survive on frozen meals, takeouts and sandwiches – for two weeks. I’m a 24-year-old university student whose culinary skills begin and end with the microwave. So, when my editor asked me to review a cooking app that is purportedly so easy a child can use it, I thought this would be a good way to avoid another dinner à la Michelina’s.

Enlisting the help of my cousin, who is also an adult woman and student – majoring in law, minoring in five-minute meals – we embarked on a culinary adventure together.

The application, SideChef, was listed as one of the top apps of 2014 by USA Today. It is like a kitchen GPS that provides users with interactive, step-by-step directions using video, photos and text to help navigate a recipe.

The app has more than 2,000 recipes, which might have felt a little daunting if the data hadn’t been so searchable and well organized. It is visually rich with plenty of pictures, making it a feast for the eyes.

One of the main perks is that the app can help manage food waste with a search function that lets you find recipes based on the ingredients you have in your fridge. At the time, our fridge housed more sauces than anything else (weird) and a few avocados – guacamole anyone?

Also, you can customize the recipe based on the number of people you are feeding.  That’s important because, according to the Value Chain Management Centre, an independent think tank in Ontario, Canadians waste a staggering $27 billion worth of food each year, which translates into approximately 40 per cent of our food being chucked.

We decided to look for inspiration by perusing SideChef’s different curated lists, another one of the app’s features. The lists group recipes based on difficulty and number of ingredients. We decided on an easy cheese quesadilla recipe that we found under “10 things to make instead of pb and js”; a title which spoke to me personally, given peanut butter and jam sandwiches were becoming somewhat of a daily staple.

The recipe:

• 2 flour tortillas           • 2 Roma tomatoes

• To taste butter            • To taste onion

• To taste cheddar cheese

• To taste green chili pepper

• To taste sour cream

• To taste guacamole
 

After a quick trip to the grocery store, we were back in the kitchen and ready to cook. The app guided us in chopping the peppers, tomatoes, and onions, warming the pan, putting everything together and cooking it; the instructions even provided video clips that illustrated exactly how to do each step, in case you are overwhelmed. 

There is a hands-free component so you can say commands with your voice. Sidechef will read each step aloud in case your hands are too dirty to touch your phone and it has built-in timers that could come in handy if you were making a more complex meal that requires cooking multiple items at the same time.

After about 15 minutes, we smiled triumphantly as we placed our perfectly golden quesadilla onto the plate. Paired with the guacamole, which took all of about two minutes to make, this meal was quick, fun, and a super yummy alternative to a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

My cousin and I have the combined culinary skill of most 10-year-olds so if we could pull this off, surely your child can as well. There are many fun recipes for lunches and other treats such as do-it-yourself fruit roll ups and mini-Santa hat brownies.

Moreover, you’ll want to check out recipes and videos from the app’s youngest blogger “Step Stool Chef,” who, with the help of sous chef mommy, provides some fun and healthy recipes for you and your kids to follow.

I think most kids will love using this app. It has a multitude of helpful instructions, which will make it fun and easy for them to use. And it’s free for both Apple and Android phones. 

For more information or to download the app, visit sidechef.com.

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