How this mom of preschoolers found confidence in the kitchen


I know I’m not the best cook, but I try to do my best anyway. And because we’ve been staying at home since last year, I started cooking more. I’m glad to have!

I love finding and following recipes, giving them my own twist, and coming up with fun food presentations to make my limited repertoire exciting for the most discerning reviewers I know: my preschool twins.

My first dish was adobo, because no one can spoil such a simple and iconic dish, right? Think again. Mine came out too bittersweet. More like a sad, brown sinigang with no vegetables. And speaking of sinigang, when I gave it a try, the dish came out like a typhoon-devastated site: overcooked salmon floating alongside mutilated pechay and warped okra.

But I didn’t give up. After all, as my mother always says, an excellent cook: “If you eat and you can read, then you can cook.

After several other disasters in the kitchen, I found gold with a chicken afritada. It came out with a savory red tomato sauce, succulent chicken and tender, bright yellow potatoes against sparkling green peppers. The twins loved it so much that they named it Mommy’s Yummy Chicken.

Katzi F. Santos: “Like my mother, an excellent cook, always says: ‘If you eat and you can read, then you can cook.’ “

It was enough motivation for me to continue cooking. Over a year later, I still have a few more hits and misses, but luckily the hits outnumber the misses now. I can now whip up adobo with a thick sauce that has the right mix of salty and acidity, spiced up by the gentle heat of garlic and black pepper. With newfound confidence, I even tried the pastry.

The twins and my husband, who is an intuitive cook, swear their favorite food is my version of chicken char siu. I don’t barbecue it the traditional way, but I grill it in a turbo grill or oven for easier cooking.

Bonding experience

Even better than my newfound confidence in cooking, cooking resulted in a warm bonding experience with the twins. It goes beyond simple taste delights. They are so eager and happy to “help” in the kitchen.

Certainly, this slows down the cooking. Just imagine two pairs of tiny hands touching, shaking, and tasting all at the same time. It also makes the whole activity much more complicated. But the joy in their eyes at being able to help prepare family meals is priceless. If only for that, I’m ready to wipe up their spills. And yes, they eat more when they “cook” the meal.

Family favorite ‘char siu’ chicken

As an added bonus, child development specialists say cooking is a valuable hands-on life activity that helps with kindergarten readiness. All of these pourings, blends and cuts enhance hand-eye coordination. Kneading and shaping the dough sharpens the fine motor skills necessary for writing. And, of course, reading recipes and box labels helps with literacy.

The twins have learned to love baking. Their chocolate chip cookie video was featured on Jamie Oliver’s Cooking Buddies Instagram account ( They also like to make pancakes. In fact, they turn the pancakes better than I do. Check out their ube pancake video: I’m still far from being the best cook. But I wanted to tell my story to encourage other novice home cooks. If I can do it, and if my preschoolers can do it, then anyone can.

Now I’m sharing my homemade chicken char siu recipe. Good food !

Char Siu Chicken

For the sauce / marinade:

  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of 5 Chinese spice powder
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Small bunch of spring onions, chopped (set aside for garnish)

Combine the ingredients for the sauce / marinade.

Place the chicken in a resealable bag and pour in the sauce / marinade. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a saucepan. Add about 2 tablespoons of water. Starting on low to medium heat, boil the chicken, then simmer for 20 minutes or until tender (I do this to make sure the inside of the chicken is cooked through).

While the chicken is simmering, preheat the oven to 200 ° C. (If you are using the turbo grill, no need to preheat.)

The author’s preschool twins with their “ube” pancakes

Drain the chicken and reduce the sauce for the glaze.

Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush with icing and roast for a few minutes on the grill (or turbo) function until the skin is brown and very lightly charred.

Remove from oven, top with remaining spring onion and serve with steamed rice.

The author is a banker turned stay-at-home mom to energetic twins. She is an advocate for reading and believes in learning through play. For more on her culinary and non-culinary adventures with the twins, especially the book snacks, follow @starttermama on Instagram.

Are you also an avid home cook and want to be in the spotlight? Share with us your story and recipes, as well as mouth-watering photos. Send them to [email protected]


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