Kid culinary maven Amber Kelley is whipping up kid-pleasing dishes with a healthy twist
Amber Kelley wants to convince your kid to eat cauliflower.
Sound impossible? Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure when it’s applied to a good cause and delivered by an earnest, adorable preteen wielding a 6-inch chef’s knife.
Twelve-year-old Amber is the host of “Cook with Amber,” a series of shows on YouTube that serve up healthy recipes while also trying to appeal to kids. Each installment is about three to five minutes long and features Amber cheerfully walking the viewer through the preparation of the dish. Recent episodes include recipes for lavender lemonade, grilled flank steak with veggies and breakfast granola.
“Look at how amazing this turned out,” Amber declares, presenting a cooking sheet covered in granola. As Amber and her younger sister, Lexi, tuck into a serving, Amber asks her, “Would you eat this for breakfast, before school?” Lexi nods vigorously and gives a thumbs-up.
Hopefully their enthusiasm is contagious.
“When another kid enjoys something, it’s not just an adult telling [them] you should do this,” Amber said. “It’s a kid telling a kid, kid to kid.”
Amber, who lives in Woodinville, was inspired to promote healthy eating for kids after being teased about her own nutritional lunches when she was 7.
“I was really embarrassed,” Amber said. First she lobbied her mom to pack sandwiches and junk food. Then she changed tactics, decided to take her pitch for better eating to a broader audience and launched her show.
Since then, Amber has made numerous TV appearances on the Food Network, The Today Show and Q13 Fox News, and with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
Amber, who learned to cook with help from her mom, Yohko, encourages other kids to pick up a whisk and have fun in the kitchen. She urges parents to teach their children how to use knives and tackle potentially dangerous tasks.
“Start slow, then [take a] deep breath and let them try,” she said. Amber herself started with butter knives, eventually graduating to proper cooking knives.
When it comes to getting kids to try new, off-putting foods, Amber suggests putting a positive spin on it. If you tell the kid to just try a bite, then they can have something they like, it already suggests they’re not going to like the new food, Amber said.
“Instead say, ‘I think you’ll like this,’” she suggested. Her own parents preached a message of healthy foods making her smart, beautiful and strong. Their pitch resonated — and it didn’t hurt that the food was well-prepared and flavorful.
When it comes to the dreaded task of packing school lunches, Amber is a fan of incorporating leftovers and making sure the child is involved with the job, so they’re not surprised and disappointed to find food they don’t like when they open their lunchbox. Mix nutritious items with a treat, she said.
Amber admits that she herself is not whole grains and organic greens all the time. She has a soft spot for sweets, and will indulge in salt-and-vinegar Kettle Chips. And while she eats broadly and tries to keep an open mind about food, escargot remains firmly stuck to her stuff-I-don’t-eat list.
“I probably should try it someday,” Amber said. “But I don’t like the thought of snails.”
The best hummus
Amber’s kid-tested twist on hummus chucks the tahini and boosts the lemon. Cook alongside her with this video.
1 clove garlic
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
Juice from 1½ to 2 lemons (or more)
Extra-virgin olive oil, about ½ cup or more to taste
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Parsley for garnish
Veggies for serving, such as carrots, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli florets
In a food processor, chop up the garlic.
Add the garbanzo beans, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
While the processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. Make sure your hummus isn't too thick. Add more olive oil or lemon to make it loose and creamy. Adjust seasonings.
Find more episodes of “Cook with Amber” at cookwithamber.com