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Finding the right birthday or Christmas gift for someone special in your life can be a big challenge. You never know if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. Sometimes what we thought would be a favorite new toy ends up barely being played with, collecting dust in the corner of a bedroom. Or the much advertised, hot toy of the season doesn’t live up to the hype once it’s out of the box at home. Other times, a last minute gift you’re sure is going to be a dud ends up being a favorite. You just never know.

This year, my husband and I gifted my 8-year-old daughter something that really turned out to be a big winner. We signed her up for a monthly children’s cooking subscription.

Addie Rugland

Addie Rugland

Each month she receives in the mail a box with three recipes, laminated and with words and descriptive pictures easy for a child to read and understand. Also, a cooking utensil of some kind, a bonus game, recipe or activity such as learning a little French, as well as conversation starters to use with the people she shares the meal with. Each month has a theme, including Cozy Winter Night, Valentine’s Day and Thailand.

My daughter loves to cook and would often ask if she could make a snack or meal. As much as I wanted to encourage her, she would often ask at inopportune times, such as when we were in a rush to leave the house or needed to do something else.

Having this subscription gives her at least three times a month where she has something specific to make and we allow time and plan for it. She loves it!

It has broadened my horizons, as well. I’ve helped her cook things I never would have tried. I would have looked at the recipe, chalked it up as too much work and skipped it.

For example, Minestone soup. This soup never sounded like something I would enjoy. But it arrived in Amaya’s first box so she made it. We were all pleasantly surprised by how much we loved it! She made it a second time to share at a family gathering and it was a big hit. She was so proud of herself as she received all the accolades, deservedly so. Her chest nearly burst, as did mine for her.

From the Valentine’s theme box, Amaya made Chicken Parmesan from scratch. She flattened the chicken, dipped it in the flour mixture, then egg mixture and finally breadcrumb mixture. It was amazing. And again, a recipe I would have seen and presumed to be too much work.

Amaya loves to watch the Food Network on TV and especially enjoys "Pioneer Woman" and "Kids Baking Championship." In the latter, the children on this show are ages 9-13. The techniques they know and recipes they can bake by memory is incredible. I am definitely a novice baker but these 10-year-olds know how to do things that I don’t even know the definition of. They make things like a coulis, crème fraiche and talk about the importance of macarons having feet. But now Amaya’s learning how to do some of the things the kids on Kids Baking Championship are doing.

Case in point, in her French-themed box, she made cream puffs. Again, something I never would have attempted as it sounds intimidating. But it wasn’t! We both learned how to make pate a choux, a French pastry. It’s a term we had heard on "Kids Baking Championship" from a 10-year-old but had no clue what it was. Her finished product was perfect.

It’s been wonderful watching my daughter deepen her love of cooking and see her learn new recipes and techniques. As with any subscription, it’s a gift she gets to enjoy every month. She would love to be on "Kids Baking Championship" herself someday and if she keeps practicing and learning, the sky is the limit. I never would have guessed a children’s cooking subscription would push my boundaries in the kitchen, as well. Which may or may not be something I should admit. But it has exceeded our expectations and the pressure will be on next year to find a gift just as grand.

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Addie Rugland is a freelance writer who lives in Northwood with her husband, daughter and son.

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