Family cooking with Ben’s Beginners

It never fails to horrify me, (and it’s a fact I bore people with over and over again), that when Bee went to university, she was the only person in her flat of eight people who knew how to use a washing machine.

Not cool.

It was the same with food. While her flatmates were trying to get their heads around the idea of cooking pasta and heating up a sauce at the same time, Bee was organising her tea drawer and fine tuning recipes for her food blog. I’d like to take full credit for this, and say that it was all part of a long term plan to help her develop basic life skills and a strong sense of independence, but I suspect the reality was just that I got bored of doing her washing and making packed lunches, and so she had to learn how.

Belle isn’t quite as forthcoming in the laundry department. I think there’s a part of me that’s doing that cliched thing of keeping your littlest baby a baby for as long as possible, and although I’ve never felt hugely maternal in a ‘Oh look at her in her school uniform!’ sort of a way, I do, especially as I get older, have a habit of wanting to potter around behind everybody, fetching them things and tidying up after them.

Belle does enjoy cooking though, and I know that I should exploit this. Mainly she likes to make sweet things – she makes a mean chewy cookie – and I tend to let her get on with it, seeing it as something for her to do while I work/water my plant babies, rather than a family activity. I know she likes it when I get involved though, especially when I do the bits she doesn’t like, like spooning batter into cake cases, and I should make more of this, and do more proper* cooking with her.

She did whip up this savoury treat when we were on holiday recently:

Uncle Ben's Ben's Beginners

*Cue smooth lead into my latest brand partnership*

Uncle Ben’s have cottoned on to the importance of equipping kids with these kind of basic skills, and in the run up to International Cook With Your Kids Day on October 15th, they’ve set up Ben’s Beginners. The mission of Ben’s Beginners is ‘to get kids to cook as well as they can read and write. Why? Because when kids learn to cook, they develop healthier eating habits that last a lifetime.’ Research shows that families that cook together and eat together enjoy significant health benefits as a result. The simple act of involving children in the cooking process teaches them valuable skills, helps them lead a healthier life, and brings families together.

This is so true. We focus on SATS and GCSEs and A-level results, but what’s the point of investing all of this time and energy into academic skills, if they arrive at university unable to make so much as a bowl of carbonara? These are basic skills guys. So pay attention.

Ben’s Beginners Digital Hub

The Ben’s Beginners Digital Hub is a fun way for parents to teach children the basics of cooking, through simple, tasty recipes.

  • Each lesson is made up of a combination of interactive learning activities and recipes.
  • Earn badges for completing each lesson. (I love a badge.)
  • Learn skills like stirring, chopping, pouring, peeling and measuring.
  • Cook recipes together like Black Bean and Rice Open-Faced Tacos, Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole and Chicken Tikka Masala.

Uncle Ben's Ben's Beginners

Get involved

Getting involved is simple – just get cooking. Belle and I had a go at Black Bean & Rice Open Tacos to get you in the mood.

I chose these to start with as there is so much flexibility in the recipe – you can add in anything you fancy really, on top of the basics. You’ll need a 250g pack of Uncle Ben’s® Mexican Style Express Rice® and six small tortillas, and then add in black beans, sweetcorn, tinned tomatoes, cheese, avocado – the world is your lobster. (The recipe is here if you’re not one for experimentation.) We added some chopped up cucumber and a blob of soft cheese. The whole thing was a bit of a revelation, as we discovered Belle actually quite likes black beans! Who knew?

Ben's Beginners

Ben's Beginners

  • Start by using an upside down muffin tray or cake tin to form the six tortillas into bowl shapes, nestling them between the cake indents. (Hint: if you find this tricky, you can use oven proof mugs or cups to shape your tortillas, or just leave them and have wraps!)
  • Bake them at 190 degrees for 10-15 minutes until they are crispy and hold their shape.
  • Cook up the Uncle Ben’s rice according the instructions and add in the rest of your ingredients.
  • Give everything a good stir, and then divide up between the tortilla bowls.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and anything else that takes your fancy.

Ben's Beginners

Once you’ve created your recipe, share it for the world to see with the hashtag #LookWhatWeMade. (Because what’s the point of spending all that time being a good parent if you can claim the kudos for it online?)

Before you get started, why not check out some of the tips below? You can also find out more about the full range of Uncle Ben’s products, including nutritional information, here.

Do you find your children are keen to get involved in cooking? Do you have any favourite family recipes that you cook together?


Uncle Ben's Ben's Beginners

*Baking is proper cooking of course, it’s just that she won’t be able to life off chewy cookies at university. Not every day at least.

Sponsored post.



  1. 8 September, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Love this Jo – I totally agree, we also need to equip our children with life skills, not just academic skills. I went to Uni being one of those who couldn’t operate a washer or cook and it mad me feel a bit stupid if I’m honest! I am determined that my kids will know how to live – independently of me, or I won’t have done my job right.
    My 13 year old can make a whole Sunday roast with the trimmings by herself – she has been able to since she was 11. That to me is just as much success as an ‘A’ on a test.

    • Jo Middleton
      8 September, 2016 / 11:48 am

      Wow, that’s brilliant Nadine! If you can make a roast dinner, I kind of feel like you can do anything :-)

  2. 9 September, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    This is great – I didn’t have a clue how to cook when I left home! Everything looks delicious! Have a great weekend. xx

  3. 9 September, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    What a brilliant idea! My 6 year old’s a budding cook and loves to bake and get involved in the kitchen. I just wish it wasn’t so flipping messy…

  4. 12 September, 2016 / 10:26 am

    Great idea. I was pretty useless when I went to uni so I hope to equip my kids with a few more simple, wholesome recipes when they eventually leave home! xx

  5. 12 September, 2016 / 2:56 pm

    This is such a great initiative. I feel very strongly that kids should have these skills, my love of cooking began at a young age and I definitely learned a lot from my family, particularly my grandma who was a domestic science teacher. Will be checking this out with the boys later :)

  6. Alison Bessey
    12 September, 2016 / 9:14 pm

    Great post – and fab recipes! Frankly, it annoys me that anyone can’t cook; it’s such an important life skill. It especially makes me squirm when people say with such pride (often about their partner) that they “can’t even boil an egg!” Why not?
    Credit should go to National Citizen Service (NCS) that teaches cooking to teenagers as part of its great skills-and-confidence boosting course – though mine did it last year and I’m still waiting for that Mexican-themed meal she promised to replicate for us at home…

    • Jo Middleton
      13 September, 2016 / 10:09 am

      It does seem an odd thing to be proud of doesn’t it? ‘Oh yeah, my partner wouldn’t be able to brush his teeth without me!’

  7. 13 September, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    What a great idea! My girls love baking and cooking and helping me make meals – they’re all getting pretty good in the kitchen, which is fab as soon I won’t have to cook ever ;)

  8. 30 September, 2016 / 11:38 am

    This is good advice.

    Too often these days we assume that the schools are going to provide our kids with “lifeskills”, when in fact there is no-one better than us parents to do this.

    As a Dad I see it as one of my prime areas of responsibility. My number one priority is to teach the kids to become financially independent, then learn how to look after themselves when we are not around. Only after that do I worry about academics.

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