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La Jolla siblings plan kids’ cooking channel

Isabella Itkin is ready to high-five a friend after making a successful dish (don’t leave her hanging!).
Isabella Itkin is ready to high-five a friend after making a successful dish (don’t leave her hanging!).
(Courtesy)

While most children cringe at the sight of something green on their dinner plates, La Jollans Isabella and Benjamin Itkin love their veggies ... at least, some of them. And they love to cook at home. So 7-year-old Isabella and 5-year-old Benjamin are launching a YouTube channel for ages 5-12, where kids can post videos demonstrating their favorite healthful dishes and snacks.

In development, with a launch in the coming months, “Mi Kidz: The Ultimate Cooking Playground” will provide a place for young chefs to share recipes.

As mom Masha Itkin, founder of Mi Advice health and wellness coaching, explained, “We want to raise awareness and get the community involved and uploading videos. They can start now and look at recipes they like that they would want to share, and maybe film a video so when the website is ready, they can upload them.

“We want to make cooking — and cooking healthy — cool and accessible for kids. Anything you cook at home, even if it’s not ‘healthy,’ is healthier than going out because you know what’s going in the food.”

Noticing that when Isabella would make her own food, she took more ownership of it and would make healthier choices, Masha added, “It’s easier to start them eating healthy than force them to change their habits. We want to get them cooking early and developing a palate that likes broccoli and other veggies. Cooking also benefits every part of a child’s life and development – math, motor skills, history, geography and teamwork.”

Quick to jump onboard with the Mi Kidz project, Isabella said she loves making salads and healthy alternatives to mass-produced favorites. She even has her own homemade version of a cinnamon-y crunchy cereal. While on spring break, she volunteered in her brother’s classroom to make healthy lollipops.

“Not like the ones you lick that have food coloring, this one has coconut, nuts, raisins and seeds,” she said. “They are just like energy bars, but you roll them into balls and can put a stick in it. You don’t have to bake them so you can just make them.”

Brother Benjamin chimed in that he “loves them.” Always willing to lend each other a hand, Isabella said she loves to make salads and Benjamin helps by making salad dressing.

Benjamin Itkin samples a green smoothie, in the introductory video for Mi Kids
Benjamin Itkin samples a green smoothie, in the introductory video for Mi Kids
(Courtesy)

“One time when we were making a video, I said my name is Isabella and today we are making … and I completely forgot, so Benjamin said (in the background) ‘Salad! Salad! Sal-aaaad!’ ” Isabella said. Her other specialty is what she calls Mason Jar Rice, an alternative to fried rice. “It has carrots, rice obviously, peas, eggs and some more things. It’s a great thing to take to lunch,” she said.

Benjamin’s specialty is bloopers, which will also be posted on the site. “They are so funny,” he said. Mom Masha explained in one blooper, Benjamin was mixing something in a bowl on the counter, and the bowl fell to the ground, causing a messy explosion. The shocked look on his face said it all, Masha joked.

Hopeful that the enthusiasm for cooking in children will be more contagious – bloopers and all – if it comes from other children, Mi Kidz hopes to create a generation of healthy eaters. So chefs (or their parents) will be encouraged to use the hashtag #goodeaterforlife when posting videos.

More information can be found by visiting kickstarter.com and searching “Mi Kidz.”