From an early age, Village students Shirin and Sam Bekker’s parents helped them understand the importance of healthy eating habits. Growing up, they tried to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into their food as they could, while still eating foods they loved. On weekend mornings, the two siblings would work together to come up with ways to jazz up their pancakes, and in the evening, they would work side-by-side with their parents to prepare the dinner, sneaking in more of their preferred ingredients and spices.
These weekend experiments led Shirin and Sam to become interested in developing more of their own recipes. They started out by developing their own smoothie and juice recipes, adding in as many whole fruits and vegetables as possible.
Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Shirin (grade 6) and Sam (grade 4) were home more and, with mom and dad working from home too, the siblings became in charge of making their own lunches. This gave them the opportunity to be more creative with their food and they began branching out from their breakfast recipe experiments and started finding ways to make their healthy lunches into delicious recipes.
The more comfortable the kids got at creating recipes, the more they wanted to share their healthy and delicious recipes with others. Shirin and Sam came up with the idea of creating their own cookbook. For Shirin, the cookbook is a way to show others how easy it can be to eat healthy but still keep the food delicious. While for Sam, it is all about the fun of mixing, stirring, cutting, calculating, creating and getting the food to taste the way he likes!
“We want to encourage kids in America and all over the world to eat healthier,'' Shirin said. “Most people think of healthy foods as not tasting good, but we wanted to develop recipes that are not only healthy, but taste delicious.”
“I hope people like the cookbook because it will help them see how much fun cooking is, whether cooking alone or with family and friends, explains Sam. “If they want to eat healthy, our cookbook shows them some tricks to make food yummy with less sugar, more fruits, and more vegetables.” Sam explains.
As the idea took off, Shirin and Sam started developing and testing recipes in categories like desserts, snacks, breakfasts and dinners. “We started documenting our favorite recipes, and created a lot of new ones. After a couple of months, we had gathered 100 recipes,” Shirin says.
Now that they have their first 100 recipes ready to go, Shirin and Sam’s goal is to have the cookbook finished by the end of 2021.
In addition to creating recipes, they also grow their own vegetables. With the help of their grandfather, Sam built his box garden, set up automatic watering, and planted all of the vegetables. Having access to fresh ingredients helps the children control the quality of the produce for their recipes.
“Some of my favorite recipes are my tomato sauce and pesto recipes because I can make them just how I want,” Sam shares. “I have my own basil plant in the garden for the pesto, so it’s very fresh! My garden also has vegetables and herbs such as bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, thyme, sweet mint, and rosemary. We try to add those ingredients into our recipes when we can.”
When they aren’t in the kitchen cooking up delicious recipes or tending the vegetable garden, Shirin and Sam both enjoy field hockey and hanging out with their friends. Sam also enjoys skiing and mountain biking, while Shirin enjoys reading and tennis.
Shirin and Sam have both been Village students since preschool. Over the years, some of their favorite Village memories have included going to the zoo and dissecting a shark. Both children enjoy Math, but Sam also likes Science while Shirin likes History. Sam credits his math classes to helping him understand how to half and quarter recipes when he needs to.
Until the cookbook is finished, the children started their own Instagram account, @funfamilycooking. On this account, the children share photos of their finished recipes, their cooking process, and show the fun they have in the kitchen. The siblings now have about 75 followers on their Instagram account, and both Shirin and Sam would love for anyone looking for delicious, healthy recipes to follow them so they can share their vision out even further!
“With the cookbook and our recipes, we hope to influence parents and children all over the world to eat healthier and lead healthier, happier lives,” Shirin explains.
“And have fun doing it!” Sam adds.