Adventures in Summer Family Cooking

For Catholic moms wanting to share friendship and recipes, they should log onto the website The editor is a devout Secular Franciscan, Barb Szyszkiewicz, who also writes at her own two websites: and

A resident of New Jersey, Barb has plenty to say about mothers cooking with their children, both in the summer and year-round—and how cooking helps them survive as adults. “First of all, cooking with our children depends on the age of the kids. I didn’t do much cooking with my kids until they hit double digits,” she said. “I had a small kitchen and time intervened. Cooking is my getaway—let me have this time—and it took a lot to let my kids into the kitchen with me as I felt I was losing my ‘me’ time. But I also knew I needed to help my children to gain that survival skill: to know how to cook to be independent young adults. They shopped with me for years before I let them cook. By the time they were double digits, they could read well and could follow instructions. 

“They come up with their own recipes now. The youngest is now 21, and all are now good cooks and like to cook. They do experiment in the kitchen, and the children who don’t live near me send pictures of the dinner they made. That is great. I love to see that they had grown up to do that. What I did not pass down was the trick of writing down recipes as you cook.”

She noted that their favorite recipes come from her website that they use as if it were a cookbook. “Last week, the youngest one (a college student) prepared Crunchwraps (see recipe below) like Taco Bell does. He got into the kitchen with me and helped prepare it and cleaned up.”

Another New Jersey mom, Lindsey Schlegel, shares her summer fun experiences when cooking with her children, ages 2 to 12 years old. “During the school year, there are activities around dinnertime, which make it difficult to get kids really involved in cooking,” she said. “In the summer, our schedule is looser (and the kids don’t have homework!), so we have more time to practice skills and try new techniques. 

“Cooking with kids takes longer than cooking alone, but when we make time for it, it becomes a family activity. A few weeks ago, the kids asked to make dinner on their own—chicken noodle soup, which they had made before. The older kids in particular love to cook and see how things go together. It gives them a sense of accomplishment. Our family favorites are appetizers, like prosciutto and puff pastry wrapped around asparagus stalks. One of my children really likes to make bread and another likes to make desserts. He sometimes talks about having an allergy-friendly bakery.”

And from Ohio, MaryBeth Eberhard said her family consists of eight children, ages 11 to 21. ‘We cook all kinds of dishes, she said. “And cooking together is a great time to develop family culture and share values. Our children have days they cook meals. Younger kids team with older kids when necessary. We try to be mindful of feast days and cook something special when we can to celebrate them even in a small way. It ties us to our Catholic faith and culture.

“Our family has a garden we all planted and maintain,” she said. “We use what we grow, such as green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, berries, etc. From that garden, my son is making a meatloaf tonight with a side of green beans and potatoes.” And the family favorite? MaryBeth said that now it is angel food cake because the family garden grows strawberries and blueberries.

There is always someone who does not like a certain food., she noted. “We try to teach to be prepared for that. Charity and selflessness are cultivated in these moments.”

In the winter, she said, the family does a lot of crock pot meals. “We thaw, chop, and throw it in while we get our school and work done for the day. We eat a lot of what we have canned and frozen. The food may not be as bright and colorful, but we are always grateful for it. The work we have done in the Summer to freeze some of our fruit and veggies makes us all appreciate them more in the Winter months.”

Black Bean Crunchwraps

Barb Szyszkiewicz shares a copycat recipe for a meatless version of a fast-food favorite. “These meatless wraps are easy to make and to customize! We’ve tried several different filling combinations in this recipe. To be sure the wraps will fully seal, it’s important not to overstuff them. And the final ingredient layer needs to be cheese because that’s what makes the seal.These are fun to make with kids. Set up an assembly line and cook enough for the whole family,” she said.

Makes 4 servings


1 can black beans
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
4 large (10-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese
4 tostadas (about 4-5-inch size)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)
Oil for the pan


Place beans in a small saucepan (do not drain). Add chipotle chili pepper. Cook 15 minutes.

Spread large tortilla on top of a cutting board. Use a slotted spoon to add about 1/4 cup beans to the center of the tortilla. Top with 2 tablepoons onion and 1/4 cup cheese.

Spread 2 tablespoons sour cream on a tostada and place on top of the cheese. Top with lettuce, tomato, cilantro, and another 1/4 cup cheese. Fold in the edges of the tortilla toward the center so all the filling is covered. (If you overstuffed your Crunchwrap, tear off a piece of an extra tortilla to fill in the gap.)

Heat oil on a griddle or skillet. Place Crunchwrap seam side down on the skillet and cook until browned on both sides. (I use a cast-iron burger press while cooking the first side, to ensure that the seam is sealed.) Repeat the steps to make the last three wraps.

Photo by Nerfee Mirandilla on Unsplash

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A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world — from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith. Her latest work is Cooking with the Saints.

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