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Family Central: Family Cooking Adventures

All that family togetherness at the holiday is a wonderful thing – until the kids start complaining they’re bored and nobody can agree on a decent movie to rent.

So why not get everybody in the kitchen? These cooking games or contests will get everyone thinking creatively – and solve that problem of what to feed the crowd, too.

Chopped, the Family Edition: Take a page from the popular Food Network show, and stage your own cooking competition. Divide family members into teams, but be fair; pair children with adults, and make sure each team has at least one person who has cooking basics down. Non-cooks can still be enlisted to serve on the panel of judges.

You can either create your own “mystery box” of ingredients, that every team has to use, or you can just choose a category, such as vegetable, dessert, main course. Or, you can declare the theme, give each team a nominal amount of cash, and then take them to grocery store to shop for their dish.  Then, back home, give each team a set time limit, Top Chef style, and let them get to work. If your kitchen is on the small size, or if you have more than three teams, consider a category – like cookies or candy – that doesn’t have to be served at the same time, so that you can stagger cooking times.

Leftover-palooza: Got leftover turkey? (Or ham, or whatever was your holiday meal?) Declare a sandwich contest. Prepare by purchasing several types of bread, mustards, dressings and cheeses, and make sure your pantry is well stocked with basics. Then, let each contestant prepare two sandwiches of their choice and cut each into quarters. After judging, you’ve got a whole sandwich buffet!

Sampling party: The tapas trend has hit the home kitchen, so play up that theme with an appetizer party. Again, you can let every guest, or teams of guests, come up with their own appetizer, to be created from items on hand or from a special supermarket trip. The only rule: Things need to be bite-sized. To help stoke creativity, give every team their choice of cookbooks to peruse, or hand out holiday editions of favorite cooking magazines, or assign each team a country (China, Mexico, Italy, etc.) upon which to base their culinary creation.