Washing fruits and vegetables
Wash all produce under slightly warm running water. Scrub root vegetables, such as potatoes, with a soft brush to remove any dirt. If you have several items to wash at once, put them into a colander and rinse them together.
Peeling and trimming produce
To peel firm fruits and vegetables, hold the item to be peeled in one hand. With the other hand, peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler, always moving the peeler away from you. Try to take off only the peel, leaving as much of the flesh as you can. With a sharp knife, trim off any tough or dirty stems and root ends. If you see any brown spots or bruises, cut them off.
Grating and shredding
To shred or grate, hold a box grater-shredder firmly on top of a plate or cutting board. Rub the item against the holes of the grater-shredder, keeping your fingers away from the sharp holes. The smallest holes, which are raised and resemble small metal teeth, are used for grating. These will make tiny particles of citrus zest or hard cheese. The larger oval holes, used for shredding, will make short and fine or long and coarse pieces of soft cheese. You may need to chop the last bit with a knife to avoid grating or shredding fingers.
To crack an egg, tap it firmly on a flat surface until the shell cracks. Holding one end of the egg with each hand, pull the shell halves apart over a small, clean bowl until the egg drops out into the bowl. Throw away the shell. Next, check for shell fragments: If a piece of shell drops into the bowl, chase it to the side of the bowl with a spoon and then lift it out. Pour the egg into the mixing bowl.
Zesting and juicing citrus
To remove the zest (the colored part) of a citrus fruit, grasp the citrus firmly and rub it over the grating teeth of a box grater-shredder using short strokes. Rub each surface only once and do not use too much pressure, or you will dig into the bitter white pith underneath. Remember to wipe the zest from the back side of the grater.
To juice a citrus fruit, roll it under your palm a few times, then cut the fruit in half crosswise. Press the cut side of the fruit onto the pointy top of a citrus juicer. Turn the fruit half back and forth, giving it a good squeeze as you turn, to extract the juice.
On a clean, dry cutting board, place the chocolate piece flat. Holding the handle of a serrated knife in one hand, and pressing on top of the knife with your other hand, cut small chunks off the edge of the chocolate (this may require adult help). Chop the chunks into pieces no larger than peas.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Fun Food, by Stephanie Rosenbaum (Simon & Schuster, 2006).