There was a strange but wonderful transition in our home a few years ago when my children began to want to prepare meals for us. I’m not talking about imaginary or Play-Doh meals where we indulge our kids and consume various delicacies they serve at tea parties. I am talking about full blown, look up the recipe, shop for ingredients, type of cooking. Perhaps it is because I love to cook and bake that some of my kids take to this more naturally, but I am convinced that all kids should be encouraged to get creative in the kitchen and learn how to make something more than just a microwaveable meal. Cooking teaches kids about:
- Healthy eating options
- Science and math
- Survival skills (Ramen noodles might allow you to survive in college, but not very well.)
- Hobbies and careers
Here are 5 easy recipes for kids that will satisfy both their desire to be Master Chef for an evening as well as the hunger growl in their stomachs. Remember to let your child do as many of the steps as safely possible (oven and general kitchen safety is a must). My own young boys have experimented with and recommend these recipes, and can prepare them on their own (and even serve me!).
Mini Breakfast Pizzas
mini bagels or whole wheat English muffins, split
favorite cheese, shredded (works well with cheddar, Colby, etc.)
broccoli florets (washed tops of broccoli) or other additional toppings like onions, chives, or black olives
Preheat the oven to broil. Take the split bagels or muffins and place them on a cookie sheet, cut side up. Chop the ham into small pieces. Sprinkle the cheese, ham, and broccoli (or other toppings) on the bagel or muffin. Place in oven and broil just until cheese is melted. Kids can create faces with the toppings on their muffin pizza before broiling, using broccoli for hair and olives for eyes. Serve warm.
Popsicle sticks, skewers, or chopsticks
raisins, slivered or crushed nuts, dried, diced fruit, etc.
Cheerios (or other similar cereal)
crushed pretzels (gives the salty for the sweet-n-salty flavor)
Peel the banana and place a skewer through it from one end, at least ½ the way up into the banana. Combine the last 4 ingredients. For each banana, place 1 tablespoon of peanut butter in a dish and microwave until the PB is soft. Add honey and stir well. Have your child take a very clean paintbrush (kitchen utility types work well) and paint the PB & honey mixture over the banana. Roll the coated banana in the dry mixture, pressing down as needed to get the pretzels, cereal, and dried fruits to stick. Place them on a tray lined with waxed paper and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
Sweet Tortilla Rolls
6 Soft tortillas (in our house we like whole wheat ones, or even lefse if available)
1- 8 ounce package of fat free cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
Combine all but the tortillas in a bowl, mixing well. Spread the cinnamon cream cheese mixture in a thin layer on each tortilla. Roll the tortilla into a tube shape. Use a sharp butter knife to cut wheel shapes for these sweet tortilla rolls.
2 cups fat-free plain yogurt
1 cup skim milk
½ can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender and serve with a straw and a smile, and everyone will be smacking their lips! (serves approximately 4)
Anything in a Blanket
This twist on the famous Pigs in a Blanket will get kids busy in the kitchen creating their own concoctions. Open a refrigerated package of crescent rolls and separate into triangles. Place a filling (see suggestions) on the short side of the triangle and roll as you would for the crescent roll. Bake as directed and serve warm.
Veggie dogs cut in ½ both directions
slices of lunch meat cut to fit
crushed peanuts (use jelly as a dipping sauce)
chopped veggies like spinach, broccoli, or kale (can use a cheese sauce for dipping)
My kids love to experiment in the kitchen, and sometimes substituting processed ingredients (like refrigerated crescent rolls) is a concession I’ll make in order to make the process easier for them. They are much more likely to try new foods when they have had a part in the creation, and I never turn down help in the kitchen when making meals. Turn on some good tunes, laugh a little, and let your kids enjoy the magic of making a meal for you!