Tips on How to Cook with Your Kids…and Still Have Fun!

The idea of cooking with your kids seems idyllic in your mind.  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Laughing and tossing flour at each other, as jazz music plays in the background.  And then 30 minutes later…voila, the perfect roast.

Then you actually start cooking.  The screaming begins.  The crying.  The frustration.  And that’s just from the adults.

So what can you do to make this more like your dream than your worst nightmare?  Well, a little preparation goes a long way.  Make your time together more enjoyable with these simple tips:

1.  For lower commitment than a whole recipe, get your kids to help with one or two little parts of the meal, like washing fruit, taking the stems off beans or cracking eggs.  They still learn something, they feel helpful and they just like being with you!

2.  If you’re feeling more ambitious, pick a recipe out before you tell them about your activity together.  Or pick a recipe with them the day before.  This way, you can check that you have all the ingredients before you start and you won’t have an argument about which recipe to make, as your stomachs start to grumble.

3. Gather all the ingredients together first because even though you think you have enough milk, you may not.  This is bad news half way through a recipe.

4.  Pick an age/skill appropriate recipe.  If you are just starting to cook together or if your kids are young, make something simple.  Or choose a dish that you already know how to cook well.

5.  Make sure you have enough time.  Getting the kids to help will naturally take longer than if you were to make it on your own.  Expect this.

6.  Let them taste things as you go.  I find this especially true for fruits and veggies.  It’s a great way to sneak some extras into them, before they even make it to the meal.  It’s also a great way to introduce different ingredients.

7.  Don’t be afraid of trying something new.  If they have a hand in preparing it, they will be more excited about trying the finished product.

8.  Get kid friendly utensils, measuring cups, cutting boards and aprons.  It makes them feel like a real cook.

9.  Expect that things may go wrong. Cooking takes time and practice.  Remember that it’s as much about quality time together as the meal itself.  Guide them through it.  It gets easier every time.

10.  And most importantly, enjoy!

For more kid-friendly tips, recipes and cookbook stories, check out the “Little Belly Monster” book series.  Pizza and French Toast recipes now available online at Amazon, Indigo and Barnes & Noble.

 

My 9 year old’s first start to finish attempt at making scrambled eggs (with spinach and flax).

The Delicious Versatility of Avocados That Kids Love

A friend of mine once described avocados as “nature’s mayonnaise”.  I’ve never forgotten it because I strongly believe this to be true.  The melt-in-your mouth, creamy texture of that little fruit can add so much flavor to even the most mundane of dishes.

My kids are strong advocates, too, and like it in almost anything – an easy victory in the healthy eating front.  Try some of their favorites with your family:

• In salads.  Cut into cubes and added on top.  It helps make the greens go down way easier.

•  In sandwiches.  Add slices to any sandwich, hot or cold.  Especially on chicken or turkey.  Wow.

• On whole wheat toast.  So simple but so delicious.  Restaurants have started serving this at fancy brunches but you can easily do it at home for a fraction of the price.  If you want some restaurant pizzazz, add a dash of kosher salt and a squirt of lime juice on top.

• In wraps.  The kids love it in any form of taco, burrito, quesadilla or sandwich wrap.  In slices or as guacamole.

• In sushi rolls (maki).  Find them at restaurants, make them at home or buy them at the grocery store – they’ve become so much more accessible.

• On it’s own.  Sometimes I just cut an avocado in half, take the pit out and give the kids spoons to scoop it out.  It’s easy for me and fun for them to do themselves.

The only trick to the avocado is that you are at the mercy of when it’s ripe. Leave it out on the counter to ripen.  It should have a little give when you squeeze it gently.  If it’s too hard, it will taste chalky and gross.  Too soft and it may be brown and moldy-tasting.  You have a day or two to use it at its peek.  Or put it in the fridge after its ripe to preserve for an extra day or so.

It sounds trickier than it is.  You can quickly learn the primetime of an avocado.  And it’s definitely worth the small effort.

Chicken Taco with Homemade Guacamole

 

 

A Healthy Alternative to the Delicious Breakfast Sandwich

Ok, who doesn’t enjoy that delicious little breakfast sandwich from the nearest fast food place?  Kids and parents alike love that tasty, greasy bite of heaven.  But in the time it takes you to walk/drive to the nearest restaurant, wait in line, pay and get your sandwiches, you could have easily made and eaten a healthier version that both your wallet and waistline would appreciate.

With a little foresight into having these common ingredients in your kitchen, this should take you a max of 10 minutes to make.  Plus, you can indulge more often and not feel guilty about all the extra fat and calories if you exchange a few healthy alternatives to the classic.

Start by toasting and slightly buttering whole wheat English muffins.  Fry up an egg – this is the most labor-intensive part, which should still only take about 3 minutes.   Add fried egg to the English muffin.  Top with baby spinach, your favorite light cheese (like fat-reduced cheddar, Colby or Havarti) and tomato and/or avocado slices.  Done.  Easy, fast, has all the major food groups and the kids love it.

Have an extra few minutes and want to indulge more?  Buy frozen, ready-made potato hash browns and pop them in the oven, as directed.  My kids love these – it adds to the feeling of having a special restaurant treat, but the fat is way reduced by baking instead of deep frying.

Bon appetit.

Brekkie Sandwich

–       Whole wheat English muffin – toasted and lightly buttered
–       Fried egg (pref. in a little Canola or other light oil)
–       Baby spinach leaves
–       Fat-reduced cheese (cheddar, Colby or Havarti)
–       Tomato and/or avocado slices