Cooking and Healthy Snacks: Getting Kids Involved in the Kitchen

Ever have a “HANGRY” kid on your hands?  It’s when your kid turns grumpy (“angry”) because they are hungry.

I think it’s safe to say food is one of the keys to a happy kid.  Anytime we have programs offered here at the Club and we can offer food, kids come in flocks!  More often than not, we see a kid get picked up from the after school program and the first thing out of their mouth is not “Hi Dad”, but instead “what’s for dinner?”

Here are a few tips and recipes to help get your kids excited about cooking and more involved in the kitchen.

Start from the beginning, take them grocery shopping!

kid shopping with momHave the kids go to the store with you – not only do they learn but they get a chance to give input on what they want to eat.  Start with fruits and vegetables, teach them how to pick the right avocado (peel back the stem/nub and see if it’s green underneath, I just learned this myself!) or a bunch of ripe bananas.  Show them how to check the eggs to make sure they aren’t cracked.  Have them look for expiry dates and figure out if they think your family will finish it in time!  Pick an aisle and challenge them to go find a certain item.  They learn how to price items, sales and pricing differences between name brand and no-name.  This isn’t just limited to the grocery store, but teach them how to read labels and ingredients for allergies and health information.  Have them look through the flyer and see if they recognize anything you often buy.

Measure and Mix!

mixingWhatever the task is, have kids help in the kitchen.  Start by giving them an apron!  Not only will this limit the mess but it helps them feel ownership with what’s going on in the kitchen.  Getting kids to help is the best way for them to watch you and to learn the famous family recipes.

When we are running a kids cooking activity here at the Club, an easy way to involve kids is by giving them specific roles and tasks, for instance measuring, stirring, grating and chopping.  With proper direction and supervision, you can have kids as young as 5 years old cutting vegetables.  Washing dishes is another great way to get the kids in the kitchen. You may think it’s a less favourable task for kids, but it’s a task they tend to feel more competent at.  Not only does it show them how to take responsibility for their own mecutting tatersss, but it’s a great way for them to be in the kitchen with you, talking about their day and spending quality time together.

For the older kids, teach them how to make RICE and PASTA!  I took cooking rice for granted until I moved out on my own and burnt an entire pot black; pre rice-cooker days.  If the kids can cook the rice or pasta for dinner, not only is it a great help now but you are providing them with important survival skills for the college/university years!

Baking

Cutting pepperFor people like me, who have yet to discover their inner chef, baking is a great way to have kids get comfortable in the kitchen and learn while having fun.  It gives them an opportunity to explore the delicious world of cookies, breads, muffins and cakes and, with all the measuring and calculating, they are learning math at the same time!

Fake Bake

I once was babysitting my 4 year old niece while trying to cook and bake for a family dinner.  Instead of having her running laps around the table telling me she’s bored and wants to watch Netflix, I had her grab a seat at the counter, however, her interest in the new scenery only lasted 90 seconds.  Quick
thinking led to putting random ingredients like flour, cocoa and sugar in tiny bowls, a cup of milk on the side and told her to put spoonfuls of each into a bowl and to stir it really, really well (the emphasis on “really, really well” helps prolong the activity).  Ninety seconds turned into 45 minutes of discovery and fun.  It was about her feeling like she was helping and participating just like the adults.

grating cheeseChef Fridays

This one is courtesy of my brother and his family.  Similar to family dinner once a week, they have “Chef Fridays”.  Every Friday, one member of the family is in charge of picking what’s on the menu for dinner as well as preparing it, then they rotate through the clan so everyone gets a turn.  Now, this may end up with you eating a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese pizzas, but it’s well worth it.  Apparently last week my eight year old niec,e who once refused to eat anything but french fries, chose for her Chef Friday to prepare stuffed peppers for the family and wouldn’t let anyone into the kitchen!

Iron Chef

Create a friendly competition among the family.  If there are siblings, have them team up against the adults.  Create a simple scoring system that looks at presentation, creativity and taste.  Pick one secret ingredient that must be used and then let the competition begin.  Allow them to look up recipes and have some fun.  This is a youth favourite at the club, it’s impressive what these kids come up with on their own!

Just be prepared; expect a mess, missed ingredients, wrong amounts and expect it to be trial and error, but have FUN!

Kid friendly recipes and snack ideas – Club tested and approved! 

veggiesVeggie monsters – making snack time fun

Ingredients:

Vegetables
Fruit
hummus
Cheese spread
Pea/peanut butter
Salad dressing
Toothpicks

Method:

  • Tap into your imagination and have fun!
  • Use toothpicks/hummus/cheese spread/peabutter/salad dressing to attach veggies

Peabutter Face Sandwich  – Everything tastes better when you make silly faces (Thanks Mom for this one!)

Peabutter faceIngredients:

Bread
Peabutter spread
Fruits of your choice

Method:

  • Have kids cut up fruits
  • Spread peabutter on bread
  • Get creative! The funnier the face, the better it tastes

Pretzels – Kid’s choice recipe from summer camp. Great for kids to make as a side to dinner.

pretzelIngredients: 

1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) warm water (lukewarm, no need to take temperature)
1 packet active dry or instant yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (8g) granulated sugar
75 – 4.25 cups (480-530g) all-purpose flour + more for work surface (or mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour)
1 large egg, beaten
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  • Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir with a spoon until fairly mixed, about 1 minute. Some clusters of yeast will remain. Add salt and sugar; stir until fairly combined. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is thick. Add 3/4 cup more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add up to 1/2 cup more. Poke the dough with your finger – if it bounces back, it is ready to knead.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes and shape into a ball. With a sharp knife, cut ball of dough into 1/3 cup sections. This measurement does not have to be exact – use as much or little dough for each pretzel as you wish – the size of the pretzel is completely up to you.
  • Roll the dough into a rope with an even diameter. My ropes were twenty inches long. This measurement will depend how large you want the pretzels. Once you have your long rope, take the ends and draw them together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends, then bring them towards your and press them down into a pretzel shape.
  • Optional step: Whisk 9 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Place a pretzel onto a large slotted spatula and dip into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Any more than that and your pretzels will have a metallic taste. The pretzel will float. Lift the pretzel out of the water and allow the excess water to drip off.  Place pretzel onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pretzels.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg and pour into a shallow bowl or pie dish. Dunk the shaped pretzel into the egg wash (both sides). Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F. Turn the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the tops. Watch closely to avoid burning.
  • Allow to cool and enjoy. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pretzels may be stored in an airtight container or zipped top bag for up to 3 days (will lose softness).
  • Make ahead tip: Pretzels freeze well, up to 2 months. To reheat, bake frozen pretzels at 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes or until warmed through. The prepared pretzel dough can be refrigerated for up to one day or frozen in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight. Refrigerated dough can be shaped into pretzels while still cold, but allow some extra time for the pretzels to puff up before the baking soda bath and baking.

Baked french fries and chicken nuggets -this one is courtesy of our kids cooking program

friesIngredients for French Fries:

1 large baking potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 450°F(230°C).
  • Cut potato into wedges. Mix olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder and onion powder together. Coat potatoes with oil/spice mixture and place on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 45 minutes in preheated oven.

chickenIngredients for Chicken Nuggets:

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 cup butter, melted

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Cut chicken breasts into 1 1/2-inch sized pieces. In a medium bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, thyme and basil. Mix well. Put melted butter in a bowl or dish for dipping.
  • Dip chicken pieces into the melted butter first, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the well-coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

 

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