Your kiddo wants to learn how to be a master chef after watching “Chopped – Junior Edition.” But alas, the worry begins almost the second you envision your little cook handling knives. Not to worry, there are a few easy meals to start with that involve way less risk than what you saw on Chopped! Here are a few meal ideas that are simple, inspiring and fun to make for both mom and kid:
Growing up, we all learned how to make omelets from my mom. She’s passed on the tradition with each grandchild. This skill serves many purposes. Kids need to learn basic cooking skills and an omelet pretty much covers it all — how not to overheat the pan, how to chop (for add-ins like bell peppers, onion, etc.), crack, scramble, flip, time and practice basic food safety –watch out salmonella.
It’s also a meal made of food staples (protein, healthy fat, and vegetables), perfect when you’re too tired to cook for them, or they need to cook for you! Pair it with some fresh cut fruit and a slice of whole-wheat toast, and you have yourself a meal – even for dinner!
Vegetable Gyoza Recipe
Just think dumplings. What kid says no to the dough? Kids love small, bite-size foods! Making gyoza, or Japanese pan-fried dumplings, will not only fit the bill of bite-size food, but it’s also super fun and safe to make. Buy prepackaged dough (or even won-ton wrappers will do in a bind). Then stuff with sautéed chopped veggies making sure most of the liquid has evaporated (or squeeze out in a cheesecloth or paper towel), pinch and seal, boil then pan fry with olive oil. Add some low-sodium soy sauce or spicy mustard to small bowls for dipping. Bonus points for trying to use chopsticks!
This is a perfect breakfast for growing teens that are new to the kitchen. You need one egg, a half cup quick cooking oats, low-fat milk (enough to cover the oats) and one tablespoon of nut butter. Your kid will crack an egg into a mug or microwavable cup and scramble. Add the oats and milk to the scrambled egg. Cook for about a minute in the microwave. If it’s too runny, cook for another 20-30 seconds.
When done, add a splash of low-fat milk to thin out the consistency and cool it down. Top it off with some yummy nut butter for flavor and a handful of berries. It’s a healthy, protein-packed breakfast or snack that will keep them full for a few hours at least!
Layer Away With Yogurt Parfaits
This is great for preschoolers to “grown-up kids,” aka teens. You can buy some fancy plastic ice cream sundae cups and long spoons, a clear glass container, or a Mason jar. You will need low-fat Greek yogurt, granola, fresh or frozen fruit, chopped nuts or unsweetened shaved coconut.
Next, layer two to three tablespoons of granola on the bottom. Top the granola with sliced strawberries and fresh blueberries, then layer two-three tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt on top of the berries. Repeat these three layers one more time. Place some fresh berries onto of the parfait and sprinkle with shaved coconut or nuts as desired. Pass out the spoons and enjoy this calcium and protein-rich snack. Your kids don’t have to use the stovetop or oven to feed himself or herself. There are many “meal assembly dishes” to be kitchen competent.
Mini-sandwiches are fun regardless of age. Start with these for a few easy wins, to get your kids excited about something more challenging. But for now, here are some great mini-sandwiches to have your kiddos make:
Nut butter, jam and thinly sliced banana
Ham, low-fat cheese, tomato and lettuce
Thinly sliced avocado, turkey, spinach and sundried tomato pesto, Dijon mustard, low-fat mayo, tahini or hummus spread
Smoked salmon, low-fat veggie cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumber
Toasting the bread makes it easier to apply their favorite toppings. Try making these sandwiches on whole grain bread to add a fiber and antioxidant punch. Once your kids have sandwiched their fillings of choice, slice off the edges and have them make another two to three cuts down the bread lengthwise (very easy to do with a safe butter knife). Your kids will be enjoying some fun, fancy, finger-food in no time!