Great Everyday Recipes for Children
Cooking together with your children can be a great bonding experience for the whole family. If you take proper precautions – no kids around open flames, only parents use knives – you can combine dinner preparation with some really excellent quality time, while teaching your kids valuable skills.
Always use kid-friendly foods that can be artistically decorated. Some of my favorites include the following:
Pizza, in any variety, is always a winner. For your average Italian pizza, buy a can of pizza sauce and one of those pre-made crusts; never mess with making a from-scratch crust for the kids. In a pinch, I’ve often used a cheap frozen cheese pizza and dressed it up. To make it fun for the kids, use whole slices; tomatoes, green and red peppers, olives, and pepperoni, or let them choose the ingredients, using mozzarella cheese to hold it all together. You may end up with a chicken-nugget and corn pizza, but who cares if they like it?
Breakfast pizza is easy and fun. Start with a pizza pan and canned biscuits – press the biscuits into the pan and squash the edges together so that they cover the whole bottom. Top with gravy, cheese, or scrambled eggs; then put your choice of breakfast ingredients like (precooked) sausage, bacon crumbles, peppers, onions, or cheese on top of that. Bake this according to the directions on the biscuit label. If you think the toppings aren’t quite done — cheese not melted, for instance – turn the oven temp down to 300 degrees and bake for a few more minutes.
Note: for anything using meat or other foods prone to bacteria, cook them thoroughly before putting them on the pizza. Anything can happen with kids.
Cookie pizza is a fantastic finish, or a great way to celebrate a birthday. Start with canned cookies — chocolate chip or sugar cookies are the best — pressed into a pizza pan. Top this however you want: m&ms, chocolate chips, candy sprinkles, coconut, marshmallows, even colored Rice Crispies. Bake according to the recipe on the cookie package. You may have to bake just a little longer for this as well, so for that turn the temperature down to about 300 degrees.
Candies (like no-bake cookies)
Hard candy is too dangerous for any kid, but you can mix together equal amounts of melted chocolate chips, peanut butter, and uncooked oats to make delicious chocolatey no-bake cookies – just drop on a plastic sheet with a spoon and refrigerate after mixing. After a couple of hours in the fridge, they’re ready to eat. You can substitute chow mein noodles for the oats to make haystacks, or you can experiment with adding coconut or dried fruit for a totally different no-bake recipe.
Another fun recipe: Mix potato flakes with milk – but no butter or salt – to make reasonably thick instant mashed potatoes. Blend this slowly with powdered sugar until it gets stiff and flakey, and balls easily if you take some between your fingers – about three cups is plenty. Spread this across a plastic sheet lightly dusted with flour so that you have a layer of potato mixture about a foot wide and between an eighth and a fourth of an inch deep. Heat some peanut butter in a dish in your microwave for about a minute, or until it’s runny; pour this over the potato mixture in a thin layer and spread evenly. This layer should be no more than an eighth of an inch thick. Roll this up – it should separate smoothly from the plastic sheet and place the roll in the fridge.
After about two hours, slice it into one to two inch wide pieces and eat.
Smoothies and shakes
If you have a blender, smoothies are a perfect snack for kids. Just pour in a cup of milk and/or juice, then chop up whatever skinless fruit you have laying around. You can use bananas, strawberries and other berries, citrus fruits, melon, kiwi, mango, figs, peeled peaches. Put a few ice cubes in, and blend on frappe until it’s, well, smooth. If you include fruit that’s frozen, you can skip the ice cubes.
Shakes are just as easy, but you will have to start with frozen ingredients whenever possible. For a serving of shake, put in 1 cup milk, 1 cup vanilla ice cream, and then add between a quarter and half cup of whatever flavoring you want — chocolate sauce, strawberries, blueberries, a little vanilla flavoring, even peanut butter. Blend on low for about thirty seconds, then on a higher setting if you have any solids like berries, and enjoy. You can put more ice cream in for a thicker shake, but you’ll probably have to spoon out the shake.
The best way to develop your own recipes for your own children is by remaining creative. Look at what your children love to eat, and make this more often. Get artistic – mold cookies and biscuits into shapes before baking them, or stick celery sticks into mashed potatoes to make antlers, or serve dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets with broccoli tops in a tableau. Ask your kids what they want to make, and use their creativity to plan your meals. Involve yourself as well. There’s a kid hiding in every supposedly adult man.
Now that’s mouth-watering.