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Summertime Blues: Kids in the Kitchen

Your sweet tooth will be satiated this week as we test out kid-friendly recipes to cook (and eat) with your children.

Summertime means vacations, summer camps, the beach, and for some parents way too many hours in the day to fill.  Letting your kids help you in the kitchen may not seem pleasurable at first but with enough practice they will get the hang of it.  Cooking can be a fun and educational activity that you can do together and it will keep them occupied for a couple of hours.

When children help in the kitchen they learn a lot of valuable information.  From math, science, and reading to teamwork, it is a beneficial activity for their development.  Responsibility and pride of accomplishment are some other things they learn as all five of their senses work overtime.

Before you begin, make a grocery list together and let them pick the items out at the grocery store. When you get home, have them set out everything you.  

Before you get started, remember "Safety First."  Safety includes teaching kids obvious things like being careful with knives, graters, and peelers, but also washing hands properly, wearing an apron and tying back loose hair so they don't contaminate food.  Adult supervision is always required.

You can pick up their own kids-sized cooking set at your local toy store.

After you have prepared your workspace and set out all ingredients and tools needed ahead of time, make sure they can reach the counter comfortably. Use a step-stool for younger children instead of a chair which can be a safety hazard.  Stay organized and clean as you go. Finally, pump up the volume with some great tunes that you can pick up in town, and you're ready to get started.

Below is an easy menu for a three course meal you and your kids can prepare together:

Garden Salad with Whole Wheat Croutons

First make the croutons.  Brush whole wheat bagels with a mixture of melted butter, garlic powder, and parsley to taste.  Cut into 1" cubes and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until golden.  Place on paper towels to soak up extra oil and cool.

Prepare the salad to taste.  Let kids put in shredded cheese and chunks of their favorite veggies. For added protein cut up some cold cuts. Top with the croutons.

Chicken Satay with Wild Rice and Veggie Kabobs

Cut one package of chicken into long strips.  For the marinade, mix ½ cup soy sauce, ½ cup orange juice and ¼ cup of honey in a bowl.  Place chicken strips in the mixture to coat.  Soak wooden skewers in water to soften (about 15 minutes) and thread chicken through.  Grill for 5 minutes on each side.

Cook rice according to package directions but let the kids measure and mix the ingredients.  Show them how to read the directions and measure properly.

Cut up chunks of their favorite veggies and marinate in Italian dressing for 15 minutes.  Let them make patterns with the different colors on the skewers (we use yellow squash, green zucchini, and red peppers).  Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Rice Krispie Treats & Fruit Kabobs

Make the Rice Krispie Treats according to package directions and refrigerate.  When they have set, flip them over onto a flat tray (I use a plastic cutting board).  Now you can paint any of your favorite designs over them before you cut them. 

My son's school band played a song called "Godzilla vs. Elvis" at their end of the year concert so I thought it would be funny to make "Godzilla vs. Elvis" Rice Krispie Treats.  They were a big hit. 

To make different color icing, put a few drops of food coloring into vanilla frosting.  Mix and transfer into a Ziploc baggie.  Cut a very small hole in the bag and begin your design. Use licorice, marshmallows and other candy to decorate the edges.  Cut individually after you have shown it off to everyone.

Another variation I have done is mix ½ Fruity Pebbles and ½ Rice Krispies for a colorful creation.  Or for chocolate lovers mix ½ Cocoa Puffs and ½ Rice Krispies.

Click here for my Fruit Kabobs recipe and more summertime dinner recipes.

Whatever you decide on, let your kids be creative in the kitchen and choose what they want to add to the recipe to make it their own.  Cooking with kids helps them learn about nutrition and healthy eating. It boosts their self esteem by allowing them to accomplish a task, learn something new, and see a finished product they can share with their family. 

The pride they get from creating something themselves will most likely get them to eat the healthy things they have just made.  It allows for family time and bonding as well. It may take a longer time to get the meal done but the moments with your children will be priceless.

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