If you struggle to get your kids to eat, you may wind up preparing two meals each night. (Not in November Sunflower’s house.) Or simply eating a limited number of dishes. While this may work for a while, it gets super old super fast. Eventually you’re going to want to bring your kids into the food purchasing and preparation process, so they broaden their “food choice” horizon. If you have space, you may want to start a small garden and get them excited about creating food, too! And explore unique recipes to cook with your kids.
Unique recipes to cook with your little ones
Shapes and Single Servings
While it’s convenient to create a large dish of food for serving many people, children may not grasp the process of filling a soup kettle or a casserole dish. The volume is just too much. To make it easier for your child to get into food preparation, consider single-servings in chafing dishes or even muffin tins.
For example, the spaghetti nests recommended by Giada de Laurentiis consist of a single plate, swirled with red sauce, topped with a formed “nest” of spaghetti and filled with tiny mozzarella balls. You can alter this recipe by including meat, leaving it vegetarian, or filled out with a leafy green salad.
Get Out the Globe
Food is truly a wonderful chance to study international connections as well as cuisine. For example, the Basa fish, found in the Mekong Basin. Before a meal featuring a baked Basa recipe, get out the globe and study where this fish originates.
The Mekong Delta of southeast Asia is a remarkable place of great natural beauty and remarkable cuisine. In addition to the Basa, why not fix a plate of mini pancakes, a common Vietnamese treat, with sautéed spinach, or chopped carrots and toasted coconut? By putting coconut on the table as a savory, you can help your children develop a taste for how the islanders use this versatile fruit. Older kids might even enjoy piercing the shell and draining the milk!
Get Their Hands Dirty
One of the best things about cooking with kids is getting little fingers busy in the food. Proper food handling is a skill that can be learned at any time by almost any child. Wash hands, wash produce, handle knives and cutting boards, clean up, wash hands again, and eat. These skills can become habits that will serve your child into adulthood.
If your children really don’t like spinach, Brussel sprouts, and other greens because of their bitterness, try recipes that feature them. For example, a spinach salad might take an adult set of taste buds to really enjoy, but rolling out and loading up spinach calzones might be a good way to get your child more excited about them.
Older kids might enjoy mixing meatballs or meatloaf in the bowl. Most cooks know that the easiest way to incorporate the meat, eggs, onions, sauces and starches is to get your hands in there and really squish things around. Again, take this chance to talk about safe handling practices. It might also be a good time to talk about the benefits of knowing your food sources and working with local producers.
If you live within easy driving distance of an Asian market, a Halal grocery or a Mexican market, take your older children shopping for specialties that may not be available in your local grocery store. Sharing food and cooking food from other cultures is an excellent way to learn about the connections between people all over the world. We’re much more alike than different, and food is a big equalizer.
Older children might also enjoy helping with food planning and budgeting. Your local Asian market likely has a wide variety of dried beans and many sources of rice. If budget is a concern, your older kids probably know it and would like to help. Why not spend some time putting together meal plans that feature the tiny red Adzuki beans, or the heartier dried Edamame beans? If you have a crockpot, get some mung beans and enjoy Mongo Guisado on a cold day.
Everybody needs to eat, and building a fun cooking program around that need will help your kids make good food choices as they head into adulthood. One of the biggest challenges for young people, once they move out on their own, is budgeting, and learning to cook can really help! Put your kids to work in the kitchen. Have them handle the foods they don’t really enjoy so they have ownership in the dish. They may try it again, and find they like it. Here are a few other healthy recipes to try out!
Writer: Maggie Bloom