With extra time on their hands and so many seasonal fruits and vegetables that are sensational, summer is the perfect time to teach kids to cook. Children of all ages enjoy helping out in the kitchen and feel a sense of accomplishment when they create their own dishes. Additionally, learning to bake and cook is a skill that children will carry into adulthood. Toddlers and young children can get involved by using egg beaters, adding spices, and stirring. Adolescents and teens can learn the basics, as well as advanced cooking techniques.
Pasta is the perfect food to teach children to make on their own. It is great because it comes in all shapes and sizes, from spaghetti to shells. When making pasta, al dente is a word you will want to introduce to your children. It is an Italian word that means to cook something so that it is not too soft. In the case of pasta, cooking it al dente means that it will be slightly firm and not overcooked.
There are many different ways to top pasta, and that is another reason it is a great dish to introduce to children. The following are several ways to top your ziti, penne, and other types of pasta.
Olive oil: Top each plate with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Diced tomatoes can also be added to this healthy dish.
Alfredo: For those who prefer bianco, which is Italian for white, mix your spaghetti or choice pasta with Alfredo sauce. Chicken can be added to create chicken Alfredo.
Traditional marinara: Mix cooked pasta with marinara sauce for a classic Italian meal.
Meatballs can be made on the side for added protein. Simply mix lean ground beef, 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Shape into round meatballs and cook in 2 tablespoons classic olive oil until crispy on the outside and soft but cooked on the inside.
Pasta makes a great lunch or dinner.
Salads are healthy and are a great way to keep cool in the summer. Using seasonal fruits and vegetables provides an inexpensive and healthy salad that makes a great lunch or side for dinner. Adding cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries to salads makes them healthy, delicious, and cooling.
Strawberry, raspberry, and cucumber salad
Sliced cucumbers (with the skin peeled)
Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing
Wash fruits and vegetables. In a large bowl mix the lettuce, walnuts, fruits, and cucumbers. Lightly top with raspberry vinaigrette and mix thoroughly. Top with feta cheese.
This salad is great because kids learn to use a food peeler, learn the importance of washing fruits and vegetables, and master the art of slicing fruits and vegetables. For younger children, the parent should do the cutting and allow the child to put the cut fruits and veggies in the bowl. Toddlers and young children will enjoy adding the ingredients and mixing everything together at the end.
Muffins and breads
Muffins and breads are great for breakfast, and they can be healthy too. Many types of pastries can be made to be healthy by using whole wheat flour or unbleached flour, as well as sugar in the raw or Splenda. Many kids will gladly eat blueberry or banana bread but will not eat those fruits alone, so it it is a great way to sneak in some important vitamins and minerals. In addition, children enjoy baking and eating what they make. Take advantage of seasonal fruits to make inexpensive and tasty muffins and breads for breakfast with your children.
Blissful blueberry muffins
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar in the raw or Splenda
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup 2 percent milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat oil, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and canola oil.
Add flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Mix with a spoon.
Add the blueberries. Gently mix the blueberries into the mix.
Put muffin liners in a muffin pan.
Spray muffin liners with nonstick cooking spray.
Fill liners 3/4 of the way full, leaving room for them to rise.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
What germ can be added to the muffins for added benefits. If choosing to do this, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup wheat germ when adding the flour.
Have fun in the kitchen with your kids this summer!
More from Rebecca Bardelli:
5 Creative Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthy
Nutrition Tips for Athletic Children
Should Children and Adolescents Drink Caffeine?