A Few of My Favorite Things with Katina Holland

Easy Meals Kids Can Make

Growing up, there came a point where my sister and I started cooking dinner for the family.  Back then, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favorite thing to do.  I would much rather be reading than worrying about what to cook.  Mom had a paperback cookbook for kids I loved to use though.  I pulled it out last week in preparation for starting this week’s column.  Many of the pages are stained and the spine is in bad shape, but it brought back so many memories.  There are simple recipes that kids can cook for themselves for breakfast and snacks and even some desserts, but it includes a section for cooking dinner that I used more than the other pages.  My family enjoyed those dinners and I got a sense of pride for completing them and having everybody like what I made.

I was not blessed with any children of my own, but my current boyfriend has two teenage boys that actually like to cook.  Okay, well sometimes, they like to cook.  They take turns cooking on week nights so when we get home from work we don’t have to worry about it unless we want to.  I usually cook on Sundays and Wednesdays are either for leftovers or eating a sandwich or something quick.  They plan what they want to cook and make sure we approve of the menu.  Then they check ingredients and help with the grocery list.  It teaches them some responsibility and important life skills. 

Having the kids plan the meals teaches them budgeting.  We get to talk with the kids about managing how much we have, what other things we have to buy or bills to pay and what they can spend to cook their meals.  They learn that maybe once a month we can splurge right after payday and get something a little more expensive to cook.  But on the other hand, before payday hits, they know sometimes money is tight so they learn to look for things that don’t cost quite so much.   Having these honest conversations with the kids communicates to them sometimes we have to make choices and go with something else.

When we all sit down to plan, it means more quality time as a family.  They get to ask all the questions they want and we may say no to cooking something this week based on ingredients, but that just means they can try it out another week.  It also allows us to discuss nutrition and how they need to incorporate the food groups into the meal.  We all discuss likes and dislikes and they love being part of the process.  This leads to the kids trying more things and being imaginative in the kitchen.  If they want to rename their dishes something other than what a cookbook has, we let them.  It makes it more fun for them.  

Cooking is a great way to incorporate math and science into everyday things.  You can talk about the processes of water boiling and how the steam forms.  You can show how liquids change shape and form different things when heated, like cake batter, or cooled, like ice cream.  Sometimes the recipes need to be scaled up or down to feed our family.   This teaches the kids how to do fractions and make adjustments.  Cooking also shows how important it can be to read directions and put things into the correct order.  

Cooking helps the kids to build confidence.  As they begin cooking, let them start out small like adding the ingredients to the bowl and stirring everything.  As they gain confidence and can do things with less direction from you, let them do more eventually letting them chop vegetables and cook the meat.  It also helps show them time management.  It takes skill to have dinner all ready at the same time.  Otherwise, something is cold and no one, even the kids, wants that.  Depending on how the meal turns out, it can be a boost to their self-esteem because they did it right and it turned out delicious or another learning opportunity for what could make it better next time.  Also the kids love being able to serve dinner to the family!  

Letting them cook also helps their creativity and experimentation.  One of the kids in my house loves to try out different fish recipes.  It lets him figure out what he likes and doesn’t like.  The other one loves pasta so much we have to limit the pasta to every other week and he can’t make the same thing twice in a month.  This pushes him to look for different recipes and reach new horizons.  It also provides lessons on tasting while you cook and making adjustments to match how we like our food to taste.  This also helps cut down on the complaints that they don’t want to eat what was cooked.  If we are all planning and no one has objections and they cook it, they have to eat it.  No more fighting a picky eater!

As always, parental supervision is recommended based on the age and maturity of your kids.  Also talk with your kids about how important it is to set the phones down and watch what they are doing so things don’t burn because they were forgotten.  Get the kids involved, check the pantry and make your grocery list.  Then join me in the kitchen with the kids for some fun kid cooked meals!

 

Pita Pizza 

This recipe is super easy for kids to put together themselves.  If they are old enough to chop themselves, you can easily get whole vegetables.  If they are still too young, almost all ingredients can be found pre-sliced or diced.  The oven temp is low enough also that they should be able to slide it in the oven themselves as well.  

Pita bread (how many you need will depend on how many are eating)

Pizza sauce

Italian blend cheese

Pizza meat as desired

Any additional toppings, as desired, like olives, peppers, onions, etc.

Salt and pepper or other seasoning as desired, to taste

Preheat oven to 200°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the pita bread onto prepared baking sheet.  Spread pizza sauce over the base of each pita.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Add meats and any other toppings.  Season to taste.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and pizza is heated through.

 

Chicken Lickin’ Sandwiches

This will make enough for 4 people with a little left over for lunch the next day.  If you don’t need this much, feel free to reduce to 1 can of each.

2 10.5oz cans Healthy Request cream of chicken soup (I use Healthy Request because it has less sodium of all the options.)

2 12.5oz cans chunk chicken, drained (You can also use leftover chicken and shred or chunk it if you have some leftover.  Using the cans makes it super easy for the kids to make though especially if they are younger.) 

4 handfuls Lays potato chips, crushed more or less depending on how you like the crunch (You can use a different chip, just go with something thin.  If the chip is too thick, it will get mushy and kinda nasty in the mix.)

Season to taste (I never use salt because the individual ingredients here have so much sodium in them already.)

Buns for serving

In large microwave safe bowl or small casserole dish, dump cans of soup and chicken and stir well to combine.  Microwave in 1 minute intervals.  Stir after each minute to ensure even heating.  Be careful with the bowl.  The more it is microwaved, the more the bowl will heat up.  If your kids are old enough, this can also be made on the stovetop in a saucepan.  Once heated through, add chips and stir to combine.  Serve immediately on hamburger buns and top with a slice of onion and cheese or as desired.

Recipe adapted from Easy Microwave Cooking for Kids cookbook.

 

Pancake Poppers

1½ cups flour

2 Tbsp sugar

2 ½ tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¾ cup milk

2 Tbsps maple syrup

2 Tbsps unsalted sweet cream butter, melted

1 egg, lightly whisked

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup mini chocolate chips, more or less to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then stir in milk, maple syrup, butter, egg, vanilla and cinnamon. Fold in mini chocolate chips until just combined. Divide batter evenly between mini muffin cups.  Bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with maple syrup. 

Recipe adapted from delish.com.

 

Easy Wraps

The great thing about these is the kids don’t even have to cook them unless you like yours heated!  Use meats and cheeses you like and make it your own.  Kids love putting these together!

8 inch tortillas

Lunchmeat of your choice (We like honey or hickory smoked turkey or chipotle chicken)

Sliced or grated cheese of your choice (We like cheddar and pepper jack)

Miracle Whip or Ranch dressing or other condiment of your choosing

Leaf lettuce

Spread Miracle Whip on tortilla.  Layer with lettuce, cheese and lunchmeat.  Roll up and enjoy!

 

Baked Frito Pie

1 large bag Fritos

2-3 cans chili (This will depend on how much chili you like.  Sometimes, I only use about a can and a half because I am not a huge fan of chili)

2 cups Mexican blend cheese, more or less to taste (I don’t really measure.  I just cover until it looks good to me.)

Sour cream and onions for topping as desired

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer Fritos in the bottom of the pan.  Cover with chili and top with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and chili is heated through.  Top individual servings with sour cream and onion as desired.  How easy is that!

Recipe adapted from chef-in-training.com.

 

Mexican Chicken Legs

This one will require some help from adults unless your kids are teenagers and can be trusted with slick hands and knives or unless you want to leave the skin on the chicken.

6 chicken legs, adjust accordingly for how many you need

1 pkg dry taco seasoning

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese

Remove skins from chicken legs.  If you prefer the skin on your chicken legs, this step can be skipped.  Rinse chicken legs with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Spread taco seasoning on large plate.  Roll chicken legs in taco seasoning until coated.  Place chicken legs on a microwave roasting rack in a circle.  Make sure the fat part is turned toward the outside.  The chicken should be arranged to look like the spokes on a bicycle wheel.  Cover chicken with parchment paper.  Microwave chicken for 8-11 minutes. They are done when the juices are clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork.  Sprinkle chicken legs with shredded cheese.  Return the rack to the microwave for 30-45 seconds to melt the cheese.

Recipe adapted from Easy Microwave Cooking for Kids cookbook.

 

Spaghetti Sandwich

This one is something I created growing up (here is that creativity in the kitchen).  As a kid, I loved it.  Now, well I’m not so fond of sliced sandwich bologna, but I eat it on occasion.

1 slice of bologna

2 spoonfuls of spaghetti

Miracle Whip

Sliced American cheese

2 slices of bread

Place spaghetti in microwave safe bowl or on a plate.  Microwave for 1 minute and stir.  Repeat until heated through.  Place spaghetti on one slice of bread.  Place slice of cheese on top.  Place slice of bologna on top of cheese.  Spread Miracle Whip on second slice of bread and place on top of bologna.  Enjoy! Okay, as adults, you might not like this, but your kids probably will and it’s something they can easily make on their own.

 

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