My favorite Halloween treats to make for the kiddos are these adorable mini mummy pizzas. They take a few more minutes to make than the standard sandwich, but they’re well worth the effort. I typically use sweet, soft King’s Hawaiian rolls, which are sliced in half and layered with marinara sauce, string cheese and sliced black olives for the eyes. Aren’t they adorable?
My kids were never that into broccoli—that is, until I made roasted broccoli. I wouldn’t say they beg me to make it on a regular basis, but they will actually eat a delicious serving of tender, roasted broccoli. I try to buy broccoli at our local farmer’s market, because it really does taste better than your average bunch of grocery store broccoli. After reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, I started getting into the habit of roasting a big bunch of broccoli during the weekend. Roasting broccoli is the easiest thing ever: chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces (kids can help with this), line a sheet pan with parchment paper, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper (and any other seasonings of your choice), and roast in a 425˚F oven for about 25 minutes. Broccoli can go from perfectly roasted to burnt in a matter of minutes, so I tend to keep an eye on it: opening the oven and stirring the broccoli ever few minutes. Once the broccoli has cooled, it will keep in the fridge for about a week. It’s super convenient to quickly heat it up as a side dish or toss it into salads or soups. The best thing about buying broccoli and immediately roasting it is that you tend to eat it before it languishes in the back of crisper drawer and becomes sad, forgotten, stinky, half rotten broccoli (we’ve all been there).
I wish I could say that it was a regular occurrence, but one in a while, the kids do make their own lunches. They are more than capable of doing this, especially since we pretty much always have a stocked fridge and pantry. Actually, we probably have a far too stocked fridge and pantry. Here, Lily builds a lunch around one of her favorite snacks: honey whole wheat pretzels dipped in peanut butter and Nutella swirled together.
I’m continually trying to come up with ways to get my kids interested in food prep and cooking. Some days it’s easier than others and I don’t try to force it if they’re not feeling it. A few days ago, my husband decided to give Iain, who is almost 12, a little grilling lesson. This kid LOVES burgers. And, he also loves fire, so it was a perfect combination. We made sliders, which are especially kid-friendly in terms of both flipping and eating.
The best part about making sliders: serving them for lunch the next day. The kids said they were delicious cold. Too bad there weren’t enough leftovers for me to have some for my lunch.
People always ask me how I’ve managed to get my kids to eat, well, just about everything. My answer is that I have never given them “kid food.” As soon as they could eat solid food, I started introducing them to a wide range of flavors and textures (basically mashed and pureed versions of whatever the grownups were eating). The only thing I really changed about my cooking after having kids was avoiding super spicy ingredients and instead opting for add-on spice (hot sauce, pickled jalapeños, and roasted chilis on the side). Now that my kids are getting older (Iain is almost 12 and Lily is 8), I’ve been trying to get them more involved in food prep and cooking. I think the trick to getting them in the kitchen is finding tasks they enjoy or food they really like to make.
My son, Iain absolutely loves crepes. After making crepes for several weekends in a row, I told him I needed to take a break because crepes are pretty darn labor intensive. With the specter of no crepes for breakfast, he announced that he wanted to learn how to make crepes. Great! And, thus was born a fantastic crepe maker:
This crepe-obsession even motivated me to finally buy a proper crepe pan, and let me tell you, a proper crepe pan is much easier to handle than a heavy cast iron pan.
The good thing about having two kids is that they tend to get competitive with one another. If one helps in the kitchen, the other wants to join in. My little Lily has an affinity for chopping, dicing, and mincing. Actually, both kids like to chop—perhaps because big, sharp knives are involved and danger is fun. If I give Lily a chopping task, she’s all over it. I just show her how big I want the pieces to be, and she’s like a machine.
If you let your kids in the kitchen, all sorts of magic can happen. Plus, they’ll learn to respect and appreciate the hard work that goes into making a delicious meal.
Due to the insanity that is life, I haven’t been posting lunches lately. However, I have been making lunches and the kiddos have been helping—not everyday, but I’ll take what I can get. One of my goals this year is the get the kids more involved with meal prep and clean up. I’ve put them in charge of cleaning out their lunch boxes after school, which is a little thing but a big help to me. When I get home from work and am scrambling to make dinner, I don’t have to worry about washing the lunch boxes to clear some counter space. Here are some recent lunches the kids have helped make:
Last night the kids wanted to make their own lunches without any help. Well, I’m not going to argue with that. They raided assorted kitchen cabinets and came up with this delicious rice cake topped with Nutella and berries. As usual, they wanted a lunch with lots of fruit. I did have to help cut up a mango, because that’s a bit of an advanced cutting job. Otherwise, they did everything themselves.
Pizza-making is serious business in our house. Friday night is officially Pizza Night, which makes meal planning easy at the end of the week. Pizza is also the ultimate family fare, as everyone can customize their toppings and the combinations are endless.
I also feel like pizza making is an important life skill, because unless you live in a major metropolitan area, your pizza options can be surprising bad. In contrast, it’s easy to make a really good pizza dough and even using jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese always results in a fantastic meal.
Who doesn’t want to enjoy this with a nice glass of red wine on a Friday night?
Today we have another kid-designed lunch. They were in the mood for some tropical splendor, so I cut up a pineapple and a mango into pretty yellow spears of goodness. The sandwich is that glorious combination of peanut butter and Nutella. And the cherry tomatoes? They just happened to be on the counter, so the kids threw them in. They also insisted on some Goldfish. Who am I to argue with kid combinations?
The kids have been continuing to help me pack lunches this week, which is great because they have been clean plating these kid choice lunches. On Monday, Lily made a yogurt mix with frozen berries, lemon zest (she wanted to do some zesting), and honey. She also chose her sides: a banana, a crispy rice roll cut in half and some peanut butter filled pretzels.
Iain, on the other hand, went with what I call “The Elvis Special”: plain yogurt with peanut butter, bananas and a generous drizzle of honey. This is one of my favorite yogurt snacks. His sides were similar to Lily’s but he also threw in a little tangerine.
For lunch today, the kids made almost exactly the same thing: a big fruit salad with grapes, watermelon, kiwi and tangerine. They both made a trail mix with smoky almonds, Cheez-Its (left over from our holiday road trip: don’t judge me), and pretzels (Lily used Butter Snaps and Iain used those yummy peanut butter filled ones). They both packed some carrots as well. Those kids make some good looking lunches!
Last night, the kids wanted to help make their lunches, which was great, even if this meant that making the lunches took about three times longer. Of course, the both wanted slightly different things: Iain went heavy on the fruit (orange and mango):
and Lily did a great job slicing up two carrots and two sweet peppers:
We’ll see it this interest in lunch making continues….
People tell me all the time that I’m lucky that my kids will eat almost anything. I don’t know if it’s luck or that I’ve given the kids a huge variety of food to try from the earliest days—probably a combination of both. And, even though my kids are adventurous eaters, they don’t love lettuce. I’ll make a nice salad and they’ll eat everything in it, but the lettuce. Several months ago, I read an article on how lettuce is overrated. I didn’t agree with everything in this article, but the columnist raises some good points, and, it got me thinking: why not make more salads without lettuce?
So, I’ve deemed 2016 The Year of the Lettuce-less Salad. Why fight it? My kids like all kinds of fruits and vegetables—just not served on lettuce. In 2016, I’m also trying to get the kids both more involved in meal prep, and putting them in charge of making salads will hopefully make them more interested in eating them. A couple of nights ago, Iain made the salad. I told him that he could put anything in it that he wanted. This is the combination he came up with:
Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint. He decided that mint was too hard to cut, so he tore up little pieces and sprinkled them on the salad. It was delicious. I never would have thought to combine cucumbers and tomatoes with berries: genius!