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Little chefs – cooking with the kids

Children are notoriously fussy eaters and it can be really challenging to get them to try something new. Getting them to help you prepare meals will make them more interested in food and encourage them to make better choices about their eating habits.

In addition to being great for their growing bodies, cooking with the kids is a great way of adding precious family time to a hectic daily schedule.

You know what level of responsibility your child can manage, so keep in mind to what extent they can safely assist and follow instructions. We’ve got five recipes that kids of all ages can help you make.

Each recipe is designed to serve four people, so adjust to suit your tribe.

1. Pancake Day any day!

Nothing signals the start of the weekend like Saturday morning pancakes but they’re a delicious breakfast any day of the week.

Ingredients:

  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 2tbsp sugar (coconut sugar is a great alternative if you’re trying to be healthy)
  • 2tbsp unsalted and melted butter
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 250ml milk
  • Whatever toppings you fancy! Syrup, honey, jam, Nutella, fresh fruits, nuts, whipped cream, or chocolate syrup are all tasty options.

Method:

Preheat oven to a medium-high heat, and have a baking sheet ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together milk, butter, oil and the egg.

Sift in the dry ingredients to milk mixture (kids will love this bit!) and whisk until just moistened. If you’re supervising a little one doing this, you needn’t be overzealous; a few lumps in the mixture is fine.

Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil. Get one of the kids to carefully rub a frying pan with the paper towel, and then heat a pan over the hob.

Each pancake requires two or three teaspoons of pancake batter that you can easily spread around using the back of a spoon. If you prefer bigger pancakes or to make crepes, add more mixture accordingly.

Cook for up to two minutes, until the pancakes have some bubbles. If the kids are brave enough, help them make their first flip.

Once cooked on both sides, transfer to the baking sheet and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Serve warm, with desired toppings. The kids will love making a sticky mess!

2. Pasta traybakes

Pasta bake is a really easy and plentiful dish and the kids can help prepare it as it’s mostly just assembly. Store-bought pasta sauces can be bought in jars, but we’ve got an irresistible home recipe!

Ingredients:

  • Jumbo pasta shells
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Up to 18 meatballs (not frozen)
  • 150g grated mozzarella cheese
  • Pinch each of dried basil and oregano

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degress. Cook pasta shells according to package directions before draining and rinsing in cold water.

In a baking dish, pour in half of the tinned tomatoes, spread out the pasta shells on top and sprinkle in a pinch of each herb.

Recruiting one of the kids, get them to place the meatballs inside some of the pasta shells, and then ask them to top the pasta shells with the remaining sauce and sprinkle on all of the cheese and another pinch of each herb.

Bake for 35 minutes under tin foil, and then remove the foil and continue to cook for a further five minutes.

While it cooks, make some homemade garlic bread with the kids using herbs, chopped fresh garlic and loads of butter mixed up in a bowl and smeared all over crust white bread.

Once the pasta is out of the oven, grill the garlic bread until golden.

3. Easy Italian – grilled pesto sandwich

Complex pasta dishes with lots of ingredients can be daunting to introduce the kids to new flavours, but these sandwiches are essentially jazzed-up cheese toasties!

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 2 slices of thick, white bread per person eating
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • A tube of tomato purée
  • 1 jar of pesto sauce
  • 1 packet of pepperoni (about 15 slices)
  • 300g cooked turkey breast

Method:

Drain the mozzarella ball and thinly slice. After that, let the kids do the grafting!

Help them to spread tomato purée on one half of the bread (thinly if you’ve got fussy little ones) and the pesto sauce on the other. Encourage them to arrange cheese slices, turkey and pepperoni on top.

Top the sandwiches with the other halves of bread, and spread butter on the sandwich tops and pop them under a medium grill. If you put the temperature up too high, you’ll burn the bread and the fillings will be cold.

Once golden brown and crispy, flip the sandwiches over, spread the remaining butter on ungrilled sides of sandwiches; and serve immediately once cooked with carrot, cucumber and pepper batons for a lovely, light meal.

4. Pizza night

Homemade pizza will bring out your kids’ culinary flair!

This couldn’t be simpler; just purchase pizza bases, sandwich thins, bagels or ciabatta halves… whatever is to your liking!

Smother the bases in tomato purée and put out on your kitchen counter, or wherever you can have a suitable work station that the kids can reach.

Buy several different cheeses and grate them, and prepare lots of toppings, like ham, mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple etc., and let the kids try what they like!

Allow them to be as creative as possible: can they write their name in toppings or a funny face?

Each pizza type will take different times to cook, so pop the oven at 180 degrees and check the pizzas every five minutes.

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