(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Family night cooking adventures where everyone gets to flex and strengthen their culinary muscles don't have to involve sophisticated or time-consuming recipes. If you start with foundations that kidlets already crave, you are one step ahead when it comes to improving their kitchen skills.
For instance, if, instead of immediately teaching them to prepare waffles from scratch, what if you started with whole-grain toaster waffles and taught them to create a sophisticated topping that would stretch their palate? What if, rather than making an entire pasta dish, you showed them how to enhance a healthful sauce with hidden treasures?
Those and other meal-starters follow. The absolute best news is that once started, you probably won't be able to get your kidlets to stop wanting to be pint-sized short-order cooks.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You - and your children - effortlessly become better cooks, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows." All ingredients are to taste. Children should be supervised at all times in the kitchen and any tasks with heat or knives should be performed by adults, with children as observers.
- SAY WOW TO THESE WAFFLES
Prepare this topping for whole-grain toaster waffles. A half hour before serving, to create a topping, marinate the following in one part sugar-free pancake syrup and one part pure maple syrup: freshly chopped basil and mint, ground cinnamon, sliced strawberries and chopped apples, stirring occasionally.
- SMART SAUCE
Purchase a bottled marinara sauce with the least amount of sugar shown on the label. Place it in a saucepot for stovetop cooking or a microwave-safe container for microwave heating. Before heating according to product instructions, stir in the following (all kid-sized, bite-sized chunks): Roma tomatoes, carrots, green bell pepper and unpeeled zucchini. Use a cheese grater just before serving to grate a small amount of Parmesan cheese over the sauce.
- CHOCOLATE FOR FUN AND FITNESS
To the milk of your choice (regular, low-fat, almond, soy, coconut, etc.), add unsweetened cocoa powder (a provider of antioxidants and fiber), stevia natural zero-calorie sweetener and a small amount of strawberry all-fruit spread (found in the jam aisles of most supermarkets). Stir well and serve with a dollop of store-bought nondairy topping or homemade whipped cream.
- VEGETABLES FOR THE VERY CREATIVE
Mash some cooked cauliflower and add salt, freshly ground pepper and a small amount of butter and stir until smooth for a side dish that mimics mashed potatoes. Have especially adventurous kid cooks pick an additional spice blend to add to the mix, such as curry powder, Mexican seasoning or Chinese Five-Spice powder (available in the seasoning aisle of most supermarkets and including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and pepper).
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: One of my all-time favorite kids' cookbooks - for either adult-supervised kids or busy parents - is 365 Foods Kids Love to Eat: Fun, Nutritious and Kid Tested by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray. It's gone through three editions in over 20 years and the perennial favorites still are standouts, from soups to sandwiches, to dinners. Each recipe only has a few ingredients and instructions and all are inspired by foods that kids already love to eat. There is, for instance, an entire chapter on peanut butter, with easy recipes for winners like peanutty popcorn balls, peanut butter oatmeal and P.B. chip muffins.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.