Bring the kids into the kitchen

Some of my favorite memories as a parent involve involving our children in preparing a meal.

We gathered around the kitchen table, each working on something to help prepare the meal. Of course, we probably ended up with more ingredients on the floor or in our mouths than in an actual dish sometimes as we nibbled while preparing the ingredients.

One of the older children was cutting vegetables with a small paring knife. The youngest was stirring the ingredients in a slow cooker, squealing with delight as I complimented his cooking skills.

The laughter, the excitement of seeing your creation appreciated…it’s something I will cherish forever.

These fond memories have also helped my children learn valuable skills that they will keep throughout their lives. Although they are not masters of the kitchen, they know enough to bake decent cookies and prepare a meal for the family.

It’s interesting to see their personalities come out a bit in what they want to prepare. A child would eat spicy stuff all day if you let him. It revolves around Mexican cuisine. The only girl likes things that are easy to make but sometimes likes a good curry or an Asian dish. One of my sons loves baking and is experimenting with cookies and desserts with much more success than I have ever had.

Below are several recipes I love from Weelicious founder Catherine McCord. The Food Blog, which also has several cookbooks, has some fairly easy-to-prepare, family-friendly recipes that I use occasionally to help bring the kids together in the kitchen.

I hope you will enjoy them too.

SMILEY FACE PROTEIN PANCAKES

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of hemp hearts
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup white wheat flour
2 teaspoons of yeast
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup milk (maybe less)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

directions
■ Place the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract) in a bowl and whisk.
■ In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
■ Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and stir until just blended.
■ Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium heat, brush lightly with oil or butter and pour about 1 tablespoon of the mixture onto the griddle for each pancake.
■ Cook 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are set and golden brown.
■ Serve
* to make the pancakes with a smiley face: place the pancake mix in a bottle, make a smiley face on the griddle, cook for 20 seconds then cover with 1-2 tablespoons of the pancake mix in a circle.

GRILLED CHEESE AVOCADO SANDWICH

Ingredients
8 slices sourdough bread
4 slices of cheddar cheese
1 avocado, sliced
4 slices of gruyere or provolone
4 tablespoons butter, softened

directions
■ Lightly spread butter on one side of all bread slices.
■ Place a slice of bread on a plate, buttered side down, and cover with 1 slice of cheddar cheese, half the avocado slices (I crush them a little) and finally, a slice of Gruyère or provolone cheese.
■ Top with the remaining piece of bread, buttered side up.
■ Preheat a panini maker or sauté pan over medium heat and cook the sandwiches until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.
■ Cut and serve.

APPLE “DONUTS”

Ingredients
2 apples, cored
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
vermicelli without coloring
dye-free food coloring
mini chocolate chips (optional)

directions
■ Cut each cored apple into 5 rounds.
■ Spread with whipped cream cheese. Add the food coloring without coloring to whipped cream cheese if you want to add an extra pop of color!
■ Top with remaining ingredients or other desired toppings.

VEGETARIAN SKILLET LASAGNA

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen squash
1 cup fresh spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
6 no-cook lasagna noodles
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

directions
■ Heat oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and sauté for 4 minutes. Add butternut squash cubes, garlic, sprinkle with salt and cover and cook for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, stir and cook an additional minute.
■ Place the squash and spinach mixture in a medium bowl and let cool.
■ In another bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and herbs and cooled squash.
■ Place 1/2 cup marinara in same cast iron skillet and top with 2 noodles. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture on top and sprinkle with 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese.
■ Top with 1 cup marinara, 2 more noodles, half the ricotta mixture, remaining noodles, marinara and remaining mozzarella.
■ Place the pan over medium-low heat, cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE MICROWAVE MUG

Ingredients
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of milk, coffee or water
2 tablespoons of chocolate chips

directions
■ Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth in a small bowl.
■ Add oil, milk and chocolate chips. Blend until thick and stiff and pour into a microwave-safe mug, mug or ramekin.
■ Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes for a gooey brownie or 2 1/2 minutes for a well done brownie.

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