Summer Fun: Cook with Your Kids

cooking with kids

(HealthCastle.com) School is out for summer! While families are always on the lookout for fun summer activities to keep the kids occupied, sometimes the best activities are those found right inside the home. Here are some recipes you can use to cook with your kids.

Simple Recipes You Can Use to Cook with Kids

1. Pesto

Pesto is one of the easiest things you can make with your kids' involvement. It basically involves throwing all the ingredients into a food processor, turning it on, and waiting for everything to be ground into a nice paste. The most traditional form of pesto is one made from pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and basil. But why stop at that? You can make pesto with other nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, or seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. For flavoring, basil is always fabulous but there is no reason not to try out other herbs, such as parsley, or a dark green leafy vegetable such as arugula. (A favorite around our house is walnuts, arugula, garlic, and a touch of salt and pepper.) Bonus: Kids can also help smear the finished pesto on items you can then grill on the barbecue.

2. Granola Bars

Making your own granola bars is fun, easy, and gives you control over what ingredients actually go into them. Most commercial products are very sweet and come with artificial flavorings. Granola bars can be either no-bake or baked. We like the no-bake ones because it avoids turning on the oven on a hot day.

3. DIY Pizza

Pizza is popular because it is easy and accommodates "customizations": All you need to provide is a base (dough), tomato sauce, and toppings. For the dough or crust, stay away from commercially prepared ones since many of them are high in sodium and contain trans fats. There are many ways to make pizza dough from scratch, or, if you would prefer a pre-made base, use pita bread or tortilla. As for toppings? The possibilities are endless. In place of preserved meat, try using leftover roast chicken, turkey, or fish, legumes, and leafy vegetables. 

4. Yogurt Popsicle

making yogurt posicles with your kids

Amy, the daughter of our Founding Editor Gloria, was making yogurt popsicles in the above pictures! 

Shun the artificial colors, flavors, and sugar load from store-bought frozen popsicles. Make your own popsicles using Greek yogurt, chopped fruit (fresh or frozen), and honey. Here is one recipe for Yogurt Pops.

5. Omelet or Frittata with "Stuff"

If the children in your life are anything like mine, they love cracking eggs! Omelets or frittatas are great for using up leftovers from a previous meal. You can also use canned fish, crumbled tofu, or even mashed-up beans. I personally like adding some crunch by throwing in some chopped vegetables, such as kale, spinach, scallions, asparagus, or roasted red pepper, or extra herbs such as parsley, chives, or cilantro. 

6. Fruit-Flavored Water

Juice boxes don't need to be a lunch box staple. Instead, consider adding cut-up fruit pieces to water with ice for a soothing summertime drink that will hydrate without overloading on sugar. Some great combinations of fruits or herbs to flavor your water are:

  • brewed green tea with chopped mint leaves, lemon, and honey
  • frozen berries
  • cucumber and pineapple slivers

7. Homemade Fruit Leather

The only thing that is hard about making fruit leather, sometimes called fruit roll-ups, is the waiting time: They need to dehydrate slowly in an oven over low heat. You basically choose any fruit combination you like, throw them all into a food processor, and puree, then spread the mixture very thinly over a baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper. This needs to bake in a preheated 150F to 200F oven for 8 to 10 hours, until it peels off easily and does not indent when you press gently. You need approximately 3 cups of ripe fruit. The beauty is, it lets you use up slightly over-ripe items that would not be good for eating. Naturally sweet fruits combined with slightly tart ones make amazing flavors. For example, combine mango with berries, or peaches and cherries. Some fruit leather recipes even include a bit of ground-up nuts.

8. Homemade Snack: Roasted Chickpeas or Kale Chips

We have previously discussed making crispy roasted chickpeas as a healthy alternative to packaged snacks. Kale chips are also fun to make, and kids can be involved in washing and tearing up the leaves - no knives required. Check out this video on how to make kale chips.

9. Gazpacho (Cold Soup)

Just as a steaming bowl of soup warms the tummy on a blustery wet day, a cold bowl of soup can refresh on a hot, sunny day. Gazpacho is probably the most well known, made with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers. The French vichyssoise, a chilled creamy potato leek soup, is another example of cold soup. Or, make a fruit-based smoothie and call it fruit "soup."

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