Ah, September.. Back to school.  The lazy
days of summer are long behind us and it’s back to the day-to-day
routine. For many of us, that means meal planning
and for many parents, the challenge of preparing nutritious meals
with a far more hectic schedule than that of the summer.  When
it comes to making quick and easy meals for the family, there’s no
better way to encourage kids to be enthusiastic about what they are
eating than involving them in the food preparation. And whilst many
of you might feel that having the kids in the kitchen during meal
prep might be more of a hindrance than a help, I can assure you
that once you (and they!) try it, you will wonder why you haven’t
before.

Cooking with kids doesn’t have to be messy
(though it sometimes is!) – the key is in the preparation and
having everything organized before you start cooking. Cooking with
kids also doesn’t mean cooking meals only the kids will enjoy. Over
the past two years, with
my 9-12 year old boys’ cooking club
, I have proven that kids
are capable of making healthy, delicious meals that the whole
family will enjoy – in under an hour – from breakfast right through
to dinner!

Breakfast is such an important meal, especially
for growing minds, and I always encourage my own students to eat
something in the morning, even if it’s just a small bowl of cereal
or a yogurt. A great way to get kids excited about breakfast is to
have them help make granola. I have already shared
a favourite granola recipe
on this site – a more adult version
of granola – but had wonderful success with the boys making their
own granola as well. The key? Allowing them to choose their own
add-ins, kind of like choosing your own toppings for an ice-cream
sundae, only healthier! Granola makes not only a great breakfast,
but also works for snacks throughout the day.

How about lunch? Nothing more simple for the kids to help
prepare than, say a grilled cheese sandwich. But
how about a grilled cheese sandwich with a twist?

Tomato Grilled Cheese
adapted from What’s Cooking Summer 2011magazine
Serves 4 (or two really hungry people!)

Ingredients
1/4 cup your favourite salad dressing, divided
4 slices multi-grain bread (3/4 inch thick)
Grated cheese. I won’t give an amount but I generally think about
1/2 cup per small slice bread
1 large tomato, cut into 8 slices

Method
Reserve 1 tablespoon of the dressing; brush remaining dressing onto
both sides of bread slices.
Grill the bread slices under the broiler (oven grill if you don’t
live in North America) until golden brown on each side.
Top with cheese and grill until it’s bubbling and starting to
brown.  Top with tomatoes and brush with remaining
dressing.
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Dinner might seem like a challenge to prepare WITH your kids but
you should know that it’s really much easier than you think. For
starters, there’s nothing more simple than guacamole – just add
fresh avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and chilis for an
authentic Mexican appetizer! Kids love to mash the ingredients
together!

For mains, how about healthy mac and
cheese
?

Or healthy chicken fingers and home fries?

Quick to make and even better the next day,
chili? You can even use some of the guacamole as a
garnish!

Or for something a little more exotic, how about Chicken
and Leek Stroganoff
?

All these recipes are taken from Jamie Oliver’s Food
Revolution
cookbook. I love this book because it is
full of real food recipes that kids can help prepare. Each of these
dishes has been tested by the boys in my cooking club and we can
attest to the fact that 10 little boys can make a tasty dinner in
under an hour in a science lab-cum-kitchen! If they can do that, so
can you!

Quick desserts that kids can help you prepare during the week might
seem like mission impossible but these microwave steamed
pumpkin puddings
will taste and look like they took hours
to make. So much fun for little hands to prepare and watch cook in
the microwave..

Quick Steamed Microwave Pumpkin Puddings (adapted
from Jamie Oliver’s Food
Revolution
)

Ingredients
Butter for greasing ramekins
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour sifted
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 level teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
11 tablespoons Golden Syrup
Cranberry sauce, to serve

To prepare your dishes

Grease the insides of 6 little microwaveable dishes, or 6-ounce
ramekins with butter until well coated.
Tip all the ingredients (except the golden syrup and the cranberry
sauce) into a bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of the golden syrup and mix together with a whisk
until well combined.
Spoon 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup into the bottom of each ramekin and
divide the cake batter between them.

To make your puddings
Tear or cut out 6 circles of parchment a little larger in size than
the diameter of each ramekin, pressing down gently on the pudding
mix.
Place all the dishes in the microwave and cook on medium (50%
power) for 7 1/2 minutes, if using a 750W microwave (important –
the microwave time will change if you decide to cook more or fewer
puddings in one go, or is you have one with different
wattage.

To serve your puddings
Warn 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce in a microwaveable jug for a few
seconds. Turn the cakes out onto serving plates (simply put a plate
upside down on top of each cake and turn it carefully).
Serve immediately, drizzling over some of the warmed sauce.

I hope you will try some of these recipes with your kids this
fall. You’ll be surprised how capable they are if you show them the
way. And who knows, they might end up cooking dinner for YOU some
night!

Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher and part-time
food blogger based in Toronto. Her blog, eat.live.travel.write
focuses on culinary adventures both near and far because she
travels as often as she can!

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