Kids helping in the kitchen accomplishes several things. First, it allows time for parent/child bonding. Second, it saves you energy and time while putting a meal together and also keeps your children in sight and out of trouble.
"Engaging kids in a cooking activity is a multi-tasking parent’s dream come true," says mother and chef Rachel Willen, who founded FoodFix.me. "Not only will you be spending some quality time with your young ones and giving them great memories associated with food, you will [also] be imparting skills and information that will help them live a healthier life."
Involve children in the kitchen -- without worrying about a trip to the ER -- by letting them prepare simple salads.
Spice it up
Choose a salad spring mix for the foundation of your salad, suggested celebrity chef Bryan Au, whose book, "Raw Star," was named Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the Gourmand World Cookbook awards in 2012. Au said to combine corn, diced red bell peppers, chopped cilantro, cubed avocados, lime juice, sea salt and a few pinches of mesquite powder for a tangy barbecue flavour. "Mum and Dad can help the kids de-seed and cut the organic red bell peppers and avocados into small, bite-sized pieces," he said. "The kids can also use their hands to pluck the coriander and break them into smaller pieces." Let the kids squeeze the lime juice by hand and add a pinch of salt and mesquite powder. Toss and enjoy.
Savoury Italian salad
Italian salad is a favourite that's quick and easy to assemble. Have children clean and dry leafy greens for the base of the salad. "The kids can help de-seed the olives, cut the red bell peppers with kitchen shears and add the black pepper to the salad," said Au. To finish it off, let your child drizzle Italian dressing over the salad and toss. Alternatively, use olive oil.
Assembled cobb salad
A traditional Cobb salad includes crispy bacon, hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, blue cheese, onions and tomatoes atop Romaine lettuce. You can adjust the salad to your child's palate preferences by removing, substituting or adding different ingredients. The key to an assembled Cobb salad is presentation, so let your children have free reign over the construction. "While eggs are boiling and bacon is crisping in the microwave or broiler, kids can be working on making piles of the other components," suggested Willen.
Versatile pasta salad
"Cooked pasta is a blank canvas you can fill and mix with almost anything and end up with a comforting, filling result," said Willen. Have your children choose the pasta size and shape to make preparation even more fun. "Also let kids be involved in the pasta cooking process by letting them chew on a piece at different stages," she suggested. "This way they will understand how it’s cooked, when it’s done “al dente” and how to avoid overcooked, mushy pasta." After the pasta's cooked, have children add chopped veggies, grated cheese and diced meats.
Few things are more refreshing than a classic slaw, and your children are sure to agree. Essentially, a slaw consists of finely chopped vegetables with a creamy dressing or vinaigrette. "You can make a traditional slaw with red or green cabbage, carrot and onion, peppers, apples, celery, radish, pear, broccoli, string beans or other produce," said Willen. Let your children choose the types of vegetables they prefer and then toss them all together. You may need to chop the veggies beforehand. "Think about add-ons like raisins, dried cranberries or nuts to add a little sweetness and texture," Willen added.
Fresh fruit salad
Fruit salads are especially kid-friendly because they're naturally sweet and full of fun and flashy colours. Not to mention, many fruits don't require much -- if any -- chopping. To create an extra-special fruit salad, have your kids choose their favourite fruits while shopping. Ask your children to wash the fruits well and, if possible, cut larger fruits into bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, cut larger fruits beforehand and have them assemble and toss.