- Involving your kids in cooking and baking at home is a great way to spend quality time together as well as teach them good eating habits.
- Children who help with meal prep are more likely to enjoy fruits and vegetables, and make healthier food choices. Regular rituals, like a weekly pizza night, also serve as ‘temporal landmarks’ and can help us build memories.
- During the pandemic, simplify your meal prep and teach your kids kitchen basics with these healthy recipes.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s week 11 of the lockdown here in the UK, and while schools are slowly reopening for some year groups, the summer holidays are only weeks away. For many of us, our kids are going to be home at least until September, while most summer activities, camps, holidays, and overnights with grandparents remain out of bounds. Keeping them entertained is a challenge, and that’s where cooking can help.
One way to engage our kids is to involve them in meal prep and cooking. You can spend quality time with your children, they can absorb valuable skills, and as a bonus, studies have shown that children who are involved in preparing their meals are more likely to embrace fruits and vegetables, and make healthier food choices.
Depending on the age of your children, incorporate opportunities for learning throughout. For a toddler, you can work on counting out ingredients, mixing the batter, kneading, and cooking. Older children can also get involved in reading recipes and measuring ingredients on the weighing scale.
Try everything from healthy pancakes for breakfast, to easy one-ingredient ‘nice’ cream that is perfect for hot summer afternoons.
A simple recipe that’s endlessly customizable based on what you have. If you don’t have any of the add-ins listed below, skip them, or replace with any other kid-friendly ingredient in your pantry. These can easily be made vegan by using egg-replacement, or skipping it altogether and slightly increasing the quantity of non-dairy milk.
What you’ll need:
1 cup of porridge oats (can be steel cut, rolled, or even instant oats although these will cook faster)
3 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp oil
1 cup milk (I use oat milk, but you can use dairy or any dairy-free alternative; rice milk is not recommended for children under the age of five).
½ tsp vanilla essence (optional)
A pinch of salt
A heavy frying pan
1-2 tbsp chia seeds
1-2 tbsp flaxseed
A handful of blueberries, or 1 tbsp of cacao powder if you’d like chocolate pancakes instead
Mix the oats and the milk together in a bowl and let the oats soften while you assemble the other ingredients. Beat the egg and add in the remaining ingredients except the blueberries. The batter will be thicker than a typical pancake.
Add a few drops of oil and swirl to coat the pan; let it get hot, then turn the heat to medium-low. Drop the batter onto the pan with about 3 tbsp of batter per pancake. Depending on the size of the pan you can cook 3-5 pancakes at a time. If you’re using blueberries, add 2-3 berries to each pancake now. Cook on one side until the edges appear dry and the bottoms are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
These travel well as a snack and can be refrigerated for up to two days.
One-ingredient ‘Nice’ cream
This is a great way to use up bananas that are turning brown and are the perfect treat for a summer afternoon. This recipe is inspired by From The Kitchn
What you’ll need:
A blender, smoothie maker, or food processor
Chop the bananas and freeze them for a minimum of a few hours. If you’re freezing them longer than overnight, let them thaw slightly before using. Chuck the frozen slices into your blender and mix well. At first the banana will look crumbly, but in a few minutes they will form a creamy texture, ice cream. Add any mix-ins and blend again.
This is ready to eat right away, or can be frozen in an airtight container.
Homemade pizza (and a cheat’s alternative)
Incorporating a weekly pizza night with homemade dough can be a fun lockdown ritual for your family. Research shows that building in such “temporal landmarks” helps us build memories, which is more important now than ever as days feel endlessly repetitive.
What you’ll need:
For the dough
3 cups plain flour (you can also swap half the flour for wholewheat flour)
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
A stand mixer, or food processor
I struggled to find yeast in my local supermarkets, but found Fermipan dried yeast on Amazon. It’s a huge bag, but can be stored in the fridge or freezer, and doesn’t need to be activated before use
For the pizza sauce
2 fresh tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
Salt to taste
A hand or standing blender
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, or directly in your food processor. Add one cup of water and knead for a few minutes until the mixture forms a ball. Depending on your flour (especially if you’ve added wholewheat flour) you may need another tablespoon or so of water. Once the mixture has come together into a slightly sticky ball turn it out onto your worktop and knead by hand for a few minutes. Put it in a greased bowl and using oiled hands just rub the surface gently so it has a light coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise; I usually make the dough at lunchtime and let it rise on the counter for 4-5 hours until it’s time for dinner. Divide into four balls and let it rest covered with a tea towel for 15-20 minutes while you prep the sauce.
Since you will be cooking the pizza there’s no need to cook the sauce beforehand. Simply blitz the ingredients for the sauce in a blender and use as is. If you’ve got time and the inclination you can add a pod of garlic and some dried oregano to the sauce as well. Alternatively, use a green pesto, or sweet chili sauce instead of the tomato sauce!
Use your hands to stretch each ball out into a nice circle (don’t use a rolling pin, it makes the pizza tough and dense), and top with some sauce and toppings. We’ve got a lot of use out of this mini pizza oven over the past few months, but you can also just crank your indoor oven as high as it will go, and put the pizza in for about 6-8 minutes until it’s cooked.
I like to put the toppings in a muffin tray — a mix of sliced mushrooms, peppers, olives, tinned corn, basil, pineapple, or cooked chicken or ham, along with grated mozzarella and let everyone choose what goes on their pizza.
If you don’t have yeast or time to make dough, use a roll of store-bought puff pastry instead! It’s not the healthiest option, but it works well for an occasional treat. Roll the pastry out, prick the base with a fork a few times, add the sauce and top to taste. And into the oven according to the package instructions.
A few weekends ago my husband made rainbow pancakes for breakfast. Our toddler loved them, but during the week she usually has a slice of toast and porridge for breakfast, and on Monday morning she asked him for some rainbow bread. Cue a hunt online for a rainbow bread recipe! This recipe takes a bit of time to put together, but is worth the effort to create a showstopper breakfast!
What you’ll need:
A stand mixer
3 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
Food coloring of your choice (4-5 colors)
Whisk the milk and egg yolk together and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together. Add the oil and the milk mixture to this and knead until it comes together and is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes in the stand mixer, or double that if kneading by hand).
Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces depending on how many colors you are using and cover with a tea towel. Take one piece and add several drops of food coloring to it and knead well. Remember to knead on a cutting board since it may stain, and wear gloves or be ready to scrub your hands well. Start with the lightest colour and work your way up to blue and purple.
Once you’ve coloured all five balls of dough, pop them in individual bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Let them rise until doubled (takes around 1 ½ to 2 hours).
When the dough has risen, punch down one ball and roll out into a rectangle of about 10 cm x 20 cm. Roll out all five colors and stack the rectangles (follow the rainbow sequence VIBGYOR). Roll tightly from the short end to form a cylinder, pop into a greased loaf pan, cover with a tea towel and let it rise again until doubled (another 1 hour).
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the loaf in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the top sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the loaf pan and let it cool completely before slicing.