Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer who served as managing editor for a regional home and lifestyle publication before starting Tweeter Communications, her editorial services boutique. With a BA in journalism from the University of...
Who isn’t in a time crunch these days? When it comes to mealtime, kids want to help and this is a perfect opportunity for you to take a breather and give your children more responsibility and food choices.Follow these recipes for nutritious, scrumptious meal options for your wee ones. The key is preparation. From washing, cutting and slicing veggies ahead of time, to stocking your refrigerator with useful ingredients, your family will be eating healthy and happily on their own in no time.
Beef, it's what's for dinner!
Roast Beef Wraps
The National Cattleman Association has come up with a super easy and healthy, protein-packed wrap just for kids! Note that these wraps can be made and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to keep overnight if children cannot finish their creation.
Slices of deli roast beef
1/2 Cup shredded broccoli
2 Tablespoons reduced-fat ranch dressing (or any dressing your child might prefer)
2 Tablespoons reduced-fat whipped cream cheese
1 Flour tortilla (there are dozens of flavors, such as whole wheat, sun-dried tomato, spinach, etc.)
Place 1/2 the shredded broccoli and a tablespoon of ranch dressing in a medium bowl. Toss with 2 forks to coat evenly.
Place the cream cheese and remaining tablespoons of ranch dressing in a small bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to mix well.
Place tortilla on a cutting board or other flat surface. Spread 1 tablespoon of the whipped cream cheese on the tortilla using a spatula.
Place desired amount of roast beef slices in an even layer on top of the cream cheese.
Place the other half of the broccoli mixture on top of the roast beef. Spread the broccoli mixture out in an even layer, using the back of a spoon.
Starting at the bottom edge, roll tortilla up tightly to enclose filling.
(optional) Adult help needed for this step. Using a knife, cut wraps crosswise into 1-1/2-inch wide pieces or cut them diagonally in half.
Bagel sandwiches, Bielenberg style
Everyone loves bagels. From coast to coast, these are one delicacy every age enjoys noshing on. From teething babies chewing on frozen bagels to adults and their bagels and bloodies on a Sunday morning, a bagel sandwich is an easy crowd pleaser.
Bagel (pre-slice or buy pre-sliced; any flavor works: everything, onion, sesame, poppy seed, cinnamon raison, etc.)
Lox (if your child is adventurous... or try cooked salmon which can be cut into strips and refrigerated up to two days in advance, but the fresher, the better)
Avocado (pre-sliced into thin 2 cm strips)
Tomato (pre-sliced and any kind will work: Roma, cherry, etc.)
Onion (pre-sliced into ringlets, red, yellow or white onion)
Cucumber (pre-sliced into 1 cm rounds)
Cream cheese (choose at your own family's discretion; chive, plain, whipped, etc.)
Place bagel halves face up on plate.
Spread desired cream cheese (typical is 1 Tablespoon per half) on bagel.
Add lox (if your child desires, it takes a bit for the palate to warm up to this taste) or salmon strips.
Place avocado, tomato, cucumber, onion and capers on each half of the bagel.
For a giant mouthful, combine bagel halves with toppings, or eat each half separately.
Do not forget to leave mints out for your child. The Bielenberg-style Bagel Sandwich with everything bagels, onion cream cheese and extra onions will likely result in some dragon breath. Altoids, mint Tic-Tacs or Starlight mints are recommended if you plan to be around any other form of human the rest of the day. I started making these bagel sandwiches at three years of age, my mother still has pictures!
Garbage pasta salad
Picnic in your own home. Prepare and dice ahead of time and your child can be the master of fine lunch or dinner cuisine. With colorful ingredients and a tangy dressing, this delightful mixture will please the tummies. Pre-wash and chop the veggies for your child and easily store in plastic bags or Tupperware.
3 – 4 cups cold pasta (can be cooked and stored in refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time. Add a little olive oil to keep it separated and not too mushy). For optimal nutritional benefits, use whole wheat penne or spirals. Avoid long, straight noodles for best results.
Pre-cut assortment of vegetables, about 1/3 cup of whatever peaks your child's interest; cut the following into small cubes—red pepper, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, onion or scallion, celery, baby corn, hearts of palm, olives
4 Tablespoons of Newman's Own Italian Salad Dressing
Cubed deli meat (turkey, salami, ham) or pre-cooked tofu
1 Cup of cubed cheese, whatever kind your child most enjoys
In a large mixing bowl, place the pre-made pasta.
Add 2 tablespoons of the salad dressing. Mix well.
Add all vegetable ingredients that are desired and toss with two large spoons.
Add deli meat and/or tofu and cheese.
Mix in the remaining salad dressing and toss well.
Eat up! This salad can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days and is great for family members to take for lunch.
Forget ants on a log, think a mighty forest of creatures!
Woodland Wonder Snacks!
Ants on a log are fun, clever and tasty. Now, take the brilliant idea to the next level. Let your child explore their imagination and taste buds with edible bugs.
Crackers (Ritz or any circular cracker)
Hummus (any flavor)
Carrots (pre-sliced by an adult) into thin strips
Very small, thin strips (1 cm) of red pepper
Almonds (1 per bug)
Place a teaspoon of hummus on top of the cracker.
Stick 4 of the pre-sliced carrot strips onto the cracker where the legs of a beetle might go.
Place two raisins in the hummus for the eyes of the insect.
Place the red pepper in the hummus for the lips of the beetle.
Place the almond on the back of the bug for a little tail.
Munch away on the bugs!
Avocado (Adults prepare the avocado as follows: Pit the avocado, cut in half, remove skin, then cut each half of the avocado into thirds. These can be easily storied in the fridge overnight. Older kids can use a dull knife to cut avocados if they are allowed)
Celery pre-cut into thin 3 cm strips (8 – 10 per caterpillar)
Carrot pre-cut into thin 3 cm strips (2 per caterpillar)
Pomegranate seeds (2 per bug)
Place the avocado onto a plate for the body of the caterpillar.
Place the pre-cut celery onto the sides of the avocado, lengthwise, to make legs.
Stick the carrots strips onto the top of the avocado body for two antennae.
Place the pomegranate seeds at the front of the avocado for two eyes.
Snack away on this scrumptious creation.
Apples (The larger the apple, the better. Pre-slice or can be easily done with an apple cutter)
Peanut butter (about 1 tablespoon per butterfly)
Mandarin orange slices
Kiwi (pre-cut into small circles)
Banana (pre-cut into small, thin circles)
Raisins (2 for each butterfly)
Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing or a sweet salad dressing (1 tablespoon)
Place two apple slices opposite one another on a plate.
Separate the two apple slices and use a spoon to create a layer of peanut butter for the butterfly's body.
Place the mandarin orange slices, kiwi and banana on the wings (the apple slices) to make a fun design.
Place the two raisins near the top of the peanut butter body for eyes.
Drizzle the salad dressing with a fork or spoon over the body of the butterfly for a creative design pattern.
Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce
A family favorite at restaurants, Katy Hume, Chef/Owner of Stir Cooking School has come up with a simple recipe for children to try at home.
Ingredients for the Spring Rolls
3 ounces, rice vermicelli (can be cooked ahead of time and stored in a bowl in the refrigerator. Simply have adult pour REALLY hot water over noodles and allow it to sit for 30 minutes or so, then drain)
Rice wrappers, 8.5-inch diameter
8 large cooked shrimp - peeled, deveined and cut in half (parents can cook up to two days in advance)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (a few stems and leaves)
2 Tablespoons fresh mint (a few stems and leaves)
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro (a few stems and leaves)
4 Lettuce leaves (can be torn apart to make about 2 inches by 2 inches square)
4 Carrots thinly sliced
Ingredients for the Peanut Dipping Sauce
1 Cup hot water from the sink (nothing too hot)
1 Cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Teaspoon red pepper ?akes (for younger children, you might want to hold off on this ingredient)
Spring Roll Directions
Fill a bowl with warm water.
Dip one wrapper into the warm water for 10 seconds to soften. Remove from the water and lay the wrapper ?at on a work surface.
In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, a few basil, mint and cilantro leaves, carrots and then lettuce, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side.
Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce.
Repeat with remaining ingredients to create 8 spring rolls.
Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Peanut Dipping Sauce Directions
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mix with a larger fork until smooth.
Serve with spring rolls.
Cooking how-to videos for kids
Have a child who is really serious about learning to cook? Check out the many online video tutorials for kids. We think Two Girls and Their Aprons is an especially cute series.