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From tots to teens: Inspiring kids in the kitchen


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Updated: 2/03 11:15 am Published: 11/08/2013 9:26 am


When it comes to making healthy meals and nutritious snacks, mom and dad typically take the lead in the kitchen. But as peak entertaining season gets underway, the additional cooking and baking can keep parents extra busy. Before you let party prep stress you out, remember that this can be a great time to let your children take part in important holiday traditions and learn a lot about cooking and healthy eating, too.

Here are a few tips for helping your kids develop their own sense of confidence and independence in the kitchen:

Preschoolers

Even the smallest chefs can help in the kitchen. The key for parents is to focus on safe, easy, mess-free tasks that pique their interest. For example, closely supervise youngsters so they can measure ingredients, stir batter, toss salads or turn appliances on and off. Explain each step and share recipes and cookbooks to encourage learning. If your tot is just too young to help prepare dishes, invite her into the kitchen and set out a few empty pots, lids and spoons. She'll love to mimic mom and dad as she creates her own imaginary dishes.

School-age children

Meal and snack times are great opportunities for children to put the learning they receive in the classroom to work by exercising basic math, reading and logic skills. Involve kids when baking holiday goodies or preparing snacks for guests. Your children can easily make tasty, protein-packed appetizers with Farm Rich Turkey Meatballs. Ask them to load up the slow cooker with these tasty meatballs and add their favorite sauce. Just be sure to remind them to help stir the dish periodically so it cooks evenly. When guests arrive, set out toothpicks and small plates and watch as they gobble up these easy and tasty hors d'oeuvres.

Teens

As teenagers' taste develop, they often become more adventurous about food. Encourage this curiosity by asking your teen to shop with you at the grocery store or farmers market. Stock the fridge with new types of quick meals and snacks so they can cook independently as much as possible, helping to build confidence in the kitchen. Wholesome, frozen foods offer an easy way to make a warm, satisfying meal or snack in mere minutes. Toasted Ravioli from Farm Rich, for example, can be cooked quickly in the microwave or oven and taste homemade. They also make a fast meal when unexpected company drops in.

Teach nutrition

Making nutritious meal and snack choices can be difficult for kids. Cooking in the kitchen and reading books about the importance of wholesome foods helps them understand what their bodies need to grow strong and stay healthy. Even little ones are more apt to eat healthier when they understand why it's important. Recently published in the journal 'Psychological Science,' Stanford researchers found that kids who read books that emphasized key concepts about food and nutrition ate more vegetables. What parent wouldn't love that?

Little hosts can help

Planning a holiday soiree can be stressful, but smart parents know that their little hosts can lend a hand to create a flawlessly fun party. Suggest host assignments for your kids, such as being the door greeter when guests arrive. Have an older child be in charge of hanging coats, while another child asks guests if they'd like a beverage, and relays that information back to mom and dad in the kitchen. If the kids helped cook, encourage them to talk about their food and invite the guests to taste what they prepared. When children feel like they are contributing to a party, they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Before you know it, your family will be eager to help out more in the kitchen, and cooking together, especially during the holidays, will truly be a family affair. And who knows? With all the extra help, you may even have time to do more holiday shopping.

Smokey Cola Glazed Meatballs make a great appetizer for your next family feast. Have your growing chef help you with this simple, delicious recipe:

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

1 (28 ounce) bag of Farm Rich Turkey Meatballs

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups cola soda

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. In a medium sauce pan, add butter and melt.

2. Whisk in the cola, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and chipotle pepper. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low until a thicker syrup is formed (about 15 minutes).

4. Remove from heat and place in the refrigerator for one hour (the mixture will thicken in the refrigerator).

5. Prepare meatballs according to package directions. Remove from the oven and toss with glaze.

6. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Serve warm.


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