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Cooking with children is an adventure in creativity. Kids love to help prepare food, so consider having your guests create and consume some easy to prepare dishes.



Helpful Hints When Cooking with Children
1. Be aware of any kids with food allergies (sometimes even eating a food that has been prepared on a surface, or with a utensil, that has had contact with the forbidden food can be dangerous for a child with a food allergy).
2. Be considerate of vegetarians.
3. Have other parents assist.
4. Discuss the activity with the kids before you begin. Tell the children the steps called for by the recipe. Have a very simple version of the steps numbered and listed on a poster board. Or, for pre-readers, make recipe cards with pictures drawn on them.
5. Have enough utensils (borrow, if necessary) so that long waits for a turn and fights over the spoon are avoided.
6. Limit the number of youngsters cooking at any one time, both for safety and so that each child can have a feeling of really participating. to a child, one moment of stirring does not feel like cooking.
7. Use plastic rather than glass utensils.
8. Have adults manage the stove-top cooking.
9. Show kids the safe way to use knives, carrot peelers, and graters. With proper supervision, even a three-year-old can manage a knife if the food he is cutting is not too hard. Heavy plastic serrated knives are great.
10. Wash hands before starting.
11. Let the children comment, ask questions, and delight in the tastes, smells, textures, colors, shapes, sizes, and physical or chemical changes in the food as they cook. this emphasis makes cooking a great learning experience.
12.Children should sit down to eat. Remind them to chew things like nuts, popcorn and carrot sticks thoroughly.

The library and most book stores have a current selection of books about cooking with kids. Here are a few recipes that we like:

ENGLISH MUFFIN PIZZA
Set out the pizza goodies .. bowls of prepared pizza sauce or tomato sauce, grated cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella, or whatever they like), green pepper rings, sliced chicken or beef, salami, black and green pitted olives, mushrooms, oregano, olive oil, pepper, and garlic salt. Use the seasoning sparingly or omit if using prepared pizza sauce. Start by passing out half a muffin to each child. It should be toasted lightly. Demonstrate the art of "making a pizza" by assembling one yourself. When the children have followed suit, place the almost finished products onto a cookie sheet and broil. As soon as the cheese begins to bubble or the meat browns, take them out and let them cool (CHARLES THE CLOWN just became extremely hungry and left for a pizzeria!)

MASHED POTATOES

All children love to make mashed potatoes. Many even enjoy eating them! Borrow extra potato mashers. The kids can "cut" the cooked potatoes, add milk, butter, and seasoning, then mash with vigor! (That's VIGOR, not VINEGAR). You may have to reheat a bit before serving. The potatoes can accompany hot dogs or you can plop the mashed potatoes back into carefully saved potato skins (you've baked them instead of boiling them), top with sliced cheese, and broil until the cheese melts. Add some fruit, vegetable sticks, milk and birthday cake for a well-balanced lunch.

DEVILED EGGS
Provide the children with little bowls of condiments: chopped olives, chopped pickles, pimento strips, green pepper bits, carrot curls, chopped parsley, and chopped raw mushrooms. Let them peel and cut hard-boiled eggs lengthwise. Help the kids to carefully scoop out the yolks, using a plastic spoon. Place the yolks on a plate and mash with mayonnaise or plan yogurt and seasoning. Then have them refill the whites and garnish the eggs with condiments. The children can sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of celery salt and/or paprika. Chill before serving.

FUNNY FACE SANDWICHES
Provide the children with ready-made sandwiches that you have cut into circle shapes. Let them decorate with bits of fruit and vegetables to create interesting human, animal or fantasy faces. Offer several of the following “face-makers”: peanuts, raisins (light and dark), tiny triangles or circles of sliced cheese, meat cubes, egg slices, radish, zucchini or cucumber slices, carrot curls, pineapple rings or tidbits, green pepper slices, pickle pieces, and black or green olives (whole and sliced). The kids can spread thin coatings of margarine or mayonnaise onto the bread to make the faces “stick better.

MEATBALLS
Use your favorite recipe. Have the kids mix the raw meat (ground beef, chicken or turkey) with eggs, milk, bread crumbs, seasoning, etc., then shape the mixture into small balls. Fry at the table in an electric skillet.

THREE-COURSE KABOBS
In addition to containing a protein food, the kabobs include fruits and vegetables. Encourage the children to try something they’ve never had before as they create their “meal on a stick.”

Provide skewers and plates of the following: cut ham and cheese (one-inch cubes), melon balls (cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon), 1 ½ inch chunks of green pepper or hicama, cherry tomatoes, 1 ½ inch lengths of celery, and pineapple chunks.

SUSHI RICE BALLS
Ingredients: 2 cups water
2 cups short-grain rice
Peas, chopped celery or cucumber, grated carrots
¼ cup white vinegar
2 tbs sugar

Cook the rice. Boil the vinegar and sugar (add a little salt if you’d like).

Give the children the cooked rice in a large, flat pan. Let them pour on the hot, sweet vinegar. Cool by fanning and then allow the kids to form the sweet, sticky rice into balls, adding bits of the vegetables for color and taste, as desired.

FRESH FRUIT SALAD
Use several kinds of in-season fruits. After carefully washing their hands, the kids can wash, peel, stone, cut, chop, and enjoy the differences in color, texture, and aroma as they drop their offerings into the communal bowl. Remember to have fruits such as pears ripe enough to cut easily. Introduce new or unusual fruits like mangoes, papaya, kiwi, or tangelos . Check to see if any of your guests are allergic to any fruits..

BIRTHDAY PARFAITS
Layer any flavor combination of the following: ice cream, crushed cookies, and mashed fresh or frozen berries. Top with whipped cream and a fresh whole berry or a slice of chocolate in a stemmed juice glass or clear plastic wine glass.

SEEDY-SLICKERS
(check for any peanut allergies before making this treat)

Ingredients: 1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 cup cocoa or carob power
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup honey

Put the sesame seeds off to the side and mix everything else. Manufacture small “Seedy-Slicker” balls and roll them around in the sesame seeds. Refrigerate for about twenty minutes. The kids may want to keep track of the time an let you know when the slickers are ready.


FUN PROJECTS WITH ALREADY PREPARED FOODS
Edible Jewelry
Use a large blunt needle and thread. Provide bowls of marshmallows, Cheerios, raisins, dried fruits, olives, vegetables, etc. You can steam hard vegetables slightly to make them easier to string.

Dentist’s Despair Cupcakes
You’ll need lots of cupcakes, or cookies, several bowls of different colored frostings, and various toppings. Using heavy plastic knives, the children can frost their own minibirthday cakes, and decorate them with an assortment of gum drops, peppermint candies, chocolate chips, nut meats, candy corn, nonpareils, etc. They can add candles, then, if desired, all the cupcakes can be lit in front of the birthday person, or in front of each guest, for the happy birthday song.

Fruit and Vegetable Sculpture
This is one time when the adults won’t be telling the kids not to play with their food.


Provide a platter of whole small apples or pears, melon wedges, cucumbers peeled and sliced in half lengthwise, and celery sticks (perhaps filled with peanut butter or cream cheese). Set out small bowls containing radish slices, carrot curls, round pickle slices, green pepper chunks, cherry tomatoes, banana slices, grapes, cherries and pretzels sticks (both small thin ones and large long ones). Using wooden toothpicks, wooden skewers and pretzel sticks to connect ingredients, the kids invent their own fruit/vegetable creations. Monsters, space ships, lions, people, racing cars, and more will emerge as they put their imaginations and fingers to work.