Healthy Holiday Creations

I had my first cooking class last week at Mini Minds. Some of you may remember that I have been starting to do some contract work for Mini Minds and made RD Anna and LLC and working to launch my own business. We finally were able to get some families to sign up for this cooking workshop that was held on Saturday. We had 4 families that participated and it was a huge success. I am not just saying that, because I helped to lead the class, but I think everyone that came had a great time and learned some things. The highlight of the day was hearing from a mom afterwards that her daughter tried a new food, green pepper. The mother was telling me how picky her daughter was and at home it can be really tough to have her try new foods and she has a lot anxiety about that. That is totally common for lots of children and that is one of the reasons why I love doing group education, because in that setting it is easier to remove some of that anxiety and use positive peer pressure to help overcome a fear. That little girl was able to choose 1 new food to try and she chose of the green peppers. She tried them and she liked them! And then the cherry on top was that she also tried yellow peppers, because myself and another mother told her if she liked the green peppers, she would like the yellow peppers even more, because they are sweeter. She did and was so happy and proud of herself! Hearing things that like make me smile and have all the hard work that goes into putting on a cooking class worth it!

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One of my goals with this class was to have an environment where the parent/caregiver is there with the child and they get to cook and make things together. We have one 5 1/2 year old, two 9 year olds and one 10 year old. All the kids were able to participate and do different tasks. It was so neat to watch them get to cook on their own. One child had never cut up a vegetable before. I worked with me and showed him how to cut up the green pepper and he totally did it! That is the overall goal that I wanted to accomplish … empower children to learn how to cook and enjoy it!

I had planned 5 different recipe items that we would make over the 1 1/2 hour class time. That ended up being overly ambitious, but I much rather have too much to do versus not enough. I saved the easiest snack/craft items for the last thing we did and I ended up doing those for the kids and they finished off the craft by drawing on it or cutting out a hat that we glued on.

I wanted to highlight some fun, kid friendly recipes that the whole family can help prepare. I was going to share with you one of my favorite recipes that we did. This one was a huge success and there is so much that you can do with this recipe to change it up and make it different, based on your own families preferences.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Pizza dough tube (you can make your own or purchase premade pizza dough)

  • 1-2 cups pizza sauce

  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese

  • ½ cup Feta cheese

  • 1 cup chopped, green peppers

  • ½ cup olives  

  • Handful of pepperonis

  • Top with parsley for additional flavor

Instructions

  1. Roll out your pizza dough on a clean surface that is lightly covered in flour. Using a rolling pin.

  2. Use the cookie cutter to cut out shapes in the pizza dough. Brush with olive oil.

  3. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (to prevent sticking). Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes until the pizza dough is lightly browned.

  4. Top with sauce and other toppings. Place back in the oven at 400 degrees for another 5-7 minutes, until cheese melts.

If you want more information about upcoming classes with Mini Minds …. let me know! We are going to do a session on snacks and then lunches in January. I was planning on a January 12th and 26th at 11am for those sessions.

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Cooking With Your Child

I have talked about including your child with cooking before on my Facebook page and blog, but it can definitely be a tough thing to do. It takes WAY longer to include your child in the cooking process and it honestly can make a much bigger mess, when all is said and done. I still want you to encourage you to give it a try! I am not asking you to include your child with every meal, every day, but make an intentional effort several times a week to cook with your child. If you want your child to grow up and be independent and enjoy the cooking process, that love for cooking starts now.

Tips for Cooking with Children

  • Embrace the Mess. When cooking with children, whether toddlers or older school age children, messes happen. It is inevitable that things will get spilled and your kitchen will end up being twice as messy compared to it your children weren’t “helping” you. Working to embrace that mess and be ok with that “disaster” is important. We would all love a neat and tidy work space, but teaching children and having them learn things can be a messy process. Along with the mess that will happen, take them time to work with your child and have them help you clean up. That is just as important of a skill as learning how to cook is how to clean up. Being able to take the time to involve them in the measuring, the mixing, the cutting (as they get older) and the stirring helps teach them to follow directions and create something. Having your child help with the dishes, load/unload the dishwasher, dry the dishes and put them away are useful skills to teach following directions and seeing a task through to completion.

  • Be Patient. As you cook with your children, you will quickly learn that it takes LOTS of patience on your part. It is way more stressful for you to slowly walk through the instructions and slowly measure/mix the ingredients. Your child will want to be independent and try to do that task on their own. That is great, but will require an extra dose of patience when they spill the ingredient on the counter/the floor. It will take extra patience as you work with your child to unload the dishwasher as they slowly place the silverware in the drawer, one piece at a time. Teaching your children these skill is a slow process. Try to keep your cool and embrace the fact that you will need to be patient, but they are learning and that is worth the effort.

  • Assign Specific Tasks. As you are working with your child, give them specific jobs to do. Explain to them what you want them to do. For example, have them stir ingredients on the pot on the stove. Give them a spatula and tell them that their task will be stirring the ingredients. Talk through how the pot and the stove are hot and they need to be careful. Give them affirmation that they are doing a great job following your directions and they are a big helper. This specific instruction is helpful for children to know what is clearly expected from them and then gives them a sense of accomplishment.

  • Be Flexible. Nothing will go quite as you planned it. You probably anticipated being able to prepare that food item in less than 30 minutes, but working with your children can length that task out by at least an additional 10-20 minutes. Sometimes you will have an expectation of what roles they will help with and how they will be involved, but your child might have different ideas. That is ok! Be willing to be flexible and let them help you in ways that they are interested in and make the experience positive. If you are cooking a meal like pizza with different topping options, be willing to let your child pick whatever they want on their own pizza. Be willing to hand over that responsibility to the child and let them take ownership of that. If you assign your child a job task, like sweeping the floor after they finish cooking, let them do that however works best for them. Be flexible with empowering them to take ownership of a task.

  • View this Experience as a Teaching Moment. Our main job as a parent is to teach our children. Taking the time to involve them in cooking and preparing food in the kitchen is a great way to teach them the art of cooking/baking, but also following directions, helping other people, functioning as part of the family unit and creating something to share with people. These are all amazing skills and using cooking as an avenue to work on these skills and instill these qualities in our children is a great goal. Talk through each step you are doing so your child learns what all goes into making a meal for the family. Your child will get better and faster at these tasks as you work with them over time, but enjoy the learning process and embrace the teaching moments.

Enjoy working with and getting to know your child better in the kitchen. This is a fun time to work with your children and help teach them skills that they will be able to use in the years to come. It can be stressful, but work to keep the environment positive, listen and dance to music as you cook and enjoy these little moments cooking with your child.

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