The holidays are all about spending time with family, so it is the perfect time to teach your kids about cooking and healthy nutrition. Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are also more likely to eat foods that they help to prepare. Teaching children at a young age about preparing healthy meals promotes a lifetime of good nutrition habits.
First, take this opportunity to teach your kids about safe food handling practices. Be sure that everyone washes their hands with soap and water. Ideally, you should lather your hands with soap for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or the Alphabet song twice.
Next, be patient and allow extra time when cooking with kids. It will take them longer to practice using new cooking skills. You can also expect more mess than usual, so you may want to lay down a table cloth to catch spills and be sure that everyone wears aprons.
When you are cooking with children, focus on introducing them to the basics. For example, let younger children crack and egg, stir several ingredients together, pour liquids, or press cookie cutters. Older children can read the steps of the recipe, practice measuring different ingredients, rinse vegetables, and cut food with a table knife.
This is a good opportunity remind your children about holiday food safety tips. It is never safe to eat anything containing raw eggs, including cookie dough. When you have leftovers, be sure to refrigerate them promptly. Store your leftovers in an airtight container within two hours of cooking the food. Your refrigerator should be set at below 40°F and your freezer below 0°F.
Finally, make cooking fun! Your children will learn to love cooking if the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. Start with basic recipes, and let them enjoy the process. Take advantage of the holidays and share your favorite recipes with your children.
Christmas Pasta with Tomato, Spinach and Mozzarella
• 1 box whole grain spaghetti
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 bunches of spinach, trimmed and washed
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• Pinch of salt and pepper
• ¼ cup Mozzarella cheese
• Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add a splash of olive oil.
• Add spaghetti to the boiling water. Stir gently.
• Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes.
• Remove from heat and drain well.
• In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and tomato. Cook until tomato skins start to soften.
• Gradually add spinach and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with a dash of salt and pepper
• Serve the sautéed spinach and tomatoes over the cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutrition per serving: Calories: 364, Protein: 15 g, Fat: 12 g, Carbohydrate: 56 g, Fiber: 10 g, Sugar: 4 g, Sodium: 161 mg