Kids cook the most creative things! We all need a challenge, but growing minds need it more. As a nutritionist, I know that I need to get inspired to keep kids and adolescents excited about cooking, including my own kids. They live in the moment.
I needed to make a fun challenge, so here is what I did: I assigned the following instructions for my two kids:
- Invent the most creative, delicious food
- Come up with the menu and ingredients
- Shop for ingredients
- Execute the mission of preparation and cooking.
- Plan their menus at the same time, for fairness
The contest? Compare the flavor, creativity, participation, and color between each kid’s creations. Any kid or teen loves a competition. No, it’s not just about sports! You must know that I have ulterior motives in presenting them with this competition.
- I want help in the kitchen. Let’s face it; cooking can get exhausting when it happens on a daily basis.
- I want to teach essential skills in the kitchen so that they are well-equipped to function when they are on their own.
- I want wholesome foods on their plates
- I want them to take pride in what they make and what they put in their bodies
- I want them to develop tastes for healthy foods, not just junk
- I want quality time with them. As they get older, this gets more challenging
Do you want these same things? It was truly easy to convince them to do this. Kids are always are in competition with each other. I think they secretly like hanging out with me too; they may not admit it.
If all else fails when trying to motivate kids to cook, you can always give them some cash incentive!
Lack of culinary skills among youth and adults is contributing to increased health issues and spending of resources on chronic diseases. We must do everything possible to help our youth get healthy and develop long-lasting skills in the kitchen. Check out this link to find additional culinary resources.
At the bottom, I will include my kid’s recipes for the cooking challenge. My kids are like me, though, and they add a pinch of this, a dab of that, until the flavor is right.
Day 1, Kid 1
It starts with my oldest son. He decided to make a kebab-style stir-fry with a sweet and sour sauce. You can’t go sweet and sour without adding heat as well! First steps; he cooks brown basmati rice. The sauce comes next; this is truly a one-of-a kind creation.
He sautes the vegetables with fresh pineapple until it has a nice caramelized color.
He cuts up chicken into kebab size pieces and sautes; then he sautes the vegetables. It was honestly better than I could create.
Day 2, Kid 2
Then, on day 2, my daughter decides to go with a tasty Mexican theme and makes homemade salsa, guacamole and baked “chips”. We add some chicken to round it out.
For the guacamole, she cuts the avocado and smashes it. Next comes the chopping of green onions, jalapeno and seasonings.
She then makes the salsa, starting with the dicing of tomatoes, onions and cilantro; then adds the seasonings. She adds some lime and olive oil to complete the process. Here is the tasty completed salsa.
A good buddy shows up to share in the love of good food. Here is the completed guacamole; truly sublime.
*amounts are approximate
- 3 cups diced tomatoes
- 1 cup diced cilantro
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 diced jalapeno, seeds remove
- dash of salt and pepper
Mix together all ingredients.
* amounts are approximate
- 4 avocados, pit and skin removed and smashed
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 diced jalapeno, seeds removed
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
- salt and pepper
Mix all together in a bowl. The olive oil keeps the avocados from browning.
*amounts are approximate
- 12 organic corn tortillas
- 2 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
- Salt, to taste
- Lime juice, to taste
Brush sliced tortillas with olive oil and seasonings. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
Here is the completed kebab-style stir fry; he’s pretty proud of himself.
Kebab-Style Stir Fry
*amounts are approximate
- jasmine brown rice, cooked
- 1 lb chicken, cut into bite size chunks
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp Devil’s Envy Spice (about)
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 pineapple cut into chunks
- 2 bell peppers, cut into chunks, he used red and yellow
- 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
- 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
Cook the rice according to package. Combine vinegar, water, honey, seasoning and tamari to a small sauce pan. Whisk in corn starch. Bring the mixture to a boil then remove from heat as it thickens.
Meanwhile, saute chicken in about 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Remove from pan. Add vegetables and pineapple to pan and saute until pineapple is lightly browned. Add chicken back to the pan and stir in the sauce. Heat thoroughly and serve over rice.
Who Won The Competition?
I feel I achieved all my motives:
- I got help in the kitchen,
- They learned essential cooking skills
- We all ate wholesome, delicious foods
- They took pride in their food
- They continue to develop taste acuity for good food
- We spent quality time together
The foods were impressive on both sides for different reasons.
I’m proud so of both of them. I can feel good about this moment and hope they will look back fondly on this day.
In a world where a parent has to compete with social media and countless vices that pull adolescent’s attention away from reality, we need creative ways to bring them back to learning life skills.
Mission accomplished. For today anyway!
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.