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Cooking with Kids

Posted on: September 5th, 2011

What’s the best gift you could give you child or those you love around you?  Good habits – especially good eating habits.  Society sets a pretty bad example when it comes to food – we want everything to have HUGE flavor and we want it fast and cheap – no wonder we’re in such bad shape!

You have a great deal more influence than you think!  Start by walking the walk and setting a good example – bring home more fresh produce, lean meats, fish and whole grains and less processed foods, chips and sugary drinks.  These are the foods the kids need to see you eating all day long.  Save those high calorie, low nutrition foods for occasional treats.

Next, start cooking most of your meals at home and with your kids.  You may have to assign this as a daily chore, and it’s going to take a little time and planning, but the benefits far outweigh the effort!  In a few minutes a day you’ll be teaching them: how to cook, to be self-reliant, responsibility and work ethics, to understand what real foods are, as well as healthy eating habits – all while improving their health, happiness and life-span.

Cooking with kids is one of the best parenting tools ever – and the few minutes you spend each day can pay off in year’s more time together!  Make the time now and everyday, be a good example, and teach those good habits – “they’re like silent helpers” my Mom always said!

Here are a few videos with tips, recipes and solutions, followed by supporting recipes.  Buon Appetito!  mick

Spinach Meatballs: lean and tasty meatballs with a boost of iron and antioxidants.

Spinach Meatballs
Lean and packed with iron, serve with Tony’s Marinara or Vodka sauce and grated cheese.

10-12 oz spinach – fresh or frozen
1 lb. Tony’s lean ground sirloin, or ground bison
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup Tony’s Italian breadcrumbs or Parma Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. fine sea or Kosher salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. black pepper
olive oil mist

To make it a meal:
1 jar Tony’s Marinara or Vodka Sauce – or homemade marinara
12 oz. uncooked, DeCecco whole wheat or classic spaghetti
— grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, drain, shock in ice water to chill, squeeze dry and chop well – or thaw spinach, squeeze dry and chop.

In medium bowl, combine spinach, ground meat, egg, onion powder, garlic powder, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well, but do not overwork the blend – adjust with more breadcrumbs if the batch it too sticky. (A small bit can be sauteed at this point to check for seasoning) Shape into 1-1.5 inch meatballs.

Place meatballs on parchment lined jelly roll pan (for easy clean-up), mist with olive oil and place into preheated oven. Roast at 350ºF until just done (150-160° internal, about 30 minutes, depending on size of meatballs). While meatballs are cooking, warm sauce in a large pan and prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for several minutes to marry. Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta – or toss pasta in sauce and serve. Great with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese.

–Healthy Garden Marinara:  A basic marinara with lots of healthful vegetables – a delicious way to sneak more vegetables into your kids!  Make it even simpler by simply simmering vegetable cubes in a jar of Tony’s Marinara Sauce.

4 TBS olive oil, or more to taste
2-4 cloves garlic, minced – to taste
1/2 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
pinches of salt and pepper
2-3 pounds chopped tomatoes (fresh, canned or a combination)
2-3 TBS fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, etc.)
– or 1 tsp dry Italian herb medley
1/3 cup Marsala wine (of drinking quality)
pinches of crushed red pepper

12-16 oz whole-wheat linguini or your favorite pasta
Spinach meatballs – or fish fillets

In a large, heavy sauté pan, sauté garlic, onion, carrots and celery with pinches of salt and pepper until tender.  Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer to marry.  Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.  Add Marsala and pinches of crushed red pepper and simmer until you get the texture and concentration you prefer – roughly 30-60 minutes depending on ingredients and conditions.

Meanwhile, make meatballs and boil pasta according to package directions.  Simmer meatballs in sauce for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking time.  drain and reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid.

Variations – Chopped zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, asparagus, capers, etc.,

 

Fruits & Veggie Kabobs – everyone loves foods on a stick, and if your kids help you make them, they’re going to be far more interested in eating them!

Personal Notes:  My mother’s gardening and daily cooking for the family built the foundation for my personal life and career.  Apparently she only had a few bucks a week to feed a family of six, but we never knew it – she cooked great healthy meals everyday and we ate like Kings!  I remember a couple of her favorite sayings when I was a kid…  “If you think a woman is going to cook and clean for you someday, you got another thing coming buster!”  and “Your turn to do dishes, why do you think I had kids in the first place!”  Thanks Mom!

Meal Solutions & Shopping Tips:  Tips on shopping for vegetables for kids and how to get supper on the table more quickly.

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