Family-Friendly Cooking

Three simple, homemade meals that parents and kids can make together.

BY Kristin Reeser

Family Friendly Cooking
Above, Olivia, age 10, cooking French toast. Opposite, Grace, age 5, mixing the eggs. Photo by Kristin Reeser.

Let’s face it, cooking and children don’t always mix. From picky eaters to busy family schedules, cooking can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of simple ways to make it more enjoyable, including recruiting help from little hands in the kitchen. 

Planning for kid helpers requires some thoughtfulness to create a successful collaboration. Having a variety of kid-friendly, age-appropriate skills that will keep the youngest to the oldest engaged is key. 

Here are three, simple homemade recipes your family might enjoy making together.

A Fun & Tasty Breakfast Treat

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then starting with a meal your kids love matters. This is a fabulous homemade recipe for French toast that any family can learn to make. It requires limited ingredients, so go for high-quality items like hearty bread and farm-fresh eggs.

Young children enjoy measuring and cracking the eggs. Older children appreciate greater responsibilities like turning on the stove, learning how to use a spatula, and learning how to safely slice up some fresh fruit.

French Toast

8 slices of bread

4 large eggs

3 Tbsp heavy whipping cream (or milk)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Fruit of your choice

While your pan is preheating with butter or non-stick spray, soak each slice of bread into an egg, milk and vanilla mixture. Place bread into the pan for 3-4 minutes per side. When each side is golden brown, remove and serve with your favorite topping. A serving of fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or banana can be a great choice.


Hot Lunch

It’s easy to fall into the rut of cold lunches day after day. Hot homemade meatballs can provide a welcome break from the regular routine. They can make for great leftovers and, because they can be made using ground beef, turkey or chicken it’s easy to modify them to your family’s meat preference. This high level of substitution increases the chances that everyone in your home can enjoy them. 

It’s probably best to skip young children working with raw meat. As an alternative, have them mix the breadcrumbs, add the eggs, measure and pour the milk and add spices in their own bowl. Then, an adult or older child can mix these ingredients with the ground meat. Older children can also help with pre-heating the oven and scooping out the meat into balls before placing them in the oven to bake.

Mommy’s Meatballs 

1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey or chicken)

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

¼ cup milk

Dash of garlic powder, salt and pepper

Mix the ground meat of your choice, breadcrumbs, egg, milk and seasonings (optional) and then use a spoon to dish out meatballs into a lightly greased pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Each family member can garnish as they choose with cheese and/or peppers and eat with or without bread.


Something Different for Dinner

Modern-day families need dinners that don’t take a bunch of time to prepare — there’s no time for that! Having a weekly dinner menu on display for the whole family to see can take the guesswork out of dinner each night. It also helps ensure that your meat will be thawed and ready to cook when it’s time.

If your family is tired of the same old meals, shrimp can be a fantastic option. For starters, it’s mild enough that kids may be willing to give it a try — especially if it’s breaded. Secondly, shrimp can be cooked quickly for families on the go. And best of all, shrimp can be easily tossed in with a serving of steamed vegetables or pairs well with pasta, whatever the family prefers. 

Young children may enjoy rotini or large shells and a simple buttery taste. A homemade scampi sauce can be made on the side for parents or older children looking for a little more flavor.  

Meals like these can be simple enough for little hands and accommodate everyone’s likes — without a lot of extra work. Bon appetite!

Shrimp Scampi Sauce

2 Tbsp real butter

1 tsp minced garlic 

½ cup white cooking wine

On a medium heat, cook butter, garlic and wine in a saucepan. Make sure to use the juices from the cooked shrimp to help create the sauce.

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