Recipes needed for children's cooking class
July 27, 2012 4:40 AM   Subscribe

I need some recipe ideas for a children's cooking class - can you help?

My friend helps to plan and teach a non-profit cooking class for low-income children, and they are planning their fall course menus. I'm here to ask for some suggestions for things that fit within their parameters. Here's a quick rundown:

-Most of the kid's range between 6-12. Some have a fair number of skills because they've been in the class for a while, some don't. However, there are adults around to help
-Recipes that involve rough chopping are fine- they use plastic kid-safe knives. However, precise cutting or recipes that require uniformity are usually out
-This probably goes without saying, but It's better to choose a recipe that children can do with supervision with a small appliance (i.e. blender, hand mixer) than something that is too difficult/dangerous for a small child to use (mandolin, slicing function of food processor)
-They cook four recipes a session, so keep your suggestions coming
-Healthy recipes are good, part of the point of the class is to encourage good food habits
-We'd prefer actual recipes, not just decorating food.

Here's the themes they will be working with for the fall: Breakfast, September Seasonal, Substitutions Welcome (food that is unfamiliar to them - i.e. vegan cupcakes, gluten free, etc), Halloween Treats, Soul Food, Thanksgiving, Mediterranean, Christmas food.

Thanks so much in advance for your help!
posted by nuclear_soup to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Pancakes are a good start for breakfast (or dinner). I think it's especially good for kids because it looks trickier than it is, and will impress gullible adults. ;-)

Otherwise, the first thing I learned to cook, after eggs, was baked chicken pieces. Because it's nutritious, extremely simple, and the same basic concept is good in a normal oven or a microwave-combination oven. You can vary it by the choice in seasoning. Just washed pieces, salted and rubbed/sprayed with olive oil are good. Add onion and garlic powder (especially onion for chicken!) and some parsley flakes, for more flavor. Added advantage is, raising chickens costs the least amount in water usage than other meat. Disadvantage: the dirty chickens sold in America are well known sources of salmonella.
posted by Goofyy at 4:54 AM on July 27, 2012

Fruit kebabs? Or even meat and veg kebabs. Rough chopping is all they'd need to do, maybe some simple seasoning of the meat and veg, and then the adults can supervise the grilling/bbqing of the meat?

We learned how to make french toast back in school. Use whole wheat bread and top with fresh fruit and it is a little healthier?

Basic pasta dishes with chunks of lightly sauteed veg (and maybe some meat? not necessarily needed) and then tossed in with cooked pasta and some tomato sauce. Heck, maybe they could even MAKE the tomato sauce since it is about the easiest thing ever to make.

Quiche is awesome and easy. Fill them up with veg (broccoli in a quiche is awesome, and my five year old even loves it) and put a little cheese on top. Rather than using whole eggs and cream etc, you can use egg whites and a little milk. That is what we do in my house and it works great.

not healthy, but rice cripsy treats came to mind too.
posted by gwenlister at 5:00 AM on July 27, 2012

How about some easy to make cookies like snickerdoodles?

Another thing to make is easy to make soup, like vegetable soup or egg drop soup.

Japanese onigiri/omusubi is also interesting.

Don't forget a yummy drink, like spicy apple juice (oranges, cinnamon, etc.). Not very healthy recipes, but they could be made healthier.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:07 AM on July 27, 2012

As a kid, my favorite thing to make was pizza, namely because I loved eating it. We used to make the dough from a box, but you could buy the ready to bake dough. Otherwise this recipe is quick and somewhat easy for an adult. I don't use a food processor to make it, but rather mix it by hand with great results. (Of course, kneading the dough might be a challenge for the kids - or it could be fun). The added bonus of using the dough recipe would be that the kids would see the dough rising. They could prepare a few simple toppings while the dough rises.

Another favorite was whipped cream or meringue. Anything that involved using a hand mixer and seeing the cream fluff up. Perhaps fruit skewers with a dip?

And you mention cupcakes, which are a great idea. I personally like muffins, as the basic recipe is so easy to modify: add blueberries, or pecans and apples or chocolate chips and bananas. The kids, again, could get really creative.
posted by Milau at 5:35 AM on July 27, 2012

Recipes that can be made over and over again would probably work best - that way, the kids can practice making those things at home again and again.

Quiche sounds like a fantastic idea. Crustless quiche is easy to make, it looks more difficult than it is, and the variations are endless.
Meatloaf also comes to mind. It is one of the first dishes that I learned at school!*

*Japanese middle and high schools often still have Home Ec, which was totally useful - I learned stuff like how to cook easy dishes, how to do laundry (including how to read washing instructions on labels), and how to make a budget.
posted by xmts at 5:35 AM on July 27, 2012

Egg dishes, everything from a boiled egg to an omlette, my nephew loves making poached eggs because he things its fun watching the egg cook in the water.

Pasta dishes, pasta itself is easy to cook and a simple meat sauce with tinned toms and preground meat is healthy and no chopping with sharp knives needed, you could use frozen precut veg even. Heck you don't even need the meat a simple tomato sauce is nice.

For thanksgiving, mashed potatoes, stuffing and even roast sweet potato are all simple to make, though they might need help cutting potatoes with plastic knives.

Muffin recipes are pretty fool proof, can have all sorts in and a fun to eat.

Fried rice, heck even simple boiled rice.

Yakitori chicken on skewers to go with the rice,.

Sushi is so much fun to make with kids, you get rice everywhere and you can put all sorts besides raw fish in them. Bacon and avocado is popular when I've made it with kids.
posted by wwax at 5:37 AM on July 27, 2012

Lots of simple, interesting recipes, tried-and-true with your kids' age group, on this blog.
posted by headnsouth at 5:37 AM on July 27, 2012

For Halloween treats, how about haystack cookies?
posted by xingcat at 5:54 AM on July 27, 2012

Baked apples?

Rather than core them like in this recipe, you can halve them and then core them which may be easier for the kids. You can also use whatever you want for the insides --- brown sugar, cinnamon, etc. Lots of stuff goes good in baked apples. This is just one variant.
posted by zizzle at 6:11 AM on July 27, 2012

Oatmeal peanut butter cookies are a healthier option than Charlotte's Web cookies - which are regular peanut butter cookies, but with a single raisin on top. (The fork cross hatches are the web and the raisin is the spider.)

The absolute simplest egg drop soup is magical to make. I know because both the egg drop soup and the Charlotte's Web Cookies are two recipes we made in my grade-school cooking class. That was around 33 years ago and they made quite the impression; I still remember how fun they were and how impressed with the results little 7 year old me was.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:14 AM on July 27, 2012

My kid likes to make granola--each kid could customize their batch after making the oat/grain/oil/honey base. It involves close watching as it cooks.

He also likes to make recipes that disguise an unexpected ingredient--like zucchini (or black bean) muffins/brownies, or homemade mac and cheese with butternut/pumpkin puree. He gets a kick out of the whole "you can't even see/taste it!" element. There is a whole genre of this kind of cooking meant to "fool" kids, but he likes the transparent process because it makes cooking seem like magic.

Kind of fussy, but recently we had a metric crapton of fun by pan popping quinoa (you can pop it like popcorn and it literally looks like popcorn for fairies when you're done--very visually impressive. Just a little oil in a lidded deep pan with a cup of quinoa over the stove while you move it around as it pops). Then, after trying the teeny weeny "popcorn" we employed a recipe that turns the popped quinoa into peanut butter rice crispy bars--basically sub the butter in a rice crispy recipe with nut butter (any kind) with the same # of cups of marshmallow and 12-16 popped cups of quinoa. Fussy, but he went nuts for the whole process.

He also likes making homemade energy/granola bars--there are lots of recipes online.

Toasted nori sheets (we drizzle brown rice syrup and sesame seeds on them) are also a big hit.

Not food--but he does really like making play dough, too. There are some edible recipes, as well.
posted by rumposinc at 6:16 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

For breakfast, homemade granola bars might be something to try. They can learn what makes things crispy or chewy, sample the individual ingredients separately and discuss sugars and pre-packaged foods in comparison. My kid helps me make ours, and uses scissors for chopping up dates and dried apricots for them. She can also stir the coconut and granola as we're toasting it.
posted by peagood at 6:25 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

What sort of techniques do you have to avoid with Children? I guess sauteing onions and stuff is probably out of the question? or learning to cook a decent steak on a nice hot pan with a mushroom sauce or something?

I would say that anything Baked in the oven is going to be easier in that respect. so why not just a Roast and vegetables?

- Topside Beef Roast or say a Lamb leg - or even Brisket if you want something cheap. Rub with some herbs and pepper and a little olive oil.
Peel potatoes and carrots say, slice into chunks.

Stick it in a roasting tray with a splash more oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour or so. Thats pretty simple and would teach them how easy it is to do a Roast.

Spagetti Bolognese.
Beef Mince,
Grated Carrot, Onion & Celery
Canned Tomatoes
Olive Oil.

you could shred all the Carrot, Onion and Celery in a food processor if the grating is not feasible. Then just teach them how to cook a decent meal.
posted by mary8nne at 6:26 AM on July 27, 2012

Quinoa was the first thing that came to mind because it's faster than rice and I love it's little curly bits. We like this quinoa & black beans for an easy dinner, though we do it with spinach or kale instead of corn. Quinoa stuffed peppers looks like it could be adapted for kids, but it occurs to me that 1 hour baking time might be annoying.

I used to love making condensed milk fudge as a kid, but it's not a health food.

Meatballs, which could be made with turkey instead of beef.

Burritos or enchiladas.

Finally, check out the Mennonite cookbook series that starts with More with Less
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:27 AM on July 27, 2012

This is a kids cookery programme on the BBC I Can Cook, the recipes here are simple.

The kids on the show are prob at the bottom end of your age ask - 6 or 7.
posted by MarvinJ at 6:38 AM on July 27, 2012

Pumpkin soup
Corn chowder
Tomato salad with tuna
Yoghurt pops (plain yoghurt, honey & fruit + freezer)
Fish cakes
Turkey breast rolls filled with carrots (modified recipe here)
Lemon chicken
Carrot cake
Veggie muffins

For full meals add steamed or roasted veggies, fresh salads, teach how to cook basics like rice & potatoes
posted by travelwithcats at 6:39 AM on July 27, 2012

Here's a gluten free pizza crust (from the excellent Gluten-Free Girl). It has few ingredients and comes together easily. You could premix the slurry part if you don't want the kids handling boiling water (or the adults could do that part).
posted by bluefly at 6:45 AM on July 27, 2012

Minestrone! It is highly adaptable in terms of which specific vegetables you use - as long as you've got the basic mirepoix of carrot, celery and onion you can throw in whatever other vegetables you want and then round it out with a can of some kind of beans and a couple handfuls of ditalini pasta and some Italian herbs and you're good to go.

Irish soda bread or buttermilk biscuits are also easy to mix up, and give you a thrill of "wow, I actually made bread" without having to futz around with letting yeast rise or anything. The most basic soda bread recipe I have has only four ingredients - flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk (which actually most of the time I hack by just doing regular milk with a glug of vinegar instead). I've also been able to replace the buttermilk in a buttermilk biscuit recipe with yogurt to great success.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is intended for kids a little younger than your age range, but Pretend Soup has lots of great ideas. You could adapt them to be more age-appropriate by having the kids do some of the steps that are written for adults.

Also, eponysterical.
posted by randomname25 at 7:22 AM on July 27, 2012

And now that I've taken a closer look at the question as well -- The minestrone could go well with "substitutions welcome" or "Mediterranian", and buttermilk biscuits could go with "soul food," I suspect. Another good idea for "Mediterranian" may be a basic bruschetta - chopped-up tomato and basil piled on top of thick slices of crusty Italian bread. I've had a lot of other types of bruschetta, and that simple one is the best of all.

As for "Thanksgiving" - a basic cranberry relish couldn't be easier. Just take a bag of cranberries and a whole peeled orange and throw them in a food processor or blender, and whiz everything around until it's all chopped up and chunky. This could also be a good way to introduce the notion of adding things to taste, because that's something you really should wait to add the sugar to until AFTER you've chopped everything together, to see how much you actually need. If you're afraid the orange would be too juicy, you can throw in a couple handfuls of nuts (walnuts or almonds) as well. This is exactly as my mother makes the cranberry relish every year for Thanksgiving, and our family is one of Ocean Spray's farmers so that recipe is even sort of officially-sanctioned.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 AM on July 27, 2012

The basic sandwiches are important to know... egg salad (including how to boil the eggs); tuna salad (the plastic knives should work ok on pickles and green onions); turkey roll ups with tomato/cucumber/lettuce/pickles... these are also good lessons on seasoning -- salt, pepper, lemon juice, pickle relish etc for the salads; condiment options and proportions on the turkey roll ups.

I agree that making sure they're comfortable with the steps for basic roast chicken is a high priority. I feel like most of America's health issues would be improved if families were comfortable and competent at sticking a chicken or a dish of chicken parts in the oven, ideally with some chunked up vegetables roasting as well, maybe some garlic cloves so they can see how those work... it's the best cheap, complete dinner; and of course also a great lesson on seasoning and roasting techniques. It'd be fun to have different groups see how different an effect they get by, say, sticking a lemon in the cavity vs. rubbing with paprika vs. rubbing with thyme, etc.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 AM on July 27, 2012

I bet you could pull off a guacamole or pico de gallo really easily. Simple, healthy, and tasty.
posted by tellumo at 2:52 PM on July 27, 2012

Former childcare worker who used to run the cook sessions here.

There are a few key things to keep in mind:

1. Stuff that is one or two steps at most.
2. Stuff that may be novel, but not too weird
3. Stuff that gives kids opportunity to have a bit of agency, gives them their "own" foodstuff.
4. Stuff that preferably doesn't have the potential to be repeated at home sans adult supervision but with added third degree burns (a six year cannot, will not, and should not be taught to roast a chicken, for goodness' sake, lol).

Also, don't forget, for stuff that needs fine chopping etc you can prep before hand.

Things that have worked very well in this respect in the past: Mini Pizzas. You can make them as healthy as you like, the best bases are actually cut english muffins cause they're kid sized, you can do the prep beforehand, and letting the kids choose their own toppings gives them a real sense of "I made this", and exponentially increases the likelihood they will eat it. You can also rip through a large number of kids in a short time doing this.

I know you don't want "decorating", but as someone who has done this for years with hundreds of kids, there is a reason why decorating is popular. This doesn't mean you have to buy all the "bases" etc - you can make them from scratch - but as an activity, that decorating component is one that kids can understand and do, it's one that scales for a wide variety of ages so older kids aren't bored stiff, and it gives them a sense of ownership.

In that spirit, "pick four ingredients" stir-fry dishes could potentially work, as could pancakes/pikelets, as could filling your own dumplings (adults prep fillings like mushrooms, water chestnuts etc beforehand, wrappers from asian grocer).
posted by smoke at 4:01 PM on July 27, 2012

From the cooking that I've done with my kids, I've found that organization will set you free. Use the older kids (if possible) to prepare the mise-en-place. You can do very complicated recipes if you have a good MEP ready.

I have been experimenting with rice flour dumplings - I worked off this recipe, which worked out pretty well. The dumplings themselves are three ingredients and fun to make and very tactile. The dough feels like pla-doh. I didn't make the sauce (I used the dango in gluten-free chicken soup I made for and with my daughter), but it looks like something that could be put into a plastic jug and shaken.

Mini pizzas are very satisfying and if you don't want the dough prep (which is cool unto itself, but takes time), you could just put 2 T of sugar and a packet of yeast into a small cup and add warm water and put that in a big bowl. Then take out store-made dough for the rest. You can look at the yeast cup and see how it has foamed up over time. It should overflow into the bowl. You could also put the yeast, sugar, and water into a small plastic soda bottle and strap a balloon over the top and watch it inflate.

Here's a recipe I did last week with my daughter - grate zucchini, place on a clean tea towel and sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. After a few minutes wring out as much liquid as you can into the sink. In a small, greased ramekin, form a nest of grated zucchini and crack in an egg. It goes into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. When it comes out, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
posted by plinth at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2012

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