10 Frugal and Delicious Meals to Make With Your Kids

By Marla Walters on 18 May 2016 0 comments

There are a lot of great reasons to cook with your kids. They'll taste and sample ingredients during the process, which I have found is a good way to introduce new foods. Secondly, cooking is an excellent time to hang out and bond with them. Lastly, they'll need to know how to cook eventually, when they go off to the real world. So having an arsenal of frugal, easy recipes will come in handy.

Children can begin to learn to cook at a very young age. In fact, in the Montessori method, cooking is part of the school curriculum, and you can purchase small-hand size cutting and slicing tools.

The first step is to teach cleanliness — show them the importance of washing hands and how to wash fruit and vegetables. Then, demonstrate. It's hard to explain to someone how to crack an egg. You just have to try it.

Here are 10 frugal, fun recipes to make with your kids.

1. Stone Soup

You may remember this wonderful book by author Marcia Brown about three hungry soldiers. My mother used to make this soup in her kindergarten classroom with the children after reading the story. The children each brought ingredients and would prep the ingredients, add them, and make soup for their lunch. It was a huge hit. Besides working on chopping and measuring skills, they'll learn how to chop an onion, which can be a real challenge.

2. Chicken in Cracker Crumbs

This is a very simple, yet really delicious dinner. To serve four, pop four boneless, skinless, chicken breasts into Ziploc bags. Zip, place on a sturdy breadboard, and hand your kid a mallet. Let them pound away to about ¾ inch thickness. When all have been pounded, fill a clean Ziplock with a sleeve of crackers and let them pound again until you have crumbs. Add a cup of shredded cheese (another great kid chore) and combine the cheese with the crumbs. Dip each breast into melted butter (use about half a stick), and then into the cheese-crumb mixture. Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray, add the chicken breasts, and sprinkle the top with the remaining coating mix; drizzle with another two tablespoons of melted butter. Bake at 375ºF for about 45 minutes, until thoroughly cooked through. Serve with rice or pasta and vegetables.

3. Stuffed Baked Potatoes

These are one of the easiest things for kids to make, and if you let them choose their own "stuffings," they'll really get a kick out of them. I like to use russets. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Scrub each potato and prick with a fork. This is important! I like to rub mine with a little butter before they go into the oven, directly onto a rack. Bake for an hour. Assist the kids with removing from the oven safely, and carefully cut open. To make it a meal, add chili, or broccoli with cheese. They can even make a potato "taco" with cheeses, olives, salsa, etc. Pre-teens might also like to make a potato "bar" with various fillings for parties.

4. Dutch Baby

A Dutch Baby is a sort of a puffy popover pancake. This is a good recipe for practicing egg-cracking and juicing skills, as well as measuring. If have an oven with a window, these are fun to watch while baking with your child. It is loaded with egg, which causes it to puff up when baking. As it cools, it will mostly deflate. They go together quickly in the blender.

Here is an easy Dutch Baby recipe. I don't use a cast-iron skillet — melting butter into a large casserole dish works just fine. I like them with butter and lemon juice, as suggested in the recipe, but younger palates may prefer Nutella, peanut butter, or sliced, sauteed apples. These also work for a savory meal. Try filling with cheese, chopped ham, well-drained broccoli, and sliced green onions. Yum!

5. Grilled Cheese

My father was a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches. He taught me how to make them at age seven and I thought they were divine. Here is a classic, easy, method using American cheese.

6. Mini-Pizzas

There are two ways you can make these. One is to split English muffins and spoon over pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni, olives, etc., and then bake. Another method is to use biscuit dough (the refrigerated kind in the can) and flatten. If you want to try this, place the biscuit dough between two sheets of wax paper. Either use hands or a rolling pin to flatten, then put toppings on and bake as usual (400ºF oven, about 12-15 minutes). I like to set the toppings in small bowls and just let the kids go to town on choosing their own.

7. Chicken "Curry"

My mother-in-law loved to recruit her grandchildren for help when making this recipe. It's a huge family favorite and kids love it because after preparing the toppings, they can put whatever they want on their own plate. Kids can grate cheese, crush tortilla chips, slice olives and green onions, cut up hard-boiled eggs and avocados, etc.

Method:

Cook a pot of rice; set aside, covered. Prepare two cans of cream of chicken soup; heat. Add curry powder to taste.

Toppings: Hard-boiled eggs, avocados, tortilla chips, black olives, tomatoes, pickle relish, grated cheese, raisins, green onions… the sky's the limit.

To serve, put a large spoonful of rice on a plate. Add the "curry sauce" and any toppings you like.

8. Eggs

At age four, my niece was making herself eggs. It was quite a thing to watch her drag a stool into the kitchen and go at it. Her method was to make scrambled eggs in a cup. After spraying your cup with non-stick spray, add two eggs (stir with a fork), two tablespoons of milk, and add two tablespoons of grated cheese, once cooked.

9. Crepes

Crepes might sound sort of fancy for a cook-with-kids project, but it's easier than it seems. My daughter, who loved them from an early age, finally figured out she needed to learn to make them herself, because I didn't make them often. A single recipe makes seven or eight crepes. As a young adult, she'd fill them with spinach and goat cheese for dinner, then with jam and powdered sugar for dessert. A nine-or 10-year-old can make these; just make sure you supervise, since the stove will be in use.

10. Tortilla Roll-Ups

These tortilla roll-ups are really kid-friendly, and as another bonus, kids love them in their school lunches. Make several rolls on a Sunday and you'll be ahead of the game. I prefer using "light" cream cheese in mine, rather than a mayonnaise (and it makes a better adhesive), but let your child decide.

Nervous about kids cutting with sharp knives? Here is a good demo. Keep safety in mind and supervise, but get creative and have fun!

What are some other meals that are fun for the kids to cook? Share with us!

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