My mother never played blocks with me. She never sat down on the floor and played dolls. Instead, I would sit on the kitchen bench as young as two and cook with her. At two I was using my thumb to make imprints in cookies for jam drops. At three, I was rolling out hot cross buns for Easter. And as soon as I could hold a knife, I was chopping soft veggies, mixing cake batter, and cutting out cookies. I learnt from a very young age, that food is something to be cherished, enjoyed among family and friends and is something much more than just nutrients.
As home cooking has decreased, the consumption of fast food has increased exponentially over the last 10 years. With that we see the rise in children being unable to cook when they leave home, an increase in obesity and chronic diseases (Gibbs et al, 2013). A recent study found that children that were taught to cook from a young age and assisted in the preparation of the meals they ate were more likely to eat a wider range of fruits and vegetables (Hercsh et al, 2014).
To get children in the kitchen, you don’t have to start with anything complex.
Invest in a child safe knife and get them to chop veggies, make scrambled eggs or roll out cookies or bliss balls for a school lunch treat. Cooking with children can be hard and it can be messy – there is no denying it requires a bit of patience. However, the value they get from being in the kitchen, learning about food from young age is invaluable and something they will hold on to for a lifetime.
Start with just once a week, set out little tasks for them, let them ask questions; feel the ingredients and textures that they are later going to consume – even let them try it along the way. This is a great way to get fussy eaters eating everything you cook as well; it is proven that when kids prepare the food they are more likely to eat it (Hersch et al, 2014).
If they aren’t interested in helping out with dinner, get them started with something they will love over the school holidays as a treat. Decorated sugar cookies are a favourite amongst all children, they can dye the icing their favourite colour and top it with all of their favourite treats. It might not be the healthiest food to give your children, but cooking with kids is more than learning about nutrition, it is learning skills for their future. Not everything has to be healthy, baking treats is a big component to building up their healthy relationship with food and teaching them that they can eat these delicious treats every now and then.
If you are looking to get the kids involved in some baking adventures in preparation for a healthy school lunch why not try out these nut free apricot muesli bars or for something a little special, homemade BBQ flavoured popcorn.
So let’s get baking these school holidays!
School Holiday Activity
Iced Sugar Cookies
3 cups plain flour
¾ tsp Organic Times Baking Powder
115g Organic Times Salted Butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk
Icing sugar to dust
2 cups Organic Times Icing Sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tsp Organic Times Salted Butter, softened
Hopper Natural Colours food dye
½ cup Organic Times Vanilla Mallows
½ cup Organic Times Milk Choc Drops
½ cup Organic Times Little Gems
Cream the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Then add in egg, vanilla and milk and beat to combine. Sift in flour and baking powder and use a wooden spoon to fold into the butter mixture to form a smooth dough. Divide the dough into two and wrap in cling wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hr.
Preheat the oven to 160C and line two baking trays with baking paper. Take one piece of the dough out of the fridge and dust with a little icing sugar. Roll out to ¼ inch thick and then use your favourite cookie cutters to cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough. If it starts to stick, dust with a little more icing sugar. Carefully transfer the shapes onto the baking trays. Bake for 10-12min.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Meanwhile make the icing. Add the icing sugar into a medium bowl, add in the butter and milk, 1 tbsp at a time until the icing comes together in a smooth, thick paste. Divide the icing into 2-3 bowls and add in 1-2 drops of food dye. Use the back edge of a teaspoon to spread a little icing over the top of the cookies. Top with all of your favourite Organic Time goodies.
Apricot Oat Bars (Serves 10)
¾ cups plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tsp Organic Times Baking Powder
¾ cup desiccated coconut
1 cup rolled oats
¼ cup + 1 tbsp Organic Times Sunflower Kernels
½ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
½ cup sultanas
150g Organic Times Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp Organic Times Molasses
¼ cup Organic Times Rapadura Sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
Preheat the oven to 160C and line a 8inch x 8inch baking tray. In a large bowl combine flour, bi carb, baking power, coconut, oats, sunflower seeds, apricots and sultanas. Place butter, molasses and rapadura sugar in a small saucepan over low heat stir until butter is melted and combined with sugar. Pour butter mixture into the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix. Finally add in the egg and mix to form a sticky mixture. Spread mixture out in prepared baking tray using a spoon to flatten the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1tbsp sunflower seeds. Bake in the oven for 15-20min or until golden. Allow to cool completely before slicing into 10 bars.
BBQ Popcorn (serves 6)
3 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup Organic Times Popcorn Kernels
¼ cup Organic Times Ghee
Melt half of the ghee in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir through paprika, oregano, thyme, onion powder, and salt. Then set aside. Heat the remaining ghee in a large saucepan. Place two kernels in the ghee and you will know it is hot enough when they start to spin. Add in the remaining kernels and top with a lid. Once they start to pop shake the pot every few moments so that no kernels burn on the bottom. As the popping starts to slow down, remove from the heat, keeping the lid on for 2min for the popping to cease. Pour popcorn into a large bowl and drizzle over spice mixture. Use a large wooden spoon, or your hands to mix the popcorn ensuring it is all covered in spice mixture.
Shelley founder of Shelley’s Good Eats is a nutritionist, recipe developer, food photographer and all-round food creative. She has been cooking alongside her mother since she was a little kid and is now loves putting a healthy nutritious spin on the classics. Shelley studied a Bachelor of Food Science and Nutrition and Masters in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Queensland. In the past, she was a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador, working with schools to inspire change and educate children around food and nutrition. She is passionate about using her knowledge in nutrition to share the message of health and educate others about the importance of a healthy relationship with food – yes that means she loves eating cake.
Hersch D PL, Ambroz T, Boucher JL. Peer reviewed: The Impact of Cooking Classes on Food Related Preferences, Attitudes and Behaviors of School Ages Children: A Systematic Review for the Evidence. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2014;11.
Gibbs L SPea. Expanding Children’s Food Experiences: The impact of a school-based kitchen garden program. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2013;45(2):137-46.