Coming up with creative holiday gifts for kids can be a real challenge, but to my surprise, several kids I know have been asking their parents for cooking equipment this year. Why not? Half of the tools in my kitchen are better than toys in some respects. Just this morning my son turned my trussing string into rope for his crane to lift my favorite whisk.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box idea that will keep kids excited about and engaged in cooking, here are a few things I’ll be giving this year:
- Let your nut-free child walk around feelin’ cool with these kickin’ tattoos.
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You know all those cookie-cutters that are a jumble at the bottom of your kitchen drawer? Well, reach way down and grab a handful because we’re going to put them to good use.
Cookie-cutters are great for transforming ordinary rolled-out cookies into fun shapes, but their usefulness goes way beyond the obvious. I use cookie-cutters for a wide variety of kitchen duties and whenever I let my kids cut their food into fun shapes, they’ll eat just about anything.
Here are five ways you can use cookie-cutters to make cooking and eating a whole lot more fun:
1. Hole Foods — Use a heart, star or any shape you prefer to cut the center out of sliced bread and make an egg in the hole (try Ree Drummond’s recipe). Last week my daughter had Egg in the Dog!
2. Pancake Zoo — Place a greased cookie-cutter in a saute pan over low heat and fill it with pancake batter. Use tongs to remove the hot cookie-cutter and gently flip the pancake until it’s cooked through. I like making a pancake zoo, using a variety of animal shapes.
Three more ways you can use cookie-cutters
School is officially in session, and just as kids may stomp their feet in protest all the way to the bus stop, so, too, might moms and dads as they face another daunting year of keeping their little learners full and healthy. As you think of the new school year and wonder how you’ll be able to do it all, look to Food Network’s Back-to-School Headquarters to help you make the grade. Each week this fall FN Dish will share can-do weeknight meals, easy lunchbox picks, after-school snack strategies and more from our best collection of recipes and tips.
This week’s back-to-school lesson takes us out of the classroom and to the athletic field. So many kids are young athletes as well as full-time students, and they often go straight from school to sporting practices or games. For most, these commitments come hours after they’ve eaten lunch and demand high reserves of energy and focus for long periods of time, so it’s important that kids have munchies on hand to sustain them until supper. But it can be tough to track down munchies that are not only healthful and filling but also easily packed. On days when you know that your child will be running from one activity to the next, send off him or her with a few of Food Network’s favorite snacks for athletes, easy to eat on the go and deliciously satisfying, too.
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My daughter played “What food am I?” in preschool the other day. When I came to pick her up, her teacher gave me an odd look. “What happened?” I asked. “All of the kids had to describe what kind of food they were today,” she began. “Most kids said apples, celery, oranges, hamburgers, tomatoes, etc., but your daughter told us she was a mix of quinoa and gooseberries…”
Good or bad? I wondered to myself. Probably some of both.
In my mind, that definitely tells me I’m going to be “that mom,” the one whose kid constantly feels embarrassed about. And “that mom” was originally my mom: the mom who dares to be different when, among other things, it comes to packing a school lunch.
My mother lovingly packed soggy, lopsided and sometimes grease-stained paper bags carrying oddball sandwiches or various leftovers from dinner.
Delicious? Totally. Awkward to eat? Totally. Not like any of the other kids’ lunches at a time when you did not dare to be different? Totally.
What was a classic lunch for me?
Sam Kass, a White House chef and Michelle Obama’s adviser for her Let’s Move! program, says that the White House is always stocked with fruit in case Sasha or Malia needs a bite. But Sam knows that kids don’t always come home from school begging fora healthy snack, so he offered up these smart swaps for some favorite after-school treats.
Instead of a candy bar, drizzle chocolate on pretzels or apples (pictured left).
Chop 1/2 pound dark chocolate. Microwave three quarters of the chocolate in 30-second intervals, stirring, until mostly melted. Stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth. Drizzle over mini pretzels or apple slices and let harden.
“There is no substitution for chocolate!” Sam says. “The key is moderation.”
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I love the idea of using food to help teach my kids about life and culture.
My family recently learned about the history of the Olympics. The symbol of the rings, which is five interlocking rings on a white background, represent the “Five parts of the world, which were won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition” in 1914.
According to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who designed the infamous Olympic symbol, “The ring colors with the white background stand for those colors that appeared on all the national flags of the world at that time.”
I also stressed to my children the importance of eating foods that are good for you and provide energy. After asking my kids what their favorite event was, we talked about how athletes need the best possible “fuel” for their bodies. Wanting to create a special breakfast for them in honor of the Olympic games, I thought all-natural whole-wheat pancakes was a great way to kick off these summer games.
For this recipe, I used an all-natural pure maple syrup and found it to be a great way to talk about the gold, silver and bronze medals.
Get the recipe
This summer, Food Network’s Grilling Central is packed with recipes for the entire family’s taste buds, boasting the best in burgers, dogs, chicken and more all season long. But with so many recipes, where do you start? Each Friday, FN Dish is giving you a complete menu that is stress-free, and this weekend’s dishes are sure to please your youngest eaters.
Though picky eaters may not yet be fans of Asian-style ribs or sausage kebabs, they’ll flip for juicy, pint-sized Smashed Sliders made just for them. The key to searing these five-star burgers is to press down on them with a spatula while they’re cooking; this will make the patties thinner than traditional burgers, but because they’re not cooked for as long a time, they’ll still be moist and tender. Nestle these easy-to-eat burgers inside slider-style buns and let your kids dress them up with their favorite toppings — ketchup, mustard and pickle slices are no-fail classics.
Main Course: Smashed Sliders
Side Dish: Mix and Match Pasta Salad
Dessert: Praline Ice Cream Sandwiches
Drink: Berry-Guava Lemonade
Planning on making one of these dishes? Snap a photo and post it on Food Network’s Facebook wall.
If you were to bump into Kelly Sue DeConnick and her husband, Matt Fraction, at the grocery store with their children, Henry Leo and Tallulah, you probably wouldn’t immediately guess that the fate of a universe rests in their creatively capable hands.
You might think that they were simply shopping for produce, or cruising for new breakfast cereal, but don’t let their clever disguise as a normal, happy family fool you. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction are two of the most celebrated and influential creative forces fueling the Marvel Universe, and we got the inside scoop on how creativity in comic books can translate in the kitchen.
FN Dish: In the comic world, you both write. In the kitchen, do you divvy up the roles?
Kelly Sue: You know, I don’t think we have a strict division of either interest or expertise. I was going to say that I tend to do the baking — and that’s true — but it’s also often a team effort.
For everyday dinners, I’m usually the one keeping track of what dishes are at what place in the process and we rotate around the tasks trying to get them all to come together at roughly the same time — and to keep the kids engaged, too.
I love a perfectly cooked bean — tender to the bite, yet toothsome. I’m also the first to admit that taste-wise, nothing compares to cooking up a pot of dried beans from scratch. My ideal strategy is to cook double the amount I need, and store leftovers in the fridge for the week ahead, or the freezer; I like to call this my secret stash.
This doesn’t mean I rule out recipes that call for beans when I find my fridge and freezer with nary a cooked one in sight. That’s when I dip into my other secret stash. Yes, that’s right, I keep canned beans in the pantry, too. First and foremost, beans are an inexpensive source of protein. They’re also high in iron, which is especially important for vegetarians since meat is the other main source of this necessary nutrient.
The trick is to test out different brands until you find one that isn’t mushy and overcooked. I usually keep a backup can or two of pintos, black beans and red kidney beans. They all help get a quick vegetarian meal ready in less than 30 minutes, add an extra boost of protein to breakfast or serve as a hearty side dish.
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I’m a hoarder and until recently I didn’t see this as being a problem. My habit is under the guise of eating locally and seasonally. You won’t see piles of junk around my apartment, but open the freezer and you’re likely to get pelted with frozen fruit spilling from the shelves. Freezing fruit to last beyond its normal season is a way to enjoy summer’s bounty all year long. Learning to use it all up is not my strong suit. I get nervous about dipping into it too soon, so I dole it out sparingly in smoothies to perk up gray winter days.
Suddenly, daylight-saving time snuck up on me and a look at the calendar reminded me the official start of spring is here, too. The days are getting longer, temperatures getting a little warmer, and that means in just about two months, the growing season will be here. Farmers’ markets will once again welcome old friends. And then the panic sets in: Come December I worry about using up my stock of frozen berries, cherries and peaches too fast. Right about now, I start wondering how I’ll manage to use it all up before the cycle of preserving starts all over again.
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