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cooking with kidsThere are so many great benefits to cooking with your kids.  Picky eaters are more likely to try new things if they’ve had a hand in the prep of a meal.  Children experience a confidence boost and their self-esteem is supported over time as they are effective and important contributors to the family.  Your kids are involved and engaged instead of tugging at your shirt or fighting in the next room while you try to get dinner on the table.  And, it’s fun!

In theory.  Unfortunately, the actual task often seems too daunting to tackle.  The mess.  The potential injury.  The “but he got to lick the bowl last time!”

Like with most things, its all about the set-up.  And luckily of you, I’ve got it all planned out below. We’ll start with something simple, a meal all family members (particularly kids) are bound to love.

Burger Night:

Shopping list:

  • Ground beef (for leaner burgers, use ground turkey or chicken)
  • Onion, Bell pepper, or any other finely chopped burger fillings
  • Potatoes (about 3 medium for 2 adults + 2 kids)
  • Egg
  • Oil (olive, canola, or vegetable oil is fine)
  • Cheese (American, Cheddar, Swiss – go crazy!)
  • Burger buns (gluten free substitute: use bibb lettuce to “wrap” burgers and toppings, or top salad greens with burger patty and toppings)
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayo – any condiments you prefer
  • Any burger toppings you enjoy: tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, etc.

1. Start french fry prep: Kids are great potato peelers; just show them how to use a vegetable peeler right over trash can.

french fries

2. Have an adult cut potatoes into sticks, about 1/3 in thick (you’ll want them to look like this ->)

3. Have kids fill a large bowl with cold water and some salt and transfer potato sticks to bowl; this step removes the outer layer of potato starch that prevents fries from getting crispy.  Let sit about 30-45 min.

4. Start burger prep: Have an adult grate (or finely chop) half of a medium onion and bell pepper into a mixing bowl. Add ground beef and one egg; season with salt and pepper. Kids can dig in with their hands and combine it all together (messy, squishy fun).  Form into 6 patties (or you can make fewer bigger ones, up to you.

**Note: Onion and bell pepper are awesome for flavor and for keeping burgers moist.  Plus, if your kids have an aversion to veggies and you can get away with it (see: they don’t see you add onion), you’ve got your own little grown beef trojan horse (which is one great thing about burgers!).  If you’re feeling really risky (or if your kids welcome the additions), add quinoa, mushrooms, red onion, garlic, or anything else you’d like for extra flavor and a nutritional boost!

Set bowl aside.

5. Move back to potatoes once they have had time to sit in salt water bath: Kids can drain potato sticks in colander until water runs clear. Lay potato sticks on layer of paper towels to dry. Blot tops of potato sticks to remove all excess moisture. (Good separate jobs for siblings who struggle to share tasks – one rinses, one lays them flat on paper towels).

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

7. Kids can then move potato sticks to a large bowl, drizzle with olive or vegetable oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Mix around with hands until all potato sticks are evenly covered and seasoned. Move to large baking sheet (I cover with aluminum foil) and arrange potato sticks in one flat layer.  Bake potatoes at 425 for 15-25 minutes (depending on size of your potato sticks).  Keep an eye on them!

8. While fries are in oven, preheat skillet over medium-high heat for burgers.  Cook burger patties about 3 minutes per side (longer if you made them thicker), or until browned. Put slice of cheese (if desired) on patty after flipping for the last minute of cooking. Transfer burger patties to plate (or direct to burger bun).

9. While an adult cooks the burgers to perfection, the kids can wash up and set the table, pull out any condiments and burger toppings, or pop burger buns in toaster with adult.

10. Remove fries from oven and build your burgers.

11. Eat and enjoy!

Leftovers make an easy lunch for the next day (for you or the kids!).  Now get cooking!

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