Create tasty meals with your family

Cooking at home is not just about getting dinner on the table. Creating meals together benefits your family in many ways, well beyond helping ensure everyone in the household likes what they eat.
Here are five reasons to involve your children in meal prep.

1. Kids learn a lot
It’s amazing how many skills are involved in cooking:
* Reading
* Following directions
* Using math for quantities and measurements
* Discovering scientific processes in cooking and baking
Cooking together also involves teamwork, communication and valuable life lessons like meal planning and budgeting.

2. Help others fight hunger
Another meaningful life lesson is teaching kids about giving back to the community.

3. Establish healthy lifelong habits
Choosing recipes featuring fresh produce boosts your family’s health while establishing good habits for life. For example, try substituting every kid’s favorite, French fries, with this healthier version:

Baked Avocado Fries
2 firm, ripe avocados, sliced ½-inch thick
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning, divided
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine lemon and lime juice in small bowl. Mix bread crumbs, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper in separate bowl.
Dip avocados into juice, season with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper and press into bread crumbs.
Spray baking sheet with cooking spray, lay avocados single layer and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with chipotle ranch dressing or cilantro lime dipping sauce using Greek yogurt.
Serves 4.

4. Cooking is creative
Once your children have mastered cooking basics, let them be creative. Learning what flavors go together and increasing their knowledge of ingredients makes cooking about much more than following directions. Encourage kids to experiment with recipes or create their own. What they invent (with a little supervision) may surprise you!
Start with a recipe that’s easy to customize with your favorite substitutions, like these flavour-packed, plant-based burgers:

 Black Bean Burgers
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in half
1/2 small  sweet onion, cut in half
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, drained, rinsed
1 large egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 hamburger buns
1 tomato on the vine, sliced
1  avocado, sliced
Place pepper and onion in a food processor and blend until finely chopped (if there’s a lot of water after blending, strain using a mesh strainer). If you don’t have a food processor, grate or finely chop instead.
Mash beans in a large bowl. Add pepper/onion, egg, breadcrumbs, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Divide into 4 patties.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 6-8 minutes each side.
Top buns with burgers, tomato and avocado.
Serves 4.

Substitutions to try:
* Black Beans: Swap with other types of beans.
* Veggies: Try mushrooms, zucchini, carrots or celery.
* Breadcrumbs: Use store-bought or homemade, regular or whole wheat.
* Seasonings: Adjust seasonings, depending on preferred spice level.
* Toppings: Add favourite toppings, like sauteed mushrooms or cheese.

5. Develop confidence
Mastering cooking tasks helps your child develop feelings of competence. Consider your child’s age, and supervise for safety. Children’s abilities vary greatly, so start by allowing children to measure, stir or garnish — adding tasks as they get older and gain experience and skill.

Here’s an easy recipe that kids will love to make:
Orange, Mango and Banana Smoothie Ice Pops
1mango, sliced
1 banana
1 large orange, juiced
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
Place mango, banana, orange juice and yogurt in the blender. Blend until smooth.
Pour into moulds and freeze 2-3 hours, or until frozen.-BPT