When children learn to prepare their own food it's a step toward life-long independence. A cool trick that's easy on the schedule and the wallet is teaching them how to create cold snacks on hot summer days. Good nutrition easily can be tucked into these fun treats as well. All ingredients are to taste.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun — and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it.
Another benefit: You and your children effortlessly become better cooks, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but wow.
Preparing snacks also can be a way to teach kids about other topics, like geography and climate. The fun result can be a kid cooler that's a quick tropical mix of pineapple juice and coconut milk that's blended with a frozen banana for a summer smoothie.
GOING NUTS OVER NUT BUTTERS
Teach kids to wash and dry celery, trim with adult supervision and fill the stalks with nut butters, like peanut, almond, cashew and hazelnut, and a drizzle of black and white sesame seeds (often rated the healthiest food of all) and perform a taste test to decide which butter they like best.
THE DIP CHALLENGE
Challenge children to come up with their own healthful dips to serve with fresh vegetables and whole-grain chips. Bases might include nonfat Greek yogurt (higher in protein and lower in fat than many other yogurts), nonfat sour cream or fat-free salad dressings. Teach them about fresh herbs that might work well, such as mint, basil, thyme or mashed fruits that will add fun colors, like seedless watermelon or blueberries, as well as a drizzle of honey or molasses for sweetness.
MIXING UP SEASONAL TRAIL MIX
Kids often love trail mix. Teach them how it's made by giving it a lighter summer spin. Use golden raisins, dried cherries and dried blueberries, along with dried banana chips, oats and other whole-grain cereals, such as strawberry flavored mini shredded wheat squares.
AFTER-WORK GOURMET COOKBOOK SHELF
Sometimes a book for one subject can provide universal help in the kitchen. "The Complete Guide to Sushi & Sashimi" by Jeffrey Elliot and Robby Cook features 625 step-by-step photographs with instructions. Many, though, translate well beyond the sushi bar. Just one example is opening clams; there are eight photos which teach that skill, including tips like the foot of a clam "tastes like the ocean, while the muscle is slightly sweet." Similarly, the "Diabetes Rescue Diet" by Mark Bricklin, former editor-in-chief of Prevention magazine, is jam-packed with health and cooking tips from the Mediterranean diet that research recommends, such as "one study found that a heart-healthy diet that included almonds lowered LDL cholesterol as much as a statin drug did."
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.