10 Easy Recipes That Will Get Your Kids to Cook
Charity Mathews, a mother of four and the woman behind Foodlets — a blog full of kid-tested recipes and ideas for teaching kids to cook — wasn't always a culinary wizard.
Ten years ago, she was living in Rome with her young family. To "do as the Romans do," she took to cooking by carefully printing out recipes, spending two hours trying to make them, and then would be exhausted for three days. The process needed to be simplified, so she started updating recipes that interested her — using pre-cut frozen fruits and vegetables or mixing everything in just one bowl.
In the last decade, Mathews transformed herself from a novice cook to the author of a children's cookbook — “Super Simple Baking for Kids” — with two more in the works. Here she shares a few favorites — as well as ways to identify kid-friendly internet recipes that everyone in the family will love.
Easy Blueberry Cobbler With Frozen Blueberries
This quick dessert recipe is so easy a first grader can do it. “My 7-year-old made a double-batch on Sunday,” says Mathews.
The recipe basically comes together straight out of a well-stocked pantry and freezer. And frozen blueberries are a go-to for Mathews. They’re always in season, they’re prewashed, and they’re usually more affordable frozen than fresh — even organic.
Easy Blueberry Cobbler Recipe
1/4 cup butter (half a stick) plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup flour plus 2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
2 cups frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a baking pan, either round like a quiche pan or any casserole dish would work. Use a paper towel to smear 1 tablespoon of softened butter over the entire inside of the pan. Or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a microwave-safe bowl, about 20-30 seconds.
In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 cup milk. Whisk until smooth.
Pour the batter into your buttered pan.
Open the bag of blueberries. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons of flour inside and shake or gently massage with your hands. Pour the floured blueberries on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Bake for about 45 minutes until the edges are golden, the center is set, and the fruit is bubbly.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Pancake Syrup With Frozen Berries
Most families know the pain of waking up on a weekend morning hoping for pancakes, only to realize they’re out of syrup. Do not fear! This simple syrup substitute is the perfect task for little hands, while other hands are making pancakes on the griddle.
Note: If you don’t have chia seeds, cornstarch will do. And the recipe works with any kind of berry, not just blueberries.
2 cups frozen berries
1/4 cup water or orange juice
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Optional: 1/4 cup sugar
Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine berries, water or juice, chia seeds (or cornstarch) and sugar plus vanilla, if using.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir often to break up frozen berries.
Serve when thick and bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.
Shortcut Summer Succotash With Frozen Corn
The key to this recipe, says Mathews, is the frozen corn. “If you’re following ‘Barefoot Contessa,’ you’re supposed to be shucking ears of corn and slicing the kernels off — it’s too many steps, especially when you have little people begging you for a banana,” says Mathews.
In this recipe, older kids with basic knife skills can help slice tomatoes and green beans, and even sauté the veggies on the stovetop. While a lot of parents may be too scared to allow their children to cook on the stove, Mathews lets her children do it all the time. The key is reminding them not to touch the hot pan. And, obviously, linger nearby.
Shortcut Summer Succotash Recipe
1/2 sweet onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped green beans
1 1/2 cups frozen sweet corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salted butter
Salt & pepper
Slice half a sweet onion, and sauté in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
Add a few handfuls of chopped green beans, about a cup and a half of sweet frozen corn plus a handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half. Cook for a couple minutes and stir.
Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add a big dollop of salted butter, plus a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper and a pinch more salt.
Frozen Spinach With Garlic Powder and Olive Oil
This recipe has been the No. 1 page on Foodlets for two years running. The flavors are inspired by cicoria, the bitter Italian green Mathews and her husband sought out as many times as possible when they lived in Rome — but the greens here are dead-easy: frozen spinach. “I think people say to themselves, ‘What am I going to do with this bag of frozen spinach?’” says Mathews.
It makes an easy side dish that kids not only like to make, but love to eat. And do not skip the wine — the alcohol burns off, and it adds so much to the flavor.
Frozen Spinach Recipe
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 16-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach (but 10 ounces will do, just use less liquid)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cup white wine, chicken broth or water plus juice of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 cracks of fresh pepper
Heat olive oil in a large skillet, and then add spinach and garlic powder. Stir for 2 minutes, and then add your liquid of choice.
Add salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and allow the liquid to evaporate a bit, about 5 minutes.
Serve when you’re ready. This one can wait a while on the stove, and even be made ahead of time and warmed up in the microwave.
Too much liquid? Just drain it off or sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs plus a bit of cream cheese for a rich variation: creamed spinach in minutes!
This is another perennial favorite on Foodlets. Roasted cauliflower — with its nutty flavor — is a winner for everyone in the family. And if you’ve never been a fan of cauliflower, trust us when we say: This is not the steamed cauliflower you grew up with.
Everyone in Mathews' family can make a dish like this — because all you do is cut open a bag, spread on a pan, season and roast. Not only that, since everyone in the family is a fan, whoever is cooking feels successful — which is one of the keys to getting kids to love to cook. No one can deny the pride you feel when someone says, “Mmmmm, that’s delicious.”
Roasted Cauliflower Recipe
Large bag of frozen cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour frozen cauliflower onto sheet pan.
Drizzle olive oil on top and use hands to mix, coating each piece. Then, spread the cauliflower into an even layer.
Sprinkle with salt.
Roast for about 25 minutes until the cauliflower is soft on the inside and browned on the edges.
Honey Mustard Chicken
And now for a main dish: honey mustard chicken. This one is a crowd-pleaser and a family favorite — and it’s surprisingly straightforward to make. It doesn’t require any prep upfront, says Mathews, meaning you don’t even have to marinate this chicken. It simply bakes together with the honey, mustard and olive oil into what Mathews calls “a yummy, bubbly, sweet sauce.”
While you can use any cut of meat, Mathews prefers thighs because they are forgiving if you overcook them a little and are just the right portion for younger diners. “When you’re feeding kids, it’s only part recipe — the other part is all these strategies. You have to have both in order for a meal to work,” says Mathews.
Honey Mustard Chicken Recipe
1/4 cup mustard
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 pounds chicken thighs
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix sauce in a small measuring cup or bowl. Place chicken in a baking pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then, drizzle sauce over the chicken and pop the rosemary in the pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes for boneless thighs and 40-45 minutes for thighs with bones.
Mathews’ Pro Tip: “Anything roasted, of course.”
When cooking with kids, the oven is your friend. It’s easy for kids (and adults!) to preheat the oven; slide in a sheet pan full of vegetables tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper (or even salmon filets or pieces of chicken); set a timer; and wait for dinner to be served.
That’s why sheet pan dinners are such weeknight heroes. “Any time you’re baking or roasting is really good for the little guys to gain confidence,” says Mathews.
Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies Recipe
In this recipe, from Kitchn, store-bought gnocchi roasts alongside your favorite veggies, getting a crispy texture you don’t typically expect.
Older kids with basic knife skills can help chop peppers, tomatoes and onions, or smash garlic, and anyone can help grate the parmesan and sprinkle basil to finish the dish. It’s especially perfect for summer.
Don’t Skimp on Salads
Mathews’ Pro Tip: “Salads — even bagged salads.”
Salads are a no-brainer, says Matthews. After all, little hands love to mix. In fact, Mathews’ 7-year-old helped assemble great big bags of Asian salad (from Costco!) for a 50-person triple birthday party the family recently held at their farm.
He cut everything open, mixed and stirred — and adults at the party were thrilled with the result. “It was everyone’s favorite thing,” says Mathews.
Honey Mustard Chicken Tender Salad Recipe
Store-bought chicken tenders make this dinner salad recipe, also from Kitchn. While it's a cinch to make, the honey-mustard dressing is what really brings it all together — and makes it more kid-friendly.
Kids with knife skills can help chop avocado, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, while smaller hands can assemble ingredients in the bowl and toss with the dressing. It’s a winner, even if your toddler isn’t quite ready for lettuce.
Dress Up the Picnic Theme
Mathews’ Pro Tip: “Picnic dinners.”
“We do a lot of dinner-on-a-cutting board, hors d'oeuvres type of things,” says Mathews, especially during warmer months. “The kids love doing that and arranging everything.”
For a picnic-style dinner, Mathews chooses a bunch of pickles and nuts, some lunch meats, salami and cheese. Everybody gets to pick and choose, which makes pleasing four kids even easier.
Cheese Fondue Recipe
Take the idea of a cheese-board dinner one step further — with fondue! In this Food Network recipe, older kids you can trust at the stove whisk together the cheese — a mix of apple juice, Gruyere and Parmesan, cornstarch and mustard — while other hands can assemble the bite-sized finger food like bread slices, apples, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, pretzels and other delicious veggies.
Then, everybody likes to dip.
You Say Potato, I Say...
Mathews’ Pro Tip: “Baked potatoes.”
Prepping baked potatoes is the perfect, annoying task to pass off onto your kids. They have to scrub the potatoes clean. Rub them with oil. Prick them all over. “They’re easy tasks, good for when you're busy making something else,” says Mathews.
Once they’re baked, a baked potato bar for dinner is a no-brainer. Like all DIY dinners — think, taco night! — the ability to craft the meal to your own liking appeals to kids of all ages.
Baked Potato Shakshuka Recipe
If you want to take baked potatoes to the next level — or if you just have leftovers — kids can try this recipe for baked potato shakshuka from Kitchn.
If your child can open a jar of marinara and crack an egg, he or she can make this dish. Add herbs and feta cheese to make it even more authentic.