A great way for parents and caretakers to use extra time at home is to teach kids basic cooking skills. Not only does cooking give kids an appreciation of food, it teaches them a valuable life skill. As a bonus, when involving them in simple recipes kids are more likely and willing to try new foods; of course, this is great for times when you don’t have their favorites on hand.
In addition, as a family activity, cooking is a productive and comforting way to pass the time. For adults, cooking is cathartic, letting our brain focus on the task at hand instead of pondering our worries. For kids, however, cooking is a chance to be like mom or dad, and gives them a sense of satisfaction. With this in mind, Best of NJ spoke with New Jersey chefs to build a list of simple recipes. These are meals kids can cook with an adult using ingredients you most likely already have on hand.
Simple Recipe #1: Nutella Crepes From Home Made
Recipe by: Dagmara Tomporowski
“I’ve been making Nutella crepes with my children since they were toddlers, and they’ve always enjoyed it,” says Dagmara Tomporowski. As the owner of Home Made, she suggests dividing the jobs. Kids can mix ingredients, for example, and adults can pour oil in the pan. “It always brings a smile to my face when the family is involved.”
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Oil for frying
- Filling: Nutella, jam, apple sauce or something else you choose.
- Topping: Whipped cream, powdered sugar, or something else you choose.
- Combine ingredients.
- Blend with a whisk.
- Turn stove heat on medium heat. Fill with oil to heat the pan. After warm, pour out excess oil.
- Pour only as much batter as you need into a frying pan (Teflon with a thick bottom works best). Spread it thinly over the surface. Fry first on one side, until pancake starts to move away from the edges and surface is matte. Turn over (it will detach from pan). When blush, remove from pan.
- Add a little more oil for the subsequent pancakes if necessary. Stack pancakes on top of each other.
- Spread filling and roll or fold.
- Apply topping.
Simple Recipe #2: Mac & Cheese From Denim
Recipe by: David Murray
Parents know how hard it is to get kids to eat their vegetables. But you can stash them into a kid-friendly staple. “I like this recipe because it’s a great way to sneak vegetables into a child’s diet without them minding it because they’re in a creamy cheese sauce,” says David Murray, executive chef and owner of Denim.
- 1 package of pasta of your choice (elbows, shells, radiatore, etc.)
- 2 oz. butter
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 2 cups half & half
- 4 slices yellow American cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or mozzarella work best)
- A pinch of white or black pepper (optional)
- A pinch of granulated garlic (optional)
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1 cup chopped broccoli or cauliflower (optional)
- Follow pasta cooking instructions on package.
- Melt butter in medium sauce pot. Once melted, stir in flour and simmer on medium heat for two minutes.
- Add half & half slowly and whisk to incorporate smoothly. Simmer for two minutes.
- Add seasonings, optional veggies, and cheese. Stir 30 seconds.
- Turn off heat. Add (strained) cooked pasta. Gently stir until creamy and smooth.
Simple Recipe #3: Hamburger Pie From McLoone’s Restaurants
Recipe by: Michael Dolan
Executive Corporate Chef Michael Dolan says this pie is great to make with kids. For instance, kids can cover the bottom and sides of the dish with the biscuits. And they can use their clean hands to top the dish with cheddar cheese.
- 2 cans Pillsbury biscuits
- 6 oz. prepared tomato sauce
- 1 lb. ground beef (80% lean) or ground turkey
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 cup diced Spanish onion
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- Lightly grease bottom and sides of a round baking dish with a teaspoon of olive oil.
- Cover bottom and sides of dish with biscuits.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Over medium heat, sweat onion, pepper, and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil until translucent.
- Add ground beef and sauté until cooked through. Drain fat and water.
- Add tomato sauce, season with salt, and stir well. Return to heat for two minutes.
- Place meat mixture on top of biscuits.
- Top with cheddar cheese.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
Simple Recipe #4: Pancakes From Wood Stack Pizza & Kitchen
Recipe by: Matthew Perez
Just about everyone loves Pancakes. One thing that’s great about them is you can serve them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. “Breakfast to me is the easiest meal to get the kids involved in,” says Matthew Perez; executive chef at both locations of Wood Stack Pizza & Kitchen. “Pretty much everybody has these staple items in the pantry. They’re a great canvas to add other delicious flavors to. Not to mention, they’re fun to make—cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing, pouring, flipping. Sure there is going to be some clean up, but consider it a delicious art project.”
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- Extras: oil, shortening or butter for cooking
- Extra toppings: fruit, honey, preserves, chocolate chips, Nutella, yogurt
- Preheat cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium-low flame.
- Whisk together dry ingredients.
- Mix together wet ingredients.
- Gently mix wet into dry; don’t overmix.
- Grease pan. Ladle 2- to 3-ounce portions of batter. Wait until bubbles rise to surface before flipping.
Simple Recipe #5: Philly Cheesesteak Pasta From Grindstone
Recipe by: Juan Melton
“The first thing that gets kids excited about cooking is making something they enjoy,” says Juan Melton; chef at Grindstone Restaurant in Williamstown. “You get to work in a few veggies which I know the kids will be stoked about (sarcasm) and there you have it.”
- 10 ounces cavatappi pasta
- Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup thinly-sliced yellow onion
- 1.5 cups thinly-sliced green pepper
- 3.5 ounces (1 cup) sliced mushrooms
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
For Provolone Sauce
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- 1.5 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
- 4 slices provolone cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Add a pinch of salt to the water, followed by the pasta.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions or until al dente.
- Strain pasta through a colander and set aside.
- In a large oven skillet (that will fit everything for the final dish) over medium-high heat, add butter.
- Add onion, pepper, and mushrooms. Add a tiny pinch salt and pepper to taste. Sauté́ veggies until they’re softened and golden brown, about 10 minutes. (Add a little water to pan to prevent veggies from sticking if need be).
- During the last 30 seconds of cooking, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove skillet from heat and stir in vinegar. Pour peppers and onions into colander with pasta.
- Preheat oven to a high broil. In the same skillet, add ground beef and Italian seasoning.
- Crumble beef as you cook until completely browned through. Drain off any fat.
- Add pasta and veggies from colander into skillet with beef.
For Provolone Sauce
- In the same pot you used to cook the pasta, add butter and set to medium heat.
Let butter melt and then whisk in flour.
- Keep whisking for a minute or until you cook out all of the raw flour taste. Gradually add milk and beef stock.
- Stir often so mixture doesn’t clump.
- After about five minutes, sauce should thicken, then add shredded cheese.
- Stir until melted and smooth.
- Turn off heat and pour sauce over skillet with beef, peppers, onions, and pasta.
- Toss to make sure everything is well combined.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary (it may not need any).
- You can eat the dish at this point or add more cheese. To do so, place provolone slices on top of the oven-safe skillet and broil for one to two minutes in the oven or until cheese is melty. Remove and serve. Garnish if desired with parsley.
Top (Hero) Photo: © Halfpoint / Adobe Stock
Crepe Photos: Dagmara Tomporowski / Home Made
Mac & Cheese Photo: David Murray / Denim
Hamburger Pie Photos: Chef Michael Dolan / McLoone’s Restaurants
Pancake Photo: MSPhotographic / Adobe Stock
Ezume Images / Adobe Stock