With level 4 lockdown in full effect, many parents are facing a long four weeks at home with their little ones. This means a month of cooking, feeding and cleaning up - so why not encourage the kids give you a hand!?
One easy way to keep both little hands and brains busy is getting in the kitchen. Mixing, measuring, rolling - it's a great way to pass the time, plus it means you'll have a fridge full of snacks to help you through the next four weeks.
It's also a chance to get kids trying some different foods they might otherwise have turned their noses up at. A 2017 study out of the US revealed children who help cook at home are more likely to enjoy fruit and veggies than kids who don't cook.
If you're looking for some healthier options which won't send them on a four-week-long sugar high hoon around the house, we understand. Here are some easy, nutritious recipes using ingredients you probably already have in the pantry.
This recipe is one of my breakfast favourites. Packed with protein and natural sugars, it won't leave you with that mid-morning slump like regular pancakes. It's a great one for kids of all ages: Younger ones can get messy mashing the banana, while older siblings who are comfortable using a stove can carefully flip the pancakes.
Hopefully by the end of the four-week lockdown, the kids can make the pancakes for you, whle you supervise with a cuppa!
I first learnt of these pancakes from cooking blog The Kitchn, but there are endless variations online. For the basic version, you only need one large, ripe banana and two large eggs.
- Mash the banana well, until it's silky smooth - like baby food
- Beat in the eggs. The batter will be very loose and liquidy, more like whisked eggs than regular pancake batter. You can add a pinch of baking powder here to make them fluffier, but it's not necessary
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Melt a little butter or oil in the pan if desired
- Drop about two tablespoons of hot batter into the pan. It should sizzle immediately - if not, turn up the heat slightly. Repeat, leaving at least an inch or two between pancakes
- Cook for about one minute, until the bottoms look browned and golden when you lift a corner, about one minute
- Flip the pancakes very gently and slowly - the opposite of regular pancakes
- Cook until the other side is also golden-brown, about one minute more. You can flip the pancakes a few times if you need to in order to get them evenly browned
Serve these warm, with any toppings you like. Countdown has a great range of tasty, healthy toppings - my favourite combination is a handful of fresh or defrosted blueberries, a dollop of natural yoghurt and a drizzle of manuka honey.
Baked Bean Bread Nests
This is a great one if you have some tins on hand - and put them to use with these delicious nests. I like to use wholegrain bread for an extra nutritional boost, and the tins of 50 percent less sugar baked beans.
● 12 slices whole grain bread
● 50g melted butter, or olive oil
● 420g can Wattie’s 50% less sugar Baked Beans
● 1 cup grated cheese
- Trim the crusts from the bread and brush one side of each slice with a little melted butter or olive oil
- Push the bread slices, oiled side down into 12 muffin tins.
- Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes until crispy. At this stage the cases can be cooked and kept in an airtight container.
- Fill the cases evenly with a spoonful of Wattie’s Spaghetti or Wattie’s Baked Beans. Top each with grated cheese.
- Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted.
Note: Before placing in the oven the second time, you can top them with any food you have hanging out in the fridge. Use lots of colourful vegetables like chopped capsicum, mushrooms and baby spinach. Or even use tinned mild chilli beans in place of baked beans, for a Mexican twist. Now is the time to get creative!
'Carrot Cake' Bliss Balls
A healthy burst of energy, bliss balls are a great option for that mid-afternoon 'sweet treat'. There are tons of variations out there, using a base of dates, oats and coconut oil. Hit the Countdown baking aisle and grab any selection of nuts and seeds you'd care to add in.
Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue says cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts are packed with protein, vitamins and healthy fats, while pumpkin and sunflower seeds are a great nut-free option for any allergies.
"You can add in a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut or almond butter for smoothness."
Whatever you decide, get the kids involved with the rolling and dunking - the messier the better.
These ones are 'carrot cake' flavoured, meaning you've even snuck an extra serve of veggies in there!
Note: Most recipes call for Medjool dates, which can be expensive. Grab a bag of pitted dates from the baking section at Countdown, and just soak them in boiling water for five minutes before blending.
● Three medium carrots
● 1 cup oats
● 1 cup sunflower seeds
● 1/2 cup dates
● 1 TBS coconut oil or other light flavoured oil
● 1 tsp cinnamon
● 1/2 tsp dried ginger
● Desiccated coconut for rolling
- Blitz the carrots in a food processor. They can go in whole if your blender is a sturdy one, otherwise, just grate them first.
- Add remaining ingredients one at a time (apart from the desiccated coconut) and blitz until the mixture comes together into a large ball. If it sticks, you can add a little water in as you go. Be patient - it might take five minutes to come together.
- Use a teaspoon to remove some mixture and roll into a ball. The mixture will be quite sticky but kids love the mess! Tip: If you keep your hands wet, it will stop the mixture from sticking as much.
- Roll the balls in desiccated coconut
- Refrigerate, and eat as desired!
If you're looking for more recipe ideas throughout the lockdown, Countdown has a wide range on their website, including some lunchbox ideas kids can make themselves. https://www.countdown.co.nz/recipes
Hopefully, you'll come out on the other side of this with at least one little chef in the family!
This article was created for Countdown.