Children helping in the kitchen can learn valuable nutritional lessons

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Cooking with your kids lets you spend some quality time together and is an opportunity to teach them valuable nutritional lessons.

Here are three simple recipes to share with the little sous-chefs in your home.

Chef Patrick Engel of The Good Earth Cooking School offers the first two recipes. His son Charlie, 4, is a picky eater, but he loves "bocamole" and chips.

Cooking with your kids lets you spend some quality time together and is an opportunity to teach them valuable nutritional lessons.

Here are three simple recipes to share with the little sous-chefs in your home.

Chef Patrick Engel of The Good Earth Cooking School offers the first two recipes. His son Charlie, 4, is a picky eater, but he loves "bocamole" and chips.

Charlie's Guacamole

2 ripe avocados

1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced

15 ml (1 tbsp.) chopped cilantro

5 ml (1 tsp.) salt

1 lime, juiced

Few dashes of cajun spice, paprika, chili powder or hot sauce, to taste.

Peel avocados and remove pits. In a bowl, place flesh and mash with a potato masher or clean hands. Add remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Add as much or as little "spicy stuff" as the mouths you are feeding will enjoy.

Serve as a dip with nacho chips and fresh veggies or use as a spread, perhaps in a breakfast burrito.

Blueberry Banana Pancakes

This is a great recipe for getting fresh fruit, protein and good fats into a picky eater without a great deal of sugar to go along. It's also a good way to use up overripe bananas. Try baked apples or applesauce in place of banana.

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

15 ml (1 tbsp.) baking powder

30 ml (2 tbsp.) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp.) salt

30 ml (2 tbsp.) vegetable oil or melted butter, plus extra for cooking

2 eggs, beaten

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) buttermilk

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

1 ripe banana

175 ml (3/4 cup) frozen or fresh blueberries

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and mix well. Add oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to incorporate.

In a small bowl or on your cutting board, mash banana and add it to the batter. Allow batter to rest for a few minutes while you heat a large skillet over medium heat.

In just enough butter or oil to glaze skillet, add about 50 ml (1/4 cup) of batter per pancake (they will be about 7.5 cm/3 inches in diameter).

Once batter is in the skillet, dot surface of each pancake with 7 or 8 blueberries. When the surface of the pancakes begins to bubble (2 to 3 minutes) flip and continue to cook for about 1 minute more.

Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with applesauce, jam or maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Baking cookies is a great way to get kids involved in food preparation. They are easy to make and the result is a delicious treat for immediate consumption with leftovers to pack up with lunch.

250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour

50 ml (1/4 cup) wheat bran

2 ml (1/2 tsp.) baking powder

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter

125 ml (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

125 ml (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar

1 egg

5 ml (1 tsp.) vanilla

250 ml (1 cup) quick-cooking (not instant) oats

125 ml (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, waxed paper or silicone liners or spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, wheat bran and baking powder. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Stir in oats and cranberries.

Drop heaping teaspoons (5 ml) of the cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets, about 5 cm (2 inches) apart. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned.

Makes 36 cookies.

Source: "Dietitians of Canada Cook Great Food" (Robert Rose).

Organizations: Good Earth Cooking School

Geographic location: Canada

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