When my children were in elementary school, I would often get so caught up in doing day-to-day work that I didn’t always find time to plan fun activities to keep them amused during March break.
I definitely could have been better organized, but those years have passed and there’s no returning.
For any parents in a similar situation, I have a few suggestions about cooking with your kids during March break. It is a fun activity, and helps them to develop skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.
Baking cookies may be the first thing that comes to mind. This can be an enjoyable exercise because mixing and shaping the dough is messy gooey fun, almost like playing with play dough. It’s rewarding, too, because almost everyone enjoys homemade cookies.
Enjoying sweets comes naturally. For those who are encouraging their families to enjoy a variety of flavours, here are a few other suggestions.
Whether the child or the adult does the chopping or uses a hot stove depends on the child’s age and competence. Find the best way for your child to participate safely.
This smoothie can be your St. Patrick’s Day snack, with its pretty green colour. Be sure it gets blended for long enough to smooth out the lumps!
Green Queen Smoothie
Adapted from Hanna, Sharon: The Book of Kale, The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd., Madeira Park, BC, 2012.
1 cup (250 mL) green grapes, washed
1/2 ripe Bartlett pear
1 cup (250 mL) kale leaves
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
1/2 cup (125 mL) plain yogurt
a few ice cubes
Remove stem and core from pear, and throw out.
In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients. Process until smooth, then enjoy!
Makes 2 servings
If your family enjoys baking, these muffins are a good option. Baking muffins provides an opportunity for teaching children to get all the ingredients assembled and measured before mixing.
The exception, when making this recipe, is that you can stir the rolled oats into the milk first. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and let the rolled oats soak in the milk while you measure the other ingredients, preheat the oven, and prepare the muffin tins.
Any type of fluid milk — whole, 2 per cent, 1 per cent or skim — will work in this and similar muffin recipes. If you are baking muffins that call for buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of milk that has been soured by adding about 15 mL (1 tbsp) vinegar per 250 mL (cup) of milk.
If you are planning to freeze some of these to use for school lunches, leave out the walnuts to comply with nut-free policies.
Marilyn’s Oatmeal Muffins
250 mL (1 cup) 1 per cent milk
250 mL (1 cup) quick rolled oats
125 mL (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
125 mL (1/2 cup) all purpose flour
75 mL (1/3cup) granulated sugar
10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
125 mL (1/2 cup) raisins (optional)*
125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts (optional)*
1 well-beaten egg
50 mL (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 425 F (225 C). Oil 12 medium muffin tins lightly or insert paper liners.
Stir rolled oats into milk. Let stand for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Stir in raisins and walnuts, if using.
Combine egg and oil, and stir into milk mixture. Add to dry ingredients all at once, and stir just enough to combine. Batter should be lumpy.
Divide batter evenly among 12 prepared muffin tins, and bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until surface springs back when pressed lightly.
Serve immediately or freeze for later use.
*Use any combination of dried fruit (chop larger ones such as dates or apricots), chopped nuts or seeds to a total of 1 cup (250 mL) if desired.
Makes 12 muffins
Hummus is a dip that is good with fresh raw vegetables, pita bread or crackers and even as a spread on bread for sandwiches.
You can find tahini paste, which is made from ground sesame seeds, in the international aisles in large grocery stores, or in Lebanese grocery stores. Sometimes people use an equal amount of peanut butter instead, if that’s what they have on hand.
Adapted from Young, Donna & Marg Routledge: New Maritimes Seasonal Cooking, Nimbus Publishing Ltd., Halifax, 1996. Reprinted with permission.
1 540 mL (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 500 mL (2 cups) cooked chickpeas
2 lemons, juice of (about 150 mL/2/3 cup)
1 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
3 cloves garlic, quartered
5 mL (1 tsp) ground cumin
150 mL (1/3 cup) tahini paste
In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Serve with pita wedges. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 10 servings
Think of other dishes that you can prepare with your children to have fun together, contribute to family meals, help them develop food skills, and encourage their interest in healthy eating.
Try cutting fresh fruit into bite-sized chunks and arranging on a pretty plate, baking yeast bread or corn bread, or setting up a baked potato bar with assorted toppings such as salsa, grated cheese and chopped green onion.
Whatever you do, enjoy your March break together.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.