Kids love to help in the kitchen. This is enriching family time. Kids can assemble ingredients, help read the recipe, stir, break eggs, add ingredients and put batter in cups. Oven duties should be left to adults! Be patient. Your kitchen will be messier and it may take longer to prepare foods but there are good lessons to be learned here in: organizing cooking ingredients and equipment, measuring, following directions, reading a recipe, cleaning up and putting things back where they belong. Soon your kids will be able to create muffin batter and make Rice Krispies squares themselves.
(Picnic foods are great for backyard BBQ too!)
Picnic Main Course Foods
Pizza is a good alternative to sandwiches. It is quick to assemble, and always popular with kids. Use small baguettes split in half, sliced whole wheat pitta breads, or English muffin halves as the base. The ideas for pizza toppings are endless. Here’s an example: pesto sauce spread onto the base, with some button mushroom slices, cherry tomatoes, a little cheese, and some shredded chicken. All you need to do is pop under the grill for around 4 minutes, and they can be eaten cold at the picnic. If you are picnicking in your backyard, you can nuke them just before serving!
Picnic Chicken Skewers:
Precook chicken breasts and cut into chunks. Let the kids thread the chicken and vegetable chunks of their choice onto bamboo skewers (previously soaked in water). Let kids get creative about what goes on their skewer: pineapple chunks, coconut pieces… Brush with a salad dressing kids like and grill. Wrap in foil and take along for your picnic. If it’s in the backyard grill for 5 minutes just before serving!
Kids can each assemble their own wrap the night before or morning of your picnic. Provide lots of kid-friendly ingredients. I use wholegrain tortilla wraps. Possible ingredients: hummus, baby cos lettuce, cucumber, red pepper, couscous, chicken, onion, shredded carrot, diced broccoli…
Salsa and Chips:
Kids can help make up some salsa using diced tomatoes, diced yellow pepper, a finely sliced onion, a little chopped basil, olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, and season with freshly milled black pepper. Serve with kettle chips or cut whole wheat tortillas into triangles and bake until crisp the day before.
Kid Friendly Assembly:
Kids love to assemble their own foods. Here are some suggestions to collate for your picnic.
• Hard boiled eggs
• Cherry tomatoes
• Carrot, cucumber, celery, broccoli, cauliflower
• Hummus and avocado dips
• Bread sticks, baguettes or pitta bread
• Fruits like grapes, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, bananas, apple slices,
• Selection of lean meats
• Bag of mixed leaf salad
• Natural yogurt for dipping the fruit
Water is always a great picnic drink. For fun you might consider smoothies or shakes.
Create a Custom Shake or Smoothie
You can have kids create nutritious shakes and smoothies by having fruit and other nutritious things on hand. All you need is a blender, some milk, some ice, perhaps some frozen yogurt, and your imagination! These can go along on a picnic in thermos containers or if it’s a backyard picnic bring the blender and ingredients outside and let the kids have at it!
Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 generous tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 large apples, cored, and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter. Add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the buttermilk gently. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes. Then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
These travel well and make nutritious picnic desserts!
Make cupcakes using your favorite cake or cake mix recipe. When cupcakes are cool, ice with colored icing of your choice: blue, pink, yellow, orange, green, or purple. Then use small pretzels as wings making a V of two pretzels on the icing. Add black licorice body using a piece of black licorice Twizzlers. Add a Smarties head and black licorice strips as antennae.
Rice Krispies Squares
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 pkg. (about 40) regular marshmallows or 5 cups miniature
1.5 L 6 cups Rice Krispies
For chewier bars, use an extra cup of miniature marshmallows or about 8 regular marshmallows.
To get creative! Add Smarties, melted caramels, chocolate chips, or dried cranberries or….
Try a Rice Krispies Kabob for your Backyard Picnic!
On skewers let kids assemble bite size Rice Krispies squares, fruit and marshmallows. Toast over the BBQ or fire pit until marshmallows are lightly browned.
Something’s Fishy: Backyard Picnic Dessert
Kids will love building these adorable fish the day before the picnic!
• 1 1/2 pints sherbet in assorted flavors, such as pineapple, lime, raspberry, and orange
• 24 jelly fruit-slice candies in assorted colors, for decorating
• 1 tablespoon chocolate chips, melted and cooled
• 24 small round white candies, for decorating
• 1 dozen muffins (for base-split lengthwise and place half in each paper cup.)
1. Wrap a cookie sheet with foil. Scoop various flavors of sherbet and freeze for 30 minutes. While the “fish bodies” are freezing (I do this ahead. It’s saner!!) Have kids cut jelly candies (gummies) with scissors (safer than a knife). Cut candies lengthwise (vertically) into 3 thin slices. Cut outer slices in half for the fins and tails. (You should have 6 halves of the same color for each fish.) Cut long, thin strips from middle slices (12 strips total).Pinch ends together to form circles for the mouths. Dot melted chocolate onto the white candies for eyes. Allow to dry. I form an assembly line. One child does eyes. Another does fins. The third does mouths. Cut Muffins in half. Place each “slice” in the bottom of a double muffin cups. (Available at a dollar store for $1/100 paper muffin cups. Put a frozen sherbet scoop on each muffin slice. Gently place 2 jelly pieces on sides of scoop for fins, 3 in the back for a tail, and 1 on top for fin. Add candy eyes. Return fish to freezer. Have kids decorate the “fish” one at a time leaving the rest in the freezer until needed. Freeze until set (1 to 5 hours). Serve.
Do you have great picnic ideas kids can help prepare? Please share them!
Stay tuned for other Cooking with Kids projects!