Call me old-fashioned, but I think children and grandchildren of both genders need to know how to cook.
My daughter began mixing cookie dough the Christmas that she was 3 years old. Of course, she ate the cookie dough while mixing, but she had fun. Isn't that what it is all about?
From there, she helped make sandwiches, learned how to use the microwave and even made entrees for her dad and me. Today, she likes cooking, but not the cleaning.
Since she went to private school for four years, she had to take her lunch every day except Friday, when parents paid for restaurants to deliver lunches, which gave us all a break. I enlisted Elyssa's help in making her lunch. I thought she would probably eat it more if she had a hand in making it.
Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't. I know that some of the lunches went into the garbage. She was a picky eater who didn't eat much.
Now that school is in, I thought maybe some parents or grandparents could get their charges to help make their lunches and even how to make simple dinners.
One of the best ways to get kids interested in trying new foods is to get them involved. They are much more likely to each something they helped prepare, according to the National Pork Producers Council. Let them mix ingredients, sample spices and taste test along the way.
Here are some healthy lunch ideas that the kids can do, too.
Ellen Murphy of Bay St.
Louis, Miss., shared this recipe with me in 1997 when I was having trouble getting my daughter to eat her lunches.
PEANUT BUTTER-FILLED APPLE
1 Granny Smith apple
Smooth or crunchy peanut butter
Seedless raisins, grated coconut
Core apple, but don't peel it. Slice it in half. Blot dry each cut half with paper towel. Spread peanut butter thickly over each cut half then stick on some raisins and sprinkle with coconut. Wrap each half securely with plastic wrap. Makes 2 servings or 1 if it is a small apple.
Serve this in place of a sandwich. Kids are getting fruit and protein.
Variations: Substitute Red Delicious or Golden Delicious apples for the Granny Smith. Substitute grated carrot, chopped nuts, candy sprinkles, chocolate chips or mini M&Ms for the raisins and coconut.
PB & TORTILLAS
Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
Banana or jelly
Spread flour tortilla with peanut butter top with banana slices, cut vertically or a favorite jam or jelly. Roll up jelly-roll style. This, too, replaces the ordinary sandwich.
My 3-year-old granddaughter would rather have a tortilla any day than a slice of bread.
STRING CHEESE SWIRLS
Using a rolling pin, flatten 4 slices of bread. Lay a piece of ham, bologna or turkey over each piece and spread with mustard. Lay a piece of string cheese in center and roll up tightly (trim the ends if you wish). Wrap snugly in plastic wrap to keep roll shape until lunchtime.
Note: Mustard will not spoil as quickly as mayonnaise does. If using cold pack or insulated lunch bag, mayonnaise should work fine in place of the mustard.
A frozen boxed fruit juice also keeps the lunch box cool until lunchtime. The drink will be thawed by lunch and ready to drink. That juice box does double duty.
Similar to the swirls, but use tuna salad instead of meat and think carrot and cucumber spices instead of cheese. Roll up the same way.
Susan Simmons gave me this twist on pizza when her son and my daughter were in kindergarten. I use this with my granddaughter.
Arrange the following ingredients in covered plastic container with interior divisions: 2 to 3 miniature pita breads, split (about 2 inches in diameter), 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons pizza sauce. You can also put a small salad in with it. Don't forget to include a plastic spoon to use for spread.
HAMMING IT UP
Let kids experiment with the tried-and-true ham and cheese sandwich. Encourage them to try difference cheeses from brick to provolone, Swiss, Cheddar and even Gouda or Gruyere.
Different types of breads also brighten add a twist to the sandwich. Try traditional rye, focaccia, pita bread, whole wheat or vegetable tortillas and even submarine rolls or croissants.
The National Pork Producers Council suggests these variations on the good old ham and cheese.
Go with Gruyere: Spread the inside of a sourdough roll with hot mustard and layer in the ham and thinly sliced Gruyere cheese. A garnish of sweet pickles transforms the old classic into a gourmet sandwich.
Keep it in wraps: Spread a large flour tortilla with salsa, layer with thinly sliced ham and shredded cheese. Roll up the tortilla wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Some private schools have use of a microwave, and this is a wrap that would be great microwaved.
Sweet chutney and cheese: Split a baguette and spread with cream cheese. Pile on shaved ham and dress with mango chutney, add sliced pineapple, avocado and alfalfa sprouts.
Eiffel towering treat: Pile a croissant with thinly sliced ham, smoked Gouda; top with a dollop of Dijon-style mustard.
VEGGIE PITA POCKETS
Small pita bread or 1/2 large pita
Sliced black olives
Spread pita with thick layer of hummus and top with carrot strips, cucumber strips and olives. Wrap securely in plastic wrap or put in a plastic sandwich container.
Now for an easy dinner. Let the kids help with this one. The flavors are sure to suit their tastebuds. Imagine candies in the applesauce.
APPLE CINNAMON CHOPS
4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Chunky applesauce heated with cinnamon red-hot candies
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the chops lightly with oil and brown chops on both sides, turning once, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle chops with pepper, add broth and lemon juice. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
To serve, top with applesauce and cinnamon candies. Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional data: 232 calories; 24 grams protein; 8 grams fat; 159 milligrams sodium; 70 milligrams cholesterol; 2.7 grams saturated fat.
-- From the Pork Information Bureau
If readers have other ideas for school lunches or family dinners that involve the kids, please send them to me.
Wanted: Peach bread
A Florida reader wants a recipe for a good peach bread. She's been given the peaches, but would like to make a bread instead of the usual peach cobbler. Readers, can you help her?
Need a recipe?
Don't forget to send me your recipe requests. Simply e-mail or write me.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.