Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guest Post: Cooking with Kids Bolsters Literacy

Today's post is from Stephanie Gallagher. She writes for's Guide to Cooking for Kids. Through her work, she's learned first-hand how cooking with kids can help promote literacy. Not only does it build reading skills, it provides undisputable proof that learning math (especially fractions!) is an important life skill :)

Cooking with Kids Bolsters Literacy
By Stephanie Gallagher's Guide to Cooking for Kids
Recipes reprinted with permission.
One of the best ways to improve kids' literacy is by cooking. It's also fun, builds self esteem and helps them develop an important life skill.
The key is to make sure the recipes you choose are age-appropriate. If a recipe is too hard for kids to master, they will lose interest.
Check out these recipes for kids, sorted by age level:

For Preschoolers
No preschooler can resist the idea of eating dirt. Here's how to serve it to them in style! You will have to help with this recipe.
1 clear medium-sized flower pot and plastic wrap (optional - you can make this cake in a pan if you like)
1 box chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos
2 3.9 oz. packages instant chocolate pudding
3-1/2 cups milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 8-10 oz. containers frozen whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, thawed
a few gummy worms
1. Wash and dry the flower pot. Line with plastic wrap. Place the flower pot on a clean dish (this keeps the contents of the dirt cake from leaking).
2. Place the chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs form.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pudding and milk until the mixture becomes thick. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the cream cheese mixture.
4. Make the cream cheese mixture: Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 container of the thawed whipped topping. Stir into the chocolate pudding mixture until smooth.
5. Place a layer of the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the flower pot. Top with a layer of the chocolate pudding mixture. Continue making layers until there is about 1 inch left at the top. Important: Be sure to leave plenty of cookie crumbs for the top!
6. Spread the remaining container of thawed whipped topping over the last layer. Sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top, covering the whipped topping completely. Decorate with gummy worms.
7. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Grade Schoolers
If the kids can open a can, they can make these chili dogs.
4 hot dogs (beef, turkey, chicken or even veggie dogs)
1 14 oz. can chili beans
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. relish
4 hot dog buns
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Cut slits crosswise in each hot dog to prevent them from exploding in the microwave. This can be done with a dinner knife - no need to use a sharp paring knife or chef's knife.
2. Place the hot dogs in a single layer in a microwave-safe glass dish with a lid. Pour the chili beans over the hot dogs. Add the onions, mustard and relish. Stir well.
3. Cover with the lid sitting slightly askew, so that one corner is exposed. This allows the hot dogs to vent. Heat on high for 3 minutes. Stir and continue heating in 1-minute increments until the chili dogs are heated through.
4. Transfer the hot dogs to hot dog buns. Top with chili mixture and cheddar cheese.
Note: The cooking time will vary, depending on the size and wattage of your microwave oven. Always check the temperature of the food before serving.

For Teens
Who doesn't love tacos? This recipe is a cinch to prepare.
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 cup thousand island salad dressing
7 oz. tortilla chips
1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend or shredded cheddar cheese
1. Place the ground beef and chili powder in a large skillet. Cook, stirring to break up the beef, until browned. Remove from the heat, and drain off the fat.
2. Add the thousand island dressing, and stir to mix well.
3. Place the tortilla chips in a large salad bowl or on 4 individual plates to serve. Top with the ground beef mixture and the cheese.
Click here for more recipes for teens.

Thank you, Stephanie for your fun and easy recipes. I personally recommend the Dirt Cake recipe. When I made it for a family gathering, it was the adults who raved about it! For fun, I added dollar store daisies :)

Looking for more cooking ideas? Check Monday's post for lots of cookbooks written for young chefs.

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