Cooking with Kids

Once temperatures start to drop, keeping kids active can be a difficult task as weekends migrate away from park visits and Little League games to more time spent indoors. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do in your own home to keep children engaged and help limit their video game and TV time. One of those things is cooking together, which reinforces math, science and reading comprehension skills while building great memories.

Keep your household free of the winter blues by following these simple steps to a successful and fun time with kids in the kitchen:

Establish good habits

Set good habits for your children by teaching them to wash their hands before, during and after cooking. Kid-friendly tools, like a small step stool or high-tech faucet, can help make reinforcing these habits even easier. Let your little sous-chefs know that they should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, by helping them count or singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Remember to set a good example by washing your own hands before and after eating and during the cooking process, as needed.

Different stages for different ages

Understanding which tasks your child is capable of doing is important. Children under 5 years old enjoy observing how recipes are compiled and can help out with small tasks like setting the table, while school-age children can strengthen their math skills as they help combine ingredients for recipes and practice cooking basics, like cracking an egg. This stage is a great time to introduce the importance of choosing nutritious ingredients for everyday cooking, which can help lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. Tap teenagers for help by encouraging them to choose the menu or explore new and exciting cuisines.

Timing is everything

Avoiding a tight schedule is important. Instead of involving children in the dinner rush, enlist their help on a weekend afternoon when there is plenty of time for questions, experiments or careful demonstrations. Choose a time when everyone is well-rested and not easily frustrated. Plan ahead when deciding what recipe you will cook together. For younger kids, consider starting with a simple dish that has fewer than five ingredients like a fruit salad or an easy muffin recipe. A pizza assembly line allows children to show their creativity by choosing their own mini-crusts, sauces, cheese and toppings.

And if nothing else, just enjoy these moments! They may be messy, they may (or may not) be fun… but above all else they will be memorable and cherished for years to come!

Fall Activities Your Family Will Love

Crisp air, changing leaves and cozy knit sweaters signify the return of autumn. Fall can be a busy time for most families, juggling back-to-school routines, carpools, homework, after school events and sports practice. Now is a great time to slow down, bring the whole family together and enjoy all of the exciting activities fall has to offer.

Here are a few fun ways to spend quality time with your family and relish in fall to the fullest:

1. Visit an apple orchard.

This is a great way to make the most of the beautiful fall weather and do something active with the family. Use apples to make apple sauce, a tasty tart or just slice them up for a great on-the-go snack. Try unique apple varieties you’ve never tried – they all taste a bit different! Pack a picnic for the orchard and make the most of the day!

2. Go for a nature walk.

With the vibrant, colorful leaves and the cool, crisp air, autumn is a great time to get your family outdoors and learn more about nature in a local nature preserve or state park. Pick up a few fall mementos along the way to integrate into crafts. For example, bring home some colorful leaves and decoupage them onto the outside of a mason jar to create a seasonal fall candle holder, or create a lively fall-inspired canvas incorporating several different leaf shapes and colors.

3. Gear up for Halloween.

Host a Halloween themed get-together by incorporating fun foods the kids can help prepare and will love to eat! Use a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter to create cut-out cookies and involve the kids in decorating – with everything from sprinkles to frosting. Or, for a quick and easy themed treat, try making marshmallow lollipops drizzled with chocolate or caramel dip, then use chopped nuts or candy bits to make ghoulish faces.

4. Visit a local farmers market.

Fall offers a whole new repertoire of amazing fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage your kids to try new items like figs, acorn squash or cauliflower. If they find samples that they enjoy, purchase a few and find a way to incorporate them into your next meal. You can also buy items such as tomatoes and pickle peppers in bulk, and then can at the end of season to store for the long winter ahead.

5. Have a bonfire.

As the weather cools down, bonfires are a great way to stay warm at night and make lasting family memories. Gather everyone together and reconnect by huddling around the fire in cozy blankets. Pour mugs of warm apple cider and munch on Nutty Caramel Popcorn while swapping ghost stories over the glow of the fire.

NUTTY CARAMEL POPCORN

1/2 cup caramel dip (We like Marzetti Old Fashioned Caramel Dip, but you could easily make your own!)

2 tablespoons butter

8 cups popped microwave plain popcorn

1/2 cup peanuts

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside. Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in dip; simmer over low heat five minutes, stirring frequently. Pour mixture over popcorn and peanuts in prepared dish. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely in dish on wire rack, about 45 minutes.

Weeknight Meals Made Easy

What’s for dinner? It’s a question most of us ask every day. With evening routines packed full of extracurricular activities, chores and preparation for the following day, we don’t always have as much time as we’d like to make dinner. Fortunately, a quick, delicious and healthy meal can still be an option for your family, even when you’re short on time. All it takes is a little planning, some common ingredients and one trip to the grocery store. Here are five dinners to take you through an entire work week:

Monday

Start the week by putting your slow cooker to work for you. Slice off the tops of four to six bell peppers, but don’t throw them out. Remove the seeds and stuff each pepper with a combination of lean ground turkey or chicken sausage, grated cauliflower, carrots, onion and garlic, plus fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Put the pepper tops back on, arrange the peppers securely in a slow cooker, pour a large can of low-sodium chopped tomatoes over them and cook on low for eight hours. Dinner will be ready when you walk in the door.

Tuesday

Soup can be a quick way to have dinner on the table in minutes – and it allows you to use up vegetables that may be near the end of their shelf life. Try a Broccoli Cheese Soup (recipe follows), a classic favorite that the whole family will enjoy. There’s minimal pre-cooking required – simply steam the broccoli, measure the remaining ingredients, put them in your blender. Blend until smooth, pour into bowls and garnish with extra steamed broccoli florets and bit of grated cheese. For a heartier meal, chop and add grilled chicken chunks. Serve with crusty bread and a salad for a complete dinner.

Wednesday

Whole-wheat pasta with basil walnut pesto is a crowd pleaser. Take fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and walnuts and puree with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in your blender for a quick and easy sauce. If there are stuffed pepper leftovers, chop and heat for a tasty pasta topping. Make a large batch of pesto and you can use the leftover portion later in the week.

Thursday

Throw together a chicken stir-fry for another quick weeknight meal. Chop up your favorite vegetables, including extra cauliflower, onions and carrots from Monday’s stuffed peppers and broccoli from Tuesday’s soup. Saute the vegetables with cooked, cubed chicken and a mix of soy and teriyaki sauces. Serve over rice and offer a spicy chili sauce for those who like it hot.

Friday

You’ve made it through the week. Why not treat your family to pizza? Top a ready-made, whole-wheat pizza crust with your leftover pesto sauce, cheese and any toppings you’d like. Add peppers, mushrooms and vegetables you chopped for the soup and stir-fry to create a veggie delight. Follow the cooking instructions on the pizza crust package, and you’ll be ready to kick off your weekend in no time.

With a bit of planning, you can shop once and have your dinners set for the week. Buy canned or frozen fruits and vegetables in bulk and try to prepare at least two meals using the same ingredients. Even with hectic schedules, families can prepare and sit down to a satisfying meal every night of the week.

 

Broccoli Cheese Soup  (Yields two cups)

1 cup (240 ml) milk, skim or low fat
1/3 cup (40 g) shredded, low fat cheddar cheese
1 cup (100 g) chopped fresh or frozen broccoli or cauliflower florets, steamed
1 teaspoon diced onion
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon or soup base

Place all ingredients into a blender in the order listed and secure lid. Blend until smooth.

No Tricks Here!

Treat guests to a hair-raising Halloween experience

Whether prepping for trick-or-treaters or hosting a party fit for Frankenstein, turning your home into a haunted house can be fun and easy. With these tips, before you know it, your home will be transformed into the spookiest house on the block.

  • Create terrifying tombstones. Set the stage before trick-or-treaters even hit the front door. Use wood, cardboard or thick Styrofoam to create tombstones that you can put in your front yard. After cutting out the desired shape, use a matte gray spray paint to cover the surface, and then use black paint to write creative epitaphs such as “Dare to Disturb” or “Happy Haunting.”
  • Get creative with pumpkins. Everyone enjoys a good jack-o-lantern, but why not choose to think outside the box when decorating with pumpkins this year? Instead of carving, try spray painting or using your favorite Halloween candy to decorate pumpkins in fun, spooky patterns. Plus, this is a project that even the littlest witch can enjoy.
  • Download a haunted playlist. Nothing is quite as spooky as the sound of doors creaking or ghosts shrieking. Put together a haunted playlist that you can listen to while guests arrive, or stick speakers near an open window to entice the nearby trick-or-treaters to stop by for some candy.
  • Serve spine-chilling treats. Use your free time on Halloween to make these simple but yummy treats designed to look like spiders. Serve them when guests arrive to kick-off the scary festivities.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spiders  (6 Servings)

6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

1/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Large pretzel twists (2 -1/2 to 3 inches)

12 yellow Reese’s Pieces Candies

Line tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove wrappers from peanut butter pumpkins and place alongside each other on tray leaving 1 inch of space between each peanut butter pumpkin. For each spider, cut 8 matching curved sections from pretzels which will form the legs. Set aside remaining pretzels pieces.

Place milk chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer to small heavy duty plastic food storage bag. Cut off one corner of bag about 1/4 inch from the tip.

Attach pretzel legs and yellow candy “eyes” to spider with melted chocolate; place dot of melted chocolate on each eye. Allow chocolate to set before moving spiders.

For more wickedly delicious recipes, visit CelebratewithHersheys.com.

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Homemade Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Processed, sugar-packed candies are collected door-to-door every year at Halloween. This year, try a different angle with homemade sweet treats that parents can make with their kids for Halloween.

Chef Claire Menck from The Art Institute of Wisconsin loves making ghostly “gorp” wrapped in white parchment paper with her two children.

“Gorp is basically granola mixed with your child’s favorite treats like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, pretzels, gummy bears, etc.,” she says. To make the granola, take oatmeal and toss with your choice of spices, honey and oil. Lay oatmeal on a sheet tray and toast on the lowest heat possible (usually 150 or 200 F). You can add sugar to the granola, but be careful to not add too much sugar as it can make it hard. Parents can also choose to substitute the sugar with agave or maple syrup. Mix the granola with the tasty treats. Take white parchment paper and draw two eyes. Place a scoop of the gorp into the opposite side of the paper and tie up top for spooky gorp.

Another of Chef Menck’s favorite treats is dried fruit roll-ups wrapped to look like candy. She recommends using local, seasonal fruit. “We always go apple-picking in the fall and come back with more than we need; and so we create dried apple treats.” Cut and peel the apples or your choice of fruit beforehand in half-inch slices. Then mix the slices with spices of your choosing such as cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc.

“Make it a tactile experience for your kids and allow them to mix all the ingredients together, maybe even with their hands,” she says. Lay the apples on an oiled cookie sheet, turn your oven on to the lowest setting and slow bake until dehydrated (about 45 to 90 minutes, depending on preference). Take colorful tissue paper or Halloween-themed paper and place under parchment paper. Once the fruit is dehydrated, place a small amount of the fruit on a 4-by-4-inch parchment paper. Then roll and twist the ends to look like a candy wrapper and tie the ends. You can also use dehydrated berries like cranberries for the fruit roll-up candy.

“Chocolate! Can’t have Halloween without the chocolate, chocolate spiders with pretzel legs that is,” says Chef Amy Carter, baking and pastry instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips of your choosing in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, and stir every so often to make sure chocolate melts evenly. Add rice cereal or bran twigs, or your favorite crunchy grain and then add to the melted chocolate. Stir the mixture until well combined. Take half of a palm-size of the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Add stick pretzels for legs. Add two marshmallows or white chocolate chips for eyes.

“For a creepier spin on your Halloween treats, I recommend truffle eyeballs to liven up a kids’ party,” Chef Carter says. All you need is 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Heat the cream, pour over the chocolate, and whisk in the butter until nice and smooth. Pour the mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours, or -overnight – just long enough to firm it. You can flavor with anything like vanilla, peanut butter or fruit puree. Then take an ice cream scoop or have the kids help by rolling the mixture into small balls with their hands and then roll the balls in powdered sugar. Top off with a chocolate candy and then take red, edible writing gel to make squiggly lines.

These creative, make-it-at-home-tips are just some fun ideas you can create with your kids as a Halloween project, and then tackle carving the pumpkin.

Crock Pot Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
Pinch of salt
4 cups water

Put it all in a crock pot on LOW when you go to bed. It will be ready when you awake. Let everyone add their own unsweetened almond milk, nuts, chi seeds or flax seed meal, raisins or frozen blueberries or sliced bananas or diced apple and some cinnamon. (If your family is used to a super-sweet package instant oatmeal, you may want to add a little REAL maple syrup-drizzle it on the top so they can get a little with each bite) Serves 4

Written by Heather Millar Quintana

To find out more healthy back-to-school recipes, pick up our latest issue on stands now!

Wasena City Tap Room

Roanoke just keeps getting better and better when it comes to great places to live, eat and hangout. Wasena City Tap Room, in the Roanoke River House, is the perfect addition to the bar, food and hangout scene! Step into a relaxing pub atmosphere and enjoy their incredible beer selection and tasty meals!

Wasena City Tap Room offers over 30 beers on tap, many of them from our very own local breweries and a wide selection of pub grub with a tex mex style flair! The beer selection cycles fequently and keeps a good amount of the favorites on tap at all times.

To find out more about Wasena City Tap Room, pick up our latest issue on stands now.

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