Tag Archives: kid-friendly

Smiling Chef Nazaree in an orange apron and floral blouse

5 Steps to a Better School Lunch With Junior Chef Showdown Winner Nazaree

Kids will be back in school  before you know it, so now would be  a good time to start brainstorming about your family’s September routine. Why not make this the year that you start incorporating kids into the lunch planning process? After all, learning how to make school lunches is a great way to encourage kids of all ages to become more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.

With this in mind, we turned to one of Canada’s most talented young chefs and this season’s Junior Chef Showdown winner, Nazaree, to give us some of her tips and tricks for packing better school lunches. 

Related: The Winning Dish From Junior Chef Showdown Will Become a Family-Favourite Meal in No Time

A boy eating lunch while watching his mom slice a cantaloupe

1. Get Kids Involved

Inspire kids to get excited about eating lunch at school by offering them a variety of options, making different recipes or taking them grocery shopping. As most parents can agree, just because their child likes a particular type of food or recipe at home does not always mean they’ll enjoy eating it at school. 

“I love eating pizza, but not if it’s cold,” Nazaree says, explaining that her microwave in the cafeteria isn’t always the best. “Instead, I like to bring a pizza-inspired sandwich to school,” to which she adds marinara sauce, shredded cheese and her favourite pizza toppings.

A sandwich in a child's bento box with cherries and carrots and celery

Related: Kitchen Skills Parents Should Teach Their Kids By Age 10

2. Pack Better Sandwiches 

There are many reasons why people love packing sandwiches for lunch: they’re portable, budget-friendly and the variety of ingredients that you can pack inside are endless. But there’s one aspect about sandwiches in your lunch box that’s hard to love they can get soggy quickly.

“Soggy sandwiches are worse than soggy pizzas,” Nazaree says with a laugh. Keep lunch box sandwiches from getting too soggy by packing the ingredients in individual containers and assembling the sandwich once it’s time to eat, she says. 

Another way to keep lunchbox sandwiches interesting is by rotating from your go-to sliced bread to bagels, pitas or baguettes. Kids with a more adventurous palate can taste test different cheeses or experiment with various sandwich toppings like mustards and dressings. If you or your little one isn’t a fan of sandwiches, check out these portable lunch ideas.Mango salad with tomatoes and onions

3. Switch Things Up

Busy families know that it’s all too easy to get into a rut when packing lunches for school. Add more excitement to your lunchbox by thinking how different ingredients can be incorporated into multiple meals and snacks. “I love bringing sliced mangoes to school,” Nazaree says. But to add more variety to her lunchbox, she eats them plain some days and uses them in her fruit salad on others. 

School age girl filling up reuseable water bottle

4. Buy Proper Supplies  

Stocking up on proper lunch supplies like reusable snack containers, thermal food jars and reusable water bottles makes packing lunches for school much easier. 

For many students, bento boxes are the must-have accessory in the cafeteria table. “Bento boxes are really popular for kids in the first or second grade,” she explains. For middle school students like herself, Nazaree recommends using bento boxes for more exciting lunches like build-your-own tacos. 

Apple Pie granola bars

5. Bring Shareable Snacks 

After many students experienced virtual learning during the past year or so, eating lunch together in person will feel even more special for kids that are returning to in-person learning. Nazaree says that nut-free desserts like donuts or ice cream sandwiches are always a big hit, if parents want to bring in treats for special occasions such as birthdays.

“My friends and I like to swap juice boxes, and we always like to share cookies and chips,” she adds.  So the next time you’re packing a special snack like homemade granola bars, ask kids if they want to pack a few extras to share with their friends at the lunch table. 

Watch Junior Chef Showdown and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Cross-section of pretty sandwiches made of white bread with whipped cream and sliced fruits

This Japanese Fruit Sando is the Sandwich of the Summer

Fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream sandwiched inside fluffy white bread is a fun and easy no-bake treat to make. Called a fruit sando in Japan, it is made with Japanese milk bread (shokupan) which is wonderfully light and springy with a little bit of chew. Most East Asian grocery stores or bakeries will have them. If you can’t get a hold of it, the closest substitution is thickly-cut Texas toast or any thickly-cut, fluffy soft bread you can find. Use your favourite seasonal fresh fruit such as strawberries, kiwis, mangos, blueberries, etc. in this Kindred Kitchen recipe. Whatever you choose, arrange the fruit strategically along the cut line for an oh-so beautiful reveal.

pretty Japanese-inspired sandwiches with whipped cream and sliced fruit

Japanese Fruit Sando

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 3 sandwiches

Ingredients:

7 large strawberries, stems trimmed off
3 kiwis, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 mango, peeled and pitted and fleshy sides cut into long thick slices
1 passionfruit (optional)
1 cup whipping cream
6 Tbsp powdered sugar
6 slices of Japanese milk bread or other fluffy white bread

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Wash and pat the fruit with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Trim, peel, pit and cut as required (see above).

2. Pour whipping cream and sugar into a chilled bowl and whisk until stiff peaks. You’ll want the cream to be on thicker side, but also be careful not to overwhip. With a stand mixer, this takes 60 seconds.

Related: Bucket List Burgers and Sandwiches You Need to Try

3. Lay out bread slices and spoon ⅓  cup of whipped cream on each of the six slices. If you have a little bit of whipped cream remaining, hang onto that for the moment. Spread the cream evenly, leaving a small border around the edges which will be trimmed off later.

4. On three of the bread slices, arrange your fruit (in this case: strawberries, mango slices with passionfruit pulp dribbled on top and kiwi halves). Pay attention to how you place the fruit along the intended diagonal cut line since that’s what will be shown when the sandos are cut in half. Fill in larger gaps between fruits with any remaining whipped cream. Place the other bread slices on top.

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis

5. Without changing the orientation of the sando, wrap each one tightly in a piece of plastic food wrap while pressing gently, but firmly down on it. Use a marker to draw a line on the plastic wrap where the intended cut will be so you know where to cut it later.

Three Japanese fruit sandos with strawberries, mango and kiwis wrapped in plastic wrap

6. Chill in refrigerator 30-60 minutes. When the rest time is over, make note of the marker line and unwrap each sando. Make a clean, firm cut along the line using a long, sharp knife. Trim off the four crusts (my kids snack on these). Wipe knife clean between every cut. Separate the sando halves to reveal your beautiful fruit design.

Like Sonia’s fruit sando recipe? Try her three-ingredient kimchi chicken patties or sweet and sour shrimp and tofu recipe.

hot dog fried rice in black wok

Your Kiddos Will Not Stop Asking You to Cook This Hot Dog Fried Rice Recipe

It’s pretty much a fact that all kids (and many of us adults) love hot dogs. It’s also a fact that they are devoid of any meaningful nutrition. But alas, they find redemption in this hot dog fried rice recipe, alongside eggs, green beans and tofu. Tofu skeptics: this might just be your gateway tofu dish! This has long since been a family favourite at my house and I think it could be at yours too. (This dish can be enjoyed by everyone from age 3 and up). Be sure to cut hot dogs into small ⅛-inch slices so they’re not choking hazards for very young children. For a gluten-free version of this Kindred Kitchen recipe, opt for gluten-free hot dogs and tamari in place of soy sauce.

hot dog fried rice in skillet with wooden spoon

Hot Dog Fried Rice

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:

6 cups cooked rice (2½ cups uncooked rice), cooled and refrigerated 1-2 days
4 large eggs
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
High-heat neutral oil
4 hot dogs, thinly sliced to ⅛-inch pieces
1 package (400 g) extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
1 ½ tsp soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), divided
½ lb green beans, stem trimmed and cut into ⅓-inch pieces
2 tsp finely minced ginger
3 tsp finely minced garlic (from 4-5 medium cloves)
3 scallions, finely chopped (reserve a little bit for garnish)

hot dog fried rice ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Take cooked rice out from the fridge and break up any clumps of rice thoroughly with your hands. Set aside. Then whisk eggs with sesame oil and a pinch of salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

person fluffing rice in black bowl

2. Prepare all other ingredients. The key to any stir-fry is to not crowd the pan, cooking and seasoning every ingredient separately.

3. Preheat a wok or large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle oil and add whisked seasoned eggs, moving it around constantly with a spatula until eggs are starting to set. but still quite runny. (They will cook more at the end). Scoop out and set aside.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

4. Turn heat up to medium-high. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil and add sliced hot dogs. Stir-fry until heated through and edges are just starting to brown and even crisp up if you like. Scoop out and set aside, leaving behind any oil that came out of the hot dogs.

5. If needed, drizzle a bit more oil and add the tofu cubes. Stir-fry gently so as not to break them. Let the tofu heat through and get a little brown on the edges. Season with ¾ tsp soy sauce (or tamari) and salt to taste. Cook for 30 seconds, scoop out and set aside.

cooking cubes of tofu in black wok

6. Next, drizzle a bit of oil and stir-fry the cut green beans until tender, but still crisp, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and ¾ tsp soy sauce (or tamari). Again, scoop out and set aside.

7. Heat 2-3 Tbsp of oil and add the minced ginger. Move it around and cook for 5-10 seconds. Add the minced garlic and cook for 5-10 seconds or until the garlic is just turning golden, being careful not to let it burn. Stir in most of the chopped scallions, remembering to reserve some for garnish. Add 1 Tbsp more oil and make sure the oil is heated and quite hot at this point (but before smoking) before adding the chilled cooked rice. Stir everything to distribute everything evenly. Cook until rice is fully heated through.

Related: How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

8. Add back the hot dogs, tofu and green beans. Mix well and allow to heat back through for a minute. Finally, add the runny eggs and stir to distribute. Stir-fry another minute to cook eggs fully. Turn heat off and taste. Add salt if needed. Garnish with scallions. Enjoy!

hot dog fried rice in black wok

Like this hot dog fried rice recipe? Try this vegetarian mujadara!

Weeknight Dinner Hero: Pizza with Broccoli Sauce

By Kacey Joanette

When it comes to dinner, pizza is usually a family favourite because it can easily be customized to suit anyone’s likes and dietary concerns. Homemade pizza is a favourite here and weekly pizza night is not something new. But eating a lot of the same meal can sometimes become repetitive, and my family finds coming up with unique pizza toppings is fun and exciting. This broccoli sauce was definitely created by the need for change. Not only is it different, but it’s also a great way to get nutritious veggies into your child’s diet. Hiding broccoli in this pizza sauce is a great way to introduce it to your child.

Growing up we had the same sides: steamed or boiled veggies with butter. They were nothing special, and definitely not memorable (sorry, Mom and Dad!) Creating recipes on my own time and experimenting a lot with different cooking methods, I have come to appreciate the finer qualities of simple ingredients. My daughter is a good eater and requests broccoli often, but I want to steer clear of plain and simple sometimes, especially if she is having friends over who may not be as fond of certain veggies. Being able to hide broccoli in this pizza sauce is fantastic for the child in your life who does not get enough greens or the child who loves them but wants a change. Top the sauce with cheese and their favourite toppings and they’ll never notice the broccoli!

Homemade Pizza with Yummy Broccoli Sauce
This sauce is so delicious, your child won’t ever suspect it’s chock-full of broccoli.

BroccoliPizzaSauce_888x600

 Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: Sauce for one large pizza

Ingredients
1/2 lb (225 g) broccoli
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (250 mL) heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable broth (approx)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) red chili flakes
salt and pepper
pizza dough for 1 pizza
mozzarella cheese
asparagus (optional)
red pepper (optional)
artichoke hearts (optional)
olive oil (optional)
balsamic vinegar (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 475ºF (240ºC).
2. In food processor, blend broccoli until puréed (about 2 cups/500 mL).
3. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until evenly combined and roux is deep brown (the longer you cook it, the deeper the flavour and the less likely it is to taste like flour.)
4. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in cream. Stir in broccoli, broth, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until sauce is thick and creamy.
5. If necessary, stir in additional vegetable broth to thin sauce until spreadable.
6. Roll out pizza dough and spread with sauce. Top with your favourite pizza ingredients, such as mozzarella cheese, asparagus, red pepper and artichoke hearts. (I marinated the asparagus and red pepper with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, then added to pizza along with artichokes.)
7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until crust golden and cheese is melted and bubbling.

TheCookieWriter
The Cookie Writer is all about recipes that can be easily adapted to suit dietary and lifestyle choices.

Fast Family Dinner: Fried Rice With Bacon

By Katherine Chong

Fried rice is one of those super versatile dishes you can whip up on any weeknight and it works especially well with leftover rice. Sometimes my much younger cousins, ages 8 and 11, come over for dinner. This is my go-to recipe for them—they can be picky eaters and getting them to eat what’s good for them can be difficult. However, I’ve found that mixing bacon with kimchi in fried rice appeals to both kids and adults.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is packed with kid-approved flavour, it’s flexible and it’s super quick to prepare. Both the rice and the bacon can be prepared ahead of time, to make the actual dinner itself super quick. After you’ve left work and picked up the kids, just 10 minutes in the wok or pan gets dinner on the table.

Bacon-Kimchi Fried Rice, Courtesy of Katherine Chong, piqueyeater.com, Toronto

Kid-approved and made in minutes, this satisfying fried rice recipe is perfect for weeknights.
bacon-kimchi-rice_highres_888embed
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6-8 Servings

Ingredients
8 pieces low-sodium bacon (or turkey bacon)
4 cups (1 L) leftover cooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups (500 mL) frozen vegetables (of your choice)
1 cup (250 mL) kimchi, chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp + 1½ tsp (22 mL) kimchi juice
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped green onion, divided

Instructions
1. Chop bacon into 1-inch pieces. Fry in wok or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked but not crispy. Remove bacon from pan and drain off half the bacon fat.
2. Add leftover rice to skillet and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat.
3. Once rice is reheated, about 5 minutes, pour eggs into skillet and cook, tossing, until mixture begins to set.
4. Stir in frozen vegetables, kimchi, soy sauce, reserved kimchi juice, 2 tbsp (30 mL) green onions and reserved bacon. Cook, tossing, until heated through.
5. Top with remaining green onion just before serving.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

The Piquey Eater
As a fourth-generation Chinese-Canadian, marrying the two cultures in the kitchen is a very important part of my life and something I write about on my blog. I’m also an adventurer, exploring other cuisines and cultures in the mosaic city of Toronto.