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Cooking with kids makes for a fun activity, plus they get a healthy dose of hands-on math and chemistry in the process. A great way to start: Use your small appliances. For little ones, they’re much more approachable than the big stove, and it’s easy to cook a variety of dishes in them.
To help you and your child on your way, below are six easy recipes you can make together using a waffle maker, a blender, a toaster oven, a multi-cooker, an air fryer, and a food processor. We highlight top-performing small appliances from our tests as well, in case you are in the market for one.
The recipes are created by CR’s own Perry Santanachote, a reporter on our Home & Appliance team who developed recipes for Thrillist before joining CR. She created these simple, flavorful dishes with kids in mind.
“These recipes contain whole ingredients rather than the processed ingredients you find in many packaged foods,” Santanachote says. “Plus, we snuck vegetables and fruits into some of them.”
We suggest reading the recipe with your child first, so you can both get a feel for the steps and time involved. And, of course, allow your child to handle only the tasks and sell my house fast tools that he’s ready for. For instance, you’ll want to be extra-careful around a hot waffle iron, or when using a sharp knife or grater.
In a Waffle Maker: Carrot Cake Waffles
Crispy, nicely browned waffles are easy to make in a waffle maker when you have a great batter. This recipe sneaks in carrots and raisins, giving the waffles just enough sweetness, so syrup is entirely optional. But a dab of whipped cream cheese would add creaminess. This recipe makes four 7-inch round waffles, using ⅔ cup of batter each.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup 2 percent milk (or whatever you have on hand)
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the waffle iron
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 medium carrots, shredded* (about 1½ cups)
3 Tbsp. chopped or crushed walnuts or pecans (optional)
3 Tbsp. raisins
1. Heat up the waffle maker.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, ¼ cup of oil, egg, and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in carrots, raisins, and nuts, if you’re using them.
4. Grease the waffle iron by brushing a little oil over the grates. (You can use a pastry brush or a paper towel.) Cook waffles according to your waffle maker’s instructions.
*Use the shredding attachment on a food processor, or grate the carrots through the large holes of a box grater.
Nutrition information: One serving contains 380 calories, 20 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 43 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 17 g sugars, 9 g protein, and 390 mg sodium (includes nuts; cream cheese not included).
In a Blender: Tomato Soup
Quick to whip up and delicious, this tomato soup is made in a blender with ingredients you probably have on hand, then heated on a stove (unless your blender is capable of heating ingredients as it blends). Enjoy this soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, a classic combo. The recipe makes four 8-ounce servings.
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 slice sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1 shallot, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
1. In the jar of a high-speed blender, combine the tomatoes (including their juices), broth, bread, and shallot. Place the lid on securely, turn on the blender, and gradually increase the speed to high. Blend until completely smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. With the blender running, gradually pour olive oil through the hole in the lid.
2. If you’re using a blender that can heat up soup from scratch, continue blending until the soup is hot and steam escapes from the lid, about 6 minutes. If you’re using a conventional blender, carefully pour the soup into a pot and simmer on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
3. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you want.
Nutrition information: One 8-ounce serving contains 130 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 14 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 3 g protein, and 390 mg sodium.
In a Toaster Oven: Cracker Cuties
Kids love to bake, and this recipe has them rolling out dough and using a cookie cutter. This recipe is perfect for a toaster oven, but you can also use your regular oven. You’ll get about 32 crackers, or four servings, from this recipe. These are great with cheese.
½ cup mixed seeds (such as sesame, pumpkin, poppy, hemp, sunflower, chia, and flax)
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Tear off 2 pieces of parchment paper and trim them to fit the toaster oven’s baking sheet.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the seeds, flour, cheese, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt; mix to combine. Add the water and oil, and mix with your hands until a soft dough forms.
3. Place the dough in the center of a piece of parchment and sandwich it with the other piece of parchment. Use a rolling pin or wine bottle to roll out the dough until it’s as thin as a lasagna noodle. Try to stay within the borders of the parchment paper. (Depending on the size of your toaster oven, you may need to divide the dough in half and do this in two batches.)
4. Peel off the top sheet of parchment and use cookie cutters, a knife, or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into bite-sized pieces or fun shapes. (Don’t pull the crackers apart.)
5. Slide the sheet of dough, including parchment, onto the baking tray. Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and pick out any cracker pieces along the edges that are golden brown and done. Return the tray to the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the rest of the crackers are golden brown.
6. Let the crackers cool slightly before serving. (They get crispier as they cool.)
Nutrition information: One serving (about 8 crackers) contains 220 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 16 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 6 g protein, and 260 mg sodium.
In a Multi-Cooker: Speedy Spaghetti and Meatballs
Multi-cookers are versatile appliances that combine the speed of an electric pressure cooker with a number of other functions, allowing you to make one-pot meals in less time than cooking on a stove. This recipe turns out six kid-sized servings of two meatballs and ⅔ cup pasta, pronto.
1 24-ounce jar low-sodium tomato sauce
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
¼ cup 2 percent milk (or whatever you use)
1 pound 90-percent-lean ground beef
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. dried Italian herb mix
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken into thirds
1½ cups water
1. Pour half of the tomato sauce into the multi-cooker pot.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk; stir to combine and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes for the breadcrumbs to soften.
3. Add beef, cheese, egg, dried herbs, garlic powder, and salt to the breadcrumb bowl. Mix with your hands until everything is well-combined. Measure out 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture for each meatball and roll it in between your hands to form 12 balls, placing finished meatballs in the multi-cooker pot as you go. Wash your hands.
4. Top the meatballs with the remaining tomato sauce. Spread the spaghetti over the sauced meatballs and pour water on top.
5. Secure the lid and seal the valve. Pressure-cook for 7 minutes on high pressure. When the timer beeps, unplug the multi-cooker and do a quick pressure release. (Be careful: The steam is very hot.) Open the lid and transfer the spaghetti and meatballs into serving dishes.
Nutrition information: One serving (2 meatballs with ⅔ cup spaghetti) contains 380 calories, 11 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 42 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugars, 26 g protein, and 440 mg sodium.
In an Air Fryer: Cornflake Fish Sticks
Air fryers come with the promise that you can enjoy crispy food made with little or no oil—fast—including chicken wings and fries. But air fryers also do a terrific job cooking vegetables and other relatively healthy foods that kids will gobble up. These fish sticks have a nice crunchy outside, and are moist and tender inside.
This recipe makes four kid-sized servings, about two sticks per serving, and goes great with a green veggie. If you don’t have an air fryer, preheat your oven to 425° F and cook for 10 minutes, then check for doneness.
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1½ cups cornflakes
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
8 ounces skinless, boneless cod fillet
Vegetable oil spray
1. Pour the flour into a shallow dish.
2. Crack the egg into another shallow dish and whisk with a fork until blended and frothy.
3. Place cornflakes in a zipper-lock bag and seal it, pushing out the air. Press a rolling pin or wine bottle back and forth over the bag until cornflakes are broken into tiny pieces.
4. Add garlic powder, paprika, and salt to the crushed cornflakes and shake to mix.
5. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Put the fillet on a cutting board—the fish should be horizontal—and cut into 1-inch-wide strips.
6. Dip a piece of fish in the flour, making sure to coat all sides, then shake off any excess. Dip the floured fish into the egg, making sure to thoroughly coat it. Drop it into the bag of cornflakes, seal the bag, and shake until the fish is completely coated in crumbs. Place the fish aside on a plate and repeat with the remaining fish pieces. Wash your hands.
7. Spritz both sides of the fish sticks with cooking spray and air-fry at 400° F for 5 minutes, until crispy on top. Use a spatula or tongs to flip over the fish sticks and cook for another 5 minutes. Watch closely; cooking times can vary significantly in different air fryers.
Nutrition information: One 2-ounce serving (about 2 sticks) contains 80 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 7 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 11 g protein, and 380 mg sodium.
In a Food Processor: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Your food processor can prep veggies and make dips; it can also make healthy desserts such as frozen yogurt. And yes, this frozen yogurt is as scrumptious as it looks. This recipe makes six ½-cup servings.
1 pound frozen unsweetened strawberries
1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth and creamy, stopping the motor to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
2. Scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and enjoy immediately. If it’s a little too soft, freeze it for up to 30 minutes, until it firms up. (It’ll become rock-solid if it’s in the freezer for longer.)
Nutrition information: One ½-cup serving contains 70 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugars, 4 g protein, and 110 mg sodium.
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