Kids in the kitchen: Sharon Hearne-Smith's fuss-free recipes for little fingers
Get your 'mini me's mixing in the kitchen with Sharon Hearne-Smith's fuss-free recipes.
There has rarely been a time when I've cooked that my daughters, Pearl (six) and Poppy (two), haven't wanted to get involved. Kids are naturally curious and drawn to cooking, so while I know it can sometimes slow things down - and often make for a far messier situation! - it provides a fantastic learning opportunity for them. From stirring, sprinkling, and spreading to washing, whisking and weighing, cooking provides kids with endless opportunities for learning.
It is our responsibility as adults to teach kids to cook. Learning about food and cooking is crucial to their health and wellbeing. The kids will develop an appreciation for what's involved in producing a healthy home-cooked meal and the whole family will benefit from cooking and chatting together. It's quality family time - and then there are the memories it creates, and the passing-on of family recipes and traditions.
I certainly don't want my girls to have to rely on convenience food or takeaways when they leave home. Not just because I know home-cooking is far better value but because I know that wholesome, homemade meals, cooked from scratch, are what's best for them.
You might notice that two of my three recipes (below) are treats. The muffins are deceptive because they are actually packed full of healthy ingredients and can even be eaten for breakfast. The recipes are free from refined sugar, use wholesome ingredients and are packed with fruit. The fruity pizza is ideal as an occasional treat as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
I've seen how my kids are more likely to sit down and enjoy their meal when they've helped prepare it. It is heart-warming to hear how proud they are of their creation and see the enjoyment they get from everyone else tucking into it too. Sudden role reversal going on there, but I think that prospect alone should have you convinced to get cooking with your kids!
Sharon Hearne-Smith is an ambassador for SuperValu's Get Ireland Cooking campaign. For more recipes, see supervalu.ie
This fun take on a pizza is a great way to get kids involved with cooking while getting fruit into them. Choose any combination of topping fruits you like, switching them up depending on the season. Medjool dates have a wonderful toffee squidginess, so be sure to seek these out rather than regular dates if you can. The pizza base is as simple as blending the ingredients and spreading in a tin to set in the fridge, so there's no excuse not to give it a try. The base mixture can also be rolled into small balls to make about 25 truffles.
FRUITY CHOCOLATE NO-BAKE PIZZA
Makes 2 x 20cm pizzas
For the base: Sunflower oil, for greasing
350g pitted Medjool dates
100g dark chocolate (at least 70pc cocoa solids), roughly chopped
3 tbsp peanut, almond or other nut butter
For the topping:
50g natural yoghurt
½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
350g mixed berries, sliced if large
Small handful of fresh mint leaves (optional)
Grease the base of 2 x 20cm round, loose-bottomed tins with sunflower oil and line with a disc of non-stick baking paper.
Blend the dates in a food processor to make a fairly smooth paste. Add the chocolate, oats and peanut butter. Blitz everything together until you have a chunky paste.
Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and press it down to make a smooth, level base. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for about 2 hours, until set firm. Alternatively, this will take half the time in the freezer. The base can be made up to a week in advance.
Meanwhile, spoon the ricotta and yoghurt into a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add them to the bowl. Alternatively, add the vanilla extract. Cover and pop in the fridge until ready to serve.
Once the base is set and you're ready to serve, remove the bases from their tins, discarding the paper. Place on serving plates or boards and spread the ricotta yoghurt evenly over the tops.
Arrange the berries however you like on top, either in a fancy pattern or simply scattered over evenly. Scatter over the mint, if using. Cut into wedges and serve.
While this pizza might be full of wholesome ingredients, don't forget that it is still a dessert and should be enjoyed as a treat at the end of the week.
These burritos are completely bespoke, as you can add any selection of filling ingredients you like, such as leftover roast chicken, ham, cured meats, black beans, coriander, olives, smoked salmon, sour cream, fresh or roasted peppers, chives, coriander and cheese. You really can suit yourself and have a different combination every time. Just keep the base of the egg and tortilla the same.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes
1 small ripe avocado
½ lime, juice only
Salt and pepper
2 large wholemeal or multigrain wraps
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 tomato, deseeded and flesh finely diced
15g Cheddar cheese
Scoop the flesh from the avocado into a small bowl. Add the lime juice along with a little salt and pepper to taste, and mash until smooth.
Fold the wraps into quarters and pop them into a toaster for a couple of minutes to warm through - but don't let them toast until they are crisp. They need to be able to open out again. Alternatively, warm them in an oven or microwave.
Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a 24cm frying pan (or a pan that's not wider than your tortilla) on a low heat. Beat one egg in a small bowl with a little salt and pepper and add to the pan, swirling it until it covers the base of the pan like a crêpe. Immediately sprinkle half of the spring onions and half the tomatoes over the top. Cook for 1 minute, until the base is set. Flip the omelette over and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Remove from the pan and repeat with the second egg.
Open the warmed wraps out and spread the avocado mash evenly over each one. Lay an omelette on top and finely grate the cheese over. Roll each one up like a Swiss roll to enclose the filling. Cut them in half on the diagonal and serve.
If you're keeping an eye on your fat intake, you could leave the avocado out of your breakfast burrito.
RASPBERRY, BANANA AND PECAN, OATY BREAKFAST MUFFINS
These muffins are sweetened only by the natural sugar in the fruit, making them a healthy treat for any time of day. Omit the nuts if allergic or packing them in a school lunchbox. They are ideal for using up over-ripe bananas, which often tend to lurk in the fruit bowl. Also, they are perfect for freezing and can be taken out the night before as necessary.
2 ripe medium bananas
150ml natural low-fat yoghurt
50ml olive oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g wholemeal flour
50g rolled oats, plus 1 tbsp for decorating
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
50g pecan nuts (optional)
200g frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C)/350°F/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases.
Mash the bananas really well in a large jug. Add the yoghurt, oil, eggs and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the oats, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Reserve 12 of the nicest-looking pecan nuts (if using) and finely chop the rest, adding them to the bowl. Toss everything together and make a well in the centre. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together. Finally, stir in two-thirds of the raspberries.
Spoon the mixture evenly between the muffin cases. Scatter the remaining raspberries over the tops and press them in lightly. Sit a pecan nut, pretty side up, in the centre of each one. Finally, scatter the extra oats over to decorate.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Remove and leave to cool a little.