Cooking a meal is one of those requirements you see in just about every scouting and LDS youth program. (See a short list of specific program requirements involving cooking at the end of this blog post.)
Try these simple meal ideas to help your children learn new skills without undue frustration (and hopefully not too much of a mess). Of course, cleaning up is a good culinary skill to learn too.
1. Taco Salad
This one tops the list in my household. It’s been a family favorite for years and because the taco salads are assembled in individual bowls, it’s easy to accommodate any picky eaters.
Skills new chefs will learn: browning and seasoning meat, washing and preparing vegetables, grating cheese.
- 1 lb extra-lean ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- 1 bag Fritos corn chips
- lettuce, torn
- tomatoes, diced
- cheddar cheese, shredded
- sour cream
- sliced black olives
Brown the meat and drain off any fat. Add seasoning and water according to directions on packet. Prepare cheese and vegetables as indicated. In bowls, combine ingredients as desired. The Fritos really make this meal.
2. Pepperoni Spirals
This simple pasta dish has a twist (no pun intended) kids love. Serve with a salad and garlic bread.
Skills new chefs will learn: cooking pasta, principles of baking a casserole.
- 1 package spiral pasta
- 2 cups (or more, to taste) pizza sauce
- sliced pepperoni, cut in halves
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Cook pasta and drain. Combine pasta, half the cheese and remaining ingredients in a casserole dish. Top with the rest of the cheese. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
3. Barbecue Turkey Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
These spiced up grilled cheese sandwiches are a healthier variety of the classic version. Serve with chilled grape clusters.
Skills new chefs will learn: Cooking on a griddle.
Ingredients (per sandwich)
- 2 slices bread (wheat or white)
- 3 oz or so cooked turkey breast, cut into strips
- 1 slice low fat cheddar cheese
- 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce
- 1 tsp light Ranch dressing
Toss the turkey with half of the barbecue sauce and heat in the microwave for 20 seconds. Spread one slice of bread with the remaining barbecue sauce. Top with turkey and cheese. Spread the other slice of bread with the Ranch dressing and complete your sandwich. Spray a nonstick griddle with cooking spray and cook sandwich on medium-low heat, on both sides, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
4. Easy Chicken Parmesan
I’m not a fan of most chicken breast recipes because no matter what you do to the outside, the inside is still just miles of plain chicken. This recipe remedies that problem by pounding the chicken relatively thin, making every bite of the finished product full of flavor. The quick prep time is a bonus too.
Skills new chefs will learn: tenderizing meat, how to safely handle raw chicken, sauteing chicken.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 cups red pasta sauce
- mozzarella cheese, sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
Pound the chicken to a uniform thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add just enough olive oil to a nonstick pan to cover the bottom. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute each chicken breast until golden and heated through (3 to 5 minutes on each side). Pour sauce in a bowl and coat each chicken breast in the sauce. Place chicken in a casserole dish, cover with the rest of the sauce and top with slices of cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese melts (about 5 minutes or so).
5. Easy Meatloaf
Is there anything more comforting than this traditional American dish? Serve with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.
Skills new chefs will learn: beating an egg, handling raw beef, shaping a meatloaf
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (or crushed croutons)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 lb ground beef
In a large bowl, beat the raw egg. Add breadcrumbs and milk and mix. Add the meat and mix well. Place meat mixture in a glass loaf pan and shape. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.
* For easy sweet and sour meatballs (my children’s favorite) shape the uncooked meatloaf mixture into balls (scoop by tablespoon fulls) and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix 1 cup ketchup and 1 cup brown sugar in your crockpot. Add the cooked meatballs, stirring to coat. Cook on low for 1-2 hours (depending on your crockpot). Serve over white rice.
If you want fabulous advice on getting kids into the kitchen (and having fun while you’re doing it) check out the Teaching Your Kids to Cook blog by the Reluctant Gourmet.
Faith in God – Serving Others… “Plan, prepare and serve a nutritious meal.”
Faith in God – Serving Others…”Plan and hold a parent-child activity, such as a dinner, picnic, hike, day trip or service project.”
Wolf - Requirement 8c…”Help fix at least one meal for your family. Help set the table, cook the food and wash the dishes.”
Bear – Requirement 9c…”With an adult, prepare one part of your breakfast, one part of your lunch, and one part of your supper.”
Webelos - Family Member Activity Badge…”With adult supervision, help plan the meals for your family for one week. Help buy the food and help prepare three meals for your family.”
Cub Scout Nutrition Belt Loop and Pin… there are several requirements that work here. See here for the full list of requirements.
Cub Scout Heritages Pin – option 9… “Help your parent or adult partner prepare one of your family’s traditional food dishes.” (The above recipes may not be one of your family’s traditional dishes, but I figure this is a good one to know about anyway, since we’re on the topic.)
Duty to God - Deacon – Family Activities… “With the help and permission of a parent, prepare at least 2 meals for your family. Where possible, also wash and iron your clothes for 1 month.”
Duty to God - Deacon – Education/Career… “Learn how to purify water and to wash and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Duty to God - Teacher – Spiritual Development…”Collect recipes for a dozen meals that a missionary can prepare quickly. Prepare at least 4 of these meals.”
Cooking Merit Badge – part of requirement 7…”Plan a menu for three full days of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to be cooked at home.”
Personal Progress – Good Works requirement 2… “Service is an essential principle of family living. Help plan your family’s menus, obtain the food, and prepare part of the meals for two weeks. During that time help your family gather to share mealtimes. Report to your class what you have learned.”