The kids are heading back to school, meaning the weeks are going to get busier (if they haven't already), so why not have a little productive fun in the kitchen with the family this weekend? When you cook together, the kiddos can learn something new (that, unlike pre-algebra, they may actually enjoy) and help you prepare their own meals and snacks for the upcoming week. And with a taste of the responsibility associated with meal prep comes a sense of pride that will make them a whole lot less likely to trade their lunch away or trash it in lieu of chips from the snack machine.
Here are 7 of our favorite, easy weekend cooking project recipes to tackle together:
#1. Trail Mix
The trick to getting kids to eat trail mix is compromise. Allow them to pick out 1 or 2 junkier options that make it feel like a treat--like chocolate chips, marshmallows, or M&M's--while ensuring that you also include a variety of nuts, dried fruit, whole grain cereal, and other healthier selections in the mix. We love the above recipe for Nuts and Bolts Trail Mix for the kids, but you really don't need a recipe to throw together this easy, adaptable snack.
Hummus is such an easy recipe to execute and a great choice for introducing kids to healthy snacking. I've recently gotten into the habit of whipping up a batch of homemade hummus on Sunday to snack on throughout the week with raw veggies or pita chips, and I honestly don't know why I ever bought the pre-packaged stuff. A can of chickpeas costs less than a dollar, and you probably have the rest of the ingredients you need to complete the recipe at home already (just a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for the most simple recipe). Hummus is extremely customizable, so after the kids get used to helping with the basic recipe, you can experiment together with all sorts of fun new flavors and add-ins--we have plenty recipe variations for inspiration.
#3. Homemade Granola
Parfaits are a delicious and nutrient-dense breakfast choice that gives kids (and parents) an opportunity to get protein and fruit into their bodies early in the day. Unfortunately, store-bought varieties of granola are typically packed with sugar and additives. Cooking a big batch on the weekends is not only a fun family activity, but it's an easy way to keep you eating a little cleaner throughout the week. Not to mention, toasty homemade granola is miles ahead of anything from a bag in terms of flavor. Set your custom granola out on weekday mornings with the kid's favorite yogurt and cut fruit and let them assemble their breakfast just the way they like.
For a healthier after-school snack option, prep these sweet little banana bites on Sunday afternoon to enjoy all week long. Let the kids cut up their own bananas using a paring knife, and then assist them with dropping the pieces into melted chocolate and fishing them out with a spoon (feel free to coat the entire banana piece). Set each bite onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to set. Once cooled, transfer the treats to a tupperware and place it into the freezer. The treats will stay fresh for several days (but, trust me, they probably won't make it past Monday).
Breakfast on-the-go doesn't get easier than grabbing a muffin on the way out of the door, and baking a batch on the weekend is a fun activity for kids that will make breakfast enjoyable and fuss-free during busy weekdays. Here are 22 of our favorite muffin recipes, but my current favorite are these Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins from Cooking Light. They're made with whole-wheat flour but are topped with an indulgent, crumbly-crisp streusel topping. It's all about balance, folks.
#6. Puppy Chow
If you're looking for a quick dessert treat that the kids will love, look no further than this staff-favorite Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Puppy Chow. Puppy Chow is a chocolate-coated, powdered sugar-smattered cereal treat that's addictive no matter how you spin it, but this extra-indulgent take is truly out of this world. There are plenty of interactive jobs for younger helpers in prepping this recipe--from stirring melted chocolate and peanut butter to shaking the bag until everything is fully coated. The best part is, this recipe requires no cooking over the stove--just a little microwaving is all that's needed. Portion out individual servings into plastic baggies and give the kids a sweet treat to take to school all week. If your kids aren't chocolate-peanut butter lovers (or they can't have peanut butter at school), try one of these 6 other puppy chow recipes. Our Birthday Cake Puppy Chow will definitely be a hit with the kids.
#7. Energy Bars
Sure, the packaged bars are convenient, but a batch of DIY granola bars is so easy to make and can save you lots in terms of added sugar, preservatives, and cash. These Chocolate-Peanut Butter Energy Bars not only taste better than most granola bars, but the peanuts can help prevent a blood sugar spike, and both dark chocolate and cranberries in these energy bars are excellent (and tasty) additions for heart health. And at only 176 calories a pop, they beat the store-bought variety in pretty much every category. For another delicious and easy option, try making a pan of these No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars, perfect for on-the-go snacking before extracurriculars or grabbing as quick weekday breakfast.