Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooking with my Kids & Keeping it Healthy! #BensBeginners

2012 my biggest New Year's Resolution was to ban all the unnecessary foods, the junk, the sugar the dyes and additives. We are cooking up a storm and trying to keep it real and healthy.

Now, living on a farm tends to make this a little easier. That doesn't mean I'm not concerned about raising my children to be good cooks and good eaters though. One trick that has worked well has been to get my kids involved in the kitchen.

My son is so excited to don his apron and get out his own "kid friendly" utensils.

Even with this enthusiasm Winter is the toughest time of year to cook healthy meals for our family. Our own produce is out of season and the shorter days have me running for old comfort foods. Since those are generally laden with cream and calories, I have to search for alternatives. Good wholesome grains, like rice, have been my staples.

Here is a list of things to get you started cooking healthy with your kids:

1. Stock up on Staples - Having basic pantry essentials makes even last minute dinner drama easier. I don't like down the street from our grocery store, so it helps to be prepared. I try to keep things organized so even my son can help locate the ingredients on my list. I keep dried goods, beans, rice, and other grains on hand at all times. They also last longer and can help to stretch tight monthly budgets.

2. Let the Kids Help Shop - Our son comes along when I do the grocery shopping. Sometimes he stops and asks about exotic fruits or new vegetables he isn't familiar with. I can't do it on every shopping trip, but I do try to look for recipes to incorporate some of these new items on upcoming menus. This helps me keep our menu seasonal and take advantage on sales of squash or dark leafy greens during Winter. Variety is important and fun for all of us.

3. Appropriate Sizes & Knives  - Early on I knew I wanted my kids in the kitchen cooking with me. The biggest obstacles for small hands are the utensils and tools. I don't want a 5-year old wielding one of my sharp Henckel knives, but I was able to find him a set with nylon plastic knives that were not as dangerous. The grips are age and coordination appropriate and I am not worried about him ruining my good tools or hurting himself.

4. Prepare & Present - My son, like all kids, has some food hang-ups. I can usually minimize these if he is invested in the food we eat. Getting his hands on the food and watching it transform into dinner is a powerful thing. He is so proud to help present the food to his Daddy after work. "Look Daddy, I made this" is commonly heard in our house.

5. Explore New Flavors Together - To keep food fun and exciting, take a trip around the world for your recipes or spices. We are big fans of the citrus flavoring Ponsu, often used in Japan, to liven up our veggies or stir fry. We also enjoy trying new pizza toppings or new mix-ins for our steamed rice. Explore new flavors and textures together as a family.

Of course remember to have fun. This is time to spend with your children and give them real life skills they can use for their entire lives. It is time to connect and interact creating something important, your food!

As an added incentive for cooking up a storm tonight with your kids, Uncle Ben's has launched an exciting new national contest called Ben's Beginners.

You could win $20,000 along with a $50,000 grant towards a cafeteria makover for your child's school and an appearance on The Rachel Ray Show.

Who is eligible? 

  • Parents with children ages 5-12
  • Submit a 2-3 minute video

See full contest details on Ben's Beginners on Facebook

Here is our family's favorite meal using rice! Our poached eggs with sauteed chard over rice is not only simple and healthy, but it is also quick to make.

About Uncle Ben’s

Uncle Ben’s®, the number one rice brand in America, is proud to offer a wide range of rice dishes with flavors and textures that will help bring more to your meals, both for convenient side dishes and savory main courses. Uncle Ben’s® offers a wide variety of white, whole grain brown, and flavored rices in cook times ranging from 30 minutes to 90 seconds, as well as rice for food service operations such as restaurants, schools and hospitals. The first mass-produced parboiled rice, Uncle Ben’s® is the top-selling branded rice in the United States and products can be found in more than 100 countries worldwide. Uncle Ben’s® Brand products are manufactured by Mars Food NA, part of Mars, Incorporated. For more information, visit

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*Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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