I made these Brownie Bites with the kids last night while prepping to appear on CTV Morning Live for a segment on Ways to Get Your Kids to Love Cooking. Teaching your kids to cook has so many benefits, plus, it’s a great way to spend some quality family time with your kids, and if you make it fun for them, they will look forward to it for years to come.
Kids are also more likely to eat food that they made themselves, so if you have picky eaters in your family, this can be a great way to get them to expand their palate and develop an appreciation for new flavors. Furthermore, it is an essential life skill that they will use daily, for the rest of their lives. Not to mention that when kids cook, they learn so much more than just cooking. Here are some of the skills that they will pick up:
- math (problem solving, multiplication, addition, subtraction, division, counting, ratios, etc.)
- reading (reading recipes, signs at the grocery store, etc.)
- writing (writing recipes, grocery lists, etc.)
- fine motor skills (using little hands to cracks eggs, stir, whisk, etc.
- science (chemistry, nutrition, etc.)
All of these benefits are in addition to the main reason we want to teach our kids to cook, which is avoiding all the artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals, trans fats, excess sugars, and salt which are found in most processed foods, especially those which are commonly marketed to kids, and to get them to eat whole, nutrient-rich food.
Now maybe you are wondering how we get kids interested in cooking in the first place? Well, the first step is to model the behavior you want them to repeat. Whether you spend time in the kitchen yourself, and your attitude towards cooking will rub off on the kids, so if you approach it as a fun activity, so will they. The next step is to get the kids involved in every step of the cooking process, from choosing recipes, to making grocery lists, to shopping, prepping, cooking, and yes, even cleaning up (my 6-year-old daughter LOVES doing the dishes and takes great pride in it).
If the kids are still young, start by picking out a few recipes that they can pick from, or ask them what type of meal they want to create. If they are older, let them surf the net for some recipes that appeal to them. I recommend providing them with some search terms to make sure they align with your food philosophy, like “gluten-free”, “paleo”, “healthy”, etc. or directing them to your favorite cooking websites. Maybe pick up a recipe box(es) or binder for each child to store their favorite recipes in, which will give them a sense of ownership. You can even use an old shoe box, out their name on it and decorate it to their liking.
If you are creating recipes from scratch, be sure to ask the kids what kind of ingredients they want to include in the meal, and add those to your grocery list. Kids also love to look for stuff (hey, it’s kind of like playing hide and seek) so having them check the fridge and pantry for ingredients you may already have at home is a task most of them enjoy. It also helps them learn to identify foods, and learn where they are stored. If they are older, have them create the grocery list themselves and even create a meal plan for the whole family. Make sure you take the kids to the grocery store and get them involved by picking out produce and other staples, and adding them to the cart. It’s an extra bonus if you can give the kids some ownership by letting them pick out a new (or old, favourite) fruit or vegetable to try each week, and letting them pay, so they can learn about commerce, how much things cost, and how to be polite.
After you arrive back home, get the kids involved in unpacking groceries and washing and prepping produce. That way everything is ready to go when you want to start cooking. If they get bored, let them wander off, and get them involved again when they are ready to do so.
Some tips to ensure you have a great cooking experience is to make sure you have the three M’s down pat: the right moment, the right mood, and the right mentality. First, make sure you pick the right moment – ideally a time when you aren’t rushed to get dinner on the table (at least with younger kids) because everything will inevitably take longer than it would if you were cooking by yourself. Next, make sure that you set the right mood. Turn on the music, put your apron and your smile on, and get ready to have some fun.
Finally, but most importantly, make sure you have the right mentality, which means being ready for messes, mistakes, and mishaps, because they will happen. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not allowing kids to do the ‘fun’, ‘grown-up’ jobs, such cracking eggs, stirring or mixing things, or blending or processing things, because of concern over making a mess or ruining a recipe. However, these are the exact things that will grab your kid’s attention! So don’t ruin a fun experience by being a part pooper. If you take a deep breath, and take it as a given that you will screw up a meal, or two, or ten, (maybe have a back-up meal ready too) then it will be much easier to give up control and let your kids have some real fun in the kitchen.
The good news is that once you have out effort into instilling these skills into your kids in their early years, they will be able to do more as they get older, and be of real help you in the kitchen. For example, my 12-year old (boy) is now responsible for cooking dinner twice week for the whole family and he’s really great at it!
So now back to the Brownie Bites, which I created with the help of my two youngest (ages 6 and 7) in less than five minutes. These Brownie Bites taste a lot like regular brownies, but unlike traditional brownies, they have tons of protein, way less sugar and a ton more fiber than store-bought, from-the-box versions. Plus, they come with powerful doses of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which will help little bodies grow, live long, and prosper (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Raw Brownie BitesPrint This
- 1 cup raw walnuts or pecans
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes (not shredded coconut)
- 1 1/2 cups Medjool dates
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (I like Navitas Naturals)
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup (I buy mine at Costco)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- a pinch of sea salt
- optional: 2 tablespoons of raw cacao nibs (I like Navitas Naturals)
- Place the nuts in a food processor and process until semi-finely ground.
- Add in coconut flakes, dates, cacao powder, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt and process until finely chopped and the dough sticks together when squeezed in your hand.
- If using the cacao nibs, add them to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
- Roll the dough into bite-sized balls and place in the fridge in an air-tight glass container for 20 minutes (or the freezer for 10 minutes) to set.
- Alternatively, you can press the dough into a parchment-paper covered loaf pan, then place them into the fridge to set. This way you have the option of adding a layer of fudge on top for some extra sweetness. I have included my Five Minute Fudge recipe below.
- Store any leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
Five Minute Fudge
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup (I buy mine at Costco)
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (I like Navitas Naturals)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (I buy mine at Costco)
- 3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk (I like Earth’s Choice)
- 1 tablespoon nut butter
- a pinch of sea salt
- Place all ingredients in a small pot.
- Turn the heat up to medium, continually whisking until the coconut oil is melted and the sauce starts to thicken slightly (this should only take about 1-2 minutes).
- Remove the pot from the heat and pour the desired amount of fudge over the uncut brownies. If desired, decorate with some walnut halves or dairy-free chocolate chips.
- Place in fridge to set for 20 minutes, then cut into bite-sized pieces and serve.
- Oh so YUMMY in my TUMMY.
This version of whipped cream is wonderfully smooth and creamy and not too sweet, says Vodrazka. You can store it in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to five days, scooping it out as desired.
Do your kids cook with you? If so, how old were they when they started? If not, are you going give it a try now that you have some tips on how to do so? Comment below or reply on social media using hashtag #cookingwithkids