Jamie says: Yesterday was my last visit with my “little sister,” a first grader from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Last week I told my “little” that we would be cooking together for our last visit. I asked her what she wanted to make and that we could brainstorm (she practiced her writing and spelling skills by writing the ideas on a list. “Cake, cookies, brownies, cupcakes!” she exclaimed. I let her write these down without judgment. Since we were in the library, I suggested we look at the cookbooks. We found the cookbook section, and we picked out some cookbooks together. She made a big stack and proudly carried them back to our table (she wanted to carry them all by herself- no helping her on this one). I then told her that the recipe had to have two requirements. “What’s that?” she said. I told her what requirements are and then told her the two requirements for our recipe were that the food had to 1) taste good and 2) be healthy. I asked her what the requirements were and she repeated them back to me. Good. She got it. She laid out all the cookbooks on the table, picked one up, and started reading it from page one, flipping through page by page- what a patient kid. She even flipped through the dessert pages saying “we already have cake (or cookies, brownies, or cupcakes) on our list. “Here’s the rest of her list: hamburger, salad (yes, salad!), nacho fiesta, turkey (now we’re talking), froot salad (those darn Froot Loops are teaching kids how to spell fruit wrong), grilled cheese, spaghetti, pizza, and smoothies. Wow! I was so impressed. To go from dessert foods to healthier options is quite an accomplishment. I told her I would surprise her next week by picking something from her list. I chose three- salad, turkey, and spaghetti.
Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs with Honey Mustard Spinach Salad
- ~4 oz Barilla whole grain spaghetti
- 2/3 lb ground turkey breast
- nonstick canola cooking spray
- one 8-oz can Contadina sauce
- ~1 Tbsp parmesan shredded cheese
- 1 vine-ripened tomato
- ~2.5 cups spinach
- ~12 baby carrots
- ~3 Tbsp Bolthouse Farms honey mustard creamy yogurt dressing
- Sanitize counters. Wash hands (now and frequently). Set table.
- In a medium pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add spaghetti. Cook for 8 minutes. Drain spaghetti.
- Meanwhile, pour herbs, salt, and pepper in ground turkey (if cooking with a child, let the child decide how much, without measuring, except for the salt). Using clean hands, mix well. Make 10 small meatballs. Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray, place on a large burner on medium heat. Add meatballs to the pan, and cook for about 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip meatballs and cook the other side for another 4 minutes or until done- cooked throughout. Leave meatballs in pan and reduce heat to low.
- Meanwhile, wash hands and prepare the salad by slicing the tomatoes using a plastic knife (help the child). Cut the baby carrots in half using a metal serrated knife (adult role). Assemble the salad on individual plates by allowing each person to determine how much spinach he or she wants, followed by tomatoes, then carrots. Right before eating, add salad dressing (allowing the child to pour it).
- To the meatballs, add can of red sauce and more herbs, salt, and pepper (again, let the child pour the seasonings in without measuring). Stir. Add the spaghetti to the pan. Mix well. Serve on plates. Let the child choose how much he or she wants and tell the child that he or she can have more later if hungry. Sprinkle the spaghetti with cheese if desired. Serves: 2 with leftovers. Enjoy!
My “little” said she ” loved” all of it. She ate all the spaghetti and meatballs and half of her salad (which is quite an accomplishment since she barely eats anything when I visit her for lunch at school). She liked everything except the carrots, and she asked to take home the leftover spaghetti and meatballs. Mission accomplished!
- Nutrition note: Involve children in the cooking process. There are so many lessons that can be learned (both nutrition lessons and life lessons) and children are more willing to try their own creations.