How One Mom of 4 Curbs Cabin Fever
The name of the game: Keep kids busy.
My kids are three, five, seven and eight, and this time of year we’re all going a bit stir-crazy at home. To combat the cabin fever, there are a couple of categories of recipes I turn to not only to give my kids something to do but also to ensure we can get out of the house and do something else.
I call the first batch of recipes Keep-Them-Busy Activities. These are usually pretty involved, with enough steps to give everyone a chance to participate, and they yield some kind of festive outcome. The second group of recipes is just the opposite: Low-Key Keepers. These dishes come together with minimal effort, and thus let us come back to them after we’re done doing other things.
Great Food to Cook with Kids
If you’re cooking with small kids, there are a few things to consider right off the bat. Trust me when I say this is 90 percent for your mental health, with the remaining 10 aimed at the kids’ actual safety. For instance, never, ever start a cooking project without a garbage bowl (Thank you, Rachael Ray!) and a damp cloth on the counter. You’ll use that cloth every time someone’s fingers get sticky, when the eggs don’t quite crack into the bowl and so on. All the time.
Crackers and bars are awesome projects to make with kids because there are tons of simple steps and the results double as a snack! (Now tell me, what craft project can say that?) We’ve done Chocolate Graham Crackers and Homemade Cheddar Crackers. No-Bake Chocolate, Fruit & Nut Bars are just as big a hit as Trisha Yearwood’s Peanut Butter Energy Balls, yet neither one requires an oven! Score.
Speaking of no-bake deliciousness, Rainbow Smoothies are always a hit when each kid takes turns adding new ingredients, but don’t underestimate a mug of much of homemade hot cocoa that kids can make all by themselves, using only two ingredients I’m sure you have at home.
If you have bigger kids who are comfortable at the stove, ask them to prep 3-Ingredient Blueberry Blast Fritters and pour yourself a cup of coffee. I love these simple recipes for building confidence in kids. They can’t mess it up, and the results = a warm slice of blueberry heaven.
Better Than Potato Chips: Snacks and Meals for Activities
Whether you’re looking at an afternoon of Candyland, a Wii-driven dance party or a double-feature movie night, there’s one thing every good background dish has in common: You can hold them in your hand.
Sweet snacks don’t get any easier — or cuter — than our Strawberry-Chia Seed Hand Pies.
And for dinners we’ve done Lasagna Cups and flaky Cheeseburger Hand Pies in puff pastry. Also, our Pinwheel Pizzas (that happen to be slathered in veggie-filled tomato sauce) are always a huge hit. For something heartier, Grilled Lemon Chicken Strips take about 3 minutes’ worth of effort for the juiciest results this side of Nuggetland.
On the side, I like to roast a few kale chips in the oven, slice up a sweet potato for wedges that are crispy on the edges and pillowy soft inside. Or, even better, make veggie cups with ranch dressing for an instant side dish.
And when in doubt, put a bunch of fruit, veggies and sandwich fixings on a cutting board. Let everyone fix their plate and call dinner done. You’ll be too busy having fun to care about getting any fancier than that.
P.S. One of my kids’ favorite rainy day activities is making cards for our neighbors to go with a few of our freshly baked treats. These Double Chocolate Magical Muffins happen to be stuffed with all kinds of fruit and veggies, making them the best kind of gift to give. Good to eat and good for you too.