Little fuss over wholesome foods has followed some free cooking lessons for Michelle Otis' family.
Whole-wheat pasta, homemade granola and pumpkin puree as pizza sauce have been touted in Oregon Health Management Services' "Cooking With Kids" series. The Grants Pass classes continue this month and next with healthful breakfasts highlighted to start the school year.
Sweetie pie quesadillas: After sprinkling kids' favorite grated cheese on a tortilla, layer grated, raw sweet potatoes and cooked black beans on top. (Leftover broccoli or zucchini can be substituted for sweet potato.) Fold the tortilla and cook quesadilla in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium heat. The sweet potato softens as the quesadilla cooks. Cut into quarters and serve or wrap in foil or parchment.
Waffle-iron grilled cheese: Toss kids' favorite cheese between two slices of whole-wheat bread and press in a waffle iron brushed with olive oil. Let cool for five minutes before cutting in half and serving or packing into an air-tight container.
Guacamole and crunchy crudites: Combine a medium ripe avocado, 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt and, (unless kids are onion-phobic), 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion. Keep dip in a small bowl with plastic wrap directly pressed onto surface to minimize browning. Slice cucumbers, carrots or jicama for dipping, or serve with whole-wheat pita crisps.
Very berry skewers: Thread four halved strawberries and 1/3 cup blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries on four 6-inch wooden skewers. Wrap them gently in foil or pack two skewers each in two containers. Serve, if desired, with yogurt for dipping.
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"If you can get them to eat healthy first off, they'll continue all day," says Otis, 38, of Medford.
Eggs baked in muffin tins is one dish that her kids — 9, 13 and 15 — like to grab and go, says Otis. They bag up homemade granola in the evenings to speed up the next morning's routine, she adds.
Breakfast for teens should include meat or another protein, fat, fruit, grain and dairy (or a nondairy alternative), according to registered dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen, authors of "Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School." Think as simple as peanut butter on whole-grain toast with a banana and skim milk.
Even children as young as 7 can scramble eggs, assemble yogurt parfaits and use a microwave to make breakfast with fresh fruits, whole grains and protein, says OHMS instructor Barbara Paulson.
"If you eat a healthy breakfast, I think you tend to be healthier generally," says the former home-economics teacher, adding that students who eat breakfast have noticeably higher levels of energy.
Teaching three of the four classes that OHMS offers each month, Paulson presents recipes with "basic, good ingredients" without a lot of fat or sugar. Four dishes are prepared in each class, recipe copies are provided and participants eat everything they make.
"You go away pretty full actually," she says.
Although most kids who attend are grade-school age, OHMS may add a series for slightly older children to learn more advanced skills, such as bread baking, says Paulson. Classes also incorporate cleanup, another facet of functioning in the kitchen.
"It's not something you do for just one Saturday," says Paulson. "You're set for life."
Otis agrees, explaining that her 18-year-old daughter so enjoyed the sessions as a younger teen that she recently attended an OHMS class for adults.
"We've actually changed the way we eat at home now because of the classes," says Otis. "Because they tasted it, and it tasted good, they were on board with it."
OHMS classes are free with preregistration, but the Medicaid care-management service welcomes donations to community food pantries or cash to support its education efforts, sponsored by PacificSource, MedImpact and Grocery Outlet, which furnishes all the foodstuffs.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.