Happy Healthy Kid Food... Plus A Free Printable!
The Hidden Valley® Original Ranch®, dressings & dips has provided me with free product to help with my review, but anything I receive from Hidden Valley does not affect my thoughts on its company or their product.
I have three kids ages 6, 7, and 7. And of course - they all like different foods. My daughter is a carboholic whose meal of choice any time of day would be mac-and-cheese. One son is a hardcore carnivore who thrives on salami, steak, and anything in the shape of a meatball. His twin brother favors Mediterranean fare (go figure), constantly munching on black olives, chickpeas, arugula and shrimp.
With such diverse tastes, the thought of whipping up family dinners that will please everyone makes me want to lunge for the phone and call for Chinese. But for my kids’ sake, I don’t. I cook every night… and brace myself for the inevitable whine-and-dine.
The last thing any mom wants is to spend hours on something her kids won't eat. So my general strategy is something I call “faux cooking.” It’s not so much cooking as it is heating, sautéing, and accessorizing. I take semi-prepared foods and jazz them up in interesting ways, adding healthy fresh veggies. It's quick, it's easy, and it's creative!
When Hidden Valley Ranch approached me to take part in their Lunch Break for Kids program that encourages healthy eating for youngsters, I was so excited. Woohoo! The perfect time to put my faux cooking skills to good use!
My approach for serving up healthy fare to kids: make it tasty and festive. If it tastes good and looks even better, they'll go for it. For this occasion, I whipped up kid-friendly versions of comfort food - burgers, corn on the cob, iceberg wedges, and tater tots - all done in a fresh, healthy way. The whole thing took about a half-hour from start to finish.
- Ranch Burgers with Brioche Buns
- Sweet Potato Skewers with Buttermilk Dip
- Colorful Veggie Stacks
- Mini Iceberg Wedges
The Shopping List:
- 1 package refrigerated crescent rolls (instant mini buns!)
- ½ ounce Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (instant seasoning!)
- Prepackaged Sweet Potato Tots
- 1 pound ground turkey
- Yellow tomatoes
- Iceberg lettuce
- Corn on the cob
- Ranch dressing & ketchup for dipping and dressing
For The Burgers: Open the crescent rolls and unfurl the dough on a cutting board. Take a small round cookie cutter (I actually used a shot glass) and cut out small dough circles about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Bake at the designated temperature until lightly golden, careful not to overcook. Meanwhile, mix the powdered Hidden Valley dressing mix into the ground turkey - the seasoning is delicious and requires no mixing and measuring! Shape into mini 1-1/2 to 2 inch burgers. Heat olive oil in a skillet and saute the burgers for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Place each burger on a "bun" garnished with a dollop of ranch dressing and a festive food flag. Yum!
For The Taters: The sweet potato "tots" I purchased were from Trader Joe's. If you can't find them, use sweet potato cubes that have been steamed or roasted. The sweetness is irresistible and kids love them. Serving them on skewers with dipping sauce makes eating so much fun - and the subtle-yet-sweet herb flavoring in the ranch dressing is a magic potion when it comes to getting kids to scarf down veggies.
For The Veggie Stacks: Boil the corn on the cob, then slice into pieces 1-2 inches in width. Stack with slices of your favorites colorful raw veggies - I used cucumber and yellow tomato. Add a dollop of ranch dressing and stick in a toothpick to secure.
For The Iceberg Wedges: So fun and sooooo easy! This was inspired by a steakhouse I go to here in Los Angeles where they serve old-fashioned iceberg lettuce wedges smothered in blue cheese dressing. This is an updated, kid-friendly version made by slicing a mini-wedge of iceberg, then drizzling ranch dressing over it.
My kids helped out with this photo shoot and literally devoured everything right after we finished shooting - then asked for more! All around, a huge success. The key to getting kids to eat healthier is getting them to actually like healthy food - not sneaking vegetables and nutritional goodies into their meals.
For more ideas on how to cook up healthy and great tasting food, click over to the official Hidden Valley Lunch Break for Kids site.
Embrace your inner "faux chef" and get cookin'!!
[photos by Brittany Hayes]