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5 inventive (and healthy) recipes your kids will love 

Whether a picky eater is making mealtime topsy-turvy or you just want to spend some extra time with the kids, cooking together is a great idea.

"Children are more likely to eat their own creations, so, when appropriate, let your picky eater help prepare the food," suggested Ask Dr. Sears. "Give your assistant jobs such as tearing and washing lettuce, scrubbing potatoes or stirring batter. Put pancake batter in a squeeze bottle and let your child supervise as you squeeze the batter onto the hot griddle in fun shapes, such as hearts, numbers or letters."

Welcome young cooks into the kitchen and try a few new healthy dishes. These five recipes range from semi-gourmet to basic construction projects (also known as playing with food). Give them a try and you might find the adults in the house have new favorites, too!

African Peanut Soup

This kid-friendly recipe from Real Simple has a whopping 23 grams of protein and combines the appeal of a much-loved ingredient (peanut butter) with a warming soup and exposure to a different culture. If you switch the chicken broth for a quality vegetable boullion, the recipe can be made vegetarian. 

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Ingredients:

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juices

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

½ cup creamy peanut butter

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 cup white rice 

6 scallions, chopped

¼ cup dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the garlic until fragrant (1 minute).
  2. Add tomatoes in juices, tomato paste, peanut butter, broth, vinegar, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add rice, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the rice is tender (15-20 minutes).
  4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with scallions and peanuts.

Corn Flowers

Corn contains the heart-healthy antioxidant zeaxanthin and this kid-friendly cooking project has fun as its main ingredient. (Contributed by Parents/For the AJC)

Parents author Megan Conway advised parents to get creative about how you present food. Try using some color and be sure to tell kids about the benefits of healthy eating right from the start. This simple project for parents and young kids is a sweet alternative to wee ones trying to handle a whole ear of corn. Plus the corn has intense amounts of the heart-healthy antioxidant zeaxanthin.

Instructions:

  1. Slice a cooked ear of corn horizontally into pieces that are four rows wide. The kernels will look like petals.
  2. Push in a lollipop stick for the stem and set upright into a container, dipping sauce at the base is optional.

Strawberry-Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark

This slimmed down, nutrition-bumped bark recipe makes a colorful snack or healthy dessert, according to Eating Well recipe developer Carolyn Casner. It's also gluten free, heart healthy and low fat.

Ingredients:

3 cups whole-milk plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup pure maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cup sliced strawberries

¼ cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir yogurt, maple syrup (or honey) and vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread on the prepared baking sheet into a 10"x15" rectangle.
  3. Scatter the strawberries on top and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  4. Freeze until very firm, at least 3 hours.
  5. To serve, cut or break into 32 pieces. 
Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

Sloppy Sloppy Joes

Mario Batali is best known for his role as co-host of “The Chew,” but it's his sons, then teenagers, who wrote a book about kids cooking for the family. This substantial dish from their book is still healthy, particularly if the buns are whole grain and the beef is low-fat. It's also a meal the adults will enjoy.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1½ pounds ground chuck or other lean grind

5 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons sugar

1 12-ounce jar mild salsa

6 hamburger buns

Directions:

  1. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and rub it onto the bottom of the pan with a paper towel and tongs.
  2. Add ground beef and, while it's cooking, break it up with something like the back of a spoon. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, except for the buns, and mix while still chopping the mixture up with the spoon.
  4. When the liquids start to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook for 4 minutes.
  5. Open the buns and stuff in the meat.

Rookie Cookie's Recipe: Chock-Full-of-Chicken Soup

This heart-healthy recipe is still substantial and gives you the option of shopping together for fun shape noodles.

Ingredients:

2 10-ounce cans of chicken broth

2 cups uncooked noodles

1 cup cooked chicken, cut up

1 carrot, thinly sliced

Instructions:

1. Pour chicken broth in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

2. Add remaining ingredients.

3. Cook 15 minutes or until noodles are soft. 

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