My kids and I love spending time in the kitchen together. We set our Amazon Alexa up with great music, cook, sing and dance. My kids have developed some great skills and can prepare many meals without me now. Most kids start with some baking fun (which is actually harder and more precise than cooking) but hopefully graduate to real food.

Here are some terrific kid-friendly recipes that they can prepare on their own or with you, but that gives them a few basic skills that will launch them into the best kitchen helpers!

Pizza Puffs

Makes 24 mini muffin puffs

These pizza puffs are another great idea for kids and a fun way to do something other than plain old pizza. They make great snacks and are easy to bring on trips. They will not last long so try one out of the oven before your kids grab them.

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces soy hot dogs, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup) or other pareve non-meat substitute (optional)
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce (store-bought is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; then add in milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and the soy meat and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon basil. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat the marinara sauce until warmed through, then stir in remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve sauce alongside puffs.

Basic Meatballs with 2 Sauces, Asian and BBQ

Makes about 125 meatballs

I make a big batch of basic meatballs then store them in the freezer until ready to use. When it’s a meatball night, I take them out and prepare one of these sauces to transform them into a whole new meal. This recipe can be halved as well.

  • 5 pounds ground beef, chicken, turkey or a mixture
  • 1-1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy creamer or pareve whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 large eggs

To make the meatballs: Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, soymilk, pareve cream, parsley, mustard, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Mix together well with your hands. Gently roll them into balls with your hands using about 1 - 2 tablespoon per meatball. Do not overwork the meat. Place the meatballs about 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Freezer instructions: Put cooked meatballs in a single layer on baking sheets and put into the freezer. When frozen, divide them into freezer bags, 25 per bag, and return them to the freezer.

Asian Sauce for Meatballs

Makes 1 ½ cups

  • 1/2 cup sake or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 25 Basic Meatballs, recipe above

In a saucepan, combine the sake, soy sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup of the mirin; boil until reduced to 1-1/2 cups, 3 minutes. Let cool. Pour over warmed meatballs. Serve warm

BBQ Sauce for Meatballs

Makes about 2 cups of sauce

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups store-bought barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, like Tabasco or sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, non-fish variety
  • 25 Basic Meatballs (still frozen is fine), recipe above

In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes until translucent and softened. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add barbecue sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Add Basic Meatballs and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the meatballs are heated through, 8 to 10 minutes.

Ravioli Lasagna

Photo by Campbell’s

Serves 10

This is a fun and popular with kids, twist on lasagna. Just as easy and somewhat surprising. Lots of store-bought ingredients make this super easy to prepare. Freezes well too.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (optional), drained of liquid (or use 1 bag fresh baby spinach)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 jar store-bought marinara sauce
  • 2 packages (about 12- 16 ounces) cheese or spinach ravioli, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages shredded mozzarella or pizza cheese
  • Chopped basil or parsley as garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and spinach and cook for about 5 minutes, allowing any accumulated water to boil off.

In a small bowl, stir ricotta with egg, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and set aside.

In a 9 x 13-inch oven-safe baking dish, spoon about ¼ cup marinara sauce on bottom of dish, spreading to evenly coat. Add ravioli on top in a single layer. Using a spatula, gently spread about ¾ cup ricotta over ravioli. Then add ½ of cooked spinach mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over spinach. Next layer with more sauce, then another layer of ravioli, ricotta, spinach, cheese more sauce and cover the whole top with shredded cheese. Sprinkle with basil or parsley, if using.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Turkey Cranberry Panini Melts (or Make in a Waffle maker or Griddle)

Makes 4 sandwiches

Need a quick lunch or a simple dinner on the go. These sandwiches are filling and a fantastic fancy bagel and cream cheese alternative.

  • ½ cup (about 3 ounces)Tofutti cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 slices whole grain or white bread
  • 3/4 pound sliced turkey (smoked or roasted)
  • 2 tablespoons margarine, softened

In a small bowl, whisk cream cheese, cranberry sauce, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over four slices of bread; top with a few slices turkey and remaining bread. Spread margarine over outer slices of bread.

Preheat panini press, waffle maker, or griddle pan. Place sandwiches on heated cooktop and close top (if using panini or waffle pan). Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. If using a griddle, flip and brown on opposite side. Serve warm.

Baked Potato Shakshuka

Serves 8

Photo by Kelli Foster

  • 4 large Idaho potatoes, washed and pricked all over with a fork
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sriracha, optional
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 jar store-bought marinara sauce
  • 8 eggs
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In an oven-safe baking dish, place potatoes. Rub with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until softened but still holding shape.

While potatoes are baking, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining tablespoon oil. Add onion, pepper and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to soften evenly. Add cumin, paprika, sriracha, salt and pepper. Stir in marinara sauce to thoroughly warm and blend flavors.

Remove potatoes from oven. When cool enough to handle but still warm, slice potatoes in half, horizontally. Press and slightly mash potato halves. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Spoon about ¼ - ½ cup sauce onto each potato half. Crack an egg into center. Sprinkle with a little more kosher salt. Place potatoes in oven and cook for about 5 minutes, until egg is just set but still loose or to desired consistency. Serve warm.

Mac N’Cheese Chili

Photo by Johnny Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

Serves 4

Everyone loves Mac N’Cheese. This is a protein packed version that is still kid friendly. Can be doubled.

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3/4 pound imitation ground meat called (vegan meat, mock meat or ground round)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (10-ounce) can fire-roasted or diced tomatoes, undrained
  • ¼ cup canned chilies, with a little of their canned liquid, optional
  • 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add imitation beef, garlic powder, coriander, cumin and chili powder. And cook 3 minutes. Add broth, water, tomatoes, and chilies, if using and bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni; cover and cook 10 minutes or until macaroni is al dente.

In a separate saucepan, heat milk and cream cheese over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently, until blended and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in cheddar cheese. Add cheese sauce to macaroni mixture. Mix well and serve warm with additional sprinkled cheese.