(ARA) - Teaching kids how to find their way around the kitchen is a good way to encourage them to think creatively and get excited about eating well. In addition to imparting practical culinary knowledge to children - including math skills by teaching them about measurements - parents can help foster creativity by letting them "mix it up" a bit.
Here are some suggestions on how to nurture your child's creativity by having fun together in the kitchen:
* Fun with shapes: We all know how much fun cookie cutters can be for children. Take that idea to the next level by encouraging your children to sculpt their own shapes when baking items like cookies. Have them trace the pattern they'd like to use on cardboard or a thick piece of paper and use it as a template.
* Batter up: Get kids involved in the cooking process when making food they love. Turn over the spoon and let them mix batter for that next batch of pancakes as an opportunity to introduce them to basic cooking activities. You can also encourage them to top their creations with a unique variety of toppings from bananas to granola.
* Start from scratch: In kids' minds, noodles come from a box and bread comes from a bag that you buy from the store. Having children help make bread, pasta or pretzels from scratch can be a fascinating experience for them, and will help them appreciate how their food gets to the table.
* Recipe redo: Children have vivid imaginations that can really flourish in the kitchen. Over the past decade, savvy kid chefs around the country have submitted their most inventive creations in the Jif(R) Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest(TM) and the creators of 10 uniquely creative sandwiches have won grand prize money for college along the way. Between March 26 and April 20, 2012, peanut butter fans can visit www.jif.com to view the 10 winning sandwiches from 2003 to 2012 and then vote for the best sandwich in the Jif Sandwich of the Decade Promotion. Each vote cast will be entered into a daily giveaway where 10 winners will be selected to win a Jif gift pack. For complete Official Rules visit www.jif.com. Promotion open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 18 years and older. Void where prohibited.
Hungry for some kitchen creativity? Try the 2011 winning recipe featured below.
Wushu Chicken Tacos
1/8-inch thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon chili paste with garlic, or to taste
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 1/4 teaspoons sesame oil
3 1/2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup diced rotisserie cooked chicken
1/4 cup asparagus pieces, about 1-inch long
1/4 cup yellow squash pieces, cut into half circles
2 fajita-size (6-inch) flour tortillas
2 lime wedges
1. Chop ginger and garlic in a small food processor as finely as possible. Add remaining sauce ingredients and process until sauce is completely smooth. If sauce is too thick, add more water, a little at a time. If sauce is too thin, add more peanut butter. Toss about half the sauce with the chicken and put aside in a covered bowl.
2. Boil about 1 inch of water in a large skillet; add asparagus. Cover skillet and turn off heat. In 1-2 minutes, lift off cover and remove asparagus using tongs.
3. Place squash pieces into a microwave-safe bowl; add a little water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high about 2-3 minutes. Let cool slightly; carefully drain off water.
4. Microwave tortillas on high about 15 seconds, or until tortillas are warm and are pliable. Put chicken on tortillas, top with asparagus and squash; drizzle with additional peanut butter sauce. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.