My little ones love cooking. Yes, it’s messy, and at times a little stressful. In fact, more than once, attempts to cook in my house have ended in tears (and not just from my children!) and the floor needing a good mop. It’s worth it though, as they look so pleased with themselves when they see what they have created, and are always super-keen to try what they have made, even if it contains ingredients they have never come across before. I wasn’t surprised to read in one academic study that children who help out in the kitchen are more likely to make healthier food choices. With that in mind, here are seven easy and healthy(ish) desserts that require minimal preparation and very little cooking. I hope you enjoy them.
1. Five-a-day rainbow fruit cocktail
I blogged about this fruit cocktail a couple of weeks ago but I wanted to include it again, as it’s a big favourite in our house. You will need sundae glasses (or good old Ikea wine glasses if you live in my house, or even plastic ones if you’re worried about little ones dropping them); a selection of fresh fruits, chopped up; a dollop of ice cream, cream or yoghurt; and a spoon. Layer the fruit in the glass (anything particularly juicy needs to go at the bottom so it doesn’t drip onto the other fruits), top with ice cream, and enjoy. Easy peasy and your daily recommended five portions in one go!
2. Chocolate strawberries
My good friend Katie first introduced me to these little beauties. To make enough for four to six people (or just me, if I’m honest!), melt 250g chocolate (plain, dark or white, the choice is yours) in a glass bowl above a saucepan of simmering water. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, dip each strawberry in (a 500g punnet), holding it by the stalk, and cover with chocolate. Little E and Little O insisted on adding sprinkles to these ones. Place strawberries on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Allow to set at room temperature. As you can see from the picture, they are definitely their handiwork, but they taste just as delicious!
3. Hot apple and cinnamon
This is especially good in the colder months. My children love it as an afternoon snack, along with a babychino. Peel, core and dice one apple (any variety is fine) per person. Put them in a saucepan with a teaspoon of water and a half a teaspoon of cinnamon per apple, depending on taste. Simmer on a low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft and mushy. Add a blob of ice cream or whipped cream for a treat.
4. Peaches and cream crunch
My children make me laugh because they think tinned sliced peaches are the height of sophistication – we have always got a several tins in the cupboard. We find the ones in natural juice taste best and are healthiest. All you need to do is drain them (reserving the juice for little ones to drink), chop them in half and pop them in a sundae glass or wine glass, allowing between a quarter and a half a tin per person. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of double cream or plain yoghurt, and top with digestive biscuits (one per person) that have been given the breadcrumb treatment in a food processor (or, if you don’t own one, put them in a plastic food bag and get your children to bash them with a wooden rolling pin).
5. Mini raspberry cheesecakes
You’ll need a pack of digestive biscuits, 5-6 raspberries per biscuit, a tablespoon of soft cream cheese per biscuit and a pinch of sugar per biscuit (optional). Mix the soft cream cheese with the sugar and spread onto the biscuits. Mash the raspberries with a fork and spoon onto the biscuits. They need to be eaten straight away, as I discovered when I thought I was being organised by preparing them in advance and they went soggy!
6. Frozen yoghurt bites
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Spoon on a dessert spoon of strawberry yoghurt (or more/less, depending on how big you want them to be) and smooth it out with the back of the spoon into a circle shape. Top with some chopped up strawberries. Pop in the freezer for an hour or so. Eat as soon as you take them out of the freezer as they melt quite quickly.
7. Blueberry tart
Credit where it’s due, I got this one from the Tesco magazine and it’s lovely (my rubbish photography skills do not do it justice!). You need a pack of ready-rolled short-crust pastry, 100g of soft cream cheese, a teaspoon of sugar, 500g of blueberries, washed and patted dry with kitchen roll, and a tablespoon of plain flour.
Pre-heat a baking tray in the oven to 220 degrees or gas mark 7. Put the pastry on a piece of greaseproof paper. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar and spread over the pastry, making sure to leave a border of about 3cm. Stir the flour into the blueberries and spoon on top of the cream cheese. Fold in the edges of the pastry, brush with a little milk. Then, using a fish slice or similar to help, transfer off the paper and onto the hot baking tray (you, not your little ones!) and cook for 25 minutes. I once tried to skip this step by making it straight onto a greased baking tray, but it ended up – in the words of The Great British Bake Off – with a not-very-nice soggy bottom. When it comes out of the oven, mash the blueberries a bit with a fork. Delicious and not too heavy.