My kids and I have visited farmer’s markets as a weekend family outing since they were babies. We’re lucky to live in Northern California where our farmer’s markets run year-round and sell not just fruits and veggies but local honey, olive oil, seafood and grass-fed beef.
Once my girls were old enough to eat table food, we could feed them all the samples being offered by the purveyors from sweet summer tomatoes to fragrant fall apples. We’d stroll through the market and they’d point at the fruit or veggies that looked appealing to them and then we’d come home and cook together. That tradition still continues 10 years later with my 10- and 7-year-old daughters and my 17-month-old son. He’s not cooking yet, but he likes me to hold him on my hip so he can watch his sisters cooking – all part of the training.
One-pot (or pan) meals are great to cook with kids because everything cooks together and there is only one pan to clean up. One pan meals also encourage us to put a rainbow of veggies into the pan so that the meal looks pretty. After all, we eat with our eyes, first!
This is one of my family’s favorite meals. It’s a perfect recipe for a school night because it takes less than 30 minutes to cook. It also keeps well and is even better the second day. It’s loaded with lots of veggies and tender chicken and makes a luscious sauce that is perfect over white or brown rice or plain or whole wheat pasta. Furthermore, it has the familiar ranch flavor that kids love!
CityMama’s Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Saute
½ pound baby zucchini
½ pound baby carrots
½ pound yellow squash, cut into chunks
½ pound snap or snow peas
1½ cups light sour cream
¾ package Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, each piece cut into 2 or 3 large pieces
1 cup chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine sour cream with ranch mix and set aside.
In a large, heavy sauté pan set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
Add chicken to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and let brown. When chicken is browned on one side, flip and season second side with salt and pepper.
After 2–3 minutes, add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables to the pan, pushing them down around the chicken. Cover the pan loosely with foil and cook until the vegetables are just tender, about 10–15 minutes.
Remove foil, cook another 2-3 minutes to reduce the broth a bit, and add sour cream-ranch mixture, carefully tossing with chicken and vegetables. Turn heat to low and continue cooking about 5-7 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is warmed through. Take care not to let the sauce boil.
Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve warm over rice or pasta.
Tips for cooking with kids:
- Let them drive the meal from choosing the recipe to selecting the ingredients to chopping the vegetables. They will be more invested in wanting to eat it (or hopefully, at least taste it).
- Use a sharp knife, not a “kid knife.” Contrary to what you might think, a dull knife is not safer. It is more prone to slip and cause accidents. Teach kids to respect kitchen tools from an early age and they really will rise to the challenge. My kids were allowed to cut with “real knives” with supervision starting in kindergarten.
- Teach them to cook with all their senses, for example: chicken, meat or fish is ready to flip when it no longer sticks to the pan (they can feel this with tongs); have them notice that garlic sautéing in olive oil is one of the best smells in the world and that if it starts to smell “off,” it’s probably about to burn; explain that the sound of sizzling means that whatever is in the pan is really cooking and they should pay attention to it and turn it down if necessary.
- Teach them to clean as they go. While waiting for chicken to brown, they can compose any vegetable parts not used, throw the chicken package in the garbage, and wash the cutting board and knife.