As a parent and a nutritionist, I am a firm believer that the notion of “kid food” is a trap we set for ourselves.
Relegating kids to mostly beige, bland foods corners adults into catering to a self-imposed special need, adding extra work and stress at meals, and it limits children’s experience with different foods, something essential to their ultimately enjoying a variety of tastes and textures.
The kid-food mentality doesn’t begin and end at the dinner table. It infiltrates the kitchen, too, where cooking with kids typically means baking sweets. But why limit them to that?
I have found that children get just as excited about making couscous as they do cookies, and they are as taken with scooping out and roasting a winter squash as they are baking brownies.
This lip-smacking snack mix is a great way to open kids up to the savory realm in the kitchen. The recipe is a riff on the packaged cereal party mix they might be familiar with, but it’s a more nourishing, satisfying take made with olive oil, whole grain ingredients and more protein-packed nuts, seeds and beans.
There is so much children can participate in to make it, from measuring and mixing the seasonings (encourage them to explore the aroma and taste of each and then taste them together) to tossing together the cereal, nuts, crispy chickpeas and pita chips (let them determine the proportions of each or swap in other nuts and seeds).
They can help spread the mixture onto the pan and observe how it changes in the oven and the aroma fills the room. I am sure kids will relish the experience of making this – but the part they will surely enjoy most is when they get to dig in.
Savory Cereal Snack Mix
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
3 cups (5 ½ ounces) whole grain rice or wheat cereal squares such as rice or wheat Chex
1 cup (3 ounces) chickpea snacks
1 cup (1½ ounces) broken pieces of whole grain pita chips
½ cup (2½ ounces) raw unsalted almonds
¼ cup (1 ounce) raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and the cayenne pepper, if using.
In a large bowl, mix together the cereal, chickpeas, pita chips, almonds and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with the spiced oil mixture and toss until evenly coated.
Spread the mix over a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes, until ingredients are slightly darkened and just crisp. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool.
The snack mix will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 weeks.
Yield: 12 servings (makes about 6 cups)
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