By Lauren Sharifi, RD LDN

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to get into the kitchen with your kids, whether they’re 1 or 18. Spending time in the kitchen cooking together creates fond memories. It is also an exciting time to introduce your kids to new foods and cooking skills. Below are three recipes to try at home with your children and tips on how to involve them.
Slow Cooker Pesto Minestrone
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:
* 1 cup carrots, diced (about 2-3 carrots)
* 1 cup celery, diced (about 2-3 celery sticks)
* 1 onion, diced
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 (14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium diced tomatoes
* 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
* 2 cups water
* 2 teaspoons dried basil
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* ½ teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 teaspoon dried parsley
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 cup whole wheat shell pasta
* ½ cup parmesan cheese
* 1 small zucchini, diced
* 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
* 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
* ½ cup prepared pesto sauce
* Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a slow cooker, add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, water, dried basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
2. Add zucchini, whole wheat pasta, kidney beans, chickpeas. Mix to combine and continue to cook on low for another 30 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.
3. Add in parmesan cheese and pesto, and mix to combine.
4. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Soup is a great winter dish that the whole family will enjoy. Have your kids help measure and pour ingredients into the slow cooker. Older kids can help chop vegetables, open cans, and drain beans.

One of the most important things to remember is that cooking doesn’t need to be perfect. Have fun connecting with your kids, and use it as a learning experience to help them develop new skills, try new food, and create happy memories.
Frozen Yogurt Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 5 Minutes

Ingredients:
* 1 cup vanilla Greek or siggis yogurt (nonfat or full fat)
* 1/3 cup dried cranberries
* 1/3 cup roasted pistachios (shelled) — chop up if younger toddlers will be eating them

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, add yogurt, cranberries, and pistachios. Mix to combine.
2. Line a cookie or baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread with yogurt mixture.
3. Place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
4. Remove and break into pieces.
5. Enjoy or place in a freezer bag, and store in the freezer.

This recipe makes a great snack or dessert option during the holidays. It is also an easy recipe, perfect for toddlers and kids new to cooking. Have toddlers help pour and mix ingredients. Older kids can help measure out the ingredients and practice reading the recipe.
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients:
* 1 (14.5-ounce) can of black beans, drained
* 10-12 Medjool dates
* ¼ cup peanut butter
* ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:
1. Line an 8x 8 baking pan with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a food processor, add black beans.
3. Pulse until smooth.
4. Add in dates and pulse until combined.
5. Add in cocoa powder and peanut butter, and pulse until smooth.
6. Add mixture to baking pan and press out evenly with a spatula.
7. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
8. Cut into 16 pieces.

This recipe is a fun spin on fudge using black beans as a replacement for fat and flour, and dates for sugar. It makes a healthy snack or dessert option for any holiday celebration. This recipe is also great for all ages to prepare. Have your kids help measure and pour ingredients. They can also practice counting by counting the dates. Older kids can help by pushing the buttons on the food processor and using their hands to smooth out the fudge in the pan.

Lauren Sharifi is a registered dietitian nutritionist and food blogger at biteofhealthnutrition.com. Lauren works in private practice in Brighton at ASF-Peak Health. She specializes in wellness and family/pediatric nutrition and works with individuals and families to make healthy eating easy, enjoyable and sustainable!