Take a trip with your taste buds

Making Upside-Down Nacho Bake is a great way to take a quick trip to Mexico. (QMI Agency)

Making Upside-Down Nacho Bake is a great way to take a quick trip to Mexico. (QMI Agency)

Jill Ellis Special, to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

You're tired of snow, slush and shoveling and really want to take a trip to somewhere wonderfully warm for March Break, but the family budget says no. Treat yourself and your family to a taste treat from a different warm and exotic locale each night of the week of March Break.

Brainstorm with the kids about hot, beachy places they'd like to visit. Assign older children the duty of looking up recipes from those countries. Including kids in the choices and in the cooking process will achieve buy-in when new and interesting items show up at the table.

Kary Osmond, host of Best Recipes Ever on CBC Television, agrees. "When children help, they feel proud of the dish, and they'll eat it."

Osmond has fond memories of cooking with her own mother as a child. "I loved rolling meatballs. My mom used to have me doing that when I was really young."

Osmond shares her tips for cooking with kids: Never leave children unattended in the kitchen.

Younger children can help with measuring, mixing, rolling and cookie cutting - tasks that they can be safely hands-on with. Keep these tasks short, to accommodate shorter attention spans.

Older children can help with chopping, slicing and other harder food prep that entails more responsibility.

"Only a parent can judge when the child is ready to use a knife," advises Osmond.

Use unbreakable bowls and dishes to avoid tears.

Fill the sink with warm soapy water, ready for dirty dishes, messy hands and spills, to make your life easier.

Executing an entire recipe with a child, who's old enough to have the proper attention span, is a great lesson in organization and a great way to keep the learning going during March Break.

"A stir-fry or a kebab recipe would be a great project for kids who are a little older - teach them how to read a recipe, understand the recipe, get all the ingredients out and then start to prep everything.  If they're not ready for a little knife, kitchen shears (scissors) are a great tool to use for cutting ingredients. Then, once everything is ready, they can help dump into the wok while Mom or Dad stirs and cooks everything," says Osmond.

Try some of these exotic taste treats to spice up your March Break and bring a little 'beach' into your lives.

Mexico

A great way to take a quick trip to Mexico is to enjoy Kary Osmond's Upside-Down Nacho Bake:

This quick meal starts on the stove then bakes in the oven. Baked tortilla chips deliver lots of crunch with less fat than fried corn chips.

This recipe makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 lb (454 g) lean ground beef

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 sweet green pepper, chopped

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper

1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried oregano

1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes

1/3 cup (75 mL) tomato paste

1 cup (250 mL) corn kernels

1 cup (250 mL) crumbled baked tortilla chips or corn chips

3/4 cup (175 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese

1 green onion, thinly sliced

Preparation:

In large nonstick ovenproof skillet, saute beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain off fat.

Add onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper, green pepper, cumin, salt, pepper and oregano; cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add black beans, tomatoes and tomato paste; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stir-ring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn.

Sprinkle with tortilla chips and Cheddar cheese; bake in 375°F (190°C) oven until cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with onion.

Greece

Greek Village Salad

With supervision, children can help cut up all the veggies for this taste of summer salad. Compliments of Mykonos Restaurant in London, Ontario.

Cut into bite-size chunks:

Tomatoes

Seedless cucumbers

Green peppers

Red onions

Feta cheese

Mix all of these chunks into a mixture of olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper

Top with Kalamata olives

Caribbean

For a Caribbean taste treat, try these child-friendly kabobs from Kary Osmond and the Best Recipes Ever crew:

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Kabobs

These protein-rich kabobs provide the necessary amino acids to help build and repair muscles after active competition. Serve with brown rice to provide complex carbohydrates that replenish your tired athlete's energy.

This recipe makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, (about 1-1/4 lb/625 g)

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

1 sweet red and green pepper

1/2 sweet onion

1/2 pineapple, peeled and cored

Sweet-And-Sour Sauce:

1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup (75 mL) bottled strained tomatoes

3 tbsp (45 mL) rice vinegar

2 tbsp (25 mL) packed brown sugar

2 tbsp (25 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce

1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil

Preparation:

Sweet-And-Sour Sauce: In saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium-low heat; cook garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in sesame oil. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours.)

Meanwhile, cut chicken breast into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) cubes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut red and green peppers, sweet onion and pineapple into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) pieces.

Onto each of eight 12-inch (30 cm) soaked wooden or metal skewers, alternately thread chicken, red and green peppers, onion and pineapple. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)

Place skewers on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning often, for 14 minutes.

Brush with half of the sauce; grill, turning once, for 1 minute.

Brush skewers with remaining sauce; grill, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink inside, about 1 minute.


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