It’s unsettling to think how many teenagers go off to college not knowing how to cook. If they get a meal plan at school, they might be ok. But eventually they’ll need to learn to cook for themselves, and scrambled eggs, top ramen, and pasta aren’t suitable options for a healthy adult diet. We have a positive parenting solution for you!
Teaching your child a few easy, healthy recipes as a teenager might help them immensely later in life by giving them the fundamentals to cook and eat nutritional foods. Here are three simple recipes I’ve found to give your teen a taste for cooking. You can also use the leftovers to send them off to school with a healthy lunch!
Grilled Buffalo Chicken Stir Fry
Chicken is a great source of low-fat protein and is incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking. There’s a lot you can do to change the texture and flavor of chicken, and this recipe is sure to show your teen how easy it is to prepare a tasty meal. The recipe is also a great way to introduce your teen to marinating meat as a way to add flavor, and it contains so little prep that your teen won’t be intimidated! Stir-fry is also a handy meal that includes lots of healthy vegetables, and it’s a classic staple for college students and young adults just starting in the kitchen!
- 1 pound chicken tenderloins
- 1 cup wing sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is an excellent option!)
- 1 lime
- 2 cloves minced or finely chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 whole cauliflower
- Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
- Cube the chicken tenderloins into (about) 1-inch pieces. Combine the hot sauce, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, and salt in a bowl. Whisk and pour over the chicken into a container or plastic bag. Let marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours. While the chicken is marinating, wash the carrots, celery, and cauliflower. Peel and shred the carrots, then dice the celery and separate the cauliflower into individual heads.
- Put olive oil in a heated pan and cook the cauliflower and carrots on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Unlike typical stir fry, you don’t want the vegetables to get too soft! When the chicken is done marinating, pan-fry over medium heat and add the vegetables. Finally, sprinkle gorgonzola crumbles on top and mix in the uncooked celery. That’s it!
This recipe is great because of how simple it is and the spin it takes on regular, “boring” stir-fry. It’s a great entry-level recipe for anyone to learn the basics of cooking and marinating meat. If your teen isn’t a fan of spice, you can always tone down how much hot sauce you use. Adding cilantro to the marinade is also an option to add more flavor and give your teen practice chopping herbs!
Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Inspired by Isabel Eats
This recipe takes more time to prepare than the buffalo chicken, and has a much longer ingredient list. But don’t be scared! It’s a delicious recipe, and making chili from scratch is a great way to get your teen used to basic kitchen skills like draining cans, chopping vegetables, and using and measuring spices. This recipe is particularly great because it helps debunk the myth that all meals need meat! Healthy vegetarian meals are fantastic for showing your teen the value of vegetables, and this recipe does it better than most. Since it takes a longer time to prepare and cook, you might consider making it over the weekend with your teen and then putting it in a thermos for them to bring to school.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 carrots
- 2 Serrano chilis or jalapeños
- 4 cloves minced or finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans
- 1 15-ounce can black beans
- 1 15-ounce can sweet corn
- 2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce (I recommend chipotle Tobasco!)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Skin the carrots and chop along with the onion, bell pepper, chilies, and garlic. Rinse and drain all the beans.
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil and chopped onion. Cook alone for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding the garlic and the rest of the fresh vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes then add the spices, salt, and pepper. Stir for one minute and add the beans, corn, broth, and hot sauce. When it begins to boil, lower the heat and let the chili simmer uncovered until you’re happy with the thickness.
Again, don’t be thrown off by the extensive prep and the long cook time. It’s important for your teen to realize that good meals take time and patience, and that it’s good to prepare meals ahead of time for future use. You can also easily adjust the spices to make the final product more or less spicy. This is an excellent meal for cozy winter nights that also introduces your teen to common kitchen tools and practices.
Mango Kale Salad with Homemade Dressing
From What a Girl Eats
Salads often get a bad rap among teenagers—particularly boys. They have a reputation for not being filling and offering little in terms of flavor. This recipe is sure to set that straight by using a set of tangy ingredients. This is only the base salad, but adding chicken or another source of meat is a great way to add protein. Introducing your teenager to the adaptability of salads might be a useful tool for them later on, as many salads are healthy, delicious, cheap, and easy to prepare.
- 1 head of Kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 mango
- ½ purple onion
- ½ cup almonds or sunflower seeds
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 1 orange
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Remove the ribs from the kale and chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and massage the leaves to soften them. Cube the mango and avocado, and chop the onion.
Juice and zest the orange into a small bowl. Mince or finely chop the garlic.
Cook might be the wrong word, but combine all the salad ingredients into a large bowl, except the avocado. In the smaller bowl with the orange zest, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Lastly, add the avocado on top!
Salads are a quick and cheap way for your teen to eat healthy. This recipe is quick, simple, and a great way to get your teen familiar with making dressings and sauces from scratch. It’s full of nutrients and healthy fats, and adding meat could easily give it some extra protein.
There are plenty of ways to get your teen involved in their own nutrition, but cooking is a great place to start. These recipes will teach your teen valuable kitchen skills while also showing them cooking doesn’t have to be a scary process! We hope you find these recipes useful in teaching your teenager about cooking. And, besides, the more they cook, the less work for you!