Donna Hay’s hacks for coooking with kids

Mix up the generations ... Donna Hay passes on her skills in Basics To Brilliance Kids.
Mix up the generations ... Donna Hay passes on her skills in Basics To Brilliance Kids.

SHE'S written the book and made the TV show - but Donna Hay knows there are some kitchen conundrums that need the personal touch.

Especially when it comes to cooking with kids.

Given that Donna's new project, Basics To Brilliance Kids, is all about getting youngsters involved in the kitchen and eating better, we asked readers if they had any questions on the topic. And they did.

Here Australia's cooking star picks some of her faves and answers in-depth. If you have any thoughts or tips to share, please use the comments section below.

Classic with a twist ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids popcorn bags.
Classic with a twist ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids popcorn bags.

* Hi Donna,

I have two girls - eight and twelve - and my eight-year-old gets quite disheartened because she feels she can't get as involved as my twelve-year-old. Do you have any tips on ways both the girls can get in the kitchen and help?




Of course - kids come with all ages and skill levels, but there's ways for everyone to get involved. There's plenty of steps from the measuring to the combining of ingredients where kids of all ages can help - whether it's portioning the flour or helping to combine in a food processor. There are also many classic recipes - such as my cheat's pizzas - where everyone can help to pop on the toppings with fresh ingredients or spread the puree.

It can be intimidating when using sharp objects in the kitchen but there are always alternatives. A lot of my recipes in Basics to Brilliance Kids don't use knives at all, so for younger kids, using graters and peelers is a great way to get around this while keeping the results (and they're more easily managed!).

There's also ways to get everyone involved even before you step in the kitchen. Taking kids shopping and letting them explore fresh produce and pick out their favourite ingredients (and new ingredients!) is a great way to get involved and start the learning process.

Slice of life ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids cheat’s pizza.
Slice of life ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids cheat’s pizza.

* Dear Donna,

I love entertaining for my kids and their friends but I struggle to find recipe ideas that can be made in larger quantities. Do you have any go-to recipes or snack ideas that kids love?

Thank you!



I absolutely love entertaining for kids! There's so many fun activities - movie nights, treasure hunts, garden parties, Sunday lunches - that invite a great range of snacks and tasty meals. Once you have a few go-tos, you'll find there's plenty of variations to keep everyone happy.

Popcorn bags are one of my go-to favourites for movie nights. 1 cup of kernels is enough to make 6 bags of popcorn, so it's definitely an easy (and super yum) way to create a snack with minimal fuss and maximum taste. You can get creative with fun variations to shake up the classics - there's easy tricks to making choc-coconut popcorn, cinnamon, maple butter or even lime and chilli popcorn.

They’ll go nuts for this ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids chocolate peanut slice.
They’ll go nuts for this ... Donna Hay Basics to Brilliance Kids chocolate peanut slice.

* Hi Donna,

I really (really!) struggle to get my 11-year-old to eat any sort of vegetables. I've tried a few recipes but it's always the same response. Do you have any tips or recommendations for sneaking in some vegies? Are there particular cooking techniques to try?



Veges can definitely be a tricky one. My boys are often the same - one week they love cauliflower and the next they swear to me their life will be over if they eat it! The good news is there's a few tricks you can try to introduce vege with new flavours and textures. A personal favourite of mine is caramelising vege by roast to add sweet flavours, or using a grater to pack in loads of texture for crispy fritters, nacho bowls or crunchy salads. They are subtle changes that can have a huge impact.

If you want to get creative, there are also plenty of variations you can experiment with to sneak in extra vegetables (and keep the flavour!). Using the classics as a base is a great way to start introducing more vege. My cauliflower mac and cheese is a change-up that is as creamy as the classic, or you can pack pizzas with a range of fresh tomato, spinach, basil and pineapple.

Words of wisdom ... Donna Hay shares her hacks.
Words of wisdom ... Donna Hay shares her hacks.

* Hello Donna,

Our weeknights are jam-packed with kid's activities and sports commitments, so dinners become a rush and I find there's not much time (or patience!) to get the kids to help. My question is: what are your favourite weeknight meals and how do you keep them nutritious?




I would also add it's hard to keep everyone happy! The kids love my ricotta and zucchini cannelloni and it's also packed with healthy trade-ups so that you're getting maximum vegetable impact. I swap-out the pastry to use zucchini for the wraps and make a nutritious base with ricotta, peas, spinach and tomato - it's a fast, healthy and fresh recipe that's great for the weeknights.

Another family favourite and a staple in my place is classic meatballs. I use a frying pan to cook the meatballs with tomato sauce (with puree, stock, garlic, and basil) and this means no spitting fat or wrestling with the pan! It's a healthy trade-up and you can easily modify them to create meatballs with pasta, couscous or meatballs subs.


* Donna Hay Basics To Brilliance Kids, 7.30pm Thursdays on Foxtel's Lifestyle Channel

* Basics to Brilliance Kids, published by Harper Collins, at your favourite bookstore or at

Topics:  cooking donna hay food hacks parenting

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