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Cooking Ideas For Kids From A South Florida Chef

Kids Cooking
(credit: Thinkstock)

Renowned chef and South Florida culinary icon Michelle Bernstein continues to change the landscape of food with her unwavering passion, undeniable prowess and unparalleled creativity. With several successful restaurants in South Florida, including Michy's and Crumb on Parchment, she's become a trusted expert on all things food.

Chef Bernstein is equally passionate about kids having a positive connection with food, as evident in her founding the Miami chapter of Common Threads, an organization that promotes culinary awareness and education in underprivileged youth.

During an interview with the James Beard Award and Iron Chef America winner, Chef Bernstein provided some insightful ideas on how parents can get kids involved in the kitchen. Her helpful tips offer ideas on how kids can participate in cooking and why she enjoys cooking with children.

Bernstein says:

1. Get children involved in the selection process and ideation of meals.
2. Give them tasks to help prepare the meals.
3. Have them taste as you go and ask what they think the recipes might need to improve.

Kid-Friendly Recipes

Breakfast: Hearty Breakfast Scramble


  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 cooked breakfast sausage links or patties, chopped
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat a skillet to medium-low. Beat eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl. Add meat, vegetables and cheese, then stir to combine. Melt butter in the skillet and add the egg mixture. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently for about 5-10 minutes. Top with additional shredded cheese and allow it to melt. Serve with your choice of bread.

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Lunch: Chicken Quesadillas


  • 10 large flour tortillas
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 4 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, cheddar & jack blend or Mexican blend are recommended)
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), chopped
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 6-8 stalks scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Sour cream for dipping

Preheat a medium-sized pan on medium-low to medium. Add olive oil to the pan. Once heated, add the bell pepper and red onion. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat a griddle to medium-low (approximately 250-300 degrees). Once heated, place one tortilla on the griddle (get your kids to help assemble the quesadilla). Sprinkle a layer of shredded cheese on the tortilla. Next, add about 2-3 tablespoons of the cooked bell pepper and red onion on top of the cheese. Then, add a layer of shredded chicken on top of the cooked vegetable mixture. Add a layer of chopped tomatoes and some of the sliced scallions. Add another layer of shredded cheese, and top with another tortilla.

Allow it to crisp on both sides, flipping once. The quesadilla is done when the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted. Use a pizza cutter to cut into triangles. Serve with sour cream for dipping.

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Dinner: Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage


  • 1 box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 32-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 2 pounds ground Italian sausage*
  • 1 8-ounce package shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley flakes (or 3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 26-ounce jars pasta sauce of your choice

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Cook Italian sausage until brown and drain. Allow both to cool.

Combine ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, salt and pepper, garlic powder and half a package of shredded cheese in a large bowl. Then add half of the Italian sausage to the mixture.

Make a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of a baking pan. Stuff pasta shells with the cheese mixture, then add them to pan. When completed, add remaining sausage to pasta sauce and then top the shells with sauce. Top with remaining shredded cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

*Sliced Italian sausage or ground beef seasoned with Italian seasoning can substitute the ground Italian sausage.

For nearly 20 years, Shawanda James has been actively involved in creative writing in Miami, Florida. In addition to her work as a freelance writer, she is actively seeking publication for her debut novel and collection of poetry. Her work can be found at


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