Easy First Course

Thanksgiving is a hectic time and you may be tempted to stick your kids in front of the boob-tube while you whip up the feast. But is this easy solution the wisest one? If you want your kids to learn about the early history of their country and understand the reason behind the whole holiday to-do, involve them in the meal preparations, even if it's just one or two simple cooking tasks.

For instance, your kid isn't going to don a chef's cap and roast a turkey to perfection, but he can certainly cube bread for stuffing. Give your child an apron and crown him sous-chef for the day. He may be too young to cook hot dishes, but he can certainly assist you in your preparations or even put together a cold salad or perhaps a tray of crudités.

Art Work

A crudite or relish tray offers your child limitless avenues of creativity. He can design the platter according to the colors of the vegetables or even line up the veggies in the shape of a turkey. If your child is too young to peel or cut vegetables, do these steps for him, placing the vegetables in a bowl and providing a platter as the canvas for his vegetable art work. Your choice of vegetables is going to be based upon whatever looks fresh and good at the market. You might want to bring your child along with you when you make your selections. Don't feel you have to limit your selections to raw vegetables; lightly cooked veggies can also work well, here.

A cold salad that your child can put together with very little help can earn your child a lot of praise at the Thanksgiving meal and make him feel an active part of the celebrations. This salad is pretty, dotted as it is with sweetened dried cranberries and slices of red onion. You will want to be on hand to help with some of the more grownup tasks involved in the preparation, such as using the microwave. However, most of the steps involved in this pretty first course salad are very child-friendly.

Spinach and Craisin Salad with Bacon and Honey Mustard Dressing

Serves Four


For the Salad:

6 ounces fresh spinach leaves for salad

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries*

1 very small red onion, sliced into 4 thin slices

For the Dressing:

4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, then crumbled

1/2 cup orange-flavored or plain honey

1/2 cup lime juice, fresh or bottled

2 tablespoons smooth or grainy Dijon mustard


Early in the day, wash spinach well in five changes of water to remove sand. Spin dry and place spinach in Ziploc bag with a paper towel placed inside to absorb any extra moisture. Leave in your refrigerator's vegetable crisper until you are ready to prepare the salad.

Just before you are ready to serve the salad, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Whisk dressing ingredients in a small glass mixing bowl. Heat the dressing in the microwave on HIGH for 1 minute or until warm. Pour just enough dressing over salad to moisten and toss once more. Divide salad among four plates, serving remaining dressing on the side in a glass cruet.

*Ocean Spray's sweetened dried cranberries are called Craisins. These are available in most grocery stores.