Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Lil' Chef: Cooking by teens

Posted June 19, 2012

Susan Caldwell, founder of Lil' Chef studios in North Hills, and her teams of teen chefs bring us fun, healthy recipes especially for the summertime. This week, we take a look at a great dinner that children ages 12 to 15 can have fun making themselves.

Check out previous recipes for a healthy lunch for children ages 8 to 11 and healthy snacks that 4- to 7-year-olds like making.

Dinner always a rush at your house? Mine too, so we plan ahead and prepare this super fresh, super healthy dinner the night before we plan to have it for dinner. Planning ahead helps ensure that your family will have a fresh meal waiting at home. All it takes is making a grocery list, doing some quick shopping and a little advance planning

I love the freshness of tomatoes in the summer, along with fresh oregano, basil and parsley. In the winter, you can substitute dried spices for the fresh if they're hard to find. Have your Teen Chef or Lil' Chef help in the kitchen, and add a little green and red to their plates with spinach and fresh tomatoes. You'll all have a delicious and healthy meal and be ready for what summer brings the next day! Enjoy!

Spinach Stuffed Shells


Lil Chef: Spinach stuffed shells Lil Chef: Spinach stuffed shells

  • 2 cups basic marinara, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 24 cooked jumbo pasta shells


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread 1/2 cup basic marinara over bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. Combine ricotta and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring well. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons filling into each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells in prepared dish; spread with remaining 1 1/2 cups Basic Marinara. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

Simple Basil Bruschetta


Lil Chef: Simple basil bruschetta Lil Chef: Simple basil bruschetta

  • 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 French baguette
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to broil (high).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix well and let sit for 5-10 mins. 
  3. Cut the baguette into slices (approx. 3/4-inch thick.) Spray the baguettes very lightly with spray butter or lightly butter with spread. Spread the baguettes on a cooking sheet. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly brown on both sides. Remove from oven.
  4. Divide the tomato mixture over the baguette slices. Top the slices with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  5.  Broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Top lightly with the basil.

That’s it! It’s so simple! Realistically you could do this in the amount of time it takes the oven to heat, toast and melt cheese. Good luck!


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