Making Family Memories with Safe Recipes


Many of us have fond memories of cooking with our parents or grandparents, baking cookies or preparing holiday meals. When looking for fun activities to do with kids, one great-grandmother went a step further.  

Barb the Great, as she’s known by her family, works with brothers Cole and Clayton to enter cooking contests. She does all the research while each boy comes up with ideas. Together, they test and adjust their individual recipes, then Barb gets them entered. In total, they’ve entered about 10 different contests!

In 2020, Barb came across PFSE’s 30-Minute Meals Safe Recipe Contest. Both boys entered, and Cole’s Cheesy Sausage, Bacon, & Apple Bagel won an honorable mention in the 30-Minute Meals Safe Recipe Cookbook.

Hard work pays off

When the Young Cooks Recipe Challenge opened earlier this year, it was game on! Once again, the family worked together, and each boy created their own lunch dish.

It was a big challenge for the young chefs this year, because they had to incorporate healthy ingredients. Using the USDA’s guidelines for a healthy plate, each recipe had to contain at least two of four types of ingredients: a lean protein, a fruit, a vegetable, or a whole grain.

Younger brother Clayton’s Mexican Chicken Wrap is featured in The Healthy Lunch Cookbook. His recipe includes grilled Southwest chicken strips, pineapple salsa, and fresh avocado.

Cole won the Grand Prize with his Chicken, Fruit & Nut Salad Sandwich! He added his own twist and made it healthier by using his favorite fruits and nuts. The result is a satisfying savory, tart, sweet and crunchy concoction.
In addition to being featured in the cookbook, Cole received a $100 gift card. He used his prize money to buy himself a cool new water bottle that he decorated himself with his favorite stickers. It’s perfect for him to take anywhere, especially to soccer practice.

Kids in the kitchen

While Barb the Great is creating wonderful memories in the kitchen with the boys, she’s also doing so much more. A study from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that developing cooking skills while kids are young may have long-term benefits in both health and nutrition into adulthood.* Confidence in the kitchen “led to fewer fast-food meals, more meals as a family, and more frequent preparation of meals with vegetables.”

While cooking, young chefs learn about food safety, nutrition, math, science, and they develop fine motor skills. In addition, time spent preparing meals “stirs” their imagination, and can even lead them to create their own recipes, just like Cole and Clayton!

PFSE has great resources specifically geared toward kids, including a Safe Recipe Activity. For parents, there’s a printable flyer on getting started, finding age-appropriate tasks, and inspiring kids to create their own recipes!

Before getting involved with PFSE’s challenges, Barb’s family had never added food safety prompts to their recipes. It was easy for them to do using the Safe Recipe Style Guide. The boys’ mother Tanya said the process has made them more aware of food safety at home. They wash hands, cutting boards and counters more often between steps while preparing meals.

More fun on the horizon!

Cole, Clayton and Barb have been keeping busy in the kitchen this year. In addition to winning the Young Cooks Recipe Challenge, Cole also won $1,000 with his quesadilla recipe in a cheese contest! Currently, the family is working on milkshakes for an upcoming contest.

You can join this busy trio later this month by registering for Ready, Set, Cook It Safe! on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11:30 a.m. EST. At this virtual event, they’ll be demonstrating Cole’s delicious winning recipe, along with Cinnamon Tortilla Crisps and Fruit Salsa. The salsa was inspired by a fruit salad that was also featured in The Healthy Lunch Cookbook and created by students Conner, Victoria and Lydia. You’ll receive the recipes and equipment list in advance so you can cook along.

Bring your own family! There will be lots of fun, food safety information, cooking tips, and even prizes!

In addition, your $25 donation helps keep access to food safety education free for all Americans, like Barb, Cole and Clayton.

*Larson, N., Laska, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Winkler, M., & Utter, J. (2018). Self-perceived cooking skills in emerging adulthood predict better dietary behaviors and intake 10 years later: a longitudinal study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 50(5).

Chef Leslie Owens is lead BAC Fighter on culinary content and safe recipe contests. Leslie is a chef and writer from Central Florida. She is guardian of the furry Stooges.