Get cooking with the kids! Try these sure-fire hit meals, from Ray's new book, Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals for Kids.
Rachael Ray
Credit: Timothy White

Cooking Rocks!

Worms and Eyeballs? The name will have them giggling, but they'll wind up gobbling up this spicy, Asian-inspired spaghetti and chicken meatballs dish. Make your kid the chef -- let her don an apron as you work -- and you can be her assigned Grownup Helper (GH for short!). Bust out of your dinner rut with one of the following.

From Rachael Ray's Cooking Rocks!

Worms and Eyeballs

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 pound bucatini (hollow spaghetti that looks just like worms)
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken breast (1 package)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (Chinese-style barbecue sauce, available in the Asian foods aisle)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup preshredded carrots
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (a couple handfuls)
  • 1 cup snow pea pods, cut into pieces with kitchen scissors or knife
  • 1/2 cup tamari (dark soy sauce), eyeball it

Have your GH preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Cut off about a quarter of the bell pepper, and have your GH chop it finely. Slice the rest of the pepper yourself.

Combine the chicken, garlic, ginger, scallions, finely chopped red bell pepper, hoisin sauce, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Roll the mixture into meatballs the size of chicken eyeballs and place balls on a nonstick cookie sheet, coated lightly with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Roast the chicken eyeballs 10 to 12 minutes.

When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, just until al dente, that is, with a bite left to it -- just like Dracula would like, right?

When the pasta is almost cooked through and the meatballs are about 5 minutes from coming out of the oven, start stir-frying the veggies. If you are not used to cooking at the stove, have the GH do the frying of the veggies; you can hand over the veggies as the GH needs them. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (2 turns of the pan). Add the sliced red bell pepper, the carrots, sprouts, and pea pods. Stir-fry veggies 1 minute. Have the GH drain the noodles and add the worms to the vegetables. You pour in the tamari while the GH tosses the worms and veggies to combine and evenly coat.

Transfer noodles to a serving platter. Remove the eyeballs from the oven and roll them on top of the worms, then serve.

Chicken Catch-a-tory Ravioli Stew

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 cloves garlic, skins on
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo) (twice around the pan in a slow stream)
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 cup presliced fresh mushrooms, about 1/3 pound (have GH slice for you)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes with peppers, onions, and celery (15 ounces)
  • 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, drained
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 package chopped frozen spinach, defrosted in microwave and drained (10 ounces)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken breast tenders (1 package)
  • 1 pound fresh ravioli, any flavor
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, parmigiano reggiano, or romano cheese, to pass at table
  • Crusty Italian bread or rolls, to pass at table

Have your GH heat a medium soup pot over medium-high heat.

Place 3 cloves of garlic on a cutting board and WHACK each clove with a small heavy frying pan. Pick out the skins and chuck them in your garbage bowl. Have the GH add evoo, 2 turns of the pan, to the soup pot. Throw in the smashed garlic and 2 stems each of the rosemary and fresh thyme herbs. The leaves will fall of the stems and give a delicious flavor to your special stew. Add the mushrooms, too, and help stir as the mushrooms cook 3 to 5 minutes. Season the 'shrooms up with salt and pepper as they're cooking.

Next, you or your GH can open the can of stewed tomatoes and add them to the pot. Use a sharp, small knife to chop the roasted red bell peppers. Keep your fingers on the hand holding the peppers curled under so you don't chop off a whole finger! You just want to cut up those peppers into pieces as big as your mouth; that's what they call bite-size. Add the chopped-up roasted red peppers and add 1 cup tomato sauce to the soup pot.

Put defrosted chopped spinach into a kitchen towel. Gather towel up and twist it to get the water out of the spinach. Squeeze the spinach over your garbage bowl until it stops dripping. Separate spinach with your fingers and add it to the soup. Pour in chicken broth and stir the stew really slowly or it will slosh out of your pot! Have the GH cover the soup and raise the heat to high.

Have the GH cut up the chicken for you on a separate plastic cutting board from the one you cut up the vegetables on. Cut the chicken tenders into 1-inch pieces and add them to the stew. Tell the GH to go wash up right away with lots of soap and hot water -- including the board -- so that the raw chicken doesn't get on anything else in the kitchen or any other food. If you touched the raw chicken, you should wash up, too.

When the stew comes up to a boil again, add the ravioli and leave the lid off. Cook stew until the ravioli is almost done, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the stew cool down a little bit. Have your GH serve up the stew and pass cheese and bread at the table to go with it.

Tomato, Basil, and Cheese Baked Pasta

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 pound medium shell pasta
  • 3 large cloves garlic, skins on
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo) (2 turns of the pan)
  • 1/2 small to medium yellow onion
  • 1 can crushed San Marzano or other Italian tomatoes, any brand (28 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces (10-12 leaves)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup store-bought basil pesto sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano cheese (a couple of handfuls)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Add pasta and cook for a minute or two less time than package directions say. The pasta will soak up more juice and keep on cooking after we drain it, so we need it to be a little undercooked. The shells with probably cook for 9 or 10 minutes.

Preheat a big, deep skillet or a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Place garlic on a cutting board and place the flat of your knife on top of each clove. Carefully give the garlic a whack with the palm of your hand to separate the cloves form the skins. Throw out the skins and chop up the garlic. Remember to keep your fingers curled under and the edge of your knife tilted slightly away from your body.

Add evoo by pouring a slow stream of it twice around the pan. This will be about 2 tablespoons, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Do not let the oil pour out too fast; you want a slow, steady stream. Add the garlic to the oil. To chop the onion, cut the ends off and cut the whole onion down the center. Wrap half and save it for another use. Cut the other half into thin slices then turn the slices a quarter turn and chop them again. Hold the tip of the knife on the cutting board and lift the back of the knife up and down over the onion to make the pieces really small. Add the chopped-up onion to the garlic and oil. Cook, stirring a lot, until the onions are mushy and look cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the onions and stir. When the tomatoes come to a bubble, reduce the heat under the sauce to low. Stir in basil pieces to wilt them. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler to high and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Drain pasta shells. Add them to a casserole dish. Add pesto sauce, ricotta cheese, and a handful of grated parmesan. Stir carefully and coat the hot pasta with the pesto and cheeses. Pour the hot tomato and basil sauce over the pasta, as much as you like. You can always serve a little extra at the table. Scatter the mozzarella cheese over the pasta. Add a final sprinkle of parmesan as well. Place the casserole under the broiler in the middle of oven, 10 to 12 inches from the heat. Let the cheese melt and bubble on top, 3 to 5 minutes.

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