Forget about PB&J! Kids can do so much more in the kitchen

Almost any child can whip up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or slap ham and cheese between two slices of bread. But why not let summer be an opportunity for kids to explore food and the kitchen in a safe way? Here are three recipes to break the boredom of a traditional lunch-ideal for teens old enough to stay home alone, or younger ones with an adult to assist.

First up is a veggie dip in which vegetables are mixed into the dip. Kids get to stir and measure and use the oven to toast pita chips. Plus, they can vary the flavors to suit their taste. If you're uncomfortable with them using a box grater, prepare the vegetables for them the night before.

Next, how about a yogurt parfait? Layers of Greek yogurt-which is naturally thicker than traditional yogurt- gets mixed with a favorite jelly or jam for a little sweetness. Then the mix is layered with crunchy granola and fresh berries.

Finally, sandwiches don't have to be out; they just need a makeover. Show your kids how to use tortillas instead of bread in a Hot Turkey Tortilla Panini. Cheese, turkey and tomatoes, plus the secret ingredient of coleslaw, are arranged in a flour tortilla. The tortilla is then cooked until golden brown in a hot skillet.

Summertime is an excuse for fun-cooking included. The bonus? Maybe they'll even be compelled to make dinner for you.

Veggie Dip with Pita Chips
(Makes 2 servings)

This recipe makes enough for two people, so your child can share with a sibling or friend or store the remaining dip in the refrigerator and the pita chips in an airtight container.

Ingredients:

2 pieces pita bread (white or whole wheat) 1/3 cup mayonnaise (light or regular) 3 to 4 oz. cream cheese (light or regular), softened 1/4 cup purchased salsa 1/4 cup grated carrot 1/4 cup grated cucumber with peel Handful of parsley leaves Juice of 1/2 lemon Salt and pepper (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the bread into triangles (a dinner knife works fine). Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until crispy, about 10 minutes. Stir mayonnaise and cream cheese in a bowl until well mixed. Stir in the salsa, carrot and cucumber. Tear the parsley into small pieces. Stir into the dip. Stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve the dip with pita crisps. Store any remaining dip in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Store any leftover pita in a zip-top bag at room temperature.


Great Granola-Fruit Parfait
(Makes 1 serving)

Use any fresh berries you have on hand. In a pinch, thawed frozen berries can also be used.

Ingredients:

1 container (6 oz.) plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style 1 tablespoon raspberry or strawberry jelly or jam 1/2 cup fresh raspberries or blueberries 1/2 cup granola Sliced almonds Ground cinnamon

Instructions:
Transfer the yogurt to a bowl; stir until smooth. Swirl the jelly into the yogurt. Sprinkle half the granola in the bottom of a tall glass. Sprinkle with half of the berries. Spoon half the yogurt mixture over. Repeat layers. Sprinkle parfait with sliced almonds and ground cinnamon and serve.


Hot Turkey Tortilla Panini
(Makes 1 serving)
Your child can use whatever meat and cheese he or she likes. To make it vegetarian, skip the meat and add more cheese and veggies, such as shredded carrots and thinly sliced cucumbers.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil 1 flour tortilla (soft-taco size) 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella 2 to 3 oz. thinly sliced turkey breast 1/4 cup purchased coleslaw 2 thin slices of tomato

Instructions:
Pour the oil into a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, lay the tortilla on a cutting board. Sprinkle half the cheese over one half of the tortilla; layer turkey, coleslaw and tomato over cheese; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Fold uncovered portion of tortilla over filling. Carefully transfer tortilla to skillet. Press down once or twice with a spatula. Cook until golden brown. Carefully flip the tortilla over. Cook until golden brown. Serve warm.