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An Easy (& Healthy) Twist on a Classic Dinner That Kids Can Help Cook

Last Update: May 20, 2024

One way to teach kids about healthy eating? Put little hands to work in the kitchen. Whether they crush cornflakes, tear kale leaves, or pour in salad ingredients, kids of any age can learn about healthy ingredients by helping out with this baked, dairy-free twist on fish (or mushroom) sticks. 

With lots of options to switch up ingredients depending on what kids like, you can make it a whole summer day of cooking together: Pick your options, shop for any extra produce together at your local farmers market, and get set in the kitchen. It all comes together quickly — just set aside some extra time (and patience) if little kids help out. 

Stay tuned later this summer for more kid-friendly recipes like this one. 

Baked Cornflake-Crusted Fish (or Portobello Mushroom) Sticks With a Sweet Kale Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the fish or mushroom sticks: 

1 lb cod or pollock, defrosted, or 4-5 large Portobello mushrooms 
½ bunch curly kale, roughly 5 large leaves
2 ½ cups cornflakes cereal
1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour works too)
⅓ cup avocado oil mayo
1 teaspoon lemon pepper spice blend 
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika

For the salad: 

2 cups crunchy lettuce of choice, chopped (iceberg and romaine hearts work well)
10 oz cooked garbanzo beans (kidney or white beans work too) 
Elderberry dressing, to taste
¼ cup cashews, chopped (almonds or pumpkin seeds work too)
¾ cup strawberries, sliced (blueberries, halved blackberries, or apple slices work too) 
Small handful basil, mint, or dill leaves
4 oz feta, soft crumbly goat cheese, or Parmesan shavings, optional 

Dipping options: 

Ranch dressing
Secret sauce dip
Ketchup
Celery and/or carrot sticks

Instructions: 

Parent step: Preheat the oven to 400° F and set a rack in the middle. If you have a cooling rack, set it on top of a baking sheet. If not, line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. 

Let fish come to room temperature on a plate lined with paper towels. 

Kid step: Add cornflakes to a large bag and seal. Crush with hands or by gently tapping a rolling pin on the outside of the bag. The flakes should be crushed into smaller pieces, but it’s ok if there are some crumbs. Once crushed, pour into a large mixing bowl. 

Parent step: In another wide mixing bowl, add the flour, egg, mayo, lemon pepper, and paprika. Mix to combine. 

Parent step: Pat the fish dry and cut into 3- to 4-inch-long strips, roughly 1- to 1 ½-inches wide. If using mushrooms, remove the dark gills with a spoon and discard, then slice into strips roughly ¾-inches thick. 

Parent step: Set up an assembly line: sliced fish/mushrooms, egg-mayo batter, and sheet tray with cooling rack. 

Kid step: Add fish/mushroom strips to the batter and gently mix so that each strip gets coated evenly. Each piece should be coated in a thick layer, but not dripping with sauce. 

Parent step: Using a fork or small tongs, add 2-3 strips at a time to the bowl of cornflakes. Gently roll until mostly coated, then place on the rack. Repeat until all are coated and added to the tray.

Parent step: Place in the oven for 8 minutes, then use tongs to turn each strip over and bake for another 8 minutes, or until cooked through and the cornflake crust is golden. Remove, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and let cool slightly before eating. 

Family step: While fish is cooking, kids can remove kale leaves from stems, then tear into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Parents add 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Kids can now massage the leaves gently until they’re glossy and have reduced to about half their original size. 

Family step: Kids can pick and tear the basil leaves, add them to the bowl, and add the rest of the salad ingredients. Parents toss gently and add vinaigrette. 

Serve with your preferred sides and dig in! 


More kids’ recipes & snacks: 

Strawberry Almond Crispy Rice Treats
15 Kid-Friendly Recipes
A 5-Minute Back-to-School Treat Your Kids Will Love
11 Healthy School Snacks for Kids, Picked by Kids

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Laura Levin

Laura Levin is Thrive Market’s Associate Director of Content. Her kitchen is always stocked with at least 6 bottles of Thrive Market Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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