Turn dinner prep into a fun family activity with these three tips from Stouffer’s and Nestle:

— Don’t leave out the littles: The youngest member of your family may not be tall enough to reach the stovetop, but they can help! They can wash produce, squeeze lemons, stem herbs, tear lettuce leaves and stir.

— Keep it low-key and stress-free: Start with recipes that take 10 minutes or less to prepare. Don’t shy away from meal solutions that get their favorite foods on the table in a snap.

— Prep produce ahead of time: Set aside an hour on a weekend or quiet weeknight to wash and prep the produce for upcoming meals. Kids can help with that, too. Bonus: If they help at any stage of veggie prep, they’re more likely to taste it!


5 healthy kid-approved lunchbox ideas

You are what you eat, so it’s important to choose your children’s lunch foods wisely. These five ideas from Crispy are wholesome and fun for kids of all ages.

Breakfast for lunch: Pack whole grain cereal with a side of milk, or muffins with secret healthy ingredients like fruit or shredded veggies.

Protein: Try hard-boiling eggs or scrambling and packing in an insulated container. Other foods high in protein include cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans and many nuts.

Freeze-dried fruit: Freeze-dried fruit comes in many single-serving varieties to keep lunchboxes interesting, including banana, apple, pineapple and pear.

Bread alternatives: Instead of bread, use whole-grain tortillas to create wraps, or, whole-wheat waffles as the sandwich ends and fill with peanut butter and banana.

Dip: A little yogurt will encourage kids to gobble up fruits, and low-fat salad dressing or hummus is the perfect pairing for veggie straws.


Thyme-Baked Apple Slices

For a seasonal side dish that will delight the whole family, try this recipe from Taste of Home.

— 4 cups apple cider

— 1/4 cup butter, cubed

— 8 large Braeburn apples (about 4 pounds)

— 3 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided

Place cider in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 18-20 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup. Remove from heat; stir in butter. Peel and cut each apple into eight wedges. In a large bowl, toss apples with 1/4 cup of the reduced cider and 3 teaspoons thyme. Transfer to a foil-lined 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake 10 minutes. Drizzle with remaining reduced cider. Bake 12-15 minutes longer or until tender. Sprinkle with remaining thyme.


New ‘First Kiss’ apple debuts

The University of Minnesota apple breeding team debuted its newest apple at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

Dubbed “First Kiss,” the apple crosses the Honeycrisp “known for its juicy texture” with a University of Arkansas variety called “AA44” that was known for early ripening, according to the University of Minnesota.

They got a scarlet red variety, popular with fair-goers, that has a “crisp texture and spritely flavor,” said research scientist David Bedford, but is ready to harvest in mid to late August.

Only apples grown in Minnesota will have the “First Kiss” name. Apples of this variety grown out of state will get the name “Rave,” according to a news release.

For more information, visit www.mnhardy.umn.edu.

— Brandpoint