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January, 2013

Simple Sides: No Knife Potatoes
By Dennis Linden

Using some everyday kitchen accessories, even the youngest of kitchen helpers can help with the chopping safely.

LA Kings Mascot with Kids
This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options. The dishes will be centered around seasonal fresh produce item and easy enough to prepare so that a child of any age can help in contributing to the family meal. While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.

While doing the research for last month’s holiday potato appetizers, I bumped into a couple of very simple dishes that struck me as perfect “starter recipes” for that child still a bit too young to handle a sharp knife, yet wants to help in the kitchen. With a little adult supervision and the use of some everyday kitchen accessories, all the “chopping” required in both these recipes can be done safely. The exact right culinary cut is of really no importance when introducing a child to the fun of the cooking. To that point, some of the ingredients in these recipes give options in cuts of “diced” “sliced” or “chopped” to suit the age of your sous chef. Diced/sliced for the older kid with some knife skills; chopped can be accomplished by a much younger child with a very quick swirl in a food processor or using a dull pair of kitchen scissors. Even pulling apart an ingredient with small hands works, for that matter; the point being to get the child involved in helping with the family meal and the techniques will come with practice and a few birthdays. So, here are two “crayon level” recipes to cook up with your youngest helpers that are both simple and simply delicious!

Recipe I: Smashed Potatoes Lesson Plan

The prep of this dish may seem simpler than tying shoelaces. However, for a young novice in the kitchen, for the first time, the short ingredient list and three-step prep that includes a little hands-on arts ‘n’ crafts will keep a young mind engaged without the process becoming tedious. If you feel comfortable overseeing the “chopping” of the green onions and bell pepper with a dull kitchen scissors, that is one way for a young sous chef to get the job done safely. Otherwise, seed and cut the bell pepper in half and slice off about six inches of green onion tops. Now you are ready to give a lesson on the proper operation of the Quick Pulse setting on a food processor! Wrapping a measuring cup with plastic wrap and then using it to squish potatoes flat are both fun jobs for a young child; same with brushing each flattened potato as well as sprinkling on the colorful pepper and onion mix. While this dish may be basic, it still packs a powerfully good taste – just the right balance of creamy smooth surrounded by buttery crisp. Be prepared with enough for seconds and be camera-ready to capture that smile of accomplishment on the face of a first-time kitchen helper in reaction to the rave reviews at the table. This is one for your digital scrapbook!

Recipe II: Feta Potatoes Lesson Plan

Here is another confidence-building starter recipe for the younger chef. This hearty winter side dish would go great with a chicken or beef main course. The three fresh items that require cutting—potatoes, red onion and garlic—need only a small finger on the PULSE button! These are then tossed in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, mixed by hand or spoon, poured into a baking dish and then popped in the oven. With so little prep work involved, make a big deal over the measuring out of ingredients; this is a great chance for your helper to practice his or her numbers! For a very young chef, just pre-mark each amount needed on a measuring cup with very thin strips of colored tape. Leftovers of this one are scrumptious as a next day lunch, so consider doubling the measure!

Recipe I

Smashed Potatoes!

Makes 6

Smashed Potatoes!
Ingredients:

6 Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes
3 ounces Green Onion Tops, diced or chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced or chopped
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil Salt and pepper, to taste

What the kids can do:

Measure and prepare all ingredients.

Cover the bottom of dry measuring cup with plastic wrap and brush it with a little olive oil.

Once the potatoes are cooled, drizzle 6 small pools of olive oil on a baking sheet where the potatoes are to be placed.

Place a potato on each pool of oil, then press down gently with bottom of measuring cup to squish each potato flat.

Brush each potato patty with more oil, sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper (under supervision).

Mix the bits of red pepper and green onion together, then sprinkle some of the mixture on each potato.

What the supervising adult should do:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook until they are fork tender. If need be, help with covering the measuring cup smasher with plastic wrap.

Orchestrate placing the cooked potatoes on the baking sheet, making sure your helpers leave plenty of room between each potato and supervise the actual GENTLE smashing of the potatoes. It is always a good idea to oversee the salt and peppering to avoid over seasoning. Bake in a 450°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and a little crispy.

Recipe II

Feta Fingerling Bake

Serves: 4

Feta Fingerling Bake
Ingredients:

1½ pounds Assorted Fingerling Potatoes -- sliced or rough chopped
1 Red Onion, medium size – sliced or chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
8 ounces Grape Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 ounces Pine Nuts
6 ounces Feta, crumbled

What the kids can do:

Measure out all ingredients.
Slice the potatoes or place the small tubers whole in processor and rough chop quickly.
Dice the onion and garlic or toss in food processor with the potatoes for a quick rough chop.
Combine all ingredients, except the feta cheese, in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Transfer from bowl to a baking dish.
When dish is almost finished, sprinkle with the feta.

What the supervising adult should do:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. After 15 minutes in the oven, turn the mix over thoroughly and return to oven for another 15 minutes. At this point, supervise the kids carefully stirring in the feta and cook for a further 5 minutes. Handle adding salt and pepper to taste.