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February, 2013

Simple Side: Melissa's Steamed Vegetable Packs
By Dennis Linden

Melissa’s line of heat-and-serve vegetables are more than just packs of ready-to-serve convenience for the busy adult wanting to eat healthy. LA King 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.

Sliced CarrotsMelissa’s line of heat-and-serve vegetables are more than just packs of ready-to-serve convenience for the busy adult wanting to eat healthy. Being pre-sliced and needing only a quick reheat on the stovetop or in a microwave, they are the perfect “starter” ingredients when introducing a young child to the joys of cooking. Here are two recipes that use Melissa’s Steamed & Sliced Carrots. The first, in combination with Melissa’s Steamed Lentils, to make a warming winter soup, and then this convenient carrot pack is teamed up with Melissa’s Steamed Fava Beans in a hearty root vegetable casserole that is actually two recipes for the prep price of one!

Recipe I – Carrot & Lentil Soup lesson plan

Here is a tasty recipe that makes a very hearty soup that your young sous chef will be proud to take credit for making! If your helper is not ready to handle a knife, slice the onions in half, peel the ginger and garlic, and then supervise running these three ingredients through a food processor. While the stovetop sauté is definitely the job of an older child, a younger sous chef could be involved by pouring in Melissa’s easy-to-handle pack of lentils. It only takes a small finger on the microwave to heat up the pouch of sliced carrots. The puréeing of the sautéed ingredients also takes that same small finger on the right button. Adding the carrots to each serving bowl, along with a dollop of yogurt and parsley garnish are all good tasks to assign to the youngest chef in your kitchen.

RutabagaRecipe II – Root Vegetables & Fava Bean Bake lesson plan

This is really two recipes and several culinary lessons all for the price of one dish! There is some knife work needed for this one; the recipe give two options, slicing or simply rough chopping, depending on the age of your kitchen helpers. The ice bath required to stop the cooking of the blanched turnips and parsnips is a basic culinary trick to demonstrate to your aspiring chefs. Outside of the blanching/ice bath, this recipe is mostly measuring and mixing all ingredients in a bowl, then transferring to a baking dish. However, there is a bonus lesson and recipe that should not be overlooked…

Recipe II(a)

Make sure that there are leftovers; in fact, you might want to double the ingredient amounts to be sure. After preparing and serving this dish once as a casserole, gather your kitchen crew the next day for a lunch or dinner preparation using the leftovers to make an entirely different dish. Supervise the kids in spooning the casserole leftovers into a food processor, add enough beef broth to liquefy, transfer the puréed vegetables to a large soup pot, add 4 cups of beef broth and simmer until heated through. Your kids have just repurposed their own casserole into a delicious soup!

Recipe I
Carrot Lentil Soup
Serves 4
Carrot Lentil Soup

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
6 cups Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Lentils
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Carrots
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup Plain Low-Fat Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Parsley, chopped (garnish)

What the kids can do:

Prepare and measure out all ingredients.
Under supervision, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper, stirring often, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add stock and lentils, bring to a boil.
Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
After cooking, let cool.
Transfer lentil mixture to blender or food processor; purée in small batches until smooth.
Return to purée to pan, add steamed carrots and heat through.
Serve in individual soup bowls.
Add a small scoop of yogurt and sprinkle of parsley.

What the supervising adult should do:

The chopping of the onion and the stovetop work should be closely supervised or done for the child outright, depending upon your helper’s age and culinary capabilities. It is probably a good idea to ladle the hot soup into the serving bowls and then let your kitchen crew spoon up the yogurt and parsley sprinkling, which can be done by your youngest.

Recipe II
Root Vegetable & Fava Bean Bake

Serves 6 Root Vegetable & Fava Bean Bake Ingredients
2 small Turnips, peeled, small dice or rough chop (depending up helper’s skills)
2 medium Parsnips, peeled, small dice or rough chop
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Carrots
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Fava Beans
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
1 bunch Green Onions, trim tops off, roughly chop remaining 5 inches
2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Ground Pepper and Salt, to taste

What the kids can do:

Prepare and measure out all ingredients before beginning recipe.
In a large pot, combine 4 Tablespoons of salt with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Carefully add the turnips and parsnips to the boiling water for blanching.
Save the water that the root vegetables were cooked in.
Transfer the cooked turnips and parsnips to a large mixing bowl.
Add all the other ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
Add 4 oz. of the vegetable cooking water to this mix.
Transfer to a casserole dish, cover with foil.

What the supervising adult should do:

Oversee the preparation of the ingredients, especially the dicing and chopping; or do it yourself, letting your helpers measure out the right amounts. Handle all stovetop work. The blanching of the root veggies provides an opportunity to demonstrate how to stop the cooking process using an ice bath. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes, about halfway through the bake add a few ounces of cooking water as needed to keep veggies from drying out.

Serve as a side dish with any meat or poultry. Puréed, this casserole makes into a very hearty and flavorful soup!