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April, 2013

Simple Sides: Sugar Free Rhubarb
By Dennis Linden

Rhubarb contains about 26 calories... plus 387 calories in the ½ cup of sugar to make it palatable.

LA Kings Mascot with KidsThis 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
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RhubarbRhubarb's crisp, sour stalks are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium. The good news is that one cup of diced Rhubarb contains about 26 calories; the bad news is that there are 387 calories in the ½ cup of sugar found in most American recipes to make that cup of rhubarb palatable to this country’s sweet tooth! Here are two recipes, one from Poland and one from India, which use this vegetable more like celery. Both use more sensible, natural sweeteners and will demonstrate to your kitchen helpers that rhubarb can be served in something other than a pie pan as savory dishes with a meal. In fact, for my tasting both of these recipes were served at the same meal – the soup was the first course and the lentil-sweet potatoes were a side dish with a pan-seared pork tenderloin. Deliciousness for the whole family to prepare and enjoy together!

Lesson Plan: Recipe I - Rhubarb Soup
The sweetener for this recipe is the parsnip purée. To shorten the preparation time so your helpers stay interested, I would suggest making the parsnip purée ahead of time. Roasted parsnips have so much more flavor than steamed; see the directions in the recipe. Of course, if you want to teach your sous chefs how to make this purée; just get the roasting going right away. As well as small parsnips being sweeter than large ones, they will take only about 25 minutes to roast. During that time, your kids can be preparing the rest of the recipe - the parsnips are added into the soup last. What I like about this recipe is that there is very little knife work, which can be accomplished safely by a child using a food processor, and there is little simmering time. It’s a one-pot dish that is quick, easy and delicious!

Lesson Plan: Recipe II – Rhubarb, Lentils and Sweet Potato Casserole
This dish is guaranteed to become a family favorite for both its real comfort food flavor as well as easy preparation. There are just two fresh items to cut up by an older child with knife skills. Get the lentils simmering first; by the time they are done, the sweet potatoes should be ready to combine with them as well as the few other seasonings prepared and measured. Note that there are two options of garnish – shredded coconut or Parmesan cheese; they both work and present a fun decision that you should leave up to your sous chefs!

To learn more about Rhubarb check out this month’s PRODUCE CORNER.

Recipe I
Rhubarb Soup

6-8 servings

Rhubarb Soup Ingredients
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Yellow Onions, diced
3 Tomatoes, diced
1 pound small Parsnips, puréed
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, grated
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Pepper
2 sprigs Tarragon
2 pounds Rhubarb, sliced thin
2 quarts Chicken Stock
1 cup Whole Milk

What the kids can do:
Prepare and measure out all ingredients.
In a large soup pot, cook onions in olive oil until soft.
Add tomatoes and cook until they are broken down.
Add the garlic and ginger and paprika and pepper.
Add tarragon and rhubarb.
Cook 5 minutes, then add chicken stock.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Slowly add parsnip purée, mix thoroughly.
Cook another 10 minutes and serve.

What the supervising adult should do:
Prepare the parsnip purée ahead of time:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel and chop parsnips into medium chunks. Place parsnip pieces in a medium sized bowl, add 2 Tbsp. melted butter and stir to coat. Arrange the parsnips on a roasting pan in a single layer, then roast in the oven for about 25 minutes until lightly golden; turn the parsnips once half-way through the cooking process. Put the roasted parsnips into a blender or food processor, add 1 cup water and pulse until puréed. Add more water if necessary.

Supervise your helpers in all necessary measuring, slicing, dicing and construction of this simple one-pot dish.

Recipe II
Rhubarb, Lentils and Sweet Potato Casserole
Makes 6 servings


Rhubarb, Lentils and Sweet Potato Casserole Ingredients:
1½ cups Dry Orange Lentils
3 cups of Water
2 large Sweet Potato, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon Oil
2 cups Rhubarb, diced
1 Tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger Root, grated
Salt and Pepper, to taste
¼ cup Shredded Coconut or Parmesan Cheese

What the kids can do:
Measure out and prepare each ingredient.
In a medium pot, combine lentils and water, bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
While lentils simmer, cook the raw sweet potato in the microwave until tender (15 minutes).
When done, drain lentils and put into large mixing bowl.
Add cooked sweet potatoes to the bowl and mash with fork until mixed thoroughly to lentils.
Stir in agave, ginger, sautéed rhubarb, salt and pepper to taste.
Pour mixture into an oven-proof dish and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.
Garnish with coconut or Parmesan.

What the supervising adult should do:
In a large frying pan, heat oil, add rhubarb, cover and cook until soft; then set aside until your kitchen helpers are ready to add the rhubarb to the bowl. Preheat oven to 400°F and handle placing the baking dish in the oven.