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April, 2012

Simple Sides: Pineapples

By Dennis Linden

Since this unique fruit is generally considered a dessert fruit, have a little culinary fun teaching your young sous chefs that this can also be a savory side dish component that adds a bit of tropical tang to any meal, especially when served with pork or poultry.

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 centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child can contribute 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 decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help 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 your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever.

Pineapples

What kid can resist a fresh, juicy pineapple in any form? This tropical fruit is a favorite ingredient of all ages, be it served in an upside-down dessert, topped on ice cream, blended into a smoothie or simply grilled on the barby. Since this unique fruit is generally considered a dessert fruit, have a little culinary fun teaching your young sous chefs that this can also be a savory side dish component that adds a bit of tropical tang to any meal, especially when served with pork or poultry.

Note
Only the supervising adult can judge the capabilities of the kids in the kitchen; unless you are very confident about your child’s knife handling abilities, the coring of the pineapples for both these recipes is not child’s play. Provide the fruit ready to use in a bowl.

Recipe I
Butternut Squash

This one is simple enough to involve your youngest kitchen helper. Any kid who knows numbers can be taught the measuring cup. The scooping out of a cooked and cooled butternut squash can also be a junior chef’s task. Just three ingredients mixed together, spooned into a baking dish and popped in the oven for 10 minutes. It is called a “hard squash” for a reason; best for an adult to handle slicing it in half. The kids can prepare it for the microwave. Make lots of this so there are leftovers for AFTER the kids have gone to bed! This writer can attest to the dish’s attributes as a late night comfort food, best enjoyed reheated and paired with a cozy fireplace. Though rich with the creamy, sweet and cinnamon factor, yet completely healthy! Guiltless decadence is a wonderful thing!

Recipe II
Six Bean Medlley

Beans and pineapple may sound strange, but this dish looks great and tastes better! While one could actually take several hours to pre-soak the six varieties of beans that co-star with the pineapple, Melissa’s provides a much quicker path to this delicious and healthy dish with our Steamed Six Bean Medley.

Like Recipe I, this is also a one-pot dish that calls for your kitchen helpers to mostly just measure, mix and cook. You can eliminate most all of the knife work in this recipe for your kids by setting the food processor on CHOP for the onion and red pepper. I diced the pineapple, but if I had in to do over again -- which I definitely will -- I would rough chop the fruit into larger chunks to create a bigger flavor factor in each bite. Besides, a rough chop is a more forgiving technique that requires much less precision than the dice for the novice slicer. Double up the amounts of this recipe to reheat for next day’s lunch. I also sautéed up some of the leftovers, along with strips of pork loin and a double-dash of hot sauce and then wrapped it all in a warm tortilla, delicious! The pineapple adds a little extra zip to the zing of the hot sauce.

Recipe I
Butternut Squash ‘n Pineapple
Serves 8
Butternut Squash ‘n Pineapple
Ingredients
:
1 Butternut Squash, cut in half and seeded
1 Pineapple, cored, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup

What Kids can do:
  1. Place halves of butternut squash face down in a microwavable pan of shallow water.
  2. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, microwave until tender, cool to room temperature.
  3. Scoop cooled butternut into larger bowl.
  4. Add pineapple chunks, cinnamon and agave – blend thoroughly.
  5. Place mixture in baking dish coated in vegetable oil cooking spray.
What the supervising adult should do:
Cut the hard squash. Core the pineapple. Bake the mixture at 350°F in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe II
Pineapple Beans
Serves 8

Pineapple Beans
Ingredients:
1 cup Yellow Onions, chopped
½ cup Sweet Red Bell Pepper
4 packages Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley
1 Pineapple, rough chopped in 2-in chunks
¼ cup Chili Sauce
2 Tablespoons Melissa's Organic Blue Agave Syrup
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
½ teaspoon Salt

What Kids can do:
  1. Prepare and measure all ingredients
  2. Combine all ingredients in a 3-quart stockpot.
What the supervising adult should do: Cover and cook over medium low heat 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.