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February, 2011

By Dennis Linden

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

Cookin with the Kids Image
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

Though packed with immune-boosting nutrients, lots of iron and more vitamin C than oranges, Broccoli is one of those vegetables with a lot of baggage attached to it. Even a recent president admitted publicly to disliking it in such a primal scream statement that the nation put aside more pressing political issues of the day to debate the pros and cons of this often maligned vegetable. Broccoli partisanship can get ugly! For generations “eat your broccoli” has been a battle cry of parents; no doubt there is a child sitting alone at dinner table right now, staring stubbornly at a plate of cold florets! Parents try a passive aggressive approach to broccoli; instead of trying to teach a child to eat it, teach cooking with it. No cook can resist tasting his or her own culinary creation and the broccoli battle is won peacefully!

In researching recipes for this article, it became obvious that the strategy of American cuisine to get kids to eat cooked broccoli is to slather this healthy and nutritious vegetable with so much cheese that it loses its identity completely. Except for a tiny sprinkle of Parmesan, here are two recipes that do not include fattening dairy products, that your kids can use as a foundation to develop their own preparations for this versatile vegetable. As far as the Parmesan is concerned; what would life be without an occasional sprinkle of Parm? While one of these recipes does call for broccoli florets, the stalks can also be mixed into either of these dishes. In fact, use the opportunity to teach your kitchen helpers how to prepare this perfectly edible part of broccoli that should not be thrown away. Not the tree trunk-like stalks that one needs a small hatchet to cut, but do encourage your kids to include stalks that measure an inch or so in diameter. Just peel the outer layer and have your helpers slice the stalks into thin rounds--deliciously tender!

Recipe I is a very simple, straightforward roasted broccoli dish that will provide your sous chefs with a basic working knowledge of the vegetable as a stand-alone side dish, complemented with just few fresh flavor enhancements, namely garlic and lemon. The cooking process definitely has an impact on the nutrients beneficial to a healthy diet. Steaming is better than boiling. Boiling broccoli leaves much of the color and half of its vitamins in the water. Roasting does not affect the nutrition content of the vegetable at all, plus the oven heat brings out the flavors and will caramelize the natural sugars. The olive oil gives broccoli a crispy finish. Easy assembly and very tasty!

Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® Potatoes
Your kids will find Recipe II fun to make. It has a few more steps to it that will take your aspiring chefs to the next level of preparation. There are many kitchen lesson opportunities in this one and lots to do for cooks of all ages: balance the right amount of each of the two main ingredients, using fresh herbs as flavoring, the proper use of a food processor as well as some old fashioned, hands-on patty making. An optional potato variety for this dish would be a Yukon, but do try to find Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® Potatoes as they have a much more pronounced flavor profile. In either case (and here’s that ingredient balance lesson) these pancakes should not be potato with a little broccoli mixed in or, for that matter, broccoli cakes with just enough potato to bind. This is an equal opportunity recipe for both ingredients, something your helpers need to keep in mind when measuring, mixing and forming the cakes.

Speaking of balance, both of these recipes will pair very nicely with roasted chicken to fill out the other side of the plate. Happy forks!

Roasted Lemon BroccoliRoasted Lemon Broccoli
Servings: 4

2 cups of organic broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


What kids can do:
1. Under supervision, prepare and measure out all ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Arrange the florets in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 12 minutes, or until just tender. *
4. While broccoli is roasting, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
5. Add the garlic and lemon zest and heat, stirring, for about 1 minute.
6. Let cool slightly and stir in the lemon juice.
7. Place the broccoli in a serving bowl, pour the lemon butter over it and toss to coat.
8. Scatter the toasted pine nuts over the top.*

What supervising adult should do:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. *Probably handle turning the hot broccoli halfway through the cooking process and toasting the pine nuts. Closely supervise the saucepan work, or do it yourself.

Broccoli-Potato Pancakes
Makes 6 pancakes (4 inch diameter)

Broccoli-Potato Pancakes
6-8 Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes, washed and cut in half
2 cups shredded raw organic broccoli (use food processor)
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup Perfect Sweet onions, finely diced
½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Enough olive oil for frying
¼ cup grated Parmesan

What kids can do
1. Under supervision, prepare and measure out all ingredients.
2. Put the potatoes into a medium saucepan. Fill halfway with cold water, add some salt, and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer the potatoes for about 6 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a fork. Mash the warm potatoes in a bowl.
4. Add the shredded broccoli, eggs, onions, salt, and herbs. Stir everything together.
5. Make patties by rolling about a ¼ cup of the mixture into a ball, then flattening with a plate or palm of hand.
6. When patties are done, sprinkle each with a pinch of Parmesan cheese, garnish with parsley sprig and serve!

What the supervising adult should do:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. You want the pan to be as hot as it can be without smoking. The cakes should take about 4-5 minutes a side; be careful to brown each side, not blacken. Continue adding oil to the pan as you cook, and be careful when you flip them. Remove the cakes from heat, let the kids sprinkle with Parmesan and keep in a warm oven until you are ready to serve. These cakes pair very nicely with roasted chicken!