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August, 2011

Simple Sides: Grapes

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
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LA Kings Mascot with Kids

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
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In August, California’s Central Valley hits full production of the region’s table grape harvest, which spurs mountain-sized retail displays of these tasty berries that are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Here are two very simple recipes for your aspiring young chefs that take advantage of this bounty, demonstrating that grapes can be a lot more than just a healthy snack food on a hot summer afternoon. So simple and with no knives required, both these recipes could be labeled “For ages 6-9”. Use them as culinary training wheels to instill a little kitchen confidence in your youngest helper. Each of these recipes introduces kids to the spice rack one flavor at a time. In the first dish, curry powder adds a bit of mild heat to the sweetness of the salad, By contrast, the earthy flavors of cumin really bring the carrots and grapes together in a delicious warmness.

RECIPE I - SWEET

This is one of the most fundamental recipes to appear in this feature and one of the tastiest! While there is no knife or cooking involved in this first one, it does provide opportunities to teach a few kitchen fundamentals. Like the getting into the habit of washing grapes, or any fresh produce, under cold water, as well as the gentle handling of the grapes in removing them from the vine so as not to bruise. Armed with the right measuring spoon, any child old enough to count and pour can measure out the agave, lemon juice and curry powder under supervision. There is even an anticipation factor to this dish by having to chill the mixture. Don’t be tempted to skip the required refrigerator time, as the recipe is so much better chilled. Patience is also a culinary lesson and to prove it, make the chilling a waiting game. Try sampling the finished dish first at room temperature and then later after it has chilled. The biggest opportunity here is making a special memory – a child’s first “cooking” adventure.

RECIPE II – and SAVORY

This recipe is just as simple as the first, with even fewer ingredients but even a bigger taste. Cumin is such a versatile flavoring. The spice will become an essential component in your child’s own kitchen one day, so might as well introduce them to each other early! The supervising adult should slice the onion into half rounds for easy separation, but from then on this recipe is child’s play. This recipe also demonstrates that seemingly odd ingredient combinations – like carrots, onions and grapes – can be fun and flavorful with the right spice to match. Plus roasted grapes are truly one of nature’s ultimate comfort foods! This is one of those recipes that it would be wise to double up on the measurements in anticipation of the requests for second helpings that are sure to come.

Recipe I
Red and Green Grape Salad
Red and Green Grape Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 cups red seedless grapes
3 cups green seedless grapes
¼ cup agave syrup
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

What kids can do:
1. Wash grapes, remove from stems and place in large mixing bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine the agave and lemon juice; whisk well to combine.
3. Combine mixture with grapes and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until very cold, stirring once or twice to coat grapes.

What the supervising adult should do:
Not much, except supervise the measuring out of the ingredients and enjoy the smile of satisfaction on your child’s face when the compliments for this tasty dish are expressed!

Recipe II
Roasted Grapes and Carrots
Roasted Grapes and Carrots
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 pounds red seedless grapes
1 (16 ounce) package peeled baby carrots
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin

What kids can do:
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Separate the onion slices into long pieces of onion.
3. Place the grapes, carrots, and red onion in a large bowl.
4. Add the olive oil to the bowl and mix until everything is coated with the oil.
5. Sprinkle the contents of the bowl with cumin and mix again.
6. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet.

What the supervising adult should do:
Slice the onion is medium slices and slice the rounds in half. Preheat oven to 375°F degrees. Roast in preheated oven until carrots have begun to soften, about 15 to 20 minutes.