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September, 2011

Simple Sides: Bell Peppers

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
.

LA King 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
.

Here are two connected recipes that will give your kitchen helpers a real lesson in efficient meal planning as well as change the meaning of the word “leftovers”! Bell peppers are healthy and tasty. They are available year-round in an array of vibrant, primary colors that will brighten any plate. Both these recipes are fun visually. In fact, there is just something about a pile of brightly colored bell peppers that evokes a smile. To prove it, try spreading out all the peppers called for in both these recipes on the cutting board before summoning your kids into the kitchen. Then watch their smiles brighten up as soon as they spot the circus-like colors. Try it!

Recipe I
The ingredient amounts for this recipe may seem a little much for four servings, but there is a method to this kitchen measure madness. Halfway through preparation this recipe hits a culinary fork in the road; one-half of the recipe is set aside, to be used as the basis for Recipe II. So definitely prepare this one with your young sous chefs first and then follow up in the next day or two with them helping you put together the second dish. Leftovers with a purpose! This is a simple dish using some very basic ingredients that combine into a very flavorful side dish that will pair with just about any meat, fish or fowl entrée. While there is some knife work involved, everything is a chop cut, which requires very little precision. Another safe alternative for kids in the kitchen is the trusted food processor that will also achieve the same cut on the right setting. Quinoa is a wonderful tasting, grain-like crop that is actually more related to spinach and beets than a whole grain. It has a light, fluffy texture when cooked and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a great alternative to white rice. The ancient Incas depended on it as a staple in their diet, which makes sense as we now know that it is a complete protein source, quite an unusual characteristic among plant foods.

Recipe II
Picking up where Recipe I left off, this dish will teach to your kids how to transform leftovers into a completely different dish by adding just a few new ingredients. Show your helpers how to achieve a diced apple using the processor again. A child of any age can take part in the stuffing of the luscious sweet red pepper. This dish freezes beautifully if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Just thaw and reheat in 350°F degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes. So make some extra; leftover leftovers! Happy Forks!

Recipe I
Colored Bells and Quinoa

Colored Bells and Quinoa
(Serves 4, with 4 serving left over for Recipe II)

Ingredients:
4 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup fresh mint
2 teaspoons Melissa’s Minced Garlic
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
½ cup green onions, chopped
Shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

What kids can do:
1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except green onions and Parmesan.
2. Salt & pepper to taste.
3. Separate mixture into two equal parts and set one aside for use in Recipe II.
4. Sauté remaining mixture in oil until all ingredients cooked through.
5. Remove from stove and thoroughly mix in green onions.
6. Serve individual portions.
7. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

What supervising adult should do:
This is a very simple task that can be accomplished with supervision. The job of the stovetop sauté of the ingredients is a decision that should be based on the age and cooking experience of the child. Everyone must start somewhere, but close supervision is a must.

Recipe II
Quinoa and Apple Stuffed Red Bell Peppers

Quinoa and Apple Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
(Serves 4)

Ingredients
2 cups of Recipe-I mixture
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons of Melissa’s Lime Juice
¾ cup green onions
2 teaspoons of olive oil
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
2 large red bell peppers, prepared for being stuffed

What kids can do:
1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients, except red peppers.
2. Season with the sea salt and pepper.
3. Stuff the bell pepper with the mixture.

What the supervising adult should do:
Prepare the peppers for the kids to stuff by cutting out the stem and seed core, then scraping the interior ribs of the peppers. Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a preheated, 350°F oven.