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May, 2010

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’s can contribute to the family meal.

Many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as 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.

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, it is not impossible and, with a little planning, can even be 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 great 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.

Snap Pea

Sweet and succulent, Sugar Snap Peas are the result of crossing English Peas with Sno Peas and are eaten whole, pods and all. While sugar snaps are available all year, the tastiest crops are produced in spring and fall. Each pod does have a string that runs down one side attached to a calyx at one end that must be removed; a perfect job for your young kitchen crew! Holding the pod in one hand, grab the calyx with thumb and index finger of the other; now pull down the straighter side of the pod. Here are two recipes that demonstrate great taste can be had from the simplest of preparations. In fact, both these dishes can be prepared with minimal adult supervision that will add to your kitchen helpers’ sense of accomplishment. Though both recipes do require a little chopping of the supporting ingredients, a hand vegetable chopper or food processor can easily replace a sharp knife and provides an opportunity for a lesson in the careful handling (and cleaning) of these very kid-friendly kitchen tools.

Recipe I
Even a child too young for the food processor can accomplish this very basic recipe with the supervising adult helping by chopping the shallot in the recipe. Separating fresh thyme leaves from their stem is certainly doable by a young child. Then it’s just a matter of mixing the ingredients together by tossing them in the same plastic vegetable bag that the peas were purchased in and simply spreading them out on a baking sheet. After a 6-8 minute roasting, your youngest chef will be all smiles of accomplishment, having contributed to the family meal. Use olive oil if you do not have roasted sesame oil, but know that you will be missing out on a great flavor combination.

Recipe II
This one demonstrates the versatility of Sugar Snaps Peas as a raw ingredient in a room temperature barley salad. Barley is a hearty, nut-like tasting grain that is very high in fiber but low in cholesterol as well as scoring very low on the Glycemic starch-sugar chart. You can speed up the cooking time by using quick-cooking barley or teach your kitchen crew the old fashioned slow-cook method. The dried cranberries add some whimsical color, sweetness, vitamin C and natural anti-oxidant properties to this very healthy salad. Consider this dish for this month’s kick-off to the BBQ season at your Memorial Day weekend; it’s the perfect kids’ contribution your cookout meal!

Oven Roasted Sugar Snap Peas
Recipe I – Oven Roasted Sugar Snap Peas
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
1 pound Sugar Snap peas
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste

Directions
What supervising adult should do:
-Handle oven duties: preheat to 450°
- remove the hot tray of cooked peas.
-If working with a very small child, chop the shallot.
-Probably best to add the pinch of salt!

What kids can do:
1. In a food processor, chop the shallot and measure.
2. Remove leaves from stems and measure.
3. Remove strings and calyx from sugar snaps.
4. Combine all ingredients in plastic bag and shake well.
5. Spread sugar snap peas evenly in a single layer on baking sheet.
6. Time baking - 6 to 8 minutes, until tender but firm.

Sugar Snap Pea & Barley Salad
Recipe II -- Sugar Snap Pea & Barley Salad
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup barley
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and broken in half
½ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:
What kids can do:

1. Cook barley by following directions on package.
2. While barley is cooking prepare sugar snaps, parsley and onion.
3. When barley is done, remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
4. Rinse the barley under cool water and transfer to a large bowl.
5. Measure and add rest of the ingredients, combine thoroughly. Serve!

What supervising adult should do:
- Depending upon age of the kids, handle stove top duties involving the hot pot of barley.