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November, 2010

Simple sides: Sweet Potatoes

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
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November brings the opportunity of involving your kids in the family’s holiday meal plan. This is kind of a mixed blessing because it is difficult to supervise your year-around kitchen helpers when the room is filled with visiting relatives wanting to pitch in with the preparation of the traditional feast on cooking day. So here are two sweet potato (yam) recipes that your sous chefs can help to prepare ahead of time. Both these recipes are a little more complex than the normal fare that appears in the feature; but still, they are both entirely doable by your kitchen helpers. These are holiday dishes, so there needs to be a “big deal” factor to your cooking lesson at this time of year. Your are promoting a wonderful tradition of the special holiday meal that your children will continue in their own kitchens some day.

Recipe I is a side dish of few ingredients that could almost pass as sweet dessert, though it is perfectly healthy despite its rich flavors. An older child, under adult supervision, can peel the apples and sweet potatoes easily enough. You can speed up the preparation time by cooking the peeled tubers in a little bit of water in the microwave while the apple mixture is roasting in the oven. Smashing the cooked and cooled sweet potatoes is a job for almost any age child. Then, after a younger helper has measured and poured in the other ingredients, have your oldest take over for the final hard whipping of the potatoes by hand into a creamy smooth consistency. Leave the automatic blenders sit just this once. Whipping these potatoes with a whisk or large mixing spoon is a cooking lesson unto itself as the potatoes are transformed into a creamy smoothness by a child’s own hand! They will spend the rest of their lives flipping on a switch to do the same, so doing this task by hand will give them some perspective and appreciation for their tools.

Actually, there is a recipe within this recipe that doubles your kitchen helpers’ culinary repertoire since the escalloped apples will come in handy as a part of many other dishes like tarts, sauces and fillings. So emphasize the flexibility of this recipe’s multiple uses during preparation. Escalloped apples has a very basic mix-and-bake formula that involves just a few ingredients, which can be measured out, tossed together and spread out on the baking sheet by a child of almost any age – fun stuff for your youngest to try! Note: an equivalent amount of Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup has been substituted for the granulated sugar called for in most escalloped fruit recipes. Diabetic or not, in this age of corn syrup-enhanced foods, kids need no white sugar added to their diets in any dish, especially one filled with naturally sweet apples!

Prepare this dish with your children in the quiet of your own kitchen the day before the big feast. It will help to get you and that room up to speed for multiple-dish preparations that need to get going anyway. Then cover the pan of patties with plastic wrap, poke a few holes to allow moisture to escape and pop in the refrigerator for a quick reheat just before serving.

Recipe II is another simple dish that can be prepared up to its final few stages, which will take just minutes to finish just before serving time. That is, the sweet potato, acorn squash and onion mixture can be roasted on the day before and then stored in the refrigerator overnight. Heat the mixture up in the oven or microwave then proceed with the steaming of the baby spinach with the reheated mixture and serve. Again, this is a very healthy and beautiful plate that your kids can be proud to brag about being responsible for as their contribution to the turkey day festivities.

To learn more about sweet potatoes and the infamous yam controversy go to this month’s PRODUCE CORNER.

Recipe I
Apple-Filled Sweet Potato (orange variety)
Apple-Filled Sweet Potato (orange variety)
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients – Escalloped apples
2 Organic Fuji apples, peeled, cored, sliced into thin sections, then halved
½ cup flour
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter

Preparation

What kids can do:
1. In a large bowl, mix apples, flour, lemon juice, agave and cinnamon.
2. Spread in a buttered casserole dish.
3. Dot with butter and cover with foil.

What supervising adult should do:

Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. Let cool before kids start working with it.

Ingredients – Sweet Potatoes
2 Organic Beauregard Yams, peeled and baked soft
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter
½ tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preparation

What kids can do:

1. Peel sweet potatoes for cooking in the microwave.
2. Once cooked and cooled, crush sweet potatoes in a large bowl.
3. Using a flat spoon or whisk, beat sweet potatoes creamy smooth.
4. Stir in the eggs, butter, sweetener, vanilla extract, nutmeg.
5. Ask supervising adult to season with salt.
6. Spoon mixture onto baking sheet, forming 6 mounds, 2 inches apart.
7. Using back of a spoon, form an empty cavity in the middle of each mound.
8. Fill each cavity with the apple mixture.

What supervising adult should do:

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.

Recipe II

Roasted Yellow Sweet Potatoes & Spinach
Servings: 6

Ingredients
2 medium organic sweet potatoes peeled, cut into one-inch cubes
1 large organic acorn squash, peeled, cut into one-inch cubes
1 large Perfect Sweet Onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves organic garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon pepper
1 tsp salt
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 lb baby spinach

Preparation

What kids can do:

1. Under supervision, carefully peel and cut sweet potatoes and squash.
2. Also under supervision, prepare onion and garlic.
3. Place yams, squash and onion on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper.

What supervising adult should do:

Roast at 450 degrees for twenty minutes. Toss and roast 8 more minutes or until tender and caramelized. Remove sheet and add garlic to yam mixture; let sit in hot oven for 3 more minutes. In large bowl, add spinach and top with hot roasted vegetables and sprinkle with feta. Sprinkle with a few dashes of lemon pepper and olive oil, toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap until slightly wilted. Serve at room temperature.