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December, 2010

Simple Sides: Green Bean

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.

Cooking 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
.

Since a green bean side dish is a tradition at most holiday tables, use either of these quick and easy recipes to involve your kids in contributing to the festivities. Depending on the ages of your sous chefs, there are tasks in preparing each of these dishes that require adult supervision; if not, better left to the adult to accomplish entirely. You are the best judge of your own child’s abilities, so err on the side of safety but in a manner that includes your helpers’ participation as much as possible. Remember, challenging a child’s capabilities in the kitchen is a life lesson that applies to more than just cooking!

Recipe I: Green Bean Parmesan

This is a great recipe for a mixed age group of helpers as there are several ingredients that can be measured out by your youngest, as well as some basic slicing and dicing that an older child can do with supervision. Work closely with your kitchen crew in showing them how to tenderize the green beans with an initial cook and plunge into ice water; however, working with the hot water and hot beans is best left to the adult in the room. The kids can take over again by measuring out and combining all the other ingredients into the pot for a quick sauté before adding the green beans to simmer awhile. As always, treat the sprinkling of the Parmesan cheese as a plating lesson to emphasize the dual role of a garnish to add both taste and eye appeal to a dish.

Recipe II – Green Bean Casserole

The holidays provide an opportunity to teach your kids the basics of a truly Americana dish. This particular recipe augments those traditional ingredient musts, a can of mushroom soup and a batch of crispy onions, with a few fresh ingredients that add color and taste as well as just a bit of cream for extra richness, ‘tis the season! The crispy onions are a recipe within a recipe for an older child. It takes constant tending and a little patience to brown and crisp up the onions properly. Devote singular attention to supervising this task; it might be a good idea to have a second onion ready just in case practice makes perfect! Also, slicing the onion may be best left to the adult. Even a young child can get into the act by shaking the onions in the bag of flour and then shaking out the excess flour before they are sautéed. Again, all the ingredients for this casserole are measured out and combined in a large baking dish. In fact, assign your youngest helper to be the time keeper of when to interrupt the cooking to sprinkle the crispy onions over the top before a final bake. Enjoy the holiday season cooking together as a family!

Recipe l
Green Beans Parmesan
Green Beans Parmesan
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds fresh organic green beans, trimmed and cut Water to cover, about 3 or 4 cups
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped Perfect Sweet onion
1 can (8 oz) sliced waterchestnuts, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

What Kids can do:


Cut and trim green beans
Chop onions and slice mushrooms
Measure and combine mushrooms, onion, waterchestnuts, salt, pepper, basil, and Italian seasoning and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven; sauté until onion is tender.
Stir in cooked beans and simmer until thoroughly heated.
Plate in single servings sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

What Adult should do:

Blanching of green beans -- combine green beans and water in large pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes until tender, but still a bit crisp. Drain.
Plunge into ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain for kitchen crew to use in preparation with rest of the ingredients.

Recipe II
Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Serves 6

Ingredients
2 lbs. fresh organic green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 (10½ oz.) can cream of mushroom soup (low fat)
1 cup organic red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup non-fat milk
1 large Perfect Sweet Onion Flour salt cooking spray

What Kids can do:

  • Clean, trim and cut green beans.
  • While beans are cooking, make Crispy Onions.
  • Peel onion. (Cutting the onion should be done by an adult.)
  • Spread out on a tray or cutting board
  • Salt them and let them sit for one minute, but no longer.
  • Put some flour in a large Ziploc bag, add onions and shake until they are all coated.
  • Shake off excess flour.
  • Spray skillet and onions and continue to spray fairly often while cooking.
  • Continue to cook, turning frequently until brown and crisp.
  • Combine green beans with the soup, milk, pepper and half of the crispy onions in a large bowl, mix thoroughly, then carefully transfer mixture to a large casserole dish.

What Adults should do:

  • Oversee the cooking of the green beans – combine water and beans in a pot, bring to boil, simmer until green beans are slightly tender, drain.
  • Cut onion in half then slice very thin.
  • Supervise the sautéing of onions to make crispy.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, then top with the rest of the onions and cook another 5 minutes.
  • Serve individually or in a large serving bowl.