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December, 2009

Holiday Stars and Stripes

By Dennis Linden

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

Cookin with the Kids
Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family 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 children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever.

Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. 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.


Perhaps the best way to compete with all the sugared goodies of the holiday season, from short breads and candy canes to the rich treats of Hanukkah, is to take a page out of history to provide your kids with some natural sweetness that they can have fun helping to prepare. Before the sugar beet was brought back from the New World, medieval Europeans processed parsnips into a sweetener because of the vegetable’s extremely high starch content that converted quickly to sugar in the root cellar, developing a nutty sweet flavor unlike any other vegetable. Let your kids discover this “garden candy” by being your sous chefs and preparing two very simple recipes that call for only a box grater and a potato peeler, producing some tasty finger food that will at least give those candy canes some competition. These easy recipes allow child and adult to work together closely; the kids do all the measuring, mixing, grating and peeling of the few raw ingredients, the adult handles the frying of the two dishes in vegetable oil and then hands back the finished goods to the kids for seasoning and serving.

While the Parsnip Strips are being presented here to compete with the sugared temptations of the holiday season, remember these strips for a more elegant dinner party presentation as well. Julienned into a much thinner width than what is being called for here; deep fried parsnips make a very striking garnish swirled into twisted shapes during the frying process. For the kids, however, with just a little salt these strips become a great snack food for them and your holiday guests alike. The Parsnip & Carrot Latkes are a take on the traditional potato latke, though much more nutritionally complete. Looking like festive little orange and white starbursts, these tasty little morsels should lure some attention away from those more calorie-laden treats on the Hanukkah table. Plus, they are easy to make and fun to eat!

Parsnip & Carrot Latkes
Parsnip & Carrot Latkes
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
2 medium organic carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
5 small parsnips, peeled and coarsely grated
¼ cup Matzo Meal
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. chives or scallions (or organic green onions)
1 tsp. chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil for frying

Preparation
Toss the carrots and parsnips with the flour, add the eggs, chives and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix until evenly moistened. Heat ¼ inch of canola oil in a sauté pan until it is barely smoking. Drop in the batter by tablespoons and flatten. Fry over medium heat until browned on both sides.

Parsnip Strips
(Makes about 20 strips)

Ingredients
2 parsnips, peeled Canola oil for deep frying
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preparation
After peeling and discarding the outer skin, peel each parsnip lengthways with a sharp potato peeler into long, paper thin strips, as wide as possible based on the width of the parsnip. Keep turning and peeling, until the hard central core is reached. Discard core. Pour the oil into a medium sized saucepan until it is about 1/3 full and heat to 350°F. As soon as the oil is ready, drop in a handful of the parsnip shreds and fry for one minute until crisp and golden. Stir and bend strips into shapes during the cooking process to avoid them straightening into long straight “fries”. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, repeat until all the shreds have been fried, season well.