Cooking with the Kids
Simple Sides: St. Patty’s Day Favorite
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a 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 become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. 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 children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Cabbage is an iconic Irish cooking ingredient found in many traditional dishes of the Emerald Isle. Here’s an easy to prepare twist on the classic White Beans & Cabbage side dish that your young kitchen helpers can contribute to this month’s St. Patrick’s Day corned beef family feast! Using two of Melissa’s ready-to-eat steamed products, Peeled Baby Potatoes and Six Bean Medley, will cut cooking time down to just several closely supervised stovetop minutes.
Though the cooking of both the beans and the potatoes have been eliminated by these two great time-saving products, there is still a bit of slicing and dicing to do that provides some good practice for an older child to hone his or her knife skills. In fact, while quick and simple, this recipe does require a few basic, but precise, type of cuts….and a culinary lesson opportunity!
The preparation of the potatoes presents a chance to draw the distinction for your kitchen pupils between dicing and merely chopping the tubers into random shapes. Sounds basic – and it is. Still, for the novice, dicing a potato into fairly uniform small cubes will take a bit of precision under close supervision. After all, we all had to learn how to cube a first time. In fact, accomplishing that first “small dice” is something of a culinary passage, akin to learning to ride a two-wheeler! Emphasize to your kitchen helpers that cutting the baby potatoes into very small cubes, less than a ½-inch, will help them to brown evenly and quickly.
Shredding the cabbage into thin ribbons requires an even more precise cut, requiring a sharper knife and closer cut. Only you can be the judge of your child’s abilities. If you have doubts, do the initial shredding yourself in the form of a demo for the next time when your helper has had a little more experience. Instead, provide that experience by assigning him or her the task of slicing your ribbons in half, crosswise; requiring a much less precise cut. Practice, practice, practice!
For a younger child the tasks of rinsing both the potatoes and the beans as well as separating the thyme leaves from their stems and then measuring out all the ingredients are easy and necessary parts of the recipe. Not only can these simple jobs keep even the youngest child involved with the preparation of the family meal, the time spent in the kitchen, even doing the most rudimentary of culinary assignments, builds confidence that will serve a lifetime!
Once all the educational slicing, dicing and measuring has been accomplished, the dish must be finished on the stovetop. Again, only you can decide when it’s time to pull a kitchen chair up to the stove and pass the spatula to your child for the first time. While that first hot pot in your child’s kitchen-mittened hands is a nerve-wracking experience, to be sure, celebrate the event as the passage that it is! Stay close (without appearing to hover!!) to provide guiding support through the three stages of the sauté. First, the continual flipping to brown those perfectly cubed potatoes evenly. Next blending in the beans, onion and herb for a short simmer. Lastly, adding the ribbons of green cabbage at the last minute of the cook into the hot mixture. With that, the first teacher-accompanied flight on the stovetop has landed! Who knows, soon that kitchen helper may be soloing – that is, cooking FOR you, not just WITH you! Happy training and Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Six-Bean Cabbage ‘n Potatoes
2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 package Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Baby Potatoes
4 sprigs Fresh Thyme Leaves, stemmed
½ Red Onion, minced
2 packages Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley
3 cups (half head) very finely shredded Green Cabbage
Salt to taste
What the kids can do:
Rinse, then dice the potatoes into small cubes.
Rinse the beans and shred the cabbage into ribbons.
Under adult supervision, sauté the potatoes in the olive oil until lightly browned all over.
Add and mix in the fresh thyme, onion and the beans, then cook until onions turn transparent.
Stir in the cabbage, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; cook until cabbage starts to wilt.
What the supervising adult should do:
This is a recipe that requires close supervision for both the knife work and the stovetop cooking. The dicing of the potatoes and the shredding of the cabbage are basic, though specific, cuts that can provide some good practice for the older child with some knife experience. Only you can judge if your kitchen helper is old enough to do the slicing required and also help with the actual cooking.