Cookin with the Kids
Simple Sides: Turkey Day Corn Flakes from the Kids Table!
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 children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
As synonymous with this month’s Thanksgiving dinner as the turkey itself, a Green Bean Casserole has become an obligatory dish on every holiday table across America since the 1950s. The original recipe came out of the test kitchens of Campbell’s Soup Company in 1955. The company was just trying to sell more “Cream of Mushroom” soup, but the ad campaign featuring the recipe went viral—before the word had been invented!—and the dish has been an iconic culinary custom ever since. While the original ingredients of canned soup, frozen or canned green beans and fried onions are still favored among some traditionalists, that ingredient list is also a nutritional time capsule, preserving (no pun) a time when the new technology of processed foods dominated the diets of the 1950s, i.e. canned, frozen and fried!
Including your kids in the preparation of the holiday meal is a real culinary confidence builder in itself. Seeing the dish that they had a hand in making being enjoyed by extended family members and friends is a rewarding experience that can inspire. So here’s a very simple recipe that your young cooks can help prepare that retains the spirit of the traditional dish, using healthier fresh ingredients. Well, except for the corn flakes, which provide a culinary lesson to your helpers of thinking outside the box in repurposing a familiar breakfast food into a delicious topping when crushed, buttered and baked! Since the topping is the last thing to be prepared, add a little mystery to this unusual ingredient by setting the box of flakes out with the rest of the ingredients without explanation until it’s crunch time! This recipe can and probably should be made a day ahead of the Thanksgiving Day feast in order to give the family some quality culinary time in the kitchen together before the festivities get too hectic.
This is also a good recipe for an older child to practice basic knife skills. No real precise cuts are required, just basic slices: chopping the onion and mushrooms, as well as trimming and cutting the French beans. However, giving a child a tedious culinary task, like trimming all those French beans, is a sure-fire way to lose the attention of your cooking student. So make the trimming into a lesson with a technique that will make the job go much faster
that most experienced cooks take for granted.
That is, working with a handful of beans at a time, place the knife blade down on the cutting board and push all the tips of the beans against the blade. Then slice the tips off altogether and evenly with one slice; then turn the bunch around and, again, push all the untrimmed tips up against the blade and trim them off with a single slice. Once trimmed, the same handful of beans can be quickly sliced into several 2-inch pieces at once. Basic, but a young sous chef must start somewhere!
Even the youngest of kitchen assistants can be included in the holiday meal prep too by being assigned the tasks of measuring out all the ingredients as well as of being the family’s official CCFC…Chief Corn Flake Crusher! If the suggestion of preparing this a day ahead is taken, this dish can be cooked in the same hot oven as the roasted turkey once the bird has been taken out. It will be done in the time it takes to first rest and then carve the bird. Enjoy your holiday feast -- don’t forget to send compliments the young chefs over at the kids table for a job well done!
Green Bean & Corn Flakes Casserole
1½ pounds fresh French Green Beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2” pieces
4 tablespoons Butter, divided
½ large Perfect Sweet Onion, chopped small
4 ounces Baby Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned, chopped small
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Sour Cream
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
½ pound Mozzarella Cheese, grated
1½ cups Corn Flakes, crunched
What the kids can do:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat, under adult supervision. Add the trimmed beans and cook until just tender but still firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the beans from the water to a large bowl of ice water to preserve color and stop the cooking. Once cooled, drain the beans and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Stir in the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and sauté about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir for another minute, to cook out the raw flour taste, and then whisk in the sour cream. Simmer for two more minutes just to bring the flavors together.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Crush the cereal flakes in a sealable plastic bag, then add the melted butter to the bag and shake until flakes are completely coated.
Place the green beans in the bottom of a 9-inch casserole dish. Pour all of the mushroom sauce mixture over the beans and top with the grated cheese. Sprinkle with the buttered cereal flakes.
What the supervising adult should do:
Oversee the cooking of the beans in boiling water, the knife tasks of trimming and cutting up the green beans, as well as the chopping of both the onions and mushrooms. Once the kids have layered the casserole dish and sprinkled on the corn flakes, bake in a preheated 400° oven until light golden brown and bubbly, for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve right away.