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Cookin with the Kids
April 2020

Spoon Bread


Simple Sides: Spoon Bread
By Dennis Linden


Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. 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.

Cookin with the Kids


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 and confidence 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 a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.


Here’s a very yummy custard-like cornbread dish that your young kitchen crew will have as much fun making as enjoying! Spoonbread has its origins from the American Indian tribes of the Southeast. “Spoonbread” because it is essentially a cornbread dish that requires servings be dished out with a spoon, not sliced. While the native tribes have become part of this country’s ugly history, the dish was adopted by earlier settlers. In fact, during the Civil War it was a staple of the Confederate forces because it was a one-dish meal that could be prepared easily in a pot over an open fire. Versions of this dish are still very popular throughout the South. Here’s a not very traditional version of this dish using one of Melissa’s popular products, quinoa, as well as apple and parsnip, to add some interesting flavors to this indigenous comfort food dish!

Casseroles are great for the beginner cook to learn the basics, since the dish depends more on flavor and ingredients than style points for presentation. While presentation is an important part of cooking, the casserole teaches the beginner how to prep and combine ingredients for flavor as its main focus without the extra pressure of appearance, beyond not burning it. After all, all casseroles basically look alike, so it’s the ingredients that differentiate one from another and this particular casserole rewards with a deliciously creamy pay-off when done!

For the novice cook this recipe has four simple steps: [1] cook up the quinoa; while waiting prepare the fruit, veggies and herbs [2] sauté the fruit, veggies and herbs {3} mix the batter ingredients together [4] then combine all and bake. Easy-peasy! A few tips for this prep will make it more successful, starting with how to get fluffy quinoa. That is, cook the quinoa like pasta -- use a much larger pot of water or broth than the quinoa can absorb. Cook until quinoa is just about done, then drain off all but just a tiny bit of liquid. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

Of the three ingredients that need to be peeled and diced, have your helpers prepare the apple last and immediately begin the sautéing process. Peeling the apple first risks the chance of the fruit browning from the exposure to the air while the other ingredients are being prepared. Of course, this tendency for an apple to brown could also be used as a teaching moment by showing your kitchen helpers the difference between a peeled apple treated with lemon or lime juice as opposed to one peeled then left to sit in the open air for a time.

While the peeling and dicing is a task for an older child with a bit of experience with a sharp knife, the making of the batter [flour, cornmeal, egg and milk] can be measured out and mixed together by a child of any age who knows his or her numbers. To a young child who has never been allowed to participate in the kitchen these simple tasks will build culinary confidence and may perk an interest in learning more about cooking. Julia had to start somewhere!

I still remember what fascinated me about the cooking as a child was the magical process of it all. After all, every recipe starts out as an array of individual ingredients laid out on the kitchen counter, which are then transformed into something altogether different in appearance and taste than all those separate individual parts. So too with this recipe – who would have guessed that a little quinoa, apple, onion and parsnip could be transformed into this creamy, slightly sweet, very healthy side dish for the whole family to enjoy!

Serves 9

Ingredients for Spoon Bread


Ingredients

Step #1:

1½ cups water or broth
1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed

Step #2:

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1 small Perfect Sweet onion, finely chopped
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced
½ teaspoon celery seed
1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

Step #3:

¾ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg, room temperature
1½ cups 2% milk, divided

What the kids can do:

Step 1: Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. (While quinoa is cooking, peel and dice the apple and parsnip and chop up the onion)


Step 1: Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. (While quinoa is cooking, peel and dice the apple and parsnip and chop up the onion)

Step 2: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, then sauté the apple, onion and parsnip with celery seed, sage and ½ teaspoon of salt until softened, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.


Step 2: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, then sauté the apple, onion and parsnip with celery seed, sage and ½ teaspoon of salt until softened, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk together egg and 1 cup milk. Add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Now add in the quinoa mixture.


Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk together egg and 1 cup milk. Add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Now add in the quinoa mixture.

Step 4: Transfer combined mixture to a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Pour remaining milk over top.


Step 4: Transfer combined mixture to a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Pour remaining milk over top.

What the supervising adult should do:

Once the quinoa is cooked there should still be plenty of water left in the pot; best to handle the draining off of water, cover and let stand for 5 minutes, then have the kids can fluff with a fork. Once the mixture has been transferred to the baking dish handle the oven stage; bake, uncovered, at 375° until edges start to turn a golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes to set before serving.