Cookin' with the Kids
Simple Sides: Wonton Apple Turnovers!
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 that 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 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.
For states bordering Canada, apple harvests are in full swing. In several of those states the harvest is a major industry and contributor to the economy; in other regions the crop stays closer to home for local consumption. Still, you can travel from Washington to Maine in September and buy local apples from a fruit stand in every state along the way. The rest of the country enjoys this bounty via the commercial distribution pipeline. By the end of September, retail apple displays across the country are brimming with a wide variety of fruit, ranging in flavor from tart to extra sweet, and the color combinations seem endless. It’s the perfect time to teach your young kitchen helpers the basics of baking an apple pie!
So, here’s a recipe, down-sized to introduce young sous chefs to this wholly American icon with a fun, arts & crafts process that leaves the lesson on pie dough making for another day! Instead, Melissa’s Won Ton Wraps make the perfect vehicle to deliver what is the essence of this traditional dessert – apple pieces, cooked buttery firm in a cinnamon-nutmeg, slightly syrupy goodness. The neutral-tasting wontons are folded into mini turnovers stuffed with a very basic apple filling. Most importantly, it may not be a traditional pie, but that wonderful aroma during the bake is still present and is a “flavor” unto itself!
Apple Pie Filling 101: An older child with a bit of knife experience can be tasked to prep the apples. Have a bowl of lemon water readied to hold the peeled and chopped apple pieces during this process, especially if using the suggested Honeycrisp or any other sweet variety. The lemon water prevents the fruit from browning due to exposure to air — an example of oxidation that should be explained to your helpers. Honeycrisps and Galas are the first varieties to be picked in early September; both are known for high sugar content. A tart Granny Smith is also a good variety to use, but the variety is not ready for harvest until next month.
The rest of this very simple recipe entails measuring out all the other ingredients and then combining them in stages with the chopped apples. Measuring is a great way to get your youngest sous chef involved with the family preparation. Same goes for the construction of the turnovers. Hint: too large of a spoonful of filling will make it difficult, if not impossible, to seal the turnover at the edges. In the interest of not wasting several wraps during this learning curve, it might be a good idea for the supervising adult to demonstrate the spoonful-and-fold construct before letting your kitchen helpers complete the job. While the tendency to stuff as much of the tasty filling in each turnover as possible is understandable, using less will produce a higher yield of wontons to enjoy by the family!
Wonton Apple Turnovers
2 cups Honeycrisp apple; peeled, cored, diced (1-2 apples)
2 TBS. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 TBS. Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. butter or margarine
18 Melissa’s Won Ton Wraps
What the kids can do:
Step #1 – Once the apples have been peeled, cored and chopped, place them in a microwave safe bowl. Add in the syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg, then, mix until apple pieces are well coated.
Step #2 – Now add agave, vanilla, lemon juice and flour to the apples. Mix until coated, then top the apple mixture with a dab of butter. Microwave on high for one minute. Take the bowl out and stir. Microwave for another minute. Take out again and stir. If apples are getting soft, proceed to Step #3, otherwise microwave for another 30 seconds to one minute. Let cool.
Step #3 - Spoon a teaspoon of apple pie mixture onto wonton, just off to one corner, being careful not to overfill. Dipping a finger in water, lightly dampen the edges of the wonton wrapper, and fold over. Press edges together gently to seal.
Step #4 - Place wontons on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper or non-stick foil; sprinkle each with cinnamon. Hand off to supervising adult for final bake.
What the supervising adult should do:
Closely oversee the knife work needed to prepare the apples. Help with measuring out the rest of the ingredients if necessary. Handle the oven: Bake at 350°F for about ten minutes or until wontons are turning brown and the edges are getting crispy.