From the Kids’ Table: Baked Artichoke Hearts
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 bit of 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 and to identify where adult attention might be needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic; this is by design. We hope 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 your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
It is entirely understandable that a cooking experience with the kids during the planning and prep of the family’s Thanksgiving festivities might seem like one too many things to put on the menu—especially if your holiday table includes extended house guests, family members and friends. On the other hand, by choosing the right dish, this annual feast can be a great opportunity for your kitchen helpers to build culinary confidence as their dish is enjoyed and appreciated for the first time by a group beyond the immediate family. Everyone has an ego and there is nothing like culinary kudos to inspire continued interest in the cooking. So, include your kids in the menu planning and make sure that special attention is paid to their contribution as their dish is presented.
Since a large bird is occupying the oven most of the day and several relatives wanting to “help” taking up the rest of the kitchen, the kids’ dish should be simple and one that can be prepared ahead of time. Here’s a six-ingredient recipe that even the youngest of sous chefs can be involved in preparing, and the best part is that there is no cooking required using Melissa’s convenient Steamed Artichoke Hearts. This dish can be constructed by the kids under supervision to the final bake and then refrigerated up to two days ahead of serving. When the time comes to heat it up, just use a recently vacated pre-heated oven for a 30-minute bake, which is about the time the turkey needs to rest and then be carved.
Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts really make this dish possible. Being pre-cooked, all your helpers need is to open the packages of hearts, drain and spread them evenly across a baking dish in two layers, with the bread crumbs and cheese mixture separating each layer. NOTE: Do not be tempted to use canned or jarred hearts as the liquids in both products are too briny and cannot be rinsed away. Melissa’s Steamed Hearts are as close to fresh as possible—short of cooking about ten fresh artichokes, removing all leaves, then cleaning and quartering the hearts.
The bread crumb-cheese mixture can be measured out and combined by a child of any age who knows their numbers. And once the dish is ready for the oven, there is one task left for even a young assistant who cannot count yet; poking holes in the casserole with a (clean) index finger!
That’s it—a two-part preparation that really can be accomplished by a child with little kitchen experience under adult supervision. However, the most important part of the culinary lesson comes when the dish is served—the kudos. Introducing the dish to your Thanksgiving guests should be made with enthusiasm that only lacks a drum roll! I remember the first time I was given credit for making a dish for a family gathering as a kid and that’s the point—I will never forget it (green bean almandine) and I’ve been cookin’ ever since! Happy Turkey Day.
Baked Artichoke Hearts
6 packages Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts, drained <1>**
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons garlic powder
½ cup water
Olive oil, drizzled
What the supervising adults should do:
This simple recipe needs little supervision beyond checking the measures of the ingredients and that both the water and the oil are added to the baking dish sparingly.
What the kids can do:
Combine bread crumbs, cheese and garlic powder in a bowl, then divide the mixture into two equal amounts and set aside.
Arrange half of the artichoke hearts tightly in a single layer in the bottom of greased 9x9 pan, then top with half of the bread crumb mixture. Repeat a second layer and top with the rest of the mixture.
Use a clean finger to poke holes all around the top of the casserole. Drizzle with water- do not drench but it should not be dry either. Then drizzle lightly with olive oil to taste—again, don't drown it. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350°F or until the top is golden brown.