Simple Sides: A Better Broccoli
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.
Eat your broccoli! A mantra most parents have uttered repeatedly with mixed results. I remember a child sitting stubbornly in front of a bowl of cold broccoli at an empty kitchen table long after the family meal was over – that be me! So, here’s a fun recipe that packages this vital vegetable deliciously with the help of Melissa’s Dutch Potato Tray and a lesson in the fundamentals of hand-rolled dough balls. While this dish is very easy to prepare, it will require the whole family’s participation because there is hot oil involved. The hot oil will definitely define the division of labor between child-appropriate tasks and what should be left to the supervising adult in the room.
For the pictorial preparation of this recipe, I chose Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® Potatoes with Peppercorn Sauce, though either Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® Potatoes with Four Cheese Sauce or Dutch Red™ Potatoes with Dijon Mustard Sauce would work just as well. The convenience of all three potato trays is the best part, especially for this recipe when the potato component is more of a means to an end. The trays make it possible to quickly cook, mash and mix the potatoes with the other ingredients, so the kids stay interested. These tiny potatoes are cooked through in a six-minute visit in a microwave in their original tray. The package contains about a pound of buttery potato goodness unique to this Idaho heirloom variety. I found that using a processor or small stick to whip the potatoes smooth lent to greater consistency of each nugget, although a vigorous hand mashing by your youngest help will also do the job.
Once the potatoes are mashed and combined with the tasty sauce included in the tray and the cooked broccoli has been chopped into tiny pieces, then have your kitchen helpers combine the other ingredients thoroughly to form a dough-like mixture. This is when the fun part begins. Roll heaping spoonfuls into a ball, then roll the ball in the plate of breadcrumbs. By the time this task is complete, the dreaded broccoli ingredient will have been long forgotten. It’s now just a potato nugget to be handed off to an adult for cooking in hot oil. Enjoy your broccoli!
Potato Broccoli Nuggets
Yields approximately 20 nuggets
1 package Melissa’s Dutch Potato Tray, cooked, mashed smooth
1 package sauce, included with potato tray
1 cup broccoli spears, cooked then diced fine
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated very fine
1½ cups fine breadcrumbs, divided
1 egg, lightly whisked
Salt and pepper to taste
What the kids can do:
Mash the cooked (microwaved) potatoes in a large mixing bowl with the contents of the sauce packet, then add the cooked broccoli, ½ cup of the breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper.
Place the remaining cup of the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Shape the potato mixture into balls with the palms of your hands and gently roll each one in the dish of crumbs breadcrumbs to lightly coat. Then hand off to supervising adult to cook in oil.
What the supervising adult should do:
In a large frypan, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat. Add the potato nugget balls in batches to the oil, cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Allow to drain on a paper towel-lined dish. Repeat with remaining potato balls.
Serve with your favorite dips, such as ketchup or mustard.