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Simple Sides: Apples

Image of School Mascot with Kids
This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child can contribute to the family meal. While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s 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 even be great fun. 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 your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever.

It’s apple harvest season and every retail supermarket in the country is bursting with all kinds of colorful varieties in the peak of flavor. Use this bounty to teach your kitchen helpers that fresh apples can be a lot more than just a lunchbox hand fruit. Here are two recipes that are simple and instructive. One lesson that should be stressed during the preparation of both these recipes is the handling of peeled apples a.k.a. the browning factor. With its skin protection gone, the air reacts with the sugars in the fruit, quickly producing an ugly brown. Peeled apples need to be used immediately or kept in bowl of lemon water, which will prevent browning, while the rest of the recipe is being prepared.

Recipe I – Apples & Carrots
This simplest of recipes, that with a little knife-work help, will give even your youngest cook a chance to be involved in the family meal. For the older child, here’s a chance to practice the dice cut. Granny Smith is the perfect pairing with carrots because of the sweet-tart flavor that the combination produces. I tried this same recipe with a Gala and it just was not as interesting. Still, taste preferences are totally objective; if your kids have a favorite variety, use it, as the decision gets them involved in the ingredient list. This recipe may be simple, but the unusual mix of few ingredients is absolutely delicious in a warm, healthy, comfort food sort of way! Plus, the smell of apples and cinnamon cooking that will waft through your kitchen is like no other!

Recipe II – Apples and Sweet Potato Casserole
Again, just enough ingredients to keep your young chef interested, but very simple for any child to prepare. Again, the choice of apples is up to you; the Fuji is a high sugar apple that matches well with the sweet potato. This is another scrumptious comfort food that will make a great side dish served with pork or roast chicken. Any leftovers are tomorrow’s hot and healthy lunch!

Apples and Carrots on the Side
Serves 4
Image of Apples and Carrots on the Side
1½ cups Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced (two large apples)
2 cups Carrots, halved, dice ¼ –inch thick (5 medium-size carrots)
2½ cups Water
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons Cold Water

What kids can do:
  1. Under supervision, prepare and measure carrots and apples.
  2. Measure out all the rest of the ingredients before starting.
  3. In a saucepan, cook carrots in water until crisp-tender; drain.
  4. Add butter, agave, lemon juice and cinnamon; mix well.
  5. Stir in apples.
  6. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Combine cornstarch and cold water; stir into carrot/apple mixture.
  8. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened.
  9. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes or until glazed, stirring constantly.
  10. Serve in bowls or as a side on same plate with main course.
What supervising adult should do:
The simplicity of this dish allows the kids to accomplish most of it on their own. Supervise the knife work or do it yourself based on age and ability of your young sous chefs.

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
Serves 4
Image of Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
2 Fuji Apples, peeled and cored
4 medium size Sweet Potatoes, peeled, boiled, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 small Onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons Fresh Marjoram, fine chopped
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 oz. Water
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 cup shredded Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese

What the kids can do
  1. Peel and boil sweet potatoes whole until slightly tender. Drain and cool.
  2. Slice sweet potatoes into ¼-inch slices.
  3. Peel, core and slice apples into thin rounds.
  4. In a 1½-quart shallow baking dish, layer half of the sliced sweet potatoes and then half of the sliced apples.
  5. Sprinkle with onion, and marjoram; dot with butter.
  6. Arrange a second layer of remaining sweet potato and apple slices in the baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle with onion, and marjoram; dot with butter.
  8. Combine water with lemon juice; pour over layer of sweet potatoes and apples.
  9. Sprinkle cheese shreds over top and garnish with a sprinkle of marjoram.
What supervising adult should do:
Supervise all peeling, knife work and handle the boiling of the sweet potatoes. If you do not have an apple corer, use a paring knife or a potato peeler used like a knife works just a well – not something for your kitchen crew to attempt. Another very simple dish that can be easily assembled by your kitchen helpers, then baked at 350° for 30 minutes.
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