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Simple Sides: Broccoli Florets

Image of Breaded Broccoli Florets
By Dennis Linden

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.
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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 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 children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.

While this is a very basic recipe with very few ingredients, it contains some cooking lessons that will serve your young kitchen helpers for years to come in their own kitchens. This dish is a delicious way for the whole family to enjoy healthy broccoli as a finger food! The rudimentary tomato sauce formula lays a solid foundation that will build culinary confidence in your sous chefs that will be used in the future to build their own versions of the iconic Italian tomato sauce. There’s a minimal amount of knife work, as the food processor really does most of the work; then it’s just a matter of heating up the sauce and serving it in a dipping bowl.

The egg/milk wash and bread crumbs is another classic combination for breading foods that your kids need to learn. There are any number of bread crumb products that can be used to coat the florets from panko to whole wheat crumbs. I used bread crumbs laced with Italian seasonings, but that choice is a matter of taste. The assembly-line process can get everyone in the family involved; however, another fun way to coat the broccoli is to place the bread crumb mix into a large plastic freezer storage bag and then drop the egg-coated florets into the bag and shake, shake, shake! This method is a great way to include a very young child in the preparation of the family meal. After trying this recipe, never again will you have to utter those three infamous words: EAT YOUR BROCCOLI! Enjoy.

Breaded Broccoli Florets
Serves 4
Image of Ingredients

1 pound Broccoli Florets, cut in half
1 cup Bread Crumbs (Italian Seasoned)
3 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt to taste
2 Egg Whites, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons Milk
Image of ingredients for tomato sauce
For Tomato Sauce

1 pound Roma Tomatoes, cut into large pieces
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium cloves of Garlic, smashed
1 handful of Italian Parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

What the kids can do:

Measure out all ingredients before starting preparation.

Separate broccoli florets from stalk and cut in half.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
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In another mixing bowl, combine whipped egg whites & milk.
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Coat florets first in egg white mixture and then bread crumb mix thoroughly.
Image of coated broccoli florets on cookie sheet
Place coated broccoli on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Image of sauce ingredients in a food processor
Place all tomato sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend thoroughly.

What supervising adult should do:

Oversee the knife work to separate and slice the florets and the tomatoes for the sauce. Definitely supervise the salt and peppering in both parts of this recipe. Hot ovens are for adults only -- bake the coated broccoli at 400° for 20 minutes.
Image of cooking sauce
Once the kids have processed the sauce ingredients, handle the stovetop simmer until it just starts to bubble. Pour the warm sauce into a dipping bowl and serve on a platter with the breaded broccoli.
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