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Simple Sides: Cranberries, Chestnuts, Cinnamon and Maple Syrup!

Cinnamon Butternut Squash-Brussels Sprout with Cranberries & Chestnuts
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 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 can 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 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. Enjoy your kids in the kitchen; they will be grown & gone before you know it! “No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

The holidays present an opportunity for the family to celebrate together by cooking together! Many dishes and ingredients during this season are enjoyed only once a year. So, involve your kids in the making of these special recipes that will not only add to their culinary repertoires but perhaps form lasting traditions that will be passed on to their own young helpers in their own kitchens during the holiday seasons in the years to come.

Cinnamon, chestnuts, cranberries and maple syrup are the special ingredients that transform butternut squash cubes and Brussels sprouts into a festive side dish suitable for the family’s holiday table. This simple recipe has something for everyone to take part in putting this tasty dish together. The supervising adult should definitely provide a peeled butternut squash for the kids to work with; the hard shell comes off using a potato peeler with some effort. The butt end of the Brussels sprout tends to brown, so it will also need a slight trimming; a child judged to have some precision slicing experience can be tasked with this or just have the kids slice the sprouts in half after they have been trimmed.

Actually, the knife work is minimal for this recipe. Once cut and trimmed, all that is left to do is measure out the two sets of ingredients to coat the Brussels and butternut, which are then spread out on baking sheets. All can be done by the kids, though the supervising adult should oversee the roasting of the veggies and flipping both about halfway through the cooking process.

While the squash and sprouts are finishing up in the oven, the dried cranberries and chestnuts can be measured out. And, no, the gathering and roasting of chestnuts will not be necessary for this dish. A package of Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Chestnuts takes the work and waste out, leaving only the good part to enjoy right out of the package. Chances are your kids are not familiar with either the song or the fire-roasting associated with this wonderful traditional holiday ingredient anyway! Next step: the kids can simply combine both batches of roasted veggies into a large serving bowl along with the chestnuts and cranberries. Simple. Final step: ENJOY!

Cinnamon Butternut Squash-Brussels Sprout with Cranberries & Chestnuts
Servings 6
Image of Ingredients
3 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, any shriveled leaves removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch salt to taste
1½ lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, small cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pkgs. Melissa’s Chestnuts
1 cup Melissa’s dried cranberries
3 oz. pine nuts (garnish optional)


What the supervising adult should do:
Tedium is the quickest way to extinguish a child's enthusiasm for the culinary arts. Best that an adult peel the tough outer shell-like skin of butternut squash. The butt end of the Brussels sprouts needs to be trimmed (not cut off completely). A young helper with some knife experience can do this or do it yourself, then let the kids do the rest per the recipe.

What the kids can do:
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Slice Brussels sprouts in half. Cut Butternut squash into bite-sized cubes.
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Place the halved Brussels sprouts in a mixing bowl with a lid, add the olive oil and salt – cover and shake to coat. Transfer sprouts to a foil-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Then, use the same mixing bowl to toss the butternut cubes with olive oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Transfer butternut squash to a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer.
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Place both sheets in the oven at 400°F for 15 minutes, then turn both the squash and Brussels over to roast for another 10-15 minutes. The squash should be cooked until softened; the Brussels sprouts should be nicely browned.
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Assembly: Combine roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, chestnuts and cranberries in a large bowl, then garnish with pine nuts.
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