Simple Sides: Crispy Garbanzo Tots
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.
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 kids will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
While it is impossible to truly replicate the unique crispy texture and taste of the iconic tater tot, here’s a healthier version that comes close without the use of deep-fried oil or even potatoes, for that matter. In fact, subbing in Melissa’s Steamed Garbanzo Beans as the main ingredient doubles the amount of nutrients than are in an equal serving of potato-based tots. Since both have about the same amount of calories, this baked version packs a lot more nutritional punch per serving.
That’s all well and good, nutritionally speaking, though there is no quicker way to lose the attention of your young kitchen helpers than a lecture on the health benefits of this, or any, recipe. Instead, show them how to cook up this nutrient-packed version of a favorite side dish, including a quick bonus lesson in making a delicious dip to go with it, and let the taste test demonstrate that eating healthy can also be very tasty. Plus, preparing this dish has a bit of fun arts ‘n crafts construction to it that allows even the youngest of helpers to get involved in the process.
Once all the supporting ingredients have been chopped, minced, juiced and measured out for both the tot and dip recipes, the hands-on culinary fun can begin. I found that slowly adding a bit of white flour to the garbanzo mixture, while the food processor was running, helped create the doughy consistency necessary so the kids can roll the mix into long cylinders by hand on a floured cutting board.
A child of any age can have the fun of turning a hand-full of bean dough into a long tube and then slicing the roll into two-inch sections with a dull plastic picnic knife. Each small section is then gently squeezed at both ends, between thumb and forefinger, to create that iconic squatty, rectangle “tot” shape – again, a task that needs no culinary experience or minimum age requirement! While having fun cooking together should be the main focus as opposed to any emphasis on producing cookie-cutter uniformity here, your beginner chefs should be made aware that a tray of relatively same-sized tots will bake more evenly and be done at the same time.
Of course the traditional tater tot condiment of choice, ketchup, goes well with this baked bean version. However, there is no educational culinary value in opening a bottle of ketchup. So we have included a simple, yet creative and versatile mayo-based dip that your aspiring cooks should learn anyway as it will also work deliciously on a raw veggie platter. Have an older child with some knife experience do the mincing of the fresh herbs and onion; then a younger helper can take over to mix all the ingredients together. Even the simplest of tasks will contribute to a culinary confidence in the kitchen that will serve you kids for a lifetime.
Garbanzo Beans, also marketed as Chickpeas, are high in fiber, Vitamin A & B-6 as well as very rich in bone-building calcium. Dried Garbanzos must be prepared by soaking overnight and then boiling for another 90 minutes. Melissa’s pre-cooked, vacuum-sealed package of this popular ingredient or making hummus can be enjoyed hot or cold right out of the package and can save a whole day of preparation without sacrificing flavor. They are great served whole in salads, mashed with herbs in any number of hummus recipes or, as your young sous chefs will soon learn, as a no-fuss ingredient that will make for some happy and healthy totting!
Crispy Bean Tots
Ingredients – Tots:
2 packages Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Garbanzos
1 large Egg
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Panko Crumbs
½ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
¾ cup Cheddar Cheese
½ cup White Flour (more if needed)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Ingredients – Dip:
½ cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Fresh Tangerine Juice
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Fresh Oregano, minced
1 Tablespoon Red Onion, minced
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, minced
Salt (to taste)
What the kids can do:
Prepare and measure out all the tot ingredients, then combine all in a food processor.
Mix to a smooth dough.
Remove from food processor and form into a roll. Slice into small pieces.
Form tots by rolling into between your hands, and then flattening the top and bottom. Spread them out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, brush or spray the tots with a little oil to coat.
Prepare, measure out, then combine all dip ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.
What the supervising adult should do:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F. Bake tots for 10 minutes on one side. Turn the tots over and bake for an additional 5 minutes, until they are golden and crispy.