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Simple Sides: Eat Your Broccoli! (Eggrolls)

Image of Air Fried Broccoli & Cheese Egg Rolls
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, allowing 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.
Image of kids
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 develop. 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 and gone before you know it! “No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

Here’s a fun and tasty recipe that will eliminate the need for a parent to ever again use that well-known dinner table command to a finicky child: “You are not excused until you eat your broccoli.” However, a vegetable can look a whole lot different, including broccoli, when it’s just one item in a list of ingredients that are then made into a crispy egg roll by the hands of the aforementioned finicky eater! This recipe cannot only provide a beginner cook with a sense of culinary pride in making such a cool little packet, but also widen a child’s broccoli acceptance – especially when the veggie comes dressed in two kinds of cheeses, brown rice as well as a few flavor additives that he or she had a hand in making. So, it’s all about presentation; in no time, these egg rolls may become your fussy eaters' GO-TO after-school snack without even noticing all the tasty nutrition!

Since this recipe has two purposes: inspiring an interest in cooking as well as in broccoli, do the tedious parts of the preparation before inviting your young helpers into the kitchen. That is, cook the brown rice and steam the broccoli florets. There will be plenty of time for the kids to learn both these tasks as their culinary education expands; for now, these two should be pre-cooked ingredients for your helpers to use. This is the perfect recipe to introduce a very young child to the kitchen as there is no knifework involved, and the construction of each egg roll certainly has an Arts ‘n Crafts feel that should hold a young child’s interest.

Steamed broccoli is fork tender, so once cooled, even the youngest of helpers can break the florets into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. The same child can be tasked with mixing those small pieces of broccoli into the rice. The shredding of the cheeses and the measuring of seasonings also take no culinary experience, only rudimentary math. Once the bowl of components is thoroughly mixed, the real fun (and child’s play) begins.

The recipe below includes a step-by-step pictorial of the construction of an egg roll. There is also a diagram of the same on Melissa’s Egg Roll Wrapper package. At this stage, the whole family should get involved. Sure, there will be a learning curve, and some of the wrappers are going to look more “creative” than others. One tip that will help in that learning curve is to use less filling than you think, as it will make for a tighter wrap. Still, the point is not perfection in the construction but rather working together and sharing the laughter that should be a part of all family time in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Air Fried Broccoli & Cheese Egg Rolls
Servings: 15 wrappers
Image of Ingredients
1 lb. broccoli florets, steamed
2 cups cooked brown rice
½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Salt & black pepper to taste
1 pkg Melissa’s Egg Roll Wrappers
Olive oil cooking spray

What the supervising adult should do:
Cook the brown rice, steam and cool the broccoli before your helpers arrive in the kitchen. Cooked florets can easily be “chopped” into smaller pieces with a fork by a child of any age, no sharp knife required.

What the kids can do:
Image of Broccoli mixture
Break up the broccoli into small pieces with a fork, then combine with the rice in a mixing bowl.
Image of broccoli with cheese
Add both cheeses to the bowl of broccoli.
Image of broccoli mixed with cheese
Combine onion and garlic powders with the melted butter, add to the bowl along with salt & pepper to taste, then gently toss all the ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
Image of egg roll wrappers construction
Place an egg roll wrapper on a cutting board with a corner at the bottom. Wet all the edges of the wrapper with water. (#1) Spoon a portion of broccoli mixture across the wrapper just below the centerline. (#2) Fold the bottom corner up and over the filling, make tight. (#3) Next fold the sides up and in. (#4) Finish by rolling over this filled part of the wrapper towards the top corner of the wrapper keeping roll as tight as possible, sealing the edges with water again if necessary. Set aside, seam side down, and repeat process with the rest of the wrappers.

What the supervising adult should do:
Image of broccoli egg rolls
When arranging rolls in air fryer basket be sure to leave a little room between each roll. Cook in batches. Mist eggrolls with cooking spray, then air fry at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully flip over and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until browned. Serve with marinara sauce or ranch dressing for dipping – or both!
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