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Simple Sides: Grape Stuffed Mushrooms

Image of Grape Stuffed Mushrooms
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.
Image of recurring 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 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.

While the heat of the summer sun is gone for another year, fall brings on a bounty of grape varieties that have been basking in that warmth for months and are now filling retail sales displays. Take advantage of this sweet harvest while showing your young kitchen helpers that, with a little culinary creativity, one of their favorite hand snack fruits can transform mushrooms into an even better finger food! This very hands-on recipe is a fun and tasty way to celebrate the grape harvest and it manages to include two kinds of cheeses, one mushroom and a juicy grape in every bite!

As an ingredient in this scrumptious appetizer or a hand fruit snack, grapes are packed with beneficial nutrients that support almost every system in the body. Eating grapes may boost memory and brain health. In a study of healthy older adults, a grape supplement taken daily for 3 months significantly improved scores on a test measuring attention, memory, and language, compared with baseline values. Another study in healthy young adults showed that drinking an 8-ounce glass of grape juice improved both mood and the speed of memory-related skills just 20 minutes after consumption! Grapes contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to help maintain eye health, improve visual performance, and prevent common eye diseases. So, getting your kitchen helpers in the habit of eating grapes will serve them more than a tasty snack for a lifetime.

For this recipe, have your kids form a culinary assembly line helping to prepare a tray of these appetizers for an adult cocktail party (i.e., child labor laws aside) or to fill a big platter stored in the fridge to be grazed off, heating up a few mushrooms at a time, for a quick snack. Though the difficulty is stopping at just a few! Note that the ingredient list is just that – a list with no measures. The number of mushrooms being prepared will obviously define the quantity needed as well as that of each supporting component.

The assembly line can involve all ages since the tasks require various abilities. A very young child can separate the grapes from their vines and place one in each mushroom cavity. It takes a little more dexterity to create that cavity for that grape by separating stem from mushroom without damage. Apply the cream cheese with a butter knife to envelope the grape completely. I first tried tongs to roll the grape-stuffed mushroom in Parmesan, but it was awkward; eventually found it easier to carefully place each mushroom by hand in the middle of a small bowl of Parmesan and spoon the grated cheese to coat, then gently shake off excess.

There was a learning curve to the time of the final bake of this recipe that the reader should take advantage of at my expense! That is, the first batch was baked “by the book” at 425°F for 10 minutes. The good and bad news was that the parmesan melted into a pool at the base of each mushroom (bad), but it became a deliciously chewy, quite unexpected delight (good!) That said, a second batch at 350°F for about 8 minutes did the trick, and you can have the same “problem” if one reheats in the microwave for no more than 35 seconds on high. That is unless one prefers chewy Parm!

Grape Stuffed Mushrooms
Image of Organic Green Muscato™ Grapes
White or Cremini mushrooms, stems removed
Melissa’s Organic Green Muscato™ Grapes
Cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup canola oil
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

What the kids can do:
Image of steamed mushrooms
Steam the mushrooms rounded-side up for 3 minutes to rid them of excess water in a large vegetable steamer or a bamboo steamer set over simmering water. Mushrooms will shrink some. Cool.
Image of grape stuffed mushroom
Place each mushroom rounded-side down on a cutting board and place a grape in the hollow of each cap. Scoop up about a teaspoon of cream cheese, enclose the grape completely by shaping and molding with the cream cheese.
Image of dip and Parmesan cheese
Place the Parmesan in a shallow bowl. Place the canola oil in a second bowl. With tongs, carefully dip each stuffed mushroom in the oil and then carefully dredge in the parmesan. Gently shake off any excess parmesan and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

What the supervising adult should do:
Image of stuffed mushrooms arranged in baking tray with parchment paper
Bake for 8 minutes at 350°F until light golden brown on top. Ask your helpers to sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme on each mushroom. Serve warm.

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