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Simple Sides: Holiday Potato Apps

Image of school mascot with kids
This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options. The dishes will be centered around seasonal fresh produce item and easy enough to prepare so that a child of any age can help in contributing to the family meal. While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. 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.

The competing schedules of today’s 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 even be great fun. 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.

One of the best parts of the holiday season is all the trays of delectable finger foods that come with each festive gathering. Sounds like a great opportunity for an Appetizers 101 class! Enlist the kids into helping to prepare for a houseful of guests with these two simple and fun-to-make app recipes that require some hands-on assembly that allow even the youngest of sous chefs to be involved.

This feature usually provides an “easy” and “easier” choice of recipes to use depending on the age of your kitchen helpers. For these apps, some of the culinary lessons are in the contrasts between the ingredients and process of each, so my vote would be making both. Unless you are in a real multi-tasking mood that could handle supervising simultaneous preparations, take a day to do each. Note: the potato balls will keep nicely in the refrigerator overnight; the won ton wrappers will not, so they must be prepared and served soon thereafter. A little LIVE kitchen entertaining experience for your helpers is a good thing!

Lastly, if your gathering is big enough, let the kids serve their creation to guests by going around the room with a tray. Just one tray, the rest of the batch can be tabled; but that passing-around allows for some culinary pride in ownership and bragging rights that will bolster kitchen confidence.

There are many culinary contrasts between each recipe: gold potatoes or sweet potatoes, spinach or edamame, refreshing sweetness or creamy savory, baked or deep fired, crunchy or velvet smooth. It is all possible and tasty, tasty!
Image of Won Ton Wrappers package
Recipe I – Potato Won Tons - lesson plan
Once the filling has been made, there is a bit of fun art & crafts on a cutting board involved in this one that your helpers should enjoy! However, the won ton wrapper is a lot more delicate than school Crepe Paper, so a demonstration and watchful supervision will be needed at first. There are plenty of wrappers in the Melissa’s packet to support learning how to fold and seal the wrapper without tearing it.

As an appetizer, this little tidbit has everything. The crispiness of the won ton is the vehicle for the rich sweet potato creaminess of the filling. Point out to your kitchen crew just how much a difference the mint makes in the overall flavor. In fact, if you can remember do it, it might be fun to demonstrate the difference by setting aside some of the filling just before the mint is added for a comparative taste test.
Image of potatoes
Recipe II – Spinach-Potato Balls – lesson plan
I first made this recipe using regular Russet baking potatoes. While the green of the spinach was visually more vibrant than when combined with gold potatoes, the flavor of the Yukon variety was so much superior to the Russet. I claim holiday fever for including a little cheese in these tasty morsels as this feature tries to maintain a standard of healthy cooking. A more sensible ingredient would be a soy cheese product; keeping the creamy factor and adding nutrition is always a better option. Like I said, the jingle of those bells made me do it! Next time soy, promise.

Recipe I
Potato Won Tons
Makes 24
Image of Potato Won Tons
1 package Melissa’s Won Ton Wrappers
2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 package (10 oz.) Melissa’s Edamame (Soy Beans)
1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
2 tablespoons Ground Coriander
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 tablespoons Mint, chopped
Vegetable Oil, for deep frying

What the kids can do:
  1. Peel potatoes (any age).
  2. Dice the potatoes (supervised, age & experience a factor) .
  3. Measure out coriander, cumin, lemon juice and chopped mint.
  4. Once potatoes are cooked & cooled, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Separate wrappers, laying them out with a corner at top and bottom – forming a diamond shape.
  6. Place a heaping teaspoonful of the filling slightly below center of each wrapper.
  7. Soak one finger in water, and then wet all 4 edges of the entire wrapper.
  8. Fold bottom corner to top corner, overfilling, forming triangle and seal the wet edges together by pressing down lightly.

What the supervising adult should do:

If you have a child who needs some knife practice, but a small dice is a little to precise of a cut just yet, then supervise a large dice or chop of the potatoes and then give them a once-over yourself. The potatoes really do have to be very small diced for this recipe to work best. Of course, handle all the stovetop work -- boiling the potatoes until just tender and deep frying the won ton packets in small batches until golden brown, turning twice. Remove and drain well. Serve hot.

Recipe II Spinach-Potato Balls
Makes 24 Balls

4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
1½ cups fresh Spinach, chopped and lightly steamed
2 Whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 cup grated Monterey Jack Pepper Cheese
½ cup flour Salt and pepper
Lemon Juice – for topping

What the kids can do:

  1. Peel potatoes and mash them once cooked.
  2. Lightly brush a baking tray with vegetable oil or spray with vegetable spray.
  3. Under supervision, chop and measure out spinach.
  4. Measure out nutmeg and flour.
  5. Grate and measure out the cheese.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, spinach and eggs until blended.
  7. Stir in nutmeg, cheese and 4 tablespoons of the flour.
  8. Spread the remaining flour onto a glass plate and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Using the palms of your hands, form the potato mixture into 1-inch balls.
  10. Drop the balls onto the flour-covered plate, roll to coat and place on the baking sheet.
  11. Place the tray in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before baking.
  12. Once baked, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve warm.

What the supervising adult should do:
Supervise the chopping of the spinach or do it yourself if your helpers are too young. Do the steaming of the spinach – just long enough to get a wilt for mixing with the potatoes. Boil and cool the potatoes before allow the kids to mash. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Transfer the balls from the hot sheet to a serving plate or tray before allowing the kids to


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