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Simple Sides: Mangoes

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.
Image of mangos
It’s a good bet that this may be your kitchen helpers’ first culinary exposure to what is the most consumed fruit worldwide. This, despite the U.S. annual mango consumption being just 2 pounds per capita compared to India or the Philippines at 25 pounds! Your kitchen helpers will enjoy playing catch-up in this disparity with two easy recipes that demonstrate that the mango is more than a hand fruit or smoothie ingredient. The first is a fun-to-make finger food dish that requires no cooking at all, so even a very young child can participate. The second is a refreshingly delicious summertime side dish that could be the kids’ contribution to the family’s backyard BBQ meal.

Mangos are bursting with nutrients. Interestingly, the vitamin content depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit. When the mango is slightly immature, the amount of vitamin C is much higher than when fully ripe. However, as the fruit ripens, the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases. For kids, an age group that is so physically active, mangos are a great way to replenish lost potassium that comes with all that high activity. The primary reason that mangos are not as popular in this country is probably because there is a little “work” involved to peeling and separating the fruit from its rather large and clingy pit. The process is really not that difficult; even a child could do the peeling using the method below. However, the knife-work necessary to remove the seed should probably be done by the supervising adult or an older child under close supervision. There are as many approaches to this task as there are mango varieties, here is one:

Slice about a ½ inch off both ends of the fruit. Using a potato peeler, rather than a paring knife, to remove the mango’s thick skin will waste the least amount of fruit. Once peeled, stand the mango upright on the cutting board and cut the fruit from top to bottom along each side of the flat of the pit and then trim off the strip of remaining fruit off the edge of the pit. You will end up with two large oval slices and two thinner side panels. The fruit can now be sliced and diced as each of these recipes require.

Recipe I
A recipe so simple to prepare that even a child who cannot read will be able to help with the construction of these sushi-like rolls. For that young helper, slice all the ingredients yourself and then oversee the spreading of the cream cheese and placement of all the rest of the ingredients on the tortilla. Though it might get a little messy, the roll up process could also be assigned to a small child with some assistance. The beautiful pattern of colorful ingredients created by the cross-cut will delight all ages, though the actual cutting should be done by an older child under supervision! This roll is basic training for all young aspiring sushi chefs!

Recipe II
Healthy rice is a great culinary tool that supports a huge array of ingredients, flavors and cuisines. Cooking it perfectly takes practice, which is why it has appeared in so many forms in this feature. Besides showing your kids how to cook rice, use the opportunity to instruct them on the difference between white and brown rice. “Healthy” rice is short-grain brown rice; processed, polished, nutrient- depleted white rice is simply empty starch calories. This recipe would also work great using Quinoa, which is a nutty flavored, grain-like crop that is as nutritious as it is tasty!

Use “lite” coconut milk to reduce the caloric profile of this creamy, yet delightfully light, side dish. Raisins and rice have a wonderful comfort food texture about them. The tropical tones created by the coconut milk and mango make this dish a perfect match for barbecued chicken or pork. Add some corn on the cob and a picnic table to complete a summertime feast, which your kids have helped to prepare!

Recipe I
Mango Rolls
Makes 16 bite-size rolls
Image of Mango Rolls
3 ounces Whipped Low-Calorie Cream Cheese
2 Whole Grain Flour Tortillas (burrito size)
1 medium ripe Mango, peeled, pitted and cut into one-half-inch thick strips
6 Green Onions, tops only, leave long and whole (use three per tortilla)
1 large Red Bell Pepper, cut into long, semi-thin strips (julienne)
3 ounces very thinly sliced Smoked Turkey or Ham

What kids can do:
  1. Prepare and measure out all ingredients.
  2. Spread cream cheese over each tortilla right to the edge.
  3. Place the mango, green onion and bell pepper strips horizontally over bottom two-thirds of the tortilla’s surface.
  4. Arrange two slices of smoked turkey or ham to cover the other components.
  5. Roll up tightly from bottom to top.
  6. Gently squeeze rolls to bind the ingredients.
What the supervising adult should do:
  1. Depending on the age of your kitchen helper(s), do or supervise the knife work required to slice the ingredients and cut the rolls into ½ inch thick slices. Serve on a platter.
Recipe II
Mango Coconut Rice
Serves 6
Image of Mango Coconut Rice
2 cups Short Grain Brown Rice or Quinoa
2 cups Water
1 (14-ounce) can of Lite Coconut Milk
4 ounces Cilantro – rough chopped
½ cup Raisins
¼ cup Toasted Almond Slices
1 Mango, peeled, pitted and diced
2 Tablespoons Cumin
Salt, to taste

What kids can do:
  1. Prepare and measure out all ingredients.
  2. Place rice, water, coconut milk and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.
  3. Bring rice to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally so that rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, until the water has evaporated to just below the level of the rice and little holes begin to form on the surface.
  4. Reduce heat to the lowest setting, stir in the raisins and cumin, cover saucepan, and continue to cook 15 minutes.
  5. Fluff rice with a fork, stirring in mangos and cilantro.
  6. Cover saucepan and let it sit off the heat for about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle rice with toasted almonds and a little more chopped cilantro.
What the supervising adult should do:
  1. Oversee the stovetop cooking and stirring in of ingredients very closely. Plate in individual servings or family style in a large bowl.
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