Simple Sides: St. Patty’s Day Mash
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 children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to have a little healthy green fun in the kitchen while teaching a few practical cooking lessons to your kitchen helpers. Here’s a quick, easy and very basic recipe that the youngest of sous chefs can participate in making. This veggie mash side dish takes very little time to prepare and can even be accomplished without any knife work at all to suit the age of your helpers. Also the short ingredient list is perfect for the beginner cook to manage, though it has two prep parts that demonstrate a lesson in making a quickie sauce with just half and half, one common herb and a bit of garlic. Plus the fun bonus of creating an Irish green dish suiting the occasion!
Using parsnips instead of potatoes adds a slight sweetness to the dish that kids will enjoy. If your helpers are just too young for knife work yet, the parsnips can be hand-snapped into chunks; the veggie is going to be puréed anyway, so uniformity is less important than breaking up the parsnips small enough to cook quickly and fit into the food processor, the novice cook’s best friend in the kitchen. The color comes from the edamame, shelled soy beans, which are among the most nutrient-packed foods on the planet; in this case, used as a healthy and natural food dye compared to store-bought commercial alternatives.
As suggested in the preparation instructions, there are two tasks best left for the supervising adult to perform, namely the stovetop cooking. The prep involves the kids to a point in both tasks, but then directs them when to hand off the boiling of the parsnip pieces and the simmering of the half and half to an adult. The rest is really up to the food processor; providing the perfect opportunity for a Care & Handling - Food Processor 101 lesson that should include the careful clean-up of the machine too! Did I mention that this dish is also DELICIOUS – it is! Enjoy!
St. Patty’s Parsnip Mash
1 pound Parsnips, peeled, cut (or broken) into small chunks
1 (10 ounce) package Melissa Shelled Edamame
1 cup Non-Fat Half & Half
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
2 Tablespoons Melissa’s Chopped Garlic
4 ounces Unsalted Butter
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pepper
What the kids can do:
Measure out and prepare all ingredients before beginning recipe.
Peel, then slice or break the parsnips into chunks.
Place parsnips into a 4 qt. pot, season with salt and cover with water.
Hand pot off to the supervising adult for stovetop cooking.
In a medium saucepan place the cream, thyme sprigs and garlic cloves.
Also hand off this pan to the supervising adult for the stovetop.
Place cooked parsnips and edamame mix in a food processor with butter.
Set processor to purée, slowly add half & half mixture, then salt and pepper.
Continue to purée until very smooth and thick, like mashed potatoes.
What the supervising adult should do:
Simmer the pot of parsnips over medium heat until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the precooked edamame and simmer for another 5 minutes.
This is a good opportunity to demonstrate to your helpers how to judge when the parsnips are done by poking them with a fork or the tip of a paring knife, which should easily go through without resistance.
When done, drain and cool this mixture before allowing the kids to pack into the food processor.
Meanwhile bring the half & half mixture to a slow simmer over a low flame, careful not to scald.
It would probably be safer, especially if your kitchen helpers are young, to do the straining of this hot liquid yourself into some sort of easy-to-pour container before letting the kids add the mix into the running processor.