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Simple Sides – Upside Down Winter Citrus

By Dennis Linden

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 adult attention might be especially needed.

Cookin' with the 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. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” – Julia Child.

Here’s a tasty dessert recipe that takes advantage of the wide selection of citrus varieties that dominate retail produce departments in the winter months. January is a wonderful time to walk the citrus aisle of your local market to partake in the bounty of the season! For your young kitchen helpers who have never tried baking a cake, this easy recipe is a good introduction to that fine art, and the ingredients will turn their notion of citrus being only a hand snack or juice source upside down, literally!

In fact, this flexible recipe could start at your local produce department so the kids can pick out their own favorite types of fruit. What July is for the summer soft fruit season, namely the peak month of supply and quality, January is to a dazzling array of citrus varieties. In fact, citrus is one of the few fresh-harvested domestic fruit crops available in abundance at this time of the year. While the recipe below uses blood and navel oranges as well as ruby grapefruit, which were defined by the selection and quality available when shopping ingredients for this blog, at this time of year there are also Cara Cara and Seville oranges, plus Clementines and several other tangerine and mandarin varieties that will work for this dish.

Besides fresh citrus, some of the ingredient substitutes in this cake recipe will also demonstrate to your young bakers that a baked dessert can be sweet AND healthy at the same time. That is, no processed sugar and a cake batter that minimizes the empty calories of white flour. Flour provides the structure in baked goods but is nutrient deficient. Wheat flour contains proteins that interact when mixed with water, forming gluten, which stretches to contain the expanding leavening gases during the rising process. Milled flour also has no fiber, congests the system, which slows down digestion that creates a sluggish metabolism that often leads to weight gain and constipation. Almond flour is made from ground almonds. It is low in carbs, packed with nutrients and has a slightly sweet taste. So, the blend of the two provide the gluten necessary for a fluffy textured cake, while the almond flour adds taste and nutrition. The reasons behind this blending should be explained to your kitchen helpers as a part of their culinary education.

The over consumption of sugar IS why there is a pandemic of child obesity in the country. Sugar comes in many forms on the grocery shelf. It is also unavoidable without reading the fine print on any label and knowing all the buzz words trying to cover up the word “sugar.” The negative health effects in our kids can be found in study after study with a simple ‘net search. So, it simply makes no sense to support this addiction by preparing any recipe with your children that includes sugar, since there are numerous dry sweeteners on the market that are neutral to the metabolism or even nutritious, take your pick. Melissa’s Blue Agave also replaces the sugar-water syrup called for in the original recipe; sugar water [!!] has absolutely no redeeming value beyond a sugar high – a true buzz word. The best cooking lesson you can pass on to your offspring is to limit and/or eliminate both white flour and sugar as much as possible in our high fructose, doughboy marketplace.

The only knife work required in this prep is the slicing of the fruit. Depending on age of your sous chefs, this might be a task best accomplished by the supervising adult. The rest of the recipe is simply measuring and combining all the batter ingredients. Prebake cake construction involves simply laying the fruit slices over the pool of agave in the bottom of the cake pan, then pouring the batter over both. Easy peasy! The fun part comes with the reveal. Once baked and cooled, supervise your helpers in placing a serving plate upside down over the top of the cake pan and carefully flipping it over. I used a banded cake pan with a removable bottom that unlocks so the cake can pop out easily. Have your kitchen helpers then carefully remove the parchment paper and the pan bottom to what they have created. ENJOY…right side up!

Winter Citrus Upside-Down Cake
Serves 8

Ingredients for Winter Citrus Upside-Down Cake


Step 1:

1 each Navel Orange, Pink Grapefruit, Blood Orange (or other favorite citrus combinations)

Step 2:

1 cup Flour
1 cup Almond Flour
1 cup Dry Sugar substitute
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
3 eggs
1 cup Greek Yogurt
4 tablespoon Citrus Juice, any variety used in recipe
¼ cup Neutral Oil, such as Canola

Step 3:

½ cup Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup

What the kids can do:

Step 1

Step 1: After peeling, slice each citrus crosswise into ½ inch slices and remove any seeds.

Step 2

Step 2: Combine both flours, sweetener, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the center of the bowl to add the eggs and mix well. Then, whisk in yogurt, citrus juice and oil until batter is smooth.

Step 3

Step 3: Spray a 9-inch cake pan with oil thoroughly on all sides, then line parchment paper and brush all sides and bottom of paper, too. Pour syrup over bottom of pan. Arrange citrus slices over syrup covering bottom of pan completely, cutting up segments to fill in any gaps if necessary.

Pour batter over citrus slices and spread to evenly coat.

Pour batter over citrus slices and spread to evenly coat. Hand off to supervising adult for baking.

When done let the cool completely in the pan, then place a serving plate on top of the pan and carefully flip.

What the supervising adult should do:
Oversee or slice the citrus yourself depending up the age and experience of your helpers. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake cake until golden brown, about 40-50 minutes, or when a tester knife comes out clean when inserted in the center [something the kids can do!]. Closely oversee the careful inversion of the cake, its removal from the pan and paper mold.
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