Recipes to Get Kids Cooking (Part 1 of 2)

Kids cooking

At Just Add Cooking, bringing families together to cook is a major part of our mission. By increasing the number of meals families make at home, and making it easy and fun for them to cook from scratch by providing ingredients and recipes, we endeavor to get kids cooking, learning where their food comes from and developing healthier habits. Our friend Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef is back with a kid-friendly recipe round-up! Today is Part 1 of 2 and features some sweet treats–check back next week for some savory recipes!

Knowing how to cook is one of the most basic and important skills a child can learn. In addition to building their creative, problem-solving, organizational and attention skills, being in the kitchen teaches them how to approach a new situation, how to access and apply their creative resources, what steps to take if they make a mistake and how to work together with a group or another individual. It can help build confidence, instill a sense of joy and pride and at the very least, get them to eat their vegetables!

Being in the kitchen with kids is a terrific experience; one I highly recommend to anyone. Kids of all ages can find something to do in the kitchen from the very basics of helping mom stir a batter to making a grilled cheese sandwich to cooking a whole meal for the family. Start by giving them some basic and fundamental guidelines, setting ground rules and outlining safety procedures then work with them to create dishes and meals that cultivate and challenge their skills. Provide lots of encouragement and constructive direction along the way. And don’t forget to have a laugh or two while you’re at it.

This summer, spend some time in the kitchen with your favorite kid and create wonderful memories while you’re cooking up some delicious fun! These recipes are a great start.

Yogurt and Fresh Berry Parfaits

1 pint fresh berries, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups plain yogurt
1 ½ cups granola
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup

In a small bowl, combine yogurt with maple syrup.

Using 4 dessert cups, parfait glasses or ramekins, layer berries, yogurt and granola into each.

German Apple Pancakes

4 eggs
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large tart apple – peeled, cored and sliced

In a large bowl, blend eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Gradually mix in milk, stirring constantly. Add vanilla, melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Let batter stand for 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt butter in a 10 inch oven proof skillet, brushing butter up on the sides of the pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Sprinkle mixture over the butter. Line the pan with apple slices. Sprinkle remaining sugar over apples. Place pan over medium-high heat until the mixture bubbles, then gently pour the batter mixture over the apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes. Slide pancake onto serving platter and cut into wedges.

Check back next week for more kid-friendly recipes from Chef Holly! 

Looking for some extra fun and family-friendly meals in your Just Add Cooking box? Just Add Cooking meals are totally customizable – you can always leave out any ingredients or choose from seven recipes to find the ones that your kids will like. Plus, look for the spicy pepper next to recipes that indicates they might be a bit too hot for little palates.

Tomato Tips from Red Fire Farm

Tomatoes are some of summer’s best treats. While they’re available all year round in grocery stores, the short window that they’re in season here in New England is by far the best they taste. You’ve only got a few weeks, so how do you capitalize on the bounty of tomatoes at farmer’s markets here in the Boston area? We checked in with our friend Sarah Voiland at Red Fire Farm for her tips on making the most of tomato season.

tomatoes red fire farm

JAC: Let’s talk tomatoes. Most of us are used to seeing them year-round at the grocery store, but now’s the time to hit the farmer’s market to get some while they’re in season. What’s the difference between off-season tomatoes and what we can find locally right now?

Sarah: Since starting farming, I pretty much don’t eat tomatoes out of season anymore. What you can get from a locally vine-ripened tomato is worth the wait. The mealy, bland winter tomatoes look pretty, but that’s not where it’s at! I want a tomato with some juice and flavor. Most tomatoes in stores are varieties not built for flavor, but built to travel long distances and ripen on the trucks. So they’re harvested green and don’t have well-developed flavor profiles, and that’s why you often get the grainy texture issues.

When you grow the tomato in the ground (as opposed to hydroponically) and let it ripen fully on the vine, you can get the best flavor – but you then have a tender fruit prone to bruising and cracking that just can’t travel well. That’s why buying tomatoes from local stands is your best bet for flavor. In late July in Massachusetts you will start to see the first field-ripened tomatoes coming to stands – cherry tomatoes and early red slicers. As you get into August and beyond, more of the heirlooms ripen.

JAC: How long does tomato season last in New England?

Sarah: Once it gets going in late July, tomato season will be with us until the fall frost, which comes around early to late October. Some recent years in our area have had shorter seasons because of the now prevalent Late Blight disease that kills off tomato plants, so we are never quite sure how long they will be abundant anymore.

JAC: What kinds of tomatoes will we see? Any recommendations for varieties that are tougher to come by, that we should purchase if we ever see?

Sarah: The breadth of variety of tomatoes is truly astounding. At Red Fire Farm, we grow over 150 types, and that’s just a selection of what’s out there. You can find tomatoes in a rainbow of colors from yellow and green to purple and chocolatey brown. We have field and taste tested them every year and over time picked out our favorites. Some of the best for taste are Green Zebra, a little green tomato with green striations and a yellow blush when ripe. Brandywine, which is a pink beefsteak type, has beautiful color and a depth of flavors that kind of take you traveling. Sungold Cherry Tomatoes ripen to a bright golden orange and have an excellence balance of bright and tang. Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes are little cherries, almost the size of currants. They were found growing wild along a trail in Mexico and now they win contests for flavor in Massachusetts! There are many kinds and all are worth trying if you love tomatoes.

JAC: Do you have any recommendations on which kinds are best for which uses? 

tomato sauce recipeSarah: For tomato basil salads, my favorite thing to do is get a rainbow of colors and sizes, then slice them up and arrange them together, sprinkle a few whole cherry tomatoes on there. Then you can taste each one and enjoy the beauty.

If you’re making sauce, there is a whole class of tomatoes that are bred just for that purpose, to have more flesh and fewer seeds for cooking down into a thicker sauce. They are often called paste, saucing or plum tomatoes. Look for varieties like Plum Regal, Amish Paste or Federle. We have a recipe for how to make big batches of canned tomato sauce here on our recipes page: http://redfirefarm.com/recipes/preserves.html

At the farm, we grow a couple tomato varieties that are especially perfect for stuffing, and you’ll find that they have empty chambers in the middle like a pepper. Cherry tomatoes are very easy to add to salads and keep on hand for snacks. For sandwiches, I like a tomato that can be the feature, so I look for a variety with a lot of flavor and a good-sized slice. Striped German, a later season type, is so big you can cut one slice and It will cover the bread!

JAC: Many of us are going to run out and buy a boatload of tomatoes before they’re gone for the season. What are your recommendations for storing them fresh so they last longer, and do you have any recommendations for preserving them if we over-buy?

Tomatoes should never be refrigerated – they lose flavor and change texture when chilled. Store out of the sun in a coolish spot, ideally 55 degrees, though kitchen counters are fine. There are a plethora of ways to save your tomatoes for future eating, from making sauces to freeze or can, to roasting them in the oven. Roasting is one of my favorite methods of preserving – you slice them about ¾ inch thick, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven at 325 degrees until the edges start to caramelize. Then freeze. If you have no time and a bunch of tomatoes about to go past, you can stick them whole in the freezer and thaw to make sauce later.

JAC: I hear that Red Fire Farms celebrates these fleeting gems with a Tomato Festival each summer. Can you give us some information about that?

Every August in the peak of tomato season we hold a tasting of over 100 varieties of organic tomatoes. A big farm festival has built up around that core idea, with chef demos of recipes, workshops on making sauce and other skills, wild edible walks, a 5K fun run through the farm fields, tons of vendors with things like roasted sweet corn and wood-fired pizza, live music, Pick Your Own tomatoes and more. This year we have Erin McKeown and Her Fine Parade Coming to Play.

The festival will be held on Saturday, August 2 from 12-6 pm. Read more on our website at http://redfirefarm.com/news/tomatofestival.html

Runners and walkers can register for the 5K through the farm fields here: http://redfireform.com/formstack.com/forms/tomato_trot_5k_registration_form

For making sauce and salsa in bigger batches, we offer bulk orders and half bushels of tomatoes in late August here: http://redfirefarm.com/farmers_markets/bulkorders.html

We hope to see you out at the farm in peak tomato season!

 

Celebrate Independence Day with Our Pro Barbecue Tips

bbq ribs

Break out the ribs and fire up the grill for the Fourth! Aside from being one of the biggest grilling days of the year, July 4 is also National Barbecue Ribs Day, and in that spirit, our guest chef Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef is providing her tips for making the best barbecue ribs this summer! Here are her tips for barbecue ribs:

It’s All in the Meat:

Choose ribs that are meaty. If you see bones showing through, (known as “shiners”), that means most of the meat has been stripped away and you will be gnawing on charred bones. Trim them of any excess fat and make sure they look and smell fresh. You can leave the slabs whole or cut them into sections of 4-5 ribs each.

To Rub or Not to Rub:

Your ribs will taste better if they are seasoned. You can do that simply with salt and pepper or create (or purchase) your own special blend of seasonings. Rub the ribs all over with the dry seasoning and let stand for 15-20 minutes before placing them on the grill.

Getting Saucy:

The wet part of the grilling happens at the end, once the ribs are cooked through. If you start with the wet stuff, your ribs will burn. BBQ sauce has sugars in it that, when cooked properly, caramelize into a succulent, spicy-sweet symphony of taste. When your ribs have completed the low-slow cooking process, crank up the heat a bit and give them a good baste with your sauce of choice. Cook them, turning often, for about 12-15 minutes until they begin to get crispy.

Naked or Covered?

You can do either. Some folks like to toss their ribs on the grill “in the buff” and others like to wrap them in foil. Either works. The foil will partially steam the ribs while they cook.

Love takes Time:

Because the ribs are a fattier, tougher cut of meat (they are, after all, RIBS), they require a low, slow cooking process. Don’t be tempted to rush this. They will take about 1 ½ hours to cook (some people cook them even longer). The good news is, you can set them on the grill and go make the potato salad or take a quick dip in the pool while they tend to themselves. Your attention is really only required for the first and last part of the cooking process.

Ole Smokey:

If you like a smokey flavor to your ribs, you can easily add some wood chips to your grill. Soak them in water and drain them, then place them directly in your charcoal grill or in the smoker box of a gas grill. If your gas grill does not have a smoker box, you can place them in a foil pan, cover them with aluminum foil (with holes poked in it) and place the pan directly on the grill.

Into the Fire:

Whether you use a charcoal or gas grill, the temperature should be around 300-325 degrees. For you folks with charcoal grills, this means the coals will be covered with ash and glowing orange underneath. Place the ribs around the outskirts of the direct source of heat and cover the grill. Check the grill periodically and turn the ribs to ensure even cooking. Make sure to keep the grill covered to keep the heat at an even temperature. After about 1 ¼ hours, test the ribs for doneness. Wiggle a bone back and forth. If the meat is very tender and the bone slips easily, they are done. At this point, you can baste them with your favorite BBQ sauce, crank up the heat and place them directly on it to finish them.

Happy Fourth Everyone!