As you plan your Thanksgiving meal and begin the actual preparation of menu planning, shopping and cooking you may want to involve your children or any of your younger guests in actually helping cook the meal. Before you envision a kitchen of happy young chefs smoothly preparing your gourmet Thanksgiving meal there are a few things to consider.
•Consider the age of the children you want to involve in the cooking process. The younger the age of your would-be chefs the shorter and less complicated your recipes need to be. For younger children choose short recipes with few ingredients and minimal preparation needed. You can lengthen the recipes and the time they take as the age of the kids goes up.
•Consider the kitchen skills of your helpers. Few kids (even with some kitchen experience) have the skills needed for complex chopping or cooking. Make sure the recipe is able to be executed by the kids without a lot of adult intervention. This will insure that the whole process is a lot more fun for everyone.
•Consider the taste of kids. While today’s kids are exposed to a lot more different and exotic types of food than ever before (and some kids have surprisingly sophisticated palates) most kids still prefer the tried and true. This means flavors and textures that they are familiar with. While their favorites may not be truly traditional Thanksgiving picks just remember the added bonus of the fact that the kids are more likely to eat something they have cooked themselves making the actual mealtime a lot more pleasant for everyone!
•For safety’s sake consider the set up of your kitchen. Too many kids will make the process possibly unsafe. Unless you are lucky enough to have a spacious kitchen consider rotating shifts if lots of kids are to be involved. In addition if you cannot constantly supervise the cooking, recruit a willing adult who can. This way you won’t have to worry if you have to dash off to baste the turkey or finish a grown up dish for your meal. In addition if chopping can be a potential problem consider having ingredients prepared beforehand that only need assembly.
So here are a few recipes to try with your willing young chefs. They are easy, fun and have the added bonus of being proven kid-tasting winners!
Green Onion French Bread
1 loaf French bread
4 to 6 green onions
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Trim and chop the green onions (including the white and green parts). With a fork, mash the green onions into the softened butter.
3. Cut the loaf diagonally into 3/4 inch slices but try not to cut the loaf all the way through. By leaving the bottom of the loaf just barely uncut, it holds together better.
4. Place a length of foil slightly longer than the loaf on a baking sheet. Place the loaf on the foil.
5. Spread the butter mixture on one side only of each slice, and smear a little on the top of the loaf as well.
6. Fold the sides of the foil up loosely around the loaf, leaving the top exposed. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the butter has melted into the slices and the top is brown. Serve in the foil, allowing guests to cut or pull each slice off at table. To keep the foil-wrapped loaf warm, put it in a bread basket, or wrap a towel around it.
Cinnamon Poached Pears
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ripe pears
1/2 cup sugar
1. Mix the cranberry juice and cinnamon in a microwave-safe baking dish, just large enough to hold 4 pear halves.
2. Peel, halve and core the pears. Toss them in the cranberry juice as soon as you’ve prepared them to prevent them from turning brown.
3. Arrange the pear halves in a single layer. Sprinkle the sugar on top.
4. Cover the dish and microwave on high for 6 minutes.
5. Using potholders (Be careful the dish will be hot!), carefully remove the lid, opening it away from you so you don’t get burned from the steam. Pierce a pear with a fork. If it pierces easily, the pears are done. If not, cover and microwave on high another 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Toss the pears in the syrup. Cover and let cool for 20 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to serve. These pears will last several days in the refrigerator, if they don’t get eaten up first!