Kids Can Cook For Father’s Day
By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff Author of Other Avenues Are Possible and Cooking Together
Home cooking can be a powerful tool. When you prepare food at home you can select your own ingredients. As food writer Michael Pollan says: “When you cook, you get to shop. You get to vote” with your pocket book. I go a step further and say that cooking together with friends and family members bring us together.
Food preparation played an important role in families not too long ago, when women reserved several hours every day to prepare fresh meals. This phenomenon has changed more and more as both partners need to contribute to the family’s finances. Packaged, frozen and grab-n-go foods have become popular as most of us work long hours and do not have time to cook. However, most prepared foods are costly and less nutritious than home-made food. With some planning and organized effort of task-sharing with family members (or house mates) we can take back the joy of nourishing one another.
Kids can cook. Parents are often too busy to pass on the important education of food preparation to their children. Most of us spend a lot of time transporting our kids to sports and extracurriculars that are important for their health, but do not see the importance of food related activities.
So, this year, for fathers’ day let us have kids prepare two simple dishes. These recipes have proven to be a hit among children and parents. Kids twelve-years-old and younger can make these dishes, with some supervision of an adult or a teenager who has had some cooking experience. This is the Joy of Cooking Together.
First, read the recipes and get familiar with the cooking process. Next, have your helper read them too. Then go shopping with your helper or give him/her the list of ingredients to shop for.
Get acquainted with ingredients before the day of cooking. Since both recipes take some preparation time, you can make the chili dish a day before (or a few days prior to) Fathers’ Day. Refrigerate the prepared chili, which can be easily reheated on the day of serving. And you can make the cornbread on Sunday. Have fun!!
Bowls of Chili
This is my friend Jim Sugarek’s vegetarian interpretation of his mother’s Tex-Mex chili recipe which contained meat. With an addition of a pound of tofu and a bunch of vegetables plus an option to add some beans (in variation version), your dad is sure to have enough protein. Also, the fresh organic vegetables will give him a boost of nutrients and fiber. This colorful, tasty and nutritious bowl of chili can be served with rice or cornbread, recipe below.
You will need these tools:
A large pot ( 1 ½ to 2 gallons size)
A sharp knife (and a food processor, but not necessary)
A can opener
An iron skillet or a pan with a sturdy bottom
A wooden spoon
Measuring spoons and cups
2 small mixing bowls
4 large or 6 medium sized tomatoes, cut into small chunks
2 green bell peppers (or 1 red and 1 green), seeds and veins removed and cut into small pieces
4 to 6 celery stalks, rinsed, trimmed and sliced into thin pieces (about 3 cups)
2 -3 zucchini or yellow squash (about 3 cups cubes), sliced into circles and them cut into cubes
3 carrots (about 3 cups cubes) first cut into 1” slices and then into small cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 15 – 16 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
½ cup of olive or sunflower seed oil
1 pound firm tofu, crumbled after draining water (or the compressed and shrink wrapped tofu)
3 tablespoon of good quality Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano ( same amount of dried and crumbled oregano)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon cooking oil (any type)
4 to 6 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
***For a gluten-free version, use garbanzo flour, or any finely ground gluten-free bake mix
½ cup water (at room temperature)
2 – 3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional for hotter chili)
First rinse all vegetables, except for the onion and garlic. Arrange them on a cutting surface or a cutting board. See, how beautiful they look! Then, cut them as described in the list. You can ask your helper if you do not know how to cut. Set the vegetables, in a platter in separate piles as they will be going in the cooking pot at different time in the process.
Next, ask your helper to chop the onion finely, using a sharp knife or the food processor if your family has one. (If you have dealt with chopping onions before, you may not need help). If chopping in a food processor, make sure you pulse the onion briefly as they get chopped in a couple of minutes. You do not want to puree the onion. Set the chopped onion in a small bowl and cover. Chop the garlic finely and set aside. Open the can of tomatoes and set them aside.
Over a moderate flame, heat ¼ cup of oil in a large pot and add the chopped onion. Stir fry for a few minutes until the onions look translucent and then add the garlic. Next, add the chopped peppers and stir fry them together for 5 minutes. Continue to stir, adding the fresh tomato chunks. Next, lower the heat and cover the pot. Allow the mixture in the pot to simmer for about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring and mixing once or twice to mix the ingredients. Then add the canned tomatoes. Lower the heat, cover the pot and continue to cook the tomatoes while preparing for the next steps. Check the cooking mixture from time to time to prevent from possible sticking.
Next, attend to the tofu. If the tofu is in a box of water, drain the liquid completely and slice the slob into several long slices. Stand the pieces on several thickness of paper towels to drain the liquid — for about half hour. Then crush the drained tofu into small crumbles. If you are using the compressed firm tofu, it does not need to be drained, as it crumbles easily.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and add crumbled tofu. Stir fry for 10 – 15 minutes to evaporate liquid. If you are using an iron skillet the tofu pieces will start to stick to the bottom. Scrape them from the bottom and sides, from time to time, and sautee the tofu until it starts to turn to a beige/brown color. Add the cooked tofu to the cooking pot of tomatoes. Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin and salt. Stir the mixture well to distribute the spices.
Clean the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the remaining vegetables until they smell fragrant and are coated with oil. Add them to the cooking pot. Stir everything to mix the ingredients and cover again.
Lastly, you are going to make a thickening mixture with oil and flour to be added to the pot of chili. Clean the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of oil over a low heat. Add the flour (or gluten free item) and stir fry with a wooden spoon, for several minutes, until the flour is well coated with oil. Transfer this mix to a small mixing bowl and add ½ cup water. Whisk the flour to form a gravy. Add this gravy to the pot of chili while stirring the mixture vigorously to mix. Cook the chili for an additional 10 minutes so the flavors are well blended. Serve with chopped cilantro and optional cayenne for those who want the chili to be spicier.
Makes 8 hearty servings
Variation: A 15 – 16 oz. can of canned kidney beans or corn kernels can be added to the chill before the last step of thickening with gravy. After adding this items, cook the chili for additional 10 minutes. (You may not need to thickener if you add the beans).
Note: This recipe was adopted from Shanta’s book, Ethnic Vegetarian Kitchen; Recipes with Nutritional Guideline, which is now out of print.
This easy-to-prepare cornbread goes well with any soup, stew, or bean dish. For a gluten-free version, cornmeal can be combined with a gluten-free alternative instead of with wheat flour.
Gadgets and Tools you will need:
A cast iron pan (preferred) or a deep dish pie plate (9” or 12” in dimeter)
2 mixing bowls
Measuring cups and measuring spoons
Flour sifter or a sieve with small holes
An oven mitt
A pastry brush
A knife to cut the cornbread
A metal spatula
1½ cup wheat flour
(or for a gluten-free version, use garbanzo flour or a finely ground gluten-free bake mix)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt (or soy yogurt) blended with ¼ cup cool water
Or 1½ cup water blended with 2 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
6 tablespoons of light cooking oil such as safflower or sunflower oil
¼ cup maple syrup, honey or agave nectar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch iron skillet or a glass pie plate. Sift the flour (or gluten-free alternative) and baking powder together into a mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal and salt. Mix these dry ingredients well.
In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Whisk them together to combine the sweetener with oil, yogurt and water thoroughly. Next, add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix everything briefly but thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into the prepared skillet (or pie plate) and smoothen the surface with a spatula.
Bake the cornbread in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cornbread is crusty and begins to turn golden. Next, for an extra crusty top, you may want to set the heat to a broil.
Set the oven at broil. Using an oven mitt, carefully take out the skillet or pie plate and place it on a safe surface, as the skillet is very hot. Next, brush some oil on the surface of cornbread, which will give it a shiny finish on the crust. Return the bread to the oven to broil, just for a few minutes. This is when the adult helper will need to watch carefully so that the top is brownish but does not burn. Take out the bread, using an oven mitt and place it on a surface that is lined with a thick kitchen towels. Allow the cornbread to cool for a few minutes. Then cut the pie into 8 wedges. Remove the wedges carefully using a metal spatula and serve.
Serve corn bread with beans, a soup, a saucy vegetable curry or a bowl of chili.
Makes 8 servings with ten wedges
Note: This recipe is adopted from Shanta’s book, Cooking Together: A Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook, available at Other Avenues Food Coop.