Cooking On The Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
This month, let’s get the kids cooking indoors and out, learning as they go. Here are several simple, safe recipes they can tackle for starters, along with your help. In time they’ll learn the full spectrum of cuisine, from quick soups and stews to long, slow recipes that fill rainy days with fun and good eating.
Honey Of A Salad
A day or two before making this recipe, grill extra chicken breasts and refrigerate them for future use, or pick up roasted chicken breasts at the market. Kids can tear up greens and use their artistry to assemble big, colorful salads for lunch or dinner.
4 chicken breast halves, cooked and chilled
1/4-cup raspberry vinegar
1/4-cup olive oil
1/4-cup honey Dijon mustard
Large head iceberg lettuce
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Half a red sweet pepper
Half a green bell pepper
An adult should slice the cooked chicken into strips and cut up any other vegetables for the salad; the kids can do the rest. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and mustard and set aside. Wash the lettuce and then tear it into bite-size pieces and place a heap on each plate. Surround the lettuce with a pretty array of vegetables. Top with the chicken strips and drizzle with the dressing.
Add brown-and-serve rolls with honey butter to complete the meal, and serve raspberry-flavored Popsicles for dessert.
Baked Buttermilk Chicken
Biscuit mix is one of the most versatile shortcuts for cooks. It also lends itself to helping little fingers produce quick, carefree dishes. This recipe is adapted from a fabulous new book titled 125 Best Biscuit Mix Recipes ($18.95, Robert Rose Inc.), which puts biscuit mix to more uses than you may have dreamed possible.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2-cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
6 baking potatoes (optional)
1 cup biscuit mix
1/2-cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag, add the buttermilk or yogurt, and place the bag in the refrigerator while you proceed. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch dish and set the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes, prick them with a fork, and put them in the oven while you prepare the chicken. Here’s a chance to do some math with the kids. Allow 50 to 60 minutes cooking time for the potatoes. The chicken will take approximately 28 minutes to cook, so gauge your cooking so everything comes out at the same time.
On a large paper plate, carefully combine the biscuit mix with the bread crumbs and seasonings. Take the chicken breasts out of the bag, dredge them in the bread crumb mixture to coat well, and arrange them in a single layer in the baking dish. Throw away the used buttermilk or yogurt. Put the dish in the oven until the chicken is crusty, brown, and done through. The dish will be very hot, so a grownup should remove it from the oven and put it on the table. This recipe serves six.
With your chicken and baked potatoes, serve a leafy salad and a dessert of fresh fruit slices and chocolate dip.
Popcorn Flavor Mixes
Here “” from the authors of Cooking Outside the Pizza Box ($14.95, Barrons Educational Series), a new cookbook for college students and other space-challenged cooks “” is the skinny on how to make delicious microwave popcorn. If it burns, you’ll stink up the motorhome for the rest of the decade. So don’t just push the “Popcorn” button on the microwave oven. Follow package directions to the letter, the authors warn, and quit cooking when the pops are three or more seconds apart. Be very careful when opening the package or you may get a face full of hot steam. This is one of three recipes in the book for dressing up microwave popcorn. Two are savory; this one is sweet for a delicious, easy dessert.
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave oven on low and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Microwave the popcorn according to package directions. When finished popping, dump the popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle the hot butter mixture over it, tossing lightly to coat evenly.
Use ground beef or the vegetarian equivalent for this recipe. Both are available in fully cooked versions in the supermarket.
1 cup instant rice
1 cup very hot water
1 sweet onion (Vidalia, Texas sweet), peeled and diced
16-ounce package ground beef or vegetarian meatless substitute, cooked and crumbled
12- to 15-ounce can whole-kernel corn with sweet peppers
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Medium tomato (optional), seeded and diced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon minced garlic from a jar
1 cup pancake mix
13-ounce can evaporated milk plus water to make 2 cups
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole with nonstick cooking spray and scatter the rice in it. In a 1-quart microwavable measure, heat 1 cup of water and the onion on high for three to four minutes or just until the water is at a rolling boil. Pour the water and onion over the rice; top with a piece of foil; and let stand a few minutes. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the foil from the casserole and stir the crumbled meat, corn, and peas into the rice mixture. (Save the foil to cover any leftover casserole later.) Sprinkle with tarragon and garlic “” and tomato if you choose to use it. In a roomy bowl, whisk together the pancake mix, milk and water, eggs, and oil. Pour gently over the crumble mixture and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden. With an adult’s help, take the casserole out of the oven and let it stand five minutes. Spoon it onto plates and serve with creamy coleslaw and a dessert of canned peaches sprinkled with macaroon crumbs. This recipe makes six to eight servings.
Chicken Drumsticks With Barbecue Sauce
This recipe is adapted from a must-have new cookbook for all RV cooks, 125 Best Toaster Oven Recipes ($18.95, Robert Rose Inc.) by Linda Stephen. The book is a gem, with every recipe sized just right for small ovens. When making barbecued chicken, I wrap the pan completely in the new nonstick aluminum foil and coat the foil with nonstick spray, making cleanup effortless.
Shortcut for kids: instead of measuring 3/4-cup barbecue sauce, set out a one-cup measure and put in the vinegar, mustard, and horseradish. Then fill the cup with barbecue sauce and it will be just about right. Pour the cupful into a bowl or larger cup so you can stir it well.
3/4-cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
6 chicken drumsticks
Set the toaster oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, vinegar, mustard, and horseradish. Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer in the toaster oven’s prepared (8-inch) baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the drumsticks, and turn them until they are coated with sauce. Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully turn each drumstick, using tongs, and bake another 25 to 30 minutes until the drumsticks are done.
Pop In The Mouths
It takes time to assemble these little dandies, but they make a quick and nutritious lunch or snack. The tomato mixture can be prepared ahead of time, but don’t brush or top the Triscuits until just before they are to be baked.
36 Triscuits-brand crackers (any variety)
1/4-cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup plum tomato, finely chopped, seeded, and drained
1/3-cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line it with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven to 400 degrees. Using a pastry brush or barbecue brush, lightly coat the crackers with Italian dressing and arrange them on the cookie sheet. Mix together the onion, tomato, cheese, and basil. Using two teaspoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, carefully place a mound of the tomato mixture on each cracker. Put in the oven for five minutes to heat through. With an adult’s help, remove the cookie sheet and allow it to stand a few minutes until the crackers are cool enough for everyone to dig in.
Not Your Mother’s Chicken Sandwiches
This kicky, juicy sandwich filling can be used with any kind of bread or buns. The recipe makes enough for three or four sandwiches. Use a cutting board and a sharp knife to cut up the oranges and the almonds.
Small can white meat chicken, drained
1/2-cup mandarin oranges, drained, cut up, and drained again
1/4-cup dried cranberries, dried cherries, or golden raisins
1/4-cup roasted, salted almonds, coarsely chopped
Mayonnaise to moisten
Put the chicken in a medium bowl and pull it apart with a fork. Add the oranges, dried fruit, and almonds. Add mayonnaise one tablespoon at a time, tossing lightly with the chicken mixture to moisten it. Two tablespoons should be enough. Make sandwiches with this mixture and serve with crisp tortilla chips, baby carrots, cold milk, and bite-size candy bars for dessert.
More tips for cooking with kids
- Recipes that can help to keep kids occupied on rainy days include popcorn balls and candy balls; cookies to cut out and decorate; fudge or polenta (they need endless stirring); and taffy for pulling, snipping, and wrapping.
- If your food processor has a salad-chopping attachment that older children can use safely, let them turn out vegetables galore for salads and cooking.
- Involve kids in meal planning and shopping so they’ll learn about costs, portion amounts, and, most important of all, reading labels for nutrition information.
- Mix equal amounts of cottage cheese and salsa. Serve with Triscuits crackers for scooping.
If you love onions and all the good things they contribute to taste and nutrition, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to National Onion Association, 822 Seventh St., Suite 510, Greeley, CO 80631, and request two booklets, “Favorite Onion Recipes” and “Onions For Your Health.”
More books for cooks
One of the greatest pleasures of highway travel is stopping at local produce stands, especially those run by farmers themselves. Learn about rare vegetables, sample fruits and vegetables that are new to you, and ask growers how to preserve or prepare their produce. Everyone who loves food shopping on the go needs a new book, Field Guide to Produce (Quirk Books, $14.95) by Aliza Green. Truly a “field” guide, this book is compact, sturdily bound for years of use, and packed with information about fresh foods, from Asian pears to squash blossoms. A section of color photos will help you identify unusual fruits and vegetables such as samphire and lotus root. Find it at bookstores, online bookseller Web sites, or www.quirkbooks.com.
If nostalgia is part of your cuisine, two new books from Barrons Educational Series will provide armchair reading as well as recipes your family will love. Piece of Cake, by Maggie Mayhew, and Easy As Apple Pie, by Caroline Barty, are both priced at $10.95. These small hardbacks have dust jackets depicting cooks of the 1940s, and are illustrated throughout with photos from the 1940s and 1950s. Both are filled with recipes for delectable, old-fashioned desserts. Grab them both for yourself or as gifts. The books can be found in bookstores or through online booksellers.
Two wilderness chefs wrote the new Leave-No-Crumbs Camping Cookbook ($14.95, Storey Publishing). Even though it’s aimed at backpackers, it’s a gem for motorhome cooks for several reasons. First, it’s hip and zippy, making excellent use of ingredients that weren’t even heard of a few years ago. Second, it breaks down recipes to two steps: what you do at home and what you do at camp. Much of the chefs’ magic involves dehydrating divine mixtures such as fennel and onion or celery root and pears. Some recipes, such as a delicious dal (lentil spread), can be prepared and served immediately or can be dried for future use. This cookbook is too good; it has inspired me to start dehydrating again. The book is available at bookstores or through online booksellers.
A beautiful 128-page cookbook containing winning recipes from the 45th National Chicken Cooking Contest, as well as other scrumptious chicken dishes, is available by sending $2.95 (check or money order; no cash or credit cards) to Chicken Cookbook, Box 307W, Coventry, CT 06238.