Thursday, October 16, 2014

How To Make A Young Chef! Lisa's Girls Go From Picky To Primary Producers In The Kitchen

Acorn squash!!
The only thing better than having fun in the kitchen is teaching other folks to have fun there themselves.

Lisa blogs at Lisa B, Mrs. S about a range of life -- usually about Howard County, sometimes about food.  She has a daughter with a love of composting, always close to my heart, and she has great posts about fun that she has had with her kids around here.

This is part of a series of guest posts by Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Lisa has a family of good eaters, and they're big on Gorman Farm's CSA and local shopping.  And now she is building an entire house of chefs as well -- with her daughters cooking up dinner on their own:
Roots Market posted picture of parsnips on Facebook, and that’s all it took for me to realize how much my kids have grown to become the foodies they are today.

When they were witty bitty, they were pretty picky. Not extremely picky, just normal picky, but it was a real drag nonetheless. I can’t speak for fathers or even for all mothers, but I do know I’m not alone in having physical pain and distress at the prospect of my child going underfed. So it would make me quite cranky when a five-year-old Prima would crinkle her nose at the dinner I made, and it would push my last button when a three-year-old Seconda gagged at the table.

I’m so glad those days are over.

The turning point, I think, began with parsnips. Jamie Oliver made herby pork chops with parsnips, apples, and onions on a Food Network show. Oh my goodness. As if his adorable accent hadn’t already won me over, the dish looked amazing. I believed I could smell it through the TV. I made it the next night, having never even seen a parsnip before that show.

A few weeks earlier, I had an idea about how to put the nose-crinkling, toddler-gagging, Mama-stressing dinner behavior to an end. You see, I trusted the experts that said young children will, on balance, not over-eat nor under-eat. I trusted that a night without dinner would not cause them harm, but all my angst and lost patience might put us all in a bad place. So, I wondered what would happen if I kept on cooking what I cooked and just served the kids a spoonful of each dish. That’s it, a teaspoonful of each food would be required, then they could have as much of only the things they liked from the table as they wanted. We began with herby pork chops with parsnips.

Hey Mikey! They liked it!

Fast forward seven years and my children - Prima, Seconda, and Terza - have incredible palates. Recently, they’ve stepped up their game by taking on the cooking duties. Prima, especially, loves to play a version of Chopped on the weekends. Weeknights are full of homework and activities, so we need dinner to be a sure-thing at a sure-time. Last night, Prima and Terza rose to that occasion with a delicious meal of chicken sausage, sautéed greens, and baked acorn squash.

If you’re like us and belong to a local CSA, then you know that this is greens season again. Collards and kale are staples, but the Gorman Farm CSA to which we belong grows other interesting greens, as well. Last night, Prima followed my stand-by greens recipe, but added her own twist. She softened some yellow onions in olive oil over medium heat before adding the chopped pac choi and tat soi from our CSA share. When I noticed the volume of greens was a little low for our family of five, she remembered the sweet potato leaves I cooked up last week. A little chicken broth, a sprinkle of steak rub and a few minutes later we were dining on delicious greens.

Terza used Martha Stewart’s classic Baked Acorn Squash recipe to cook the squash (also from Gorman Farm). I sliced it up, then she took it from there. Butter, salt, pepper, brown sugar, 350-degrees and 15 minutes was all it took. 
You may be wondering where the rest of us were in all this. Seconda was doing homework, I was setting up computers for the kids’ first session of online language classes, and The Man of the House was running Terza back and forth between home and dance. We didn’t sit down to eat as a family, but cooking together, even in the jumbled way we did that night, still made it feel like a Family Dinner, which tastes better than frozen pizza any night.

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