Cooking Matters

For this month I’m mixing things up. Instead of highlighting a kitchen tool that kids can use and a recipe I’m going to be writing about an organization I’m passionate about; Cooking Matters.

I decided to write about this topic because this month my fiancee and I are incredibly busy preparing for our wedding on February 3rd. This past week has been consumed with coordinating our wedding party and trying to tie up loose ends. We’re both excited and anxious at the same time. Anxious about the flow of the days events and that all goes smoothly, but we are looking forward to the day and the week long vacation afterwards. We both need one!

Long story short it wouldn’t be feasible to be experimenting with recipes and kitchen tools suitable for the blog this month. So, what is Cooking Matters?

Cooking Matters is a non-profit organization that is part of the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign since 1994. They are committed to teaching families, children, and teens about healthy food through cooking and connecting them to nutritious food in high risk areas of food insecurity.  Though some participants mistakenly think the program is a cooking class it is really a nutrition program. The classes have students participate in nutrition education lessons on a variety of topics such as:

  • How to read the nutrition label
  • Difference between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
  • What is a whole grain?
  • Sugary drinks
  • Shopping on a  Budget
  • Making low cost, nutritious meals

Cooking Matters Set Up

Each lesson is taught by a Nutritionist while the cooking part of the class is taught by a Chef/Cook. There’ll also be other volunteers there to help out as the Nutrition/Cooking Assistant.

The program itself runs as a 6 week program where participants meet with instructors once a week usually after or during school hours. It’s usually 2 hrs. in length and each participant receives a bag at the end of the lesson that includes a copy of the recipes  used and the ingredients to cook them at home. At the end of the 6 week program each participant gets a certificate of completion and a bag of goodies including the recipe/instruction book used during the class, a cutting board, a Cooking Matters bag, and a cheese grater or other cooking implement.

In addition to cooking/nutrition classes they offer store tours where they will take a group through the store to give you tips for shopping on a budget, how to read nutrition labels, and compare unit prices. There’s even an app called Cooking Matters. You can download the app for free through the apple store. The app comes with cool recipe ideas and nutrition facts.

Cooking Matters Partners 

Cooking matters often partners with community organizations in the area like WIC, SNAP, Headstart, after school programs, and others to bring classes to your community. Follow this link to see the list of areas they commonly serve.

I had the opportunity to work with Cooking Matters as a volunteer on a couple of occasions before I got a job at WIC. They’re goal and mission to help families learn about nutrition through cooking combines two of my passions which can help to explain why I’m looking forward to being able to volunteer for them again in the future.

To Learn More: 

If you or your family would like to get involved in Cooking Matters follow this link.

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Kitchen Tools that Kids Can Use: Crock Pot

Continuing with our theme of tools kids can use in the kitchen is the crock pot. With winter upon us it’s a great time for soups, chili, and stews to keep us warm on cold winter nights. These recipes are simple enough to follow and easy to prepare using a crock pot. Older kids around the ages of 12-13 years old can use a crock pot as well as other heating implements: a stove, a skillet, etc…This age group can also read simple recipes & use a vegetable knife for preparing vegetables.

When I was brainstorming a recipe I could share using a crock pot a few ideas popped into mind: Creton (a French Canadian meat spread that’s also a family tradition), chicken enchiladas, soups, or  a chili. I ruled out Creton pretty quickly after I realized the cooking time was outrageous for working households and boring for kids (the meat sits on the stove and simmers until no water is left for HOURS!!!). The second idea I ruled out simply because I wasn’t in the mood for enchiladas. I decided upon soups/chili because it was easy to prepare, it was winter, and I’m always cold!

With that being said my fiancee and I went with a vegetarian version of the recipe that I found on account of it being Friday when we tried this recipe and we’re Catholic. It’s usually a well known Catholic tradition to abstain from meat on Fridays as a way of remembering the death of Christ and preparing our hearts to celebrate the mini Easter every Sunday. As a result, we usually do Meatless Fridays instead of Meatless Mondays (still good for the environment no matter what day is chosen!).

Crock Pot Sweet and Spicy Bean Chili

Ingredients:

29 oz. can of Kidney Beans, rinsed

1 teaspoon oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced fine

16 oz. can of corn

10 oz. can of Italian Style Diced Tomatoes

8 oz. can of plain tomato sauce

1/4 c. of low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon fresh garlic

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

1.) Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and saute the diced red peppers, onions, and garlic with a little oil until slightly translucent

2.) Transfer to crock pot and add the remaining ingredients (beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, chicken broth, and spices).

3.) Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 6 hours.

4.) Serve with any additional toppings desired.

Note: If preferred, 1 lb of ground turkey or beef can be used instead of the beans or try half ground meat and half beans.

 

 

Kitchen Tools that Kids Can Use: Apple Corers

Apple corers are a nifty little device that makes making apple pies, apple crisp, and baked apples so much easier! Apple slicers are similar but instead of just coring the apple it slices the apple into even slices. Although the apple corer may need some practice with handling, an apple slicer doesn’t take that much practice to use.  In fact, kids ages 6-7 can use these kitchen tools.

To be completely honest with you this blog post was meant to be on double boilers and posted last month. The highlighted recipe was on candy apples (love this fall treat!). Unfortunately, the recipe fell through as it didn’t turn out as planned.

So, onto plan B! (Personally, I think planned B worked out much better.)

Below I have provided a fun fall dessert for families to make together using above tools. Happy Cooking!

Fruity Apple Crisp

Makes 4 servings; Preparation Time: 30 mins; Cooking Time: 45 mins.

Ingredients: 

6 medium Macintosh apples, cored & thinly sliced

1/2 cup of fresh cranberries or blueberries

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping:

2 tablespoons of flour

1/8 cup of sliced almonds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 c. of oatmeal

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2.) Wash all apples & peel with a peeler. Then use an apple slicer to slice all the apples on a clean cutting board. Then take the sliced apples and slice them into thinner slicers. Place into the prepared baking pan.

3.) In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, lemon juice, & cinnamon. Whisk together & pour over the apple slicers in the baking pan. Use a spatula to coat evenly.

4.) In a small mixing bowl combine the remaining ingredients for the topping. Add the melted butter and stir. Spread evenly over the apples.

5.) Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 mins. Let cool before serving with a little bit of Greek yogurt. Enjoy!

Note: little ones can also help out by peeling and washing the apples. Younger kids, ages 2-4, can help wash & mix ingredients while the older ones, 6-7 can peel.

 

Making Family Meals Happen

Was reading this awesome article by Jessica Levinson, an RDN and author of Small Bites blog on How to Make Family Meals Happen. Found her post to be useful and her info-graphics engaging especially for busy families. It would also compliment some of my previous posts on the importance of family meals and fun conversation starters.

I thought I would share. This is the link to the original blog.

Kitchen Tools that Kids Can Use

A year ago I posted a blog article that listed the tasks children can help with in the kitchen by age. Today I decided to expand upon that idea, highlighting kitchen equipment and tools that kids can use and an easy recipe that kids can do with little to no supervision.

A Blender

This tool is versatile in the kitchen. It can be used to make smoothies, sauces, dips, and for combining ingredients in some recipes. It’s also a tool that kids ages 6-9 can use on their own. For the first time though it might be beneficial to have some supervision.

The two recipes I chose to highlight in today’s blog are dips and smoothies. These two I have found while working at WIC to be something of a fan favorite for kids. If your child is texture sensitive try experimenting with recipes to see if you can change the texture  or even taste. Personally, I like smooth/creamy textures and have an aversion to gritty textures so these two recipes highlight the first two texture combinations.

Green Monster Smoothie

1/2 c. of milk

1/2 c. of ice cubes

1/2 c. of vanilla yogurt

1 large banana

1/2 c. of baby spinach

1.) Add all ingredients in a blender.

2,) Blend on high for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

3.) Pour into cups and enjoy!

Monster Mash Yogurt Dip

1 c. of greek yogurt

1 c. of baby spinach

1/2 small green pepper

1 medium sized chive

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1.) Put all ingredients into the blender.

2.) Pulse mixture until well blended and smooth

3.) Serve with tortilla chips of veggie sticks

 

Preparing your Family for the Farmer’s Market

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Image courtesy of winnod at freedigitalphotos.net

Now, being prepared to attend a Farmer’s Market is very similar to being prepared to go grocery shopping with your kids. It takes preparation! It takes time! Is it worth it?

Heck yeah, it is. Here’s some tips for getting ready for the Farmer’s Market:

1.) Do some Research

Before stepping foot into a Farmer’s Market it helps to know which market you’ll be attending and what they sell. A city’s website that has posted the event is probably a good place to begin. Apps like Farmstand can help offer this type of information too. There is also government websites like Mass.gov.

2.) Make a shopping list

Just as if you were going to your local grocery store you want to have a general list of what you plan to get. Or what you want to look at. Have your kids decide some of the things that’ll go on the list.

3.) Make Room for Un-expected Purchases

The unexpected happens, so go prepared. You want to be able to have the freedom to buy unexpected purchases that just can’t be passed up.

4.) Bring a re-usable bag

Those cloth bags just sitting in your closet. Now’s a good time to use them. They’re also good for the environment. No plastic bags!

5.) Communicate your Plan of Action (before leaving the car)

If your going with your children and have more than 2 or 3 this is a very important step. Make sure your kids know how the day will go. Sticking together is sometimes the best bet.

6.) Bring a laminated copy of The List

Just like on an ordinary shopping trip let your kids check off the foods on the shopping list.

7.) Designate  “Jobs”

Give each child a “job” to do at the market. This may be as simple as instructing them to help you pick the best tomatoes.

Refer to Kid’s Kitchen: Tips to get you from Store to Fridge for additional shopping tips.

 

 

 

 

5 Ways that Farmer’s Markets Teach Kids about Food

On Monday, the WIC office was packed with only a few hours in between the morning and afternoon groups. It  was our Farmer’s Market Coupon Giveaway Day, All of us were on our feet taking turns between education and crowd control! I was able to share with my clients much of what I’ve been writing about over the past few months especially the benefits to their children.

Through Farmer’s Markets kids learn about food by:

1.) Learning about sustainability/agriculture

Kids will learn where their food comes from and how it’s grown!

2.) Interacting with local farmers

Kids will learn so much from listening to local farmer’s talk about their crops/farms.

3.) Enjoying Seasonal Eating

Kids will learn how the environment effects what food is grown and where.

4.) Identifying different fruits and vegetables

Farmer’s Markets are a classroom where kids will be exposed to a variety of produce, both ones they know and ones they don’t know.

5.) Incorporating fruits and vegetables into family meals

By preparing foods found at Farmer’s Markets kids will learn how the food process works from beginning to end.

The next blog will be about how to prepare for a farmer’s market. Having a game plan is a necessity for large and small families alike, especially ones with small children.