Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Food Rules

I have been working on my up and coming cooking class syllabus.  As you might remember I teach a middle school cooking class at our private school, ( I am the food service manager which is a fancy title for lunch lady).  I love working with these kids and showing them how to feed themselves and their families.  I love trying to get into their heads and talk to them about how vital it is for them to learn to cook, a skill that is one generation from vanishing.

I see the lack of cooking skills all around me.  Kids will only eat chicken, if it breaded and fried (nuggets). When we did a baked lemon glazed chicken leg, the younger grades did not recognize it and were put off by the fact that it had a bone in it.  The lunch room helpers had to take the meat off for them, they would not pick up the chicken leg.

The only beef they like is hamburgers, and ground beef turned into tacos or nachos.  They loved steak fingers which is a beef product that is breaded and flashed fried.  When I made a really great tasting meatloaf I think I had, maybe, 20 kids take it.  I had someone tell me just recently that feeding this large of group of kids items that they will eat is like trying to hit a small moving target.  I will be honest, I do want to pull my hair out.

So I am left with the challenge of feeding kids new and exciting foods that they will consume with gusto.  I also have some marketable swap land for sale down south.  Ain't going to happen.  And truth be told it is not my job to teach these kids how to eat, that really does belong to the parents.  I know how hard it is to teach kids to eat anything put in front of them.  You come home, maybe from working, maybe from being a hard working at home mom, and the last thing you want is a food fight.  I had two of the worlds pickiest eaters, I understand.

When all is said and done though we are responsible for teaching our kids how to eat.  Both of my picky eaters, who are young adults now, eat salad, fruit, spinach, tomatoes, and their taste buds are developing.  I put food in front of them everyday for years that they would not eat.  But they saw it. I would change things again and follow the French Food  Rules for feeding kids.  Take the battle out, leave the expectation in and don't engage them in the fight. And Stand Firm!

I love this poster,by Ms. Le Billon it would be on my fridge and microwave if I had small children at home again.  Karen Le Billon has written about this subject and I would follow the poster if I had to do it all over again.  She has a ton of resources and there are a couple of books that I would recommend.  And remember apply the ideas to your family, the rules may need some tweaking and that is okay, tweak away.

Jamie Oliver also has some good resources, I have his cookbook. 
I use a couple of his recipes for my cooking class.  Crunch Garlic Chicken Nuggets and Sizzle Beef with Green Onions and Black Bean Sauce.  I have yet to have someone not eat either of these.  Once they cook it the students will try it.  I usually make a double batch because it disappears so quickly.  I love this cookbook and would highly recommend it.  Use the cookbook and get in the kitchen with your kids and make dinner together.

Once again this year as a lunch lady I will be trying new things, and see if I can get the students to purchase and then enjoy scratch cooking.  I have my fingers crossed.

Crunch Garlic Chicken Nuggets or Strips- serves 2
Garlic Chicken
  •   1 clove garlic
  •   1 lemon
  •   6 saltine crackers
  •   2 tablespoons butter
  •   4 sprigs of fresh Italian       parsley
  •   sea salt
  •   freshly ground black pepper
  •   2 heaped tablespoons all-       purpose flour
  •   1 large free-range egg
  •   2 skinless higher-welfare    chicken breast fillets
  •   olive oil

Mince the clove of garlic, zest the lemon and reserve the lemon for later, crush the crackers and chop the parsley fine. Melt the butter and mix all of this together till combined.  Pour this out on to a plate.

On a second plate add the flour and salt and pepper.  In a bowl whisk the eggs.  Now you have your dipping station for your chicken.

Cut the chicken into nugget size pieces.  Dip the chicken into the flour, then the egg, then the cracker crumb mixture, pressing the crackers into the chicken.

In a non-stick skillet pour about 2 T. of olive oil.  Let the pan and oil heat till it shimmers.  Add half the chicken and cook till golden, flip to the other side.  4-5 minutes on the first side 3-4 on the second.  Have a warm oven to place the finished nuggets to keep them hot.

Chicken is cooked once and internal temp of 160 is reached.  Remember there will be a little bit of carry over so I pull them when they are about 155 and the oven will also continue to cook them.

When ready to serve squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them.  These really are good and easy.  You double of triple the recipe for the needs of your family.

The first time around this dish may look a bit intimidating, but it can be very easy to put together.  Once you have the first time under your belt it will be one of your go to meals, I promise.

Black bean sauce is found in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store.  It is fermented black beans, it is very pungent and a little goes a long way.  Yet the flavor it gives a dish is amazing so do not skip it. Keep it is the fridge and add it to vegetable stir fries or any other dish you would add soy sauce to, just start out with small amounts.

Sizzling Beef with Green Onions and Black Bean Sauce- 
serves 2

Salt and Pepper
1 cups of cooked rice cooled
1 -1 1/2 lbs of flat iron steak
1 red bell pepper
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger (can use abut 1 t. of dried, but the fresh is the best)
2 cloves of garlic
2 green onions
1-2 t. of red pepper flakes
1 bunch of cilantro or flat leaf parsley if you don't care for cilantro, I love the stuff
1 handful of fresh snow peas, or asparagus or any other quick cooking green veggie
1-2 T. of vegetable oil
1 T. of sesame oil
2 T. black bean sauce
! t. soy sauce
2 limes
1 egg

Slice the meat against the grain into thin strips.  Cut the red pepper into thin strips.  Peel both the garlic and ginger, (use the back of a spoon to scrape the peel off the ginger), then slice them thinly.  Finely dice the green onions using the whites and about half way up of the greens.  The top third of a green onion can be very strong.  Chop the cilantro including the stems, but keep them separate from each other.

In a bowl add all of your veg including the garlic and ginger, keep the cilantro leaves separate, but do add the stalks.  Add the sesame oil and red pepper flakes and mix till everything is coated.

Now you are ready to stir fry.....heat a cast iron skillet ( 10 inch or 12 inch) with the vegetable oil till the oil shimmers.  You want this very hot and the cast iron will hold the heat and not cool off as much when you cook the food.  Add the bowl of veggies and move everything around the pan for 2 minutes, remove the veggies to a bowl and cover.

Add a bit more oil, let the pan heat up again, then add your meat.  Let this sit for a minute, then move it around, then let it sit for another minute.  Once the meat is cooked to your satisfaction, remove it to the bowl with the veggies and cover.  We like ours rare, but it will continue to cook in the bowl.

Add more oil, crack your egg into the pan and break it up, add a teaspoon of soy sauce and then the rice. Keep it moving till the rice is hot, turn your heat off. Spread the rice out into the bottom of the skillet and pour your veggies and meat from the bowl over the rice, do not stir.  Sprinkle your cilantro or parsley leaves over the top, squeeze a bit of lime.  Serve the rest of the limes with the dish at the table.

I love serving out of my cast iron skillets, it looks great in a campfire sort of way and I only dirty one dish.

Again once you have done this, the second time is a breeze.  You can double or triple the recipe to fit the needs of your family.  Also you can change this up, do this with chicken or pork or even tofu.  Use what ever veggies your family likes, add more if you like.  Please don't skip the black bean sauce it is what makes the dish.

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