One month into summer, and you've probably heard "I'm bored" more times than you'd like to admit. While students look forward to having the summer off, it seems there's never enough to do to stave off boredom.
Why not turn these unfilled moments into culinary lessons for your teens and preteens. I'm not talking about gourmet dining here - just finding recipes and cooking methods they can employ on their own. The keys to the beginnings of their culinary education, in my opinion, are small appliances.
Small kitchen appliances offer a measure of safety that you don't find when cooking on top of the stove or in the oven. They're the perfect place to start with middle and high schoolers, offering them a taste of culinary independence while being more manageable than conventional cooking methods.
The microwave oven is a logical starting point. By middle school, most children can safely microwave frozen prepared foods and bags of microwave popcorn. Rather than heating up a can of soup or a frozen Hot Pocket, give your child the opportunity to experiment with "almost homemade" dishes from the microwave.
Any recipe that can be simmered atop the stove can be cooked in the microwave. Another countertop appliance that's perfect for simmering is the electric rice cooker, which does far more than steam up perfect rice. The rice cooker can simmer soups, cook up an omelet, boil pasta, make big, golden pancakes, bake a tender cake, and most recently I've even used it to make delicious bread pudding.
Countertop grills (such as the George Foreman grills available everywhere), toaster ovens and blenders also are good places to start with this age group. Grill up wonderful panini sandwiches with the countertop grill by placing your favorite sandwich ingredients on hotdog rolls, spraying both sides of the rolls with butter flavored cooking spray and grilling about 3 minutes, until crisp and golden.
Homemade French bread pizzas are a snap to bake up in the toaster oven, and delicious fruit smoothies can be concocted in the blender using frozen fruits and flavored yogurt. With the help of these small kitchen appliances, I hope that by the end of the summer your student will no longer say, "I'm bored," but, "What can I make for supper?"
1 8-ounce can Zucchini with Italian-Style Sauce
1 8 3/4-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon light chili powder, or to taste
Fritos or other corn chips, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl or microwave bowl with lid, cover and microwave for 5 to 10 minutes, until heated.
Sprinkle each serving with the corn chips, if desired.
Makes 4 main dish servings.
Rice Cooker Apple Spice Cake
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 container fluffy white or cream cheese frosting
Combine the cake mix, egg, applesauce and cinnamon in a bowl.
Spray the cooking vessel of rice cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Spread batter in cooking vessel, place in electric unit, cover and press cook. *
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove vessel from unit and cool cake in vessel for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate and ice with the prepared frosting.
Makes 6 servings.