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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A dinner a child could make -- and almost did



My granddaughters visit often and, for this reason, I find myself playing kid's games. I hate kid's games. Why mess with Play-Doh when you can mess with cookie batter? Why make pretend cookies when the real thing is so easy. Both activities take the same effort but doing something real carries a bigger payback.

When not cooking, Fiona like to draw.
With this in mind, I let my five-year-old granddaughter, Fiona, help with dinner the other night. Amazingly, she was a lot of help and she had great fun being adult for twenty-five minutes or so. Working around a hot stove, one doesn't play at being adult; one has to be adult. Fiona was.

So, what recipe did my granddaughter and I tackle? A skillet dinner featuring penne with broccoli and chicken. I got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, a magazine produced by America's Test Kitchen. With everything cooked in one, large skillet, it was easy to keep an eye on Fiona. That said, the kid rallied to the moment and stayed amazingly focused as she stirred the penne to keep it from sticking.

I like both the America's Test Kitchen television show, it could be alternately titled "Cooking with Sheldon" as they approach cooking using the scientific method. It is high school science class meets home economics.

There were four ingredients eliminated from our take on the recipe: onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and white wine. And Fiona and Isla also skipped the grilled tomato served on the side. All five ingredients are on the grandchildren's don't eat list.

Using a kitchen scale, Fiona weighed out the eight ounces of penne while I quick fried the chicken strips. Fiona measured out the chicken broth. We used two cups. And she also measured out the water. I added both to the skillet. She sprinkled a quarter teaspoon of dried oregano over the pasta while it simmered and she took a break from stirring to snap the broccoli flowers apart. No knife was involved. Minutes before the penne was done, Fiona added the broccoli to the almost cooked pasta. Then, just before serving, Fiona added Parmesan cheese grated earlier.

Amazingly, the pasta turned out al dente and the broccoli was a rich green with just a hint of crispness. In other words, nothing was overdone. And the chicken broth added extra flavour to the pasta which both Fiona and Isla appreciated. My wife, Judy, also appreciated the dinner. She declared it winner and said it appeared to be Weight Watchers Friendly to boot.

I posted this in mid February, 2015. The Cook's Illustrated magazine with the recipe may be off the shelves by the time you find this post. You can try finding the recipe on America's Test Kitchen online site but you may find it difficult. These folk are not into simply giving their knowledge away. You may be asked to sign up for a free two week trial. I can't fault them. Giving info away has not been a profitable tack for newspapers and others in the information business.

And lastly, I may have cooked up a monster along with a dinner. Fiona, all of five remember, told Judy, my wife, not to worry about dinner in the future. She (Fiona) and I would be making all meals from now on. I've got to find a way to let this kid down gently. It is that or finding more recipes she can tackle.

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