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Cooking Corner

Mother’s Little Helpers

A breakfast-in-bed tray for Mother's Day includes a breakfast pizza, granola-and-yogurt parfait and orange juice. Photo by K.C. Alfred

A breakfast-in-bed tray for Mother's Day includes a breakfast pizza, granola-and-yogurt parfait and orange juice. Photo by K.C. Alfred

By Caroline Dipping

Dads, lend an ear. That goes for all you grandpas, uncles and big brothers, too.
Sunday is Mother’s Day, and your assistance is requested in the kitchen. You are needed to help the younger set — tots from 5 to 9, tweens from 10 to 12, and teens 13 and beyond — prepare breakfast in bed for that special woman in all your lives.
Really, the only hard part is getting up and rousting the kids before Mom wakes up. (Oh, and getting any tween and teen to stop texting long enough to crack a couple of eggs.)
No matter the age group, tots as young as 5 to teens as old as 18 can prepare a special breakfast tray for their mother. All they need is a little help from an adult and the right roster of recipes that fit their skill level.
Take pastry chef Melissa Logan’s parfait of homemade granola and flavored yogurt.
“I would say that all age groups could make this,” Logan said from her kitchen at The Grand Del Mar, where she and chef Scott Mickelson taught a Mother’s Day cooking class for kids earlier this week. “There is a lot of mixing and measuring with the granola that the younger kids could do to feel part of the process.”
Tweens and teens could be counted on to carefully place the granola in the oven to toast and remove it afterward. After it cools, any age could add berries and yogurt to the blender (adult helpers can seal the lid before blending) and then build the parfait layers.
“I’m very happy that in food trends, things are going back to basics,” Logan said. “With the homemade granola, once people see how simple it is, and how it has no preservatives, they will want to make it over and over.”
Longtime children’s cooking instructor Janet Burgess of Culinary Cooking Adventures says breakfast is one of the easier meals for kids to prepare because it doesn’t require a lot of chopping. But each age level brings a different level of culinary maturity, and adult help is important.
Older kids tend to jump ahead (“they never want to read the recipe,” Burgess said), while younger kids will read the recipe but keep starting from the top when they read. They don’t pick up where they left off.
No matter the age, it is never safe to assume that a kid will know that once they’ve chopped something, it needs to go into a bowl or frying pan, Burgess said. Clear, step-by-step instructions are key.
Measuring and mixing with adult supervision is definitely doable for young tots, she said. They can even chop up soft fruits using a plastic serrated knife, squeeze orange juice, and add sparkling water to the juice and a mint sprig for garnish.
(Garnishing is as important a step at age 5 as it is at age 15.)
Tweens can mix up waffle batter and carefully pour it into a waffle iron. They are in an age bracket where scrambling eggs or even making crepes is within the realm of their capabilities, Burgess said.
“It’s incredible how they know their way around machinery, whether it’s a blender or a food processor,” she said. “Most of that equipment is pretty safe. It doesn’t go on until everything is locked in place.”
Microwaving bacon, heating up fully cooked breakfast sausage, making hash browns and waffles or pancakes also are all things tweens and teens can pretty much manage on their own, Burgess said.
“Kids that age just have to be careful about the whole timing,” Burgess said. “You don’t want eggs done and sitting there while you’re just getting started on the waffles.
“They have to ask themselves, ‘What could I keep warm first while I do something else?’_”
Teenagers are pretty specific about their likes and dislikes, Burgess said. Chances are, if they want to make something for Mom without asking her what she would like, they will make something they like themselves. That might include vegetarian options such as an omelet with sauteed vegetables, herbs and a black bean sauce.
If a family wants to surprise Mom, they might think about what they see her normally eat for breakfast and use that as a guide, Burgess said. Maybe they see her eat toasted English muffins with a certain kind of jam or peanut butter, or maybe she spreads goat cheese on a bagel.
“See what Mom does, and go from there,” she suggested.
Chef Scott Mickelson of The Grand Del Mar says above all, when cooking with kids, a little patience is the best recipe.
“If they make a mess, they make a mess,” he said.
“It’s about being supportive and letting the kids have fun. Let them play with their food.”

FRESH BERRY BREAKFAST PIZZA

Homemade Pizza Dough (see accompanying recipe) or purchased refrigerator pizza dough
1 egg
24 ounces Robiolina cheese, sliced thin (see note)
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries, sliced into coins
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves, rough chopped
1 cup cherry honey or your favorite honey (see note)
Makes eight servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Divide equally into eight pieces. Press and form each piece into a rustic pizza shape, and place on large sheet pan. (You may need more than one pan, depending on size of pan and oven.)
Make an egg wash by whisking the egg into a froth. Lightly brush each pizza with the egg wash. Place pizzas in the preheated oven, and partially bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough just begins to turn light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool, about 15 minutes.
Once cooled, cover each pizza with slices of cheese (about 4 ounces per pizza). Top each pizza with 1/4 cup of each berry. This is a great time to be creative — make a heart with the berries, or spell out “Mom.” Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of mint on each pizza. Drizzle cherry honey over top (use 2 tablespoons per pizza) in any desired pattern — try swirls, stripes, crisscross lines, etc.
Return pizzas to the oven until cheese is melted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove, and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Serve whole or sliced.
Notes: Robiolina cheese is an Italian soft cheese with the consistency of cream cheese. It and the cherry honey can be found in specialty stores such as Whole Foods.
From Chef Scott Mickelson, The Grand Del Mar

HOMEMADE PIZZA DOUGH

3_ 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, lukewarm
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
Makes enough for 8 individual crusts

In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of the bread flour and yeast. Stir in the milk until flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for one hour.
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 3 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Add dry ingredients and slightly beaten eggs to flour and yeast mixture. Whisk together until evenly combined. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Whisk in 1/4 cup butter until combined. Repeat until all the butter is incorporated. The dough should be smooth and soft when finished. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and mist with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough on the sheet pan, and spray dough with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
Chef’s tip: Homemade dough should be made at least one day ahead and is easy for older children and teens to prepare. For younger children, store-bought pizza dough is an ideal substitute.
From Chef Scott Mickelson, The Grand Del Mar

Caroline Dipping writes about food for The San Diego Union-Tribune.
COPYRIGHT 2010 THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE.
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