Pre-School Kitchen Activities

Home Cooking Party: Appetizer - Tomato-Basil B...Image by panduh via Flickr

Most pre-school children love to “work” in the kitchen, just like grown-ups. Cooking with children can be a challenge, but it can also be a great experience for both child and adult.

Here are some jobs many preschoolers can do in the kitchen with a little supervision:

  • pre-measure ingredients for recipes
  • stir ingredients in a bowl
  • set the table
  • wash foods in a colander
  • core, tear and rinse lettuce
  • tear spinach
  • snap beans
  • shell peas
  • prepare garlic cloves
  • peel bananas
  • stem strawberries
  • pit cherries
  • peel oranges
  • knead dough
  • crack cooked eggs
  • beat with rotary beater
  • spread filling on bread
  • grease pans
  • cut dates with blunt scissors
  • cut soft foods using a rounded point knife, no paring knives

With a little help and encouragement, children can become competent and enthusiastic cooks.

Happy and healthy cooking with kids,

Chef Crombie

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Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles

This just came in over my radar screen – and I want you to have this information, too. Many of you know this and have been practicing it for years, but for those who have not heard – listen up – it’s important.

  • Do not drink water or any liquid from plastic bottles that have been in the sun. If the bottles have been left in the car, the heat from the sun and the plastic form certain chemicals that can leak into the water and be dangerous to the body.
  • Do not freeze water in plastic bottles. This releases toxins from the plastic. Toxins are poisonous to the cells in our bodies.
  • Do not use any plastic wrap in the microwave. The high heat can actually cause poisonous toxins to melt out of the plastic wrap. Use paper towels or glass covers instead.
  • Do not heat food in plastic containers in the microwave. Use glass containers such as Corning Ware and Pyrex instead.

Those are our “Don’t’s” for today.

But two big “Do’s” are:

  1. Use a stainless steel or a glass bottle for water
  2. Be careful what you put into your body – it is the only one you have.

Much good health to you,

Chef Crombie

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Cooking at Home – The New Survival Tactic

Image via Wikipedia

Aren’t you glad you know your way around the kitchen and can prepare good food for yourself and others?  Hopefully the recipes in this blog have helped you come up with some tasty dishes to set before the king (I mean, friends or family).

The media tells us we are in a new era of thrift. There is a suggestion we may not be able to eat out as often as we would like. Perhaps the days are gone when everyone can go out for pizza or hamburger after a game.

This is not all bad. Think of the money you are saving. You can still invite your friends over for snacks. These late winter days continue to call for some popcorn popping time or quick and easy snacks like the following:

Bagel Pizzas

2 bagel halves
About 4 tablespoons or more
of tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup grated cheese
Toppings of your choice

Place bagel halves on a cookie sheet with cut side up. Spread with tomato sauce and oregano. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Add any toppings such as pepperoni, cooked hamburger or sausage, olives, extra cheese, or what is available. You or an adult helper can put the pan in a hot oven (375 degrees) until cheese melts.

Should be yummy, especially eating with your friends or family.

Here’s to your happy “cooking at home” days,

Chef Crombie

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How to Prevent Kitchen Accidents

Edison Edicraft toaster, ca.Image via Wikipedia

Here is a list of potentially dangerous home situations. I suggest you discuss them with another member of your family. What would you do if any of the following occurred in your home?

Jennifer has just broken a glass in the sink. How should she clean it up?

Halley just came home from the store with some cleanser and bleach. Where should they be stored?

Meridee is washing dishes but wants to go and turn on TV. What should she do first and why?

She also splashed some water on the floor. What should she do?

Juluis has a pizza in the oven and is ready to take it out. What should he do first? Then what? Then?

Matt is tall but not tall enough to reach a high shelf for a plate. Other than call for help, what should he do?

B.J. was making some toast and a slice got caught in the toaster. What should B.J. do?

Hope you’ve come up with  safe ways of handling these situations.

Here’s to working safely in the kitchen,

Chef Crombie

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Are You Spreading Germs?

This is the season when many kids have to miss school because of sickness. Practicing good personal hygiene when working with food helps prevent the spread of infections like colds and the flu.

Properly washing hands with soap and hot water before cooking or anytime you handle food is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of bad germs. When you touch anything other than food you are working on, it’s necessary to wash hands. After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, wash hands. When you are interrupted to answer the phone, pet the dog, or use the bathroom, then it’s really important to wash hands thoroughly.

Use soap and rub hands together under warm running water for 20 seconds at least. (This is about the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday). Wash the back of hands, scrub finger nails, wrists, and in between fingers. Rinse and use paper towel to turn off water. Dry hands on a paper towel or clean towel.

In addition to good hand washing, it is also important to clean all food preparation surfaces often. Wash countertops, dishes, utensils, and cutting boards with hot soapy water. If you use sponges or dishcloths, dispose of them often or wash them in the dishwasher or clothes washer. This helps reduce bacterial contamination.

Don’t work with food if you have been sick with anything within the past 24 hours. Use plastic gloves if you have a cut on your hands or an open sore. Sneezing and coughing over or near food are unsanitary and should be avoided.

You can help prevent the spread of germs by following these basic personal hygiene practices when handling food.

No-Sugar Cookie Recipe

Hi gang!

I couldn’t wait to get started collecting recipes. Today I want to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s so easy because you mix it up in the saucepan and it makes enough for a small family or for a few friends.

It’s called: Look Mom – No-Sugar Date Bars

1 cup dates
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut dates into small pieces using kitchen scissors or, depending upon your age, a knife and cutting board. Make sure the dates do not have pits in them. If they do, take out the pits first before cutting.

In medium size saucepan, boil dates and water for 5 minutes. Watch this carefully so the dates don’t scorch. The dates should be softened and look like applesauce, only darker. Add butter. Mix and set aside to cool.

Add eggs and vanilla to cooled mixture in saucepan. Measure flour, baking soda, and salt. Add these dry ingredients to pan mixture. Stir in nuts.

Spread in greased 7 x 11-inch pan and bake in 350 degrees F oven for 20-23 minutes.

Cut into 15 bars.

For a nice variation, add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg to flour mixture.

Dates are loaded with potassium and phosphorus and have 230 calories per 10 dates.

I like this recipe because it has a nice mild sweet flavor without the sugar, and the nuts give it a nice crunchy texture. I made this a few weeks ago when my neighbors dropped over with their two young boys. I served it with ice cream, though, which did add to the sugar content of these refreshments.

Now I am waiting to hear about some of your favorite foods and recipes. I hope you will flood my “Comments” box with lots of your favorites. Or, if you have made some of the recipes here in this blog, I would like to hear your comments, too. I am also open to hearing about any questions you have about cooking.

Back to New England

How appropriate it is that we are talking about food of New England here in the chef’s cooking corner during this 4th of July season. After all, the American colonies began in New England.

The early Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Colony—part of today’s Massachusetts—too late to grow many crops, and they lacked fresh food. It was a very hard winter for them as food was very scarce.

When the weather was warm the next spring they grew fruits and vegetables and had more food to eat. The Native Americans were very helpful. They showed the colonists what to plant and how to plant. They taught them how to grow corn (maize), barley, pumpkins, and many other crops. The Indians showed them how to pound corn into meal, and how to cook with it. This helped many of them survive the harsh winter of 1620–1621.

Now, corn on the cob is a special food for many 4th of July cook-outs. There are many ways to fix it. You can boil it , steam it, microwave it, and even grill corn on the cob.

The fresher the corn is, the tastier it will be. There is a saying that corn should be on the table two hours after its been picked. As soon as corn is picked, its sugar begins to gradually convert to starch. This then reduces the corn’s natural sweetness. Some folks add a teaspoon or two of sugar to the boiling water if the corn is past its prime.

Here is how to boil corn:

Add cold water to a pot large enough to hold all the ears of corn you want to prepare. Set on stove to come to a boil.

Shuck the corn, that is, pull off the outer husks of corn and pull off as many of the pesky little silks as you can.

Have an adult slowly lower the ears of corn into the boiling water and cover. After the water begins to boil again, leave the corn in for about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the freshness and softness of the corn.

Then, with tongs, have an adult remove corn from boiling water. Be careful to lift cover away from you so the steam doesn’t burn your face. Roll corn on the cob in real butter, add a little salt and you have a grand feast!

To microwave corn:

You can microwave corn with the shucks on or off. If you shuck first, wrap the ears in damp paper towels, and put them in the microwave. Cook them on high for about 6 to 9 minutes for two ears or about 12 to 15 minutes for four ears. Halfway through cooking, turn them over. If you are going to shuck the ears after cooking, use something like a clean dish towel to protect your hands from the hot ears as you shuck.

Whichever way you fix your corn on the cob, you will be eating a patriotic food on this day celebrating freedom.

Safety in the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the home. As noted in yesterday’s blog – working around a hot stove and using sharp utensils can place one in danger.

Some of the most common accidents in the kitchen include burns, fires, cuts, falls, electric shock, and poisoning.

We can help prevent accidents while working in the kitchen in many ways. Some of these include:

Remember that stove tops are hot and may stay hot long after they are turned off. Adults should cook foods on the stove top and place or remove food from the oven.

Keep handles on pots and pans turned inward, so there is no danger of someone knocking them off the stove.

Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes or long floppy sleeves when you cook. They can easily catch fire. Keep long hair tied back.

Use pot holders when handling hot pans. Do not use a towel.

Lift pot lids away from you so the steam flows away from you and does not burn you.

Wash knives separately from rest of dishes and silverware.

Wipe up spills immediately.

Never touch electrical appliances if your hands are wet.

All household cleaners are poisonous. Never pour a little soap or other potentially dangerous liquid into a container that once held food.

Keep all cleaners, dish washing detergents, and plastic bags out of small child’s reach.

Don’t call vitamins or medicine “candy.”

Chef, and everyone, wants you to stay safe!

CC