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Fall is Here and the Soup is On!

Hip hip hurray!  Fall is here! 

As a native of season-less California, the transition to New England has been enjoyable.  We are now intensely aware of the unique attributes, weather, food, and otherwise, of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

This season of back-to-school, Halloween, and chilly mornings is a favorite in the Skill It kitchen.  There are still plenty of fresh greens at the Farmers Market and you can walk in the crisp air, playing in the leaves with kids of all ages.

We love that Fall means apples, scarves, knitting, and soup. 

Lots and lots of soup.

Soup is the perfect comfort food. It warms us from the inside out. It can be humble or fancy and either way it’s perfect.  It turns odds and ends from your fridge and pantry into a bowl of love and smiles.

Most importantly, kids love and adore soup!

If you are interested in something other than Chicken Noodle and Tomato (though they are certainly delicious) consider making this Fall Harvest Lentil Soup.

Why lentils? Don’t make a big deal of this to the kids, but they are incredibly good for you. They cook quickly (you can have soup in 30-45 minutes!)  And they have a gorgeous color and scrumptious flavor.

I love that lentils cook to a creamy consistency that is enjoyable and nourishing for little eaters.

So how are you going to get those little ones of yours involved in the soup making?

Littlest chefs can cut up the base for your soup, carrots & celery, with a table knife or scissors.  Bigger chefs can help measure & pour ingredients into the hot soup pot.

Ready for your French lesson?

Mirepoix (say: meer-pwah) is the holy trinity of onion, carrot & celery that form the flavor base for delicious soups, stocks, and stews.

Depending on the age & interest of your little ones, you can teach them the proper term, “mirepoix,” or you can make up any fun name, such as Veggie Gems, like I often do.

When you have cooked this soup and eaten it, please share with us on the Skill It Facebook Page!

Recipe: Fall Harvest Lentil Soup

Ingredients

2 yellow onions
2 large carrots
3 ribs of celery
Olive oil
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 bunch kale
Herbs to taste:
2-3 bay leaves
2-4 tsp. cumin
Salt
Pepper
Sour Cream or Yogurt (optional)

Directions

Chop all your veggies (mirepoix) into small, rough chunks, about the size of peas.  Beauty is not important at this step.  Slice carrots & celery into long, skinny pieces and hand them over to little ones to cut with table knives or scissors into the small chunks.

Now heat up a large stock pot with enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the veggies and reduce heat to medium.  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until onions become translucent.  Then add salt, pepper, and cumin and stir until evenly distributed across all the veggies.

Add broth, then lentils. Add extra water, if necessary, to make sure everything is covered with about 1-2″ of liquid. Add bay leaves.

Keep on medium heat until soup just begins to bubble, then cover pot with lid, reduce heat to low or simmer, and cook for 20-35 minutes.  Check frequently to stir and taste, adding a little more cumin or salt if desired. Be sure to have little ones help with the stirring and tasting!

When lentils are soft & creamy, turn the heat off and prepare to serve.  Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt, sour cream, or even feta cheese. 
Grown-up palates may enjoy a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

You can serve steamed spinach or kale on the side or right in the soup. A green salad also makes a perfect pairing to complete the meal.

Enjoy!


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Cranberry Granola Bars

I think making granola bars is an excellent recipe to help kids understand that they can pretty much make anything on their own, from scratch. 

With few exceptions, the pre-packaged foods that line the middle shelves of the grocery store have a DIY version.

Making such a food with your child is a wonderful way to have them experience the true amount of labor and time it takes to make these snacks & treats.

And when we have worked a little harder for something, we tend to respect & appreciate it more.

With all this in mind, let’s learn to make Skill It’s Cranberry Granola Bars.

There was a lot of research and taste testing in the Skill It kitchen before we created this version.  It has a rich flavor from the molasses (and lots of antioxidants) and the texture is not too chewy.  Also, it does not require baking, so the bars remain a little bit chewy and moist.

In our Fall Harvest class series last year, students made these bars from start to finish.  We cut them into small squares to be shared with their parents.  Not a scrap of leftovers could be found because students and parents ate every bite!

I know you must be getting hungry just thinking about them!  So as the weather gets a little cool or perhaps a rain shower heads your way, spend a few hours in an afternoon mixing up a batch of these.

Swap things out to suit your tastes – just about any combination of dried fruits, nuts & seeds will work as long as the overall volume of dry goods remains the same.

Better yet, make a double batch, divide it into 4 or 5 portions, and have each family member make their own personalized version.  Now that is a delicious DIY recipe!

Cranberry Granola Bars Recipe

Ingredients for Granola:
1 1/4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. dried cranberries
4 T shredded coconut

Ingredients for Sauce:
3 T butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 T honey
1 T molasses
1 tsp cinnamon

 

Directions

First, toast oats, seeds, almonds and coconut in a skillet on medium heat.  Stir often until fragrant and lightly browned.  Transfer to heat proof mixing bowl and set aside

In a small pot, melt butter, brown sugar, honey, molasses, and cinnamon over medium heat.  Stir until all ingredients just start to bubble and there are no lumps of sugar left, then turn off and remove from heat.  Sugar gets VERY hot, be sure to have grown-up help for this!!!

Let sauce cool for a few minutes and then pour over your granola, mixing until it is totally coated with the sauce.  Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper.  Pour in your granola and press down to fill the pan and make it even and flat.

Place pan in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  When cool, lift out with paper, and transfer to cutting board.  Cut into long slices and then into thirds or quarters. You can really cut this into size you want.  Little 1” squares are fun and you can put 2 or 3 of these granola bar bites for a lunchbox treat!

Makes 12-15 bars (or about 40 small bites)


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Journal for a Growing Chef

In the Skill It classroom students always have a Chef’s Journal and pencil on hand. 

We do this because it gives the young chefs a way to capture their thoughts, questions, and drawings about the food they are cooking.

Cooking and eating are fleeting and ephemeral pursuits.  After you and your family have nibbled every bite, cleared the dishes and cleaned the countertops, what is left?

The Chef’s Journal is about play and curiosity. 

Kids learn new vocabulary words to describe the tastes and textures of their culinary creations.

They draw pictures, ask questions, and write down their recipes.  We invite them to choose an adjective that sums up their experience in the kitchen that day.

What did they think the finished dish was going to taste like?
Is there something they would do differently next time?
Who did they cook and eat with?

The Chef’s Journal is a place to explore and to create a record of their progress. 

We can see their understanding of the cooking process in their step-by-step pictures. Their personal preferences shine through in their suggestions for adding favorite flavors and spices to the dish.

It’s been a dream of Skill It to make our Chef’s Journal bigger, better, and accessible to those of you who cook with us at home. A space and place that is simple, creative, and fun, to cultivate curiosity in your little chef.

And a way to connect what we do at home and in our kitchens with the bigger world around us.

Collecting a Leaf Catalog of  favorite fruits & berries so they better understand the nature of food.

Keeping a New Flavors page as your child tastes the difference between Cinnamon and Cardamom.

Interviewing family members about your Family Food History so they know where they come from.

Are you getting as inspired as we are?  Can you imagine your child with journal & pen, connecting the dots between words, tastes, smells, and family?

We can, too.

Tell us…what else would you and your children want to see in your Chef’s Journal?
Leave a note in the comments below…

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