Healthy Cooking: Making a meal with kids can be a family adventure

My mother and grandmother made better reservations than roasts, so the concept of home cooking was as wild as a barrel of monkeys to me when I was growing up. But then I had my own children and realized that meals were more fun and nutritious if we cooked them together.

Like scientists in the culinary Serengeti, we learned how to cook by studying the recipes, tips and techniques in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Which is why I was giddy when I heard that America’s Test Kitchen, the publisher behind that beloved periodical, is launching a cookbook for kids this month. We nabbed an advance copy of “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” (Sourcebooks, $19.99) and gathered around the kitchen table.

Take your children (or yourself) on a cooking adventure with a new field guide from America’s Test Kitchen, “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs.” CONTRIBUTED BY AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN
Photo: For the AJC

While the busy graphic design speaks to the tween market, there is plenty for teens and adults to enjoy. Many of the recipes offer sophisticated dishes made simply, such as Sesame Noodles with Snow Peas and Carrots or Quinoa with Herbs. If your people are still in the cheese quesadilla phase of life, there are recipes for them, too. But instead of suggesting patronizing cutesy kid foods, “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” shows how to make their favorites from scratch, like pizza with homemade dough, and lemonade from real lemons. Our current go-to recipe is a riff on vegetarian burgers, made quickly and easily with but a handful of ingredients.

Crispy Veggie Burgers are packed with fiber and protein, thanks to the can of drained chickpeas that are the foundation of the dish. My kiddos get a kick out of pulsing the legumes, breadcrumbs and green onions in the food processor. (Confession: They also get a bit squeamish when handling the sticky Greek yogurt and egg mixture that forms the burger binder.) A sprinkle of curry powder adds spice but not heat. Then they divide the mixture into four patties, which is the easiest math problem ever, and sizzle them on the stovetop. In true America’s Test Kitchen form, the recipe notes offer smarty pants suggestions, like a gentle warning to not over-pulse the chickpeas, lest the burgers become mushy.

As written, the recipe is foolproof. In fact, I tweaked it by substituting ingredients I had on hand, and it still worked beautifully. We made these burgers with fat-free Greek yogurt and gluten-free panko, saving fat and calories without affecting the taste. And while we love the warm curry flavors, you could also let your little chefs choose their own spices, say, garlic, cilantro or smoked paprika. Like so many family adventures, the real fun happens when you learn together.

Crispy Veggie Burgers

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

2 large eggs

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, plus extra for serving

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch black pepper

2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

6 scallions, sliced thin

4 leaves lettuce

4 hamburger buns

Set a colander in sink. Open the can of chickpeas and pour into the colander. Rinse the chickpeas with cold water and shake the colander to drain well. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

Place the chickpeas, panko and scallions in a food processor. Lock the lid in place. Hold down the pulse button 1 second, then release. Repeat until ingredients are roughly chopped with some large pieces remaining, 5 to 8 pulses.

Remove the lid and carefully remove the food processor blade (ask an adult for help). Transfer the chickpea mixture to the bowl with the egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the ingredients until just combined.

Use your hands to divide the chickpea mixture into 4 lightly packed balls. Gently flatten each ball into a circle that measures 4 inches across.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to a 12-inch nonstick skillet and swirl the skillet to coat evenly with the oil. Place the patties in the skillet and cook over medium heat until the bottom side is well browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Use a spatula to gently flip the patties (ask an adult for help). Cook until the other side is well browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Put 1 lettuce leaf inside each bun. Use a spatula to slide the burgers into buns. Serve with more yogurt (for dipping or spreading inside buns) if you like. Serves 4.

Per burger: 401 calories (percent of calories from fat, 29), 15 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 107 milligrams cholesterol, 770 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” by America’s Test Kitchen (Sourcebooks, 2018). Printed with permission.

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