My good pal and fellow Twitter junkie Chris Perrin of the foodie site: Blog Well Done guest posts today! I can say from personal experience on more occasions than I have fingers that Chris has helped me out with a recipe or baking dilemma... he's like my personal Twitter Chef! From brining Turkey, to veggie sloppy joes, to lime flavored rice for a women's group of 50 he's helped me each time and I'm totally grateful!
"I think I was born ready to cook. Then again, maybe I just learned to love it at an early age."
By the time I was in the third grade, I, too, wanted to take simple ingredients and make my own meals. My hope was that I could make everyone as happy as my dad’s food had made me. As an adult, I look back at many of those experiments, and all I can do is apologize to my family (again). They were so good to humor me…
Still, I did learn a lot while making those … dishes. First, I learned that salt should not be added to pasta sauce by the cupful. Very important! I learned the proper ratio of chocolate chips to pancake batter is not two hundred to one. On the other hand, I did learn how to brown and wash ground beef and I learned that soy sauce packs a lot of great flavor as long as you don’t drown your food in it. (It took me a while to learn that last part, actually.)
All of this culminated in what would be my signature dish from the third grade until high school. It’s a simple meal and it was easily within my culinary skills as a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grader. While it’s not going to trick anyone into thinking it’s gourmet cuisine, this is a dish any kid can master and use as the basis for creating their own signature dishes.
1 package spaghetti
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 pound ground hamburger
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained
1-2 bags frozen veggies (peas and broccoli work well, as does corn)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
First, bring a pot of water to boil with the garlic powder and salt. Add the pasta and let it cook.
While the pasta is cooking, get out a skillet and brown the hamburger with the oregano and black pepper over medium heat. Once the hamburger is browned, drain any excess fat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the frozen vegetables are warm.
Add the pasta back in and stir to coat. If all of the soy sauce has been absorbed by the meat, add another splash or two so some gets on the noodles.
Where to Go From Here
So this recipe is very simple, but it tastes pretty good and it’s fairly healthy, especially if you don’t add too much soy sauce (I used to have a step in the recipe for draining excess soy sauce. To this day, I still have a tendency to add too much.)
The first thing I recommend parents do with this recipe is have their kids try different veggies. Each time they make it, the kids can change which ones they use and maybe try something new each time. Kids are a lot more likely to try something new if they have cooked it, grown it, picked it out, etc. So let the kids have some input into what new veggies they try and they may just pick out something they would never try otherwise.
This dish transitions really well into both Italian and Asian pasta dishes. The spaghetti noodles can become lo mein noodles and the hamburger can be chicken, pork, or shrimp. Or keep the spaghetti noodles and make meat sauce or dump the meat entirely and make an olive oil veggie sauce using freshly chopped vegetables from a salad bar.
The main thing is that whatever changes a family makes to the recipe, they keep cooking it together. Cooking skills last a lifetime as do the memories of spending time as a family.
Got a question for Chris... need some ideas for an upcoming pot luck? Tell Chris I sent you... enjoy!
photo credit: SereneJournal