Whenever children cook, it's cause for celebration. If enough of them learn to approach knives, ovens and pans of sizzling oil without fear, you know there is hope for the continuation of the species -- even if drive-throughs, pizza delivery services and frozen microwave dinners should perish from this Earth.
Young cooks create
This is why, every year, I look forward to the Pillsbury Kids' Bake-Off. One Saturday each spring, 30 kids come together, bearing their own recipes, for a cook-off. This year 200 kids submitted recipes for the competition.
Foodland Super Markets is the sponsor, putting up savings bonds and new computers as prizes, which has always seemed pretty generous, seeing as Foodland isn't the only store that carries Pillsbury products.
But, whatever, for four years now, the Foodlanders have allowed me to help judge. This is always fun and not just because of the giant Doughboy prancing around with a Foodland employee inside. The young competitors are extremely earnest, and through the years their creations have grown more sophisticated.
In the beginning, almost everything was made with those refrigerated doughs in the cardboard tubes. We tasted a lot of baked stuffed puffs and that sort of thing. Now I notice a lot of dishes that go beyond that easy fix.
This year's winners were Suzanne Pratt, 14, of Hawaii Baptist Academy, in the upper age division; and Shari Iha, 11, of Waiau Elementary, in the younger group. Shari gets to compete at the national Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando, Fla., for a $25,000 top prize.
Big stuff for someone her age.
"Man, when I was in fifth grade I was rolling around in the dirt, making mud pies," said radio personality Lanai, who helped emcee the contest.
Shari did use refrigerated crescent roll dough, but her presentation was quite elaborate. She cut the dough into tiny triangles, then reassembled them into star-like cups to hold her taco filling.
The other finalists were Marisa Sakuda of Mauka Lani Elementary, Clinton Fukushima of King Kekaulike High, Alisa Kali of Campbell High and Joelle Teasley of Kalanianaole Intermediate.
One of the more devoted judges among us was Rex Howell-Smith of R. Field Wine Co., who comes every year and judges not just the finals but also the preliminary heats. He says he likes the idea of kids taking an interest in cooking.
Since he was there, it seemed appropriate to get a wine recommendation for the winning dishes, this fare being quite suitable for adult consumption.
For Suzanne's fritters he suggested a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc; for Alisa's taco cups a dry rose, although, "I want to say beer."
Combine corn, green onions, bell pepper and chicken. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and pepper. In a third bowl, combine flour, mochiko, baking powder and salt. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Fold in corn mixture to form a stiff batter.
Teri-ific Chicken and Corn FrittersSuzanne Pratt
10-ounce box frozen corn in butter sauce, thawed
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2-3 pinches black pepper
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons mochiko
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 ounces peanut oil
Sliced green onions and slivered red bell pepper for garnish
Head oil over medium-high heat until a haze forms above the surface. Drop batter by even tablespoons into the hot oil, frying 5-6 fitters at a time. Turn once or twice until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 250-degree oven until serving time.
Garnish and serve. Makes 60 fritters.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per fitter: 70 calories, 5.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 3.5 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein.*
Unroll dough into 4 rectangles on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rectangle into 3 smaller rectangles. Cut each small rectangle into 6 triangles. Place 6 triangles with points together and seal at the center (outer edges will flare out into a star). Repeat with remaining dough. You should have 12 stars. Place each star into a flattened paper baking cup and place cups in a muffin pan. Or, spray muffin pan with vegetable oil spray and place a star in each cup. (To simplify, divide dough into 12 pieces and press each piece into the muffin pan to form a cup).
Taco Crescent StarsShari Iha
1 8-ounce can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/4 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 cup salsa
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
Chopped lettuce, olives and tomatoes, for garnish
Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.
Brown beef and drain fat. Add cream cheese, taco seasoning and water. Fill stars with beef mixture. Top with cheese and crushed chips. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Top with salsa, sour cream and onions. Garnish. Makes 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: per star: 150 calories, 9 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein.*
Food Stuffs: Morsels
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.