All Posts By Heather Ramsdell

Cooking with Kids: Adventures in Guacamole Making, Plus a Simple Recipe

by in Family, Recipes, June 23rd, 2015

Cooking with Kids: Adventures in Guacamole Making, Plus a Simple RecipeI taught my daughter’s third-grade class how to make good guacamole. It was my second time working with classroom 3B, this time not in the art room but on a diminutive desk in the classroom itself. On this knee-high rectangle of beechwood-colored Formica with a scooped out slot for a pencil at the top, I was able to use skills gained long ago interning at a doll-size garde manger station, elbows pinned to my sides.

When kids came into their classroom, they found tortillas, knives and avocado halves on their tables, and the other ingredients were ready on mine. It smelled like onions and cilantro. Passing teachers poked their heads in to see why. I worked fast to outpace the kids’ hunger, questions and strong desire to get avocado goo on their sleeves. Eventually I guided my 19 cooks to a high-five-inducing guacamole (with a side of chips).

First I told them the safe and polite way to handle their plastic knives (by the handle, always cutting away from your body, the other hand’s fingers curled under, etc.). Then we cut up tortillas to make chips. They are studying fractions, so there was a lot of debate. Some tables chose eighths for more chips, some went with sixths for bigger chips, and others chose straight strips for the sake of innovation. We tossed them in a bowl with oil and salt, layered them on sheet pans and popped them into the oven down the hall in the art room. Then we moved on to the main attraction.

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Cooking with Kids: Adventures in Strawberry Shortcake Making, Plus a Simple Recipe

by in Family, Recipes, June 2nd, 2015

Strawberry ShortcakeI like to cook with my 8-year-old. It’s way more fun than room cleaning and other required household activities. Recently, I decided to bring our pastime into her third-grade class and make strawberry shortcakes with them. I was nervous. I have stage fright. Also, though I have made this dish dozens of times, I have no prior experience doing it with the help of 19 small friends. (Hats off to all teachers in the land, by the way.)

I figured that strawberry shortcakes would be a good teaching dish; most kids like this springy dessert, making it does not require tons of technical skill, and the recipe has three parts to keep kids engaged. To make it easier, I chose the simplest cream biscuit recipe I knew, and measured out the ingredients ahead of time. (I sliced the berries too, because that’s time-consuming and a little boring.)

The primary reason to show kids how to make this is that someday our kids will be old enough to cook by themselves, and if they know how to make strawberry shortcakes, they might make some for us. Don’t I want that to happen? Yes, I do.

Here’s what you need to make strawberry shortcake with your own group of kids. Below, I am including a prep list, an equipment checklist and the recipe. Scale it up for every 12 kids you want to feed. It is possible, with some extra preparation, to sneak in other skills, like addition, multiplication, division and fractions, and how to read and follow instructions. Use the shopping list and class plan to help simplify the work. Use the checklist to pack and to plan, and the class itself will go pretty smoothly. As it turns out, this third-grade class was a friendly audience. They were curious and helpful, and loved eating their work.

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25 Essentials for an At-the-Ready Kitchen Kit

by in How-to, February 3rd, 2015

25 Essentials for an At-the-Ready Kitchen KitMy friend just finished renovating his apartment. He’s all moved in, but his stuff isn’t yet; it’s still in storage.

Next time, I thought, using an unfortunate technique known as hindsight, wouldn’t it be good to pack a separate emergency mess kit, just for use until everything is unpacked? A few essential cooking tools might help break up the days and nights of consecutive delivery pizza, Chinese takeout meals and bologna sandwiches. I kept the list spare enough that you’d retain the desire to unpack, yet diverse enough to cover the bases for cooking. Choose smallish items. Pack them into a plastic box that can also serve as a dishpan and you’re set for the next time you renovate, or move, or spend time in a vacation house furnished only with a butter knife and a salt shaker.

Here are the 25 things. Just add food.

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Bologna the Beautiful

by in News, August 28th, 2014

Bologna the BeautifulBologna is coming back. Not even ironically. I know this because when I say “bologna sandwich” within earshot of my colleagues*, a lot of feelings come out. And nothing goes better with feelings than garlicky, pink meat circles.

A recent bologna poll I conducted** yielded nearly unanimous “yays and a bunch of exclamation points.” One colleague said “aw,” as if spying an infant hamster sleeping in a sugar bowl. But just because bologna gives us a distant expression and makes us talk in past tense doesn’t mean it’s stuck back there.

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Mother’s Day Portraits: Baby-and-Mom Produce

by in Family, Holidays, May 10th, 2014

It’s almost Mother’s Day: the day to appreciate motherhood even more than we do on other, ordinary days. Who cares that the holiday was invented by a greeting card company? Moms rock, and we love them.

Moms make us think of babies, and babies are cute. They’re just designed that way. We like to look at them. We like to talk about them using teeny voices. Baby fruits and vegetables are basically our two favorite things rolled up into one: Babies plus Food.

On this special day we wanted to send out some love to the hardworking vegetable and fruit moms for giving birth to them. First up (above): baby ghanoush.

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Make an Orangeade Stand This Weekend

by in Community, September 20th, 2013

OrangeadeSeptember is Hunger Awareness Month. You might have noticed that the Food Network and Cooking Channel logos have Gone Orange to support childhood hunger awareness and No Kid Hungry. How can you Go Orange? You’ll find several different options at FoodNetwork.com/Hungry, but we have an idea for you if you want to take it a step further.

Inspired by the color orange and the September weather, Food Network Kitchens thought it would be a great idea to set up orange-lemonade stands — before it gets too chilly — to benefit No Kid Hungry. Orangeade stands, if you will. It’s a great opportunity to spread awareness, teach the little ones about childhood hunger and support the cause as a family. The great thing about No Kid Hungry is that every cent goes a long way. As you’ll see on their website, “every dollar you donate can connect a child in need with up to 10 meals.” In other words, if your orangeade stand raises $5, that could potentially turn into 50 meals.

What will you need? First things first: an orangeade recipe.

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Strawberries in July

by in In Season, July 8th, 2013

Strawberries in JulyI went to the farmers’ market to get strawberries. I thought I might have missed their short season, but they were in fact there. And then, as if I were somewhere I might never visit again, I suddenly needed everything else there, too.

I hadn’t thought of tea radishes or pink or icicle radishes either — or purple, yellow or white spring onions, carrots, herbs, peonies, tiny, odd lettuces — or shell peas. I didn’t need snap peas, but there they were, tight in their skins, like a bin full of miniature blimps. I wanted to see them again, so I took a picture. The farmer said I could even taste one. Almost involuntarily, I found myself unfurling a bag from the roll and stuffing some in.

The less common the vegetables were, the more I suddenly needed them. And now that I already had to carry a bag, there wasn’t much reason not to quench my drought of fresh chamomile flowers, or to fill the now obvious garlic-scape chasm in my life. I pressured a nearby stranger who claimed not to know what to do with radishes to drag them through butter and dab them in salt, and later saw her headed to the register with three bunches.

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