While we adjust to life as a family of 5, a few local moms kindly agreed to keep MiniBury readers entertained with tales and adventures from their own lives. Today Suzanne Young tells us about her passion for food and children. Suzanne is the cook at Mary Johnson Children Center in Middlebury and we can personally attest to her remarkable ability to engage children in food. Take it away Susanne!
Hello and Happy Spring!
As the growing season gets into full swing it is super fun to bring seasonal produce into the kitchen here at Mary Johnson. Usually when I bring in something new to try I place a sample dish on the kitchen serving counter where the children can choose to try the new item or not.
This week featured rhubarb. The giant leaves and bright pink long stems certainly attracted the children’s attention. I cut the stems into small bite size pieces which were easy for them to pick up and try. I cautioned the children to start by just smelling or licking the small pieces, rather than putting the whole piece in their mouths.
Oooh, its super sour! Many children actually did eat it raw and liked it. Do be cautious though, the humungous leaves are actually toxic if eaten. The stems are best when they are on the slender side and the pinker they are, the prettier the cooked result.
And if raw rhubarb isn’t to your liking here is a recipe for a simple Apple-Rhubarb Sauce we tried at lunch this week. It’s yummy in vanilla yogurt, topped on hot oatmeal, or over vanilla ice cream.
Apple Rhubarb Sauce (and maybe some blueberries too)
1 pound of rhubarb or one large handful of full size stems
5-6 Macintosh or Empire Apples
1 cup blueberries (optional)
Maple Syrup or sugar to taste
Remove the leaves and root ends of the rhubarb. Then lay all the stems together on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife dice the rhubarb stems into ½ inch pieces.
Cut the apples into quarters removing the centers and seeds then cut into ½” chunks. Place the rhubarb and apples and blueberries into a large heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add ¼ cup of maple syrup and a ¼ cup of water. If you are using sugar instead of maple syrup add ½ cup of water instead. Cover the pot. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and stir.
Notice if the rhubarb and apples are softening. Stir the mixture. Cook for another 15 -20 minutes or until the apples, rhubarb, and blueberries are soft with the consistency of applesauce. The blueberries will most likely stay whole and mix in throughout the sauce.
If you cook it for a bit longer on very low heat the sauce will start to thicken up as the pectin releases from the apples and rhubarb. This will give your sauce a more jam like consistency. As Jackson from the Caspia classroom mentioned as he tried the sauce, “It tastes like pie filling!” Add more maple syrup or sugar, or cinnamon depending on how much sour you like.
*And as always the Middlebury Farmers’ Market is the best place to get fresh rhubarb. Or maybe you already have some growing in your garden or your neighbor’s garden!