Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things that are scary but great

1. This movie*

2. Teaching a group of ten fourth and fifth graders to cook a multi-course Halloween feast in under three hours.

In both cases, the surprise ending is totally worth it**.

On the heels of my adventures with the Clueless Dads, another friend wondered if her daughter and a couple of friends could do a cooking class one afternoon. Picturing a version of making dinner at home with my kids without the annoying bickering and backtalk, I eagerly agreed. Next thing I knew there was an e-mail blast to the class, and I somehow found myself in a strange kitchen*** amid a sea of spastic tweens, armed only with my red apron, some mixing bowls, and a bag of mini chocolate chips****.

Oh boy. What in the world had I gotten myself into this time?

The Menu

We went in reverse order, making dessert first*****. Judging by the boys fighting over who got to lick the bowl and the dive bombing for spare chocolate that broke out, I was doing well so far. We moved on to working with bread. The crouton crew was on the "one for me, one for the pan" program, while the bread crumb group was mesmerized by the whirl of the food processor. There was general enthusiasm for dumping ketchup into a pan, followed by a dose of brown sugar. I barely held their attention through the chicken course******, as the lure of the play structure was strong, but when we moved on to squishing raw meat and grating piles of cheese, I had them back. Then the sprinklers went off. I couldn't compete with that.

Dark fell, and their parents arrived. There was a veritable feast of food on the table. Wine was poured******* and the chefs proudly stepped forward to describe the dishes and all the work they had done. As the crowd dug in and the delighted sounds of "Yum!" and "I made that!" and "Can I have another meatball?" filled the room, I heaved a huge sigh of relief and wondered what on earth I'd been so afraid of.

I was thrilled.

Here is the kids' favorite recipe from the class:

Meatball Popsicles

1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 T. butter
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Pre heat oven to 450.
  2. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onions, and stir for about 4-5 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Put butter onion mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Put remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and add the onion mix. Using your clean hands, squish it all together for a while until it's nicely mixed up and everything is blended in.
  4. Put foil on two large cookie sheets. Using your hands, form meat mixture into balls about 1 1/2" in diameter, about the size of a golf ball. Place balls onto the cookie sheets. It is OK if they are pretty close together, since they will shrink a little as they bake.
  5. Bake at 450 for 8 minutes. They might be a little messy on the bottom, so you can move them to a tray with paper towels if you like. You can serve them as is with spaghetti for dinner or:
  6. To make popsicles out of them as an appetizer, insert popsicle sticks or small skewers into the meatballs when they come out of the oven. Serve with Super Duper Dipping Sauce, or any kind of sauce you like.
You can also substitute ground turkey and/or chicken for the beef and pork in this recipe.

Super Duper Dipping Sauce

2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 c. ketchup
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings about halfway through to make sure it's just the way you like it.

Click to print this recipe!

* An utterly fantastic, super eerie thriller by the creator of Pan's Labyrinth. Netflix it immediately!
** Here's another thing that is just plain scary. But the fine print on the poster is great.

Credit to this blog for the image.

*** It was not my kitchen, but it was huge, gorgeous, completely stocked and perfect for the class. I covet that kitchen, big time.
**** To be fair, I also had a lot of cheese and several intriguing electrical appliances on my side. I am also eternally grateful to the helper moms who stayed with me, without whom we would have just ordered pizza to go with our dessert.
***** I figured that if all else failed, the kids, at least, would consider the afternoon a rousing success.
****** Although the antics that were theoretically possible with 10 lbs of frozen chicken wings, some cooking spray and a roll of foil did capture their imagination briefly.
******* For the parents! The kids were loopy enough already.

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