We're happy to welcome Heather as a guest blogger this month!
Heather is a mom of two boys, ages 4 and 2, and cooking instructor specializing in bringing cooking into preschool classrooms. After college, Heather knew she wanted to be a teacher, but first followed her lifelong dream of going to culinary school. Teaching cooking combines both of her passions, and she truly enjoys introducing young children to the joys of cooking with fresh ingredients. Find Heather on Instagram (@heather_kidskitchen), where she shares inventive kid-friendly recipes and ideas for cooking with kids at home.
Have you ever roasted corn? Cooking the fresh kernels at a high temperature, intensifies the corn's sweetness and takes corn flavor to a whole new level. The sweet kernels get golden brown and crunchy around the edges, making them reminiscent of popcorn. Roasted corn is great as a side dish, on its own, or combined with other fresh, seasonal produce like in the salsa recipe I've included below. Get your kids in the kitchen to help prepare the corn for the oven. They can help transfer the cut corn to a bowl, drizzle the corn with oil, sprinkle the salt, and spread the corn on the baking sheet. Simple, delicious, and easy... what could be better?
Simple Roasted Corn
Roasted Corn and Watermelon Salsa
Scoop up this fresh salsa with your favorite chips, serve on top of simply cooked chicken or fish, or pile on top of a green salad. Feel free to add whatever produce you have on hand: fresh herbs like cilantro or basil would be delicious. Bell or spicy peppers would also be a great addition.
This sprouting activity is super fun because it is quick and the corn sprouts grow very tall, both of which will keep the attention of your little ones.
"Sprout a Corncob" was the growing activity included in August's "Kids Love Sweet Corn" Veggie Buds Club kit, read on to learn how to sprout your own at home!
You can often find dry corncobs at garden or hardware stores (it is used for feed for wild animals). You can also find decorative Indian or ornamental corn at farmers markets, grocery stores, etc. in the fall season.
Dry corncob kernels are corn seeds. Simply fill a dish with 1 inch of water and place the corncob in the water. Place this is a sunny spot and then admire your corn as it grows! Within a few days you will begin to see the shoots sprout upwards, you will also see the roots grow in the water. You may need to pour the water out and refill with fresh water if it gets a little stinky.
Corn is actually a type of grass that has been cultivated over the course of thousands of years to resemble today's modern corn. You will definitely notice that the sprouts look just like grass!
A Little History of Corn
Scientists believe that people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7,000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. Teosinte looked very different from our corn today. The kernels were small and were not placed close together like kernels on the husked ear of modern corn. Also known as maize, Indians throughout North and South America, eventually depended upon this crop for much of their food.
You can read more here!
Veggie Buds Super Club members received the book, "Curious George Farm to Table" by H. A. Rey in their "Kids Love Sweet Corn" kit, this is a great book that features local food and most notably corn. In the book, Curious George and his friend Marco wish to make tortillas for his abuella's birthday dinner, they run out of masa and go on a search for more. In the process, they learn how masa is made and in the end create tortillas from scratch with dried corn from the Renkin's farm.
This got me thinking that it would be fun to create a featured post on how to make tortillas from scratch. We hope you and your kids will join in on the fun and create some tortillas too!
We're pretty lucky because I happen to know a tortilla-expert in our town, I gave him a call and was happy to hear that he was excited to teach me and my family how to make tortillas at him home. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin (Regi) is the Chief Strategy Officer at Main Street Project, a nonprofit that has been working to create pathways out of poverty for rural Latino immigrants through specialized agriculture training and skills. Their main focus in on free-range poultry as part of a sustainable regional food system, but they do so much more and I truly encourage you to check out their organization.
We met Regi at his farm and got right to work! First, he showed me and my kids the corn that is used to make masa. You can't make masa out of any dried corn, it is best to use a variety of dent corn that has a high percentage of starch. Here's a close up of the corn that Regi grows for masa, it's much wider and flatter than sweet corn.
In order to truly make masa from scratch you first soak the dry corn kernels all day, add lime to the soaked corn, bring this to a boil for a bit, remove from heat, add more water, allow to soak for another 8-16 hours, wash and remove all skins, and grind. For a full tutorial we found a great guide from Saveur Magazine here. To save a bit of time (well, a lot of time!) we made tortillas from Maseca, a corn flour masa mix you can find at more grocery stores.
Regi makes tortillas by feel, so he poured a heaping mound of Maseca into a big bowl, we then added a little water at a time and formed a nice dough. The consistency reminds me of Crayola Model Magic Foam, and I can tell you the kids liked to play with it! I've included a recipe from chef Rick Bayless at the end of this post that you can follow since you probably don't have Regi in your kitchen as a guide;)
After we formed a very large ball of dough it was time to make the tortillas! We made little dough balls and pressed them in a tortilla press (this was my daughter's favorite part). Regi then pan fried them on a cast iron griddle on extremely high heat, approximately 500 degrees Farenheit. The cast iron was not oiled, and we needed to work fast. Once one tortilla was off of the griddle it was time for the next! We made two tortillas at a time.
Finally it was time to feast! Regi kept it local by only including ingredients all grown on his property: baked chicken from Main Street Project, black beans, tomatoes, and (of course) tortillas. And let me tell you, these tortillas were incredible, it's going to be hard to go back to store-bought!
Corn Tortillas Recipe
This recipe is from chef, Rick Bayless, you can also find it here:
And just for fun here are some more photos from our great visit at Regi's farm!
Veggie Buds Club includes a fun game called "Counting Kernels" in their "Kids Love Sweet Corn" kit. This is such a wonderful and simple game for kids to practice their counting skills and number recognition. We recommend a popcorn snack while they play!
We modeled this game off of a great activity on the I Heart Crafty Things blog, they even have a free printable! You simply need the printed game board from I Heart Craft Things, yellow Avery 3/4-inch round stickers (or any other sticker will do!), and 2 dice.
Counting Kernels Game Rules
ONE PLAYER RULES