Olympian Self-Sufficiency: The Kids Make Supper (by themselves!)

This is a summer to be inspired by the Olympic Spirit. As we learn more about our Olympic competitors by reading newspapers and magazines and by watching sports interviews, one of the aspects of Olympic training that the kids and I have admired is the self-sufficiency of even the youngest of our athletes. Time and again, we read about heroes who are so dedicated to their sport that, from a young age, they have learned to care for themselves and their own needs both in and outside of the family home. While most of the news coverage we have followed has focused on such self-sufficiency as “sacrifice” if not downright “suffering,” the kids, nevertheless, have thought of this independence as “passionate,” “cool” and “crazy,” admiring the gymnasts and swimmers who rise at the crack of dawn to fry their eggs or fix themselves lunch for the road. Tonight, in the spirit of the games, the kids made dinner and served it up to the family. We’re hoping to make this a weekly occurence!

A Little Mental Prep: Our Quick and Easy Dry-Erase Weekly Dinner Menu

Earlier in the week, we made an easy dry-erase “Weekly Dinner Menu” to hang up in the kitchen. We designed a simple menu, printed it out, and covered it in clear contact paper. [Here’s a copy of it, if you care to print it out and laminate it/coat it for yourself: Printable Weekly Dinner Menu. You can also just copy and paste the image above, but it’s not as clean.] With this in place, the kids were able to look ahead to tonight’s event with passion! As we sat down to schedule which meals we would have for the week, I helped the kids decide upon Baked Salmon as an easy, no-fuss menu option for their first “Kids Make Supper” night. We added this to our menu board so that they could anticipate and celebrate what was coming! Little did I expect what they would add to the menu of their own accord!

The Kids Make Artisan Bread (by themselves!)

PHASE ONE: Making the Master Recipe

This morning, as we were discussing what ingredients we had on hand for our baked salmon and which we would need to purchase after our dentist appointment, the kids decided that they wanted to have some sort of bread to go with their supper. I thought they’d just want to purchase a loaf while we were out. But they wanted to bake their own! So, we turned to a book that a good friend of mine (that means you, Elise!) recommended as a life- and habit-changing find, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. (See their awesome website: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/).  I’ve been “late to the table” with this lucky find. I only managed to pick up this now-classic book over the spring. And, I hadn’t even tried out the basic recipe myself, yet. Still, I figured, why not let the kids do it for me? After looking at the book together, the kids decided to make a half-batch of the “Master Recipe” for a basic white loaf. We could make one or two boules or baguettes for tonight and still have dough in the fridge to to spare!

What I Did to Prepare
As a way of helping the kids get started, I got out the three key ingredients (a packet of yeast, a bag of coarse salt, and a sack of unbleached all-purpose flour) and I put them on the counter along with lots of measuring cups and spoons and a 2.5 quart plastic tub for holding the dough. I propped up the cookbook on the counter, and I put the dough hook on the mixer so that it was all easy to reach.

Before The Kids Got Started
I gave them a quick refresher course re using the mixer, asking them to open it, close it, lock it, and turn it on and off at a low speed. I also demonstrated how to measure flour properly (filling a 1 or .5 cup measure and scraping it off with a butter knife) following the instructions in the inset box on the cookbook page we were following. Next, I asked them to read the recipe out loud to one another before they began. Finally, I stood back and took some photographs as they went along, trying, nonetheless, not to hover…

What They Did
The kids were so excited about being “in charge” that they were almost over-polite with one another. Bea measured out 1.5 cups of warm-ish water into the mixing bowl and scissored open the yeast packet. Tobes added the one yeast packet to the water. Bea added the two teaspoons of coarse salt to the bowl and stirred for a moment. Tobes added 3.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl. Bea operated the mixer and stirred until the mixture formed a nice dough. And, together, they placed the giant dough ball into a plastic tub and closed the not-entirely-air-tight lid. Then, the kids cleaned up the kitchen before moving on to other activities. After the bread sat rising for two hours on the counter, they moved it to the fridge. Then, we headed off to the dentist.

Dough Ingredients Recap
1.5 cups warm water
1 packet (1 tbs) yeast
2 tsp coarse salt
3.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

PHASE TWO: Baking the Bread
What I Did
Later that afternoon, I got out two pieces of parchment, a serrated bread knife, and a container of all-purpose flour. Then, I put the pizza stone in the center of the oven with an empty broiler pan on the rack below. Finally, I gave the kids a refresher course re how to turn on the oven and a reminder that they should always use oven mitts when adding or removing things. With knives out and the oven on, was I scared? Yes. I was scared! But I let them do it anyway.

What They Did
Each kid took turns taking a grapefruit-sized portion of dough from the container (about 1/3 of the big ball) and slicing it off with a knife. (The rest of the dough went back into the fridge.) Then, the kids used some flour to get the dough just dry enough to form into boules. (Here’s where a look at the book is extremely helpful! The kids just rolled the dough into nice balls, though, and it seemed fine.) They let these round circular boules sit on the parchment for forty minutes. After twenty of these minutes had passed, the kids turned on the oven on to 450. They also poured a cup of water from the tap and set it aside. After the total forty minutes had passed, the kids dusted the tops of the boules with flour and then slashed patterns on the top of them with a knife.

What We Did Together
The kids assisted me in opening the oven door while I safely shook their boules from the parchment sheets onto the pizza stone in the oven. Then, they handed me a cup of water which I poured into the broiler pan below the pizza stone. We shut the door of the oven and let the bread bake for 30 minutes until the crust was a lovely brown. As I removed the dough from the stone in the oven, the kids heard it “crackle and sing” per the recipe’s instructions. (This book is magical, I tell ya!) The kids did a little dance as the bread cooled on wire racks. We lowered the oven temperature to 350, and the kids got ready to bake their salmon.

Bread Baking Method Basic Recap
This is just a basic outline! Consult the Artisan Bread in Five book and the website for the authoritatve, expert approach! It’s definitely worth the purchase!
Mix up the dough and let sit for at least 2 hours in a not-so-airtight plastic container
Refrigerate the dough in this container
Cut grapefruit sized balls of dough from main ball (we used thirds)
Use flour to form dough into boules (per the book’s instructions)
Let boules rest for 40 minutes
After 20 of these minutes, heat the oven to 450, pizza stone inside
After all 40 minutes have passed, sprinkle flour on top of the boules
Slice gashes into the tops of the boules
Place boules on a pizza stone in the oven
Add a cup of water to pan placed on a rack below the pizza stone
Bake for 30 minutes
Cool on wire racks

The Kids Make Salmon (by themselves!)

What I Did
Last night, I created a recipe and printed out a recipe card for a basic baked salmon dish that I thought the kids could follow. [Here’s a pdf copy for you: Super-Easy Kid-Baked Salmon. I’ve also provided the recipe below] I also got out a pyrex baking dish and some measuring spoons and left them on the counter. This afternoon, after a dentist appointment on the other side of town, I took the kids to a fish market on that side of town (Snappers, 263 Durie Street, Bloor West Village) to pick up fresh fish and any other ingredients they might want for the meal.

What They Did
At the fish market, the kids were the ones to request their salmon fillets and lemons from the fish-monger. If I’d had cash with me instead of only debit cards, I would have had them pay as well, though the counter was likely too high to make that possible anyway. They carried the bag home on transit and placed it in the fridge until it was time to make supper. After their bread had baked and we had checked to see that the oven temperature had cooled to the 350 to which they reset it, the kids scoured the cabinets, the fridge and the back garden for the ingredients for their recipe. They juiced their lemons, prepared their marinade, and, after placing their fish fillets skin down into a lightly sprayed pyrex dish, drizzled the marinade over top. Then, they set the fish in the oven to bake. Just before the fish had finished, the kids took a few packs of frozen edamame from the fridge and microwaved them per the instructions on the box.

Then, I watched as the kids plated their fish and edamame for the whole family. They sliced the homemade bread and went crazy!  What a meal!!!!

Super-Easy Kid-Baked Salmon

4 boneless salmon filets
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs honey
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp sesame oil

½ tsp sea salt
red pepper flakes
fresh cilantro or other herbs
cooking spray (we used pc olive oil spray)

Heat oven to 350
Spray the pyrex dish with a tiny bit of cooking spray
Place salmon in a pyrex baking dish
Slice and juice lemons into a bowl
Combine all marinade ingredients
Pour marinade over the salmon
Salt and pepper the filets to taste
To the filets of those who “like it hot,” add a few red pepper flakes
Bake for 20 minutes.
Wash, dry, and tear fresh herbs
Plate the fish and garnish with herbs


Olympian Self-Sufficiency: The Photo Gallery

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