Planning a surprise for a mother can be as complicated as national security and all the efforts in clandestine coordination, coded conversations and top secret planning are often unsuccessful because mom's have a way of discovering the best kept secrets.
But Tristan Westmoreland, a fourth grader at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, may have managed to pull off a Mother's Day surprise for his mother, Dena Westmoreland. When she opens her newspaper on today she will receive an early Mother's Day gift when she sees Tristan showing off his culinary skills.
Last week Tristan and I had a chance to cook together as he prepared for a school project. Each student in his class was assigned a state to report on that featured its natural resources, cuisine and culture.
Tristan enjoys many types of food. He especially likes Italian and Mexican, and some of his favorites are chicken fajitas, pizza and spaghetti. Recently he started helping his mom and dad in the kitchen and purchased the “Angry Birds Cookbook” so he could learn some new recipes.
From the book, he has learned to make scrambled eggs and his favorite, Puffy Popovers. He is precise with his measurements and carefully reads through the steps of the recipe to ensure its success.
The steps Tristan takes in the recipes he tries are a good starting point for anyone who wants to introduce a child to cooking. Proper measurements and paying careful attention to the instructions are foundations in cooking.
Adult Supervision: An adult should always stay in the kitchen to lend a hand and ensure safety.
Start Simple: Use recipes that have limited steps and ingredients. Children will lose interest in any task that takes too long so save the more complicated or time-consuming recipes for the grown-ups.
Good Hygiene: Wash hands, tie back hair, roll up sleeves and wear an apron.
Safety First: The kitchen is full of hot surfaces, sharp objects and potential dangers. Take special care when handling knives, always use oven mitts and leave the heavy lifting of hot objects to the adult.
Gather Together: Set out all of the ingredients, tools and equipment necessary for the recipe before you start. This step is important to staying on track with a recipe and staying organized.
Clean As You Go: Clean surfaces, dishes, tools and equipment as they are used. Try to be as neat as possible and if something is spilled clean it up as soon as it happens.
Patience and Fun: Be patient, work slowly and have fun. Don't worry if a mistake is made. Cooking is about trial and error and is always a learning experience.
Strawberry Marshmallow Cupcakes
1 box chocolate cake mix
12 muffin cup liners
12 strawberries, tops removed
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow cream
1/2 cup strawberry jam
Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with the paper liners. Spoon the cake mix into the liners to two-thirds full. Bake according to package directions. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool completely. While cupcakes are cooking, place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave for another 15 seconds and stir again. Continue in 15 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted and drips off the back of the spoon. Holding the strawberries from the top end, dip them into the chocolate. After dipping, place on a plate lined with wax paper. Refrigerate the strawberries until the chocolate is set. In a small bowl combine the marshmallow cream and strawberry jam. When cupcakes are cool, using a small spoon, remove some of the middle of the cupcake, creating a hole in the center. Spoon some of the marshmallow mixture into each of the holes. Top the hole with a chocolate covered strawberry.
Recipe by Tristan Westmoreland & Christine Gardner
Mother's Day Mini Cakes
1 box cake mix
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 package edible flowers (available in FRESH produce department)
Assorted sprinkles, food coloring, flavored extracts
Prepare the cake according to package directions in a 9x13 pan or a muffin tin. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If using a 9x13 pan, slice off the top part of the cake with a serrated knife to make the top of the cake flat. Flip the cake over onto wax paper and cut into squares. Place the squares on a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. To make the frosting, in a bowl combine the powdered sugar and milk. Pour the frosting into smaller bowls and use the food coloring and various extracts to flavor and color the frosting. Some ideas for flavoring are almond, mint or lemon extract. Add 1/2 teaspoon of extract per 1/2 cup of frosting. Spoon the frosting over the cakes so that it runs down all sides of the cakes. Decorate with sprinkles, crushed cookies or chopped nuts. Garnish with the edible flowers.
Recipe by Christine Gardner
Edible Flower Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
1 bag mixed spring greens
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup raspberries
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 package edible flowers (available in FRESH produce section)
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a bowl combine the greens, tomatoes, raspberries, goat cheese and almonds. Top with the flowers. In a small bowl whisk together the jam, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the oil while whisking. Serve alongside the salad.
Recipe by Christine Gardner