One of the high points of my life has been working with the youth group at our church. The girls are fantastic, and so fun! It has been a couple years since I have been involved with them, and I was missing it. So, naturally, I was thrilled when they asked me to come teach a class for the girls about cooking. I wanted to create something they could enjoy, and something they could do easily enough that they could feel confidant cooking it again on their own.
We went to the local high school, since we are fortunate enough to have the home ec. teacher as one of our youth leaders. We made a very basic dinner: chicken breast, spinach salad, rolls, and dessert. We dressed up our meal with oranges. Oranges were present in almost every part of the meal. We also talked about different ways to dress up something so basic, to make the meal interesting and tasty. The girls broke into four groups and started cooking.
Lemon Thyme Chicken with Orange Cranberry Sauce
Normally, I cook with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but today we used the smaller (and quicker cooking) breast tenders. Drizzle a little olive oil in an electric fry pan set to about 300 – 350 degrees. Drop chicken pieces in, taking care not to crowd the pan too much. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the chicken, and sprinkle with dried thyme. Cover and cook until edges are white and bottom is browned. Turn and cook other side.
For the cranberry sauce, we put a little plum jam in a saucepan. Drop some dried cranberries into it, and add a little orange zest. Cook over medium heat, just enough to let the jam melt and loosen, and let the flavors combine. Remove from heat and add the juice of half an orange. This topping tastes great on the chicken!
Garlic Parmesan Knots
Since I have no gift for bread making, nor do I have the patience for it, I like to cheat. (Shh… don’t tell anyone!) I frequently use refrigerated crescent roll dough. I showed the girls how to turn their triangles into something a little fancier, namely by tying them in a knot, and making sure the ends are on the bottom. Just bake them according to directions on the package, ours was 375 degrees for about 12 minutes. Make a compound butter by adding garlic and italian seasoning to some melted butter. Use a pastry brush to brush the butter onto the cooked rolls. Finish off by sprinkling a little parmesan over them.
I learned an interesting thing because of this bread. Namely, that Jen and I don’t just share the same name, we also share a love of garlic bread. (“Why don’t you marry it then?” I would, believe me, I would.) I swear Jen’s eyes doubled in size the moment I said the word garlic.
Spinach Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
This salad is seriously the easiest thing to make ever. We filled a bowl with some spinach leaves, then added dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and diced purple onion. The only work involved at all was dicing the onion. And honestly, it looks so pretty! The real fun with this dish is making the dressing.
To continue our orange theme, we made a fresh orange vinaigrette. We did this by mixing equal parts of extra virgin olive oil and rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar). We used about 3-4 tablespoons of each. We added a tablespoon or so of sugar, a pinch of salt, and just a little orange zest. Then we squeezed an entire orange in. The great thing about this dressing is that you can easily adjust it if the flavor is off. We dipped spinach leaves in the dressing to sample it, and ended up adding a little more sugar. I love that fresh citrus flavor in this dressing.
Strawberry Parfait with Orange Whipped Cream
Dessert… my favorite part! I had the girls start by dicing some fresh strawberries. Honestly, it is really hard to go wrong with fresh berries. Basically everyone loves them, and they always taste so delicious! Sprinkle the cut berries with some sugar, and let them sit and macerate for a few minutes.
I recently discovered heaven when I flavored my whipped cream with a lemon. Since then, I find myself wanting to add citrus fruits to my whipped cream every time I make it. This subtle hint of orange in the cream is such a fantastic compliment to the berries. Whip up some heavy cream first, and then add a little sugar, a fair amount of orange zest, and just a little orange juice. Then whip again, just enough to combine everything.
We filled some of our cups with brownie pieces, and some with cubed pound cake. Then we topped with strawberries and the orange whipped cream. Justina got fancy and put some extra pieces of berry and cake on top, just to make them pretty. What a quick and easy dessert!
I definitely want to thank the girls for having me over, and for cooking with me. It was such a fun night! I really hope all the girls will have a chance to try out their new cooking skills at their own homes soon. Thanks, ladies!