In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been participating in the Food Network’s Sensational Sides project this spring. Each week, myself and several other genius food bloggers come up with side dishes that correspond to a given theme. This week’s theme: Kid-friendly. Yikes.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of kids. I never know what to talk to them about, they have questionable fashion sense, and they’re very loud and messy considering how small they are. I’ll obviously love my own, who (fingers crossed) will be smart, attractive, and hilarious, but I’ve always preferred to avoid children until that day comes.
Unfortunately, this avoidance tactic has become increasingly difficult in the past few years. First of all, my dad has two offspring under the age of 5, so I can’t even hide from children in the safety of my own home. (Just kidding, Dad, I love them.) And then there’s the sad fact that some of my friends are starting to have babies, which makes me feel many things. Confused, old, and terrified, to be specific.
The timing of this week’s “kid-friendly” theme is apt, as I have actually been trying to work on my child-interaction skills. I think this is important, since I’d rather not be pushed out of my social circles when events inevitably start to involve small children. I also feel the need to get more comfortable with tiny humans so that I don’t panic when I have my own one day (in the very distant future.)
Based on a recent positive experience with children, I think I’m progressing quite nicely. Last month, my besties and I spent the weekend at my friend Lara’s house. Her entire family was present and accounted for, including her sister Meghan’s two small children, Pippi and Peter. Pippi is an infant, which introduced another level of interaction anxiety, since I have an irrational fear of dropping babies. However, I did appreciate her tiny pink outfits and fondness for naps. (Success #1: Finding things to admire about infants.)
“Little Peter,” on the other hand, is four and impressively chatty. Objectively, he is incredibly cute, but unlike my friends, I had zero interest in spending the entire weekend chasing after him and talking about trains, or fire engines, or whatever it is that little boys are into these days. I did that enough with my own little brother. Instead, I spent the weekend seeking out grown-up conversation and trying to earn my keep by cooking for Lara’s family. I probably said three words to little Peter. Despite this fact, he was surprisingly taken with me…
When I was packing to go home, Peter asked Lara where “her cook” was. (I prefer the term “chef,” but I blame little Peter’s youthful vocabulary for this faux pas.) When I came back into the room, Peter marched right up to me and demanded, “Serena, do you have babies?” I informed him that I did not, to which he replied, “But WHY don’t you have babies?” I told him that if I ever wanted to hang out with a kid, I could just call him. He seemed only mildly satisfied with this answer, and said, “Okay, but you should have babies.” I then asked if I was his favorite. He said yes.
After this conversation, I have a whole new respect for little Peter. It may or may not be because I am a sucker for compliments, but that’s beside the point. Clearly, kids actually like me. (Successes #2 and #3: A child likes me and believes I should have babies.) This bodes very well for my kid-friendliness.
Thinking about kid’s food this week has really kept my kid-friendly momentum going. I am proud to say that I put a lot of time and effort into making the best possible recipe choice. Since I grew up on a diet of mostly chicken, rice, and peas and grilled cheese (I was picky), I had no idea what most kids actually eat. I asked around a bit, but people weren’t overly helpful. One irritated friend with kids responded, “I don’t know, Serena. They’re not aliens. They eat normal people food. I wouldn’t try to feed them truffles or anything incredibly spicy, but other than that, you can’t go wrong.” Cool, thanks.
After much debate, I finally settled on cornbread as a good kid-friendly option. It’s simple, delicious, and appeals to almost everyone. Logan loves it, and he has the eating habits of a ten-year old, so I feel pretty confident in my kid-friendly choice. While I prefer a good jalapeno cheddar cornbread (a la Ina), I felt it prudent to go a more traditional route this week with a hot pepper-free Skillet Cornbread.
Skillet cornbread is the real deal, folks. It’s lightly sweet, buttery, and super moist, thanks to a generous quantity of creamed corn. The sides also get beautifully browned and crispy, which I love, and it’s incredibly easy to make. You can even serve your cornbread in the actual skillet, which looks both rustic and fancy at the same time. Just make sure the skillet has cooled (duh). I don’t want to be responsible for burning any hands, especially children’s.
The best thing about this skillet cornbread is that you can eat it anytime. Serve it for breakfast with eggs or toasted with a little jam or butter. I imagine it would be the perfect thing to pack in a lunchbox or snack on after school. Cornbread also makes good sandwich bread, and it’s great with soups and chili. Take it on a picnic or serve it at your next barbecue! You could even bake it in muffin tins for individual servings, which is pretty cute. Get after it, friends. It’s fun for all ages.
Skillet Cornbread:(Serves 12)
Preparing your cornbread:
*Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
-Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.
-In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper (if using). In a separate mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Mix in the room temperature melted butter and milk.
-Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until there are no dry spots in the batter. Stop! You really don’t want to over mix the batter.
-Gently fold in the creamed corn. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
-Melt 1 tbsp butter in your skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling pour the cornbread batter into the skillet and allow it cook for one minute. (If you do not have a skillet, relax. You can go ahead and bake your cornbread in a greased 9-inch cake pan. Or whatever baking pan you happen to own, okay?)
-Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
-Allow your cornbread to cool for 10 minutes before slicing it into thick pieces. (I’m clearly fond of both the triangular and square slicing approach.) Dig in with child-like joy.
I’m thrilled to be part of Food Network’s Sensational Sides event this week. For more inspired ideas (from people who probably know more about children than I do), check out these other amazing kid-friendly recipes below.
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