Monday, April 30, 2018

How We Earned the Girl Scout Cadette New Cuisines Badge

I know I told you over and over that the Cadette Book Artist badge is my favorite, but y'all--that's before the kids wanted to earn the Cadette New Cuisines badge! Even more than the Book Artist badge, the New Cuisines badge is perfectly set up to earn inside or outside a troop setting. It was my favorite blend of cross-curricular activities, incorporating history and geography into the concept of learning how to cook new recipes. And it lent itself well to, as you'll see, some really great family experiences. I think it's actually managed to change how our entire family approaches cooking!

Prep Work

As the first activity in earning this badge, our entire family camped out near the cookbook section of our public library, pulling every cookbook that looked interesting. The kids' job was to choose a recipe to try for each of the first four steps in the New Cuisines badge. I gave them pencils and post-it notes so that they could mark and label the recipes they'd chosen. While they did that, Matt and I looked through cookbooks, too, and I found several of my own to bring home and try out.

Step #1: Make a dish from another country.

For this step, Syd found a rice recipe in Flavours of Aleppo: Celebrating Syrian Cuisine. Just between us, the recipe is a pretty standard way to prepare rice, but the rice cooker that we've had ever since our wedding day finally died not too long ago, and so you'll forgive Syd if her mind is still a little blown by the idea that one can cook rice in a pot on the stove.

And now she can cook rice! I have known several young adults in my time who could not do that.

Also, I need you to know that we eat white rice, not brown. Feel free to judge me. Actually, in some conversation years ago with another mom I know, when that fact got mentioned the mom actually said, "Hmm. I'm a whole grains snob," so I've already been judged and you can take a break. 

Side note: it's a discursive trope in the area where I live for someone to humble brag about their advanced tastes by claiming that they're a "snob" about something. Every time someone says that, I'm thinking quietly inside my head that they ARE being snobby. I don't know why I needed to digress about this, but there you go.

Other members of the family also have marked Aleppo-style spicy sausages and kebobs with cherries in Flavours of Aleppo, so we'll be doing some more cooking from that book before we return it.

Will made rosenkuchen, a spiced cocoa pinwheel cake from Classic German Baking (you will soon note that Will mostly made sweets for these steps...). You couldn't taste the cocoa in this cake (there were only 2 tablespoons of cocoa for the whole cake), so instead it tasted like a batch of cinnamon rolls with lots of lemon in the glaze. It was VERY good.

Step #2: Create a dish from another region of the United States.

For this step, Will went back to her roots and learned how to make cornbread. I cooked a big pot of pinto beans to go with it, and I was taken aback when both kids exclaimed several times how good their bowl of cornbread and beans was. I can't even tell you how many times I ate a bowl of cornbread and beans as a kid--hundreds? Thousands?--and why it had never occurred to me before then to offer it to my kids, I do not know.

Syd made French toast casserole from 100 Days of Real Food, although she insisted on using white bread instead of the whole wheat bread that the recipe calls for. We do always eat whole grain bread, so I think she was just looking for an excuse to get that much longed-for white bread on the menu.

Step #3: Whip up a dish from another time period.

For this step, Will found a recipe for English trifle in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook (side note: I have been watching Downton Abbey, and I LOVE. IT! I am obsessed. I am also most of the way through Season 2, so don't spoil it for me!):

Who could possibly resist pieces of cake with sugared strawberries, blackberries, whipped cream, and pudding? It was delicious!

Syd made lemonade from The Little House Cookbook, which we've owned since the kids were very small. She said it was too much work for what you got, but that it was good, although she inevitably adds that she only "got one sip" of it because she caught her sister drinking it straight out of the jug. Will had to earn and pay me six dollars for the organic lemons thanks to that infraction, but jeez, Syd. It's still drinkable!

Step #4: Cook a dish that makes a statement.

Both kids were uncertain about the requirements for this step, even after reading the full entry in their badge book, so I encouraged them to think of it as cooking a "makeover" recipe. 

For this step, Syd made the raspberry lemon gelatin from Meal in a Mug--both children were absolutely enchanted by the idea of cooking! In a mug! She and I disagree about this step, actually; she decided mid-way through making the recipe that pouring the gelatin into individual glasses was silly (I agree, but still...), so she simply made it in a bowl. I pointed out, however, that Jello in a Bowl is NOT a recipe makeover, but simply the most basic way that one makes Jello. Syd then tried to convince me that adding fruit is the makeover part. I counter that adding fruit to Jello is the second most basic way to prepare it, and she should redo this step. She disagrees. Negotiations are ongoing.

Will made the Melting Chocolate Cake from Meal in a Mug. She says it was excellent, but I will say that a coffee mug in which a cake has been baked is super annoying to wash. 

Will also marked the chicken stew with herbed dumplings in Meal in a Mug, and I'm curious to see how she likes it. I am always on the lookout for easy lunches that the kids can prepare for themselves!

Step #5: Share your dishes on a culinary tour!

Our family often makes themed meals together, so when Will, still inspired by The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, suggested afternoon tea as a fun project, we all jumped on board! The kids and I each made one sweet recipe and one savory recipe. Matt made a savory sandwich and champagne cocktails for the adults, while the kids had tea, of course. The kids also helped me pick out some teacups and plates from Goodwill, and I made a tea service from them!

As part of our research, the kids and I spent a lesson during one school day watching these YouTube videos about afternoon tea--this is where we learned that we were planning to make afternoon tea, actually. Until then, we'd been calling it "high tea!" Gasp!

Will made cheese and pickle sandwiches with mustard, and a lemon tart. Syd made a paste from cheese, tomato, and onion for sandwiches, and blueberry scones. I made sandwiches using the veggie cream cheese recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, and an actual Victoria sponge from Say it with Cake. Will unearthed our family china, and she and Matt moved the school table out onto the back deck. I think the end result is absolutely delightful:

Our champagne cocktails are blue because we were experimenting with curacao liqueur. Syd found a recipe for a punch that uses it, since of course the punch MUST be blue (it's for her upcoming mermaid-themed birthday party), so although we'll be substituting curacao SYRUP for the party, we just wanted to try the liqueur. It's quite tasty!

And here are our two experts, newly certified in New Cuisine cooking:

We had a fun afternoon at the table, eating too many little sandwiches, speaking to each other like proper lords and ladies, and listening to classical music from the stereo.

Even though this badge is technically finished (other than Syd and that makeover recipe...), it's inspired us to plan some other activities. I found a tea room an hour away that does a full English breakfast and an afternoon tea, so we're planning a couple of weekend trips to eat there. Will found a recipe for Philadelphia Turtle Soup in The Founding Foodies, a book about the culinary experiences of our founding fathers, so Matt has promised to ask our local butcher shop, which does, on occasion order in exotic meat, if they can obtain farmed turtle meat--I assure you, this is a thing. Apparently. And I think we'll do more cooking from library cookbooks! All of us have been getting our recipes primarily from online sources for everything that we cook, but the act of researching cookbooks and cooking from them for this badge was a lot more fun than I think any of us had anticipated, and with the huge variety of cookbooks in our library, it was quick and easy to find recipes that looked novel and interesting.

Here are some other resources that we used for this badge, generally either to add depth to something that we're already doing or to bring the idea of cooking into a separate subject or activity that we're studying or planning:
P.S. Want more deets on all the fun Girl Scout and homeschooling activities that we do every day (and whether or not they work or are disastrous)? Check out my Craft Knife facebook page!

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