The rising popularity of competitive cooking shows featuring young culinary masterminds has sparked children’s interest in the kitchen. Fueled by this trend and inspired by the positive impact cooking healthy meals has on younger generations, the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), creator of the iconic got milk? campaign, has launched a new statewide program that features recipes created by and for kids. Titled “Jr Got Milk? Chef,” got milk? scouted talented kid chefs throughout California and tasked them with developing simple yet creative meals that are perfect for summer and back-to-school menus.
Cooking has become a popular pastime with children, and it comes as no surprise since there is an increase in the number of consumers preparing and eating meals at home. Exposure to cooking at home inspires kids to get involved and allows them to develop a taste for fresh, wholesome ingredients.The kid-friendly creations prepared by the Jr. Got Milk? Chefs are packed with fresh fruits, vegetables and smart ingredient swaps (e.g. buckwheat instead of traditional flour). And with milk as the pairing beverage of choice for each meal, the overall nutritional value beats that of pre-packaged options.
“What better way to keep kids engaged in the summer than by allowing them to express their creativity in the kitchen,” said Steve James, executive director of the CMPB. “I was impressed by all of our junior chefs’ recipes, and was excited to see how milk plays a key role in complementing each one,” said Steve.
An example of creativity at work is the “Mole Nachos” dish created by father and son team Scott Davis and Max Davis Young of “The Culinary Dude”, a cooking academy based in San Francisco. With smoked paprika, cinnamon and semisweet chocolate chips, these nachos are sophisticated yet a breeze to make – and their flavor and crunch go perfectly with a creamy glass of milk! Another example are the “Buckwheat and Blueberry Pancakes” created by Tina Fanelli-Moraccini, Valentina and Mimi Moraccini from “Piccolo Chef” in Los Angeles. Their recipe proves that not all pancakes are created equal, as they contain ground flaxseeds and chia seeds that are full of fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fats (aka good fat). Paired with a glass of milk, it’s a well-balanced breakfast or lunch for late sleepers!
Tina Fanelli Moraccini is the co-founder of Piccolo Chef and the Piccolo Chef Foundation, which has been running cooking programs taught by experienced kitchen professionals for kids since 2008. Fanelli Moraccini is also the co-author of The Piccolo Chef Cookbook, which focuses on healthy cooking with kids. Inspired by her Italian background, she and two of her friends started Piccolo Chef in order to help kids and families raise their Food IQ. Fanelli Moraccini currently lives in L.A. with her husband and two daughters who share her same passion for cooking.
When seven-year- old Chef Mimi isn’t tree climbing, frog catching, playing the violin or coding, she’s practicing her number one hobby: cooking! Chef Mimi began cooking at the age of 18 months (using a learning tower), helping her mom Tina tear the basil and stir the batters. Nowadays, Mimi loves making pancakes on a Sunday morning and enjoys cooking with her hero, Chef Gino of Piccolo Chef.
Here’s the buckwheat and blueberry pancakes created by by Tina Fanelli Moraccini, Valentina and Mimi Moraccini from “Piccolo Chef” in Los Angeles:
Makes 3-4 pancakes
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsps. of melted butter
1 large egg
½ cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp. ground flaxseed
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. oil (for cooking pancakes)
Whisk dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground flaxseed and chia seeds. In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in blueberries and set aside. Next, add 1 tsp. of oil to a large pan and spread evenly using a paper towel. Place pan over medium heat and pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately ¼ cup for each pancake. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side. Serve warm and top with maple syrup or agave. Pair with a cold glass of milk and enjoy!
Eleven-year- old Chef Valentina has been cooking since she was a toddler, creating her own original dishes and snacks, such as her prosciutto-wrapped goat cheese with arugula. An adventurous eater, she’s always excited try new and interesting ingredients or cuisines. Her favorites – besides Italian, of course – are Ethiopian and Indian. When Valentina is not playing the piano or the clarinet, you will find her helping out in the kitchen, shopping and prepping ingredients, and even meal planning! Valentina was the inspiration behind Piccolo Chef and has starred in a cooking video series as well as the Piccolo Chef Cookbook.
All of the Jr. Got Milk? Chefs have contributed their own unique styles, reinventing traditional favorites into tasty and easy-to-make meals. “We encourage kids to try these milk pairing recipes at home as a fun way to keep their minds active while getting the nutrition they need,” added Steve James. When kids are learning to cook they are also learning science, language, counting, fractions, problem-solving, sharing, fine motor skills and they’re also reading and learning about other cultures – all of which make cooking an enjoyable and educational summer activity. For all of the summer and back-to-school Jr. Got Milk? Chefs’ recipes, visit: www.gotmilk.com and follow got milk?
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