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International Caterers Association

May 30, 2023

Basil Pesto Salmon

By

by Danielle Mahoney

Director of Staff Development

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Ever since my children could stand, they’ve been next to me at the stove as I cooked. When they were very young, they would join me at the cutting board and put their hands on mine as they “helped” me slice, dice, and chop. I’m a firm believer that the more opportunities children have to help in the kitchen, the less picky of eaters they will be and the healthier attitudes they will have about food and about themselves.

I wanted my daughters to be adventurous eaters, so I liked to introduce new foods and make sure they always tried everything. As they got a little older, they would express their likes and dislikes, which was also something I encouraged.

“Pink Chicken”

One day when my oldest was two or three, she came in from playing and asked what we were having for dinner. I told her we were having Basil Pesto Salmon, and she told me, “I don’t like salmon.” I knew that she had eaten salmon many times and had always enjoyed it, but I didn’t say anything. She went off to play some more, and her young memory forgot the interaction.

When we sat down to dinner that night, I thought I would try to fool her into eating, so when she asked what was on her plate I said, “Pink chicken.” Pink was her favorite color at the time, so it worked out well that the salmon was a sort of pink color. She ate every bite and said it was her favorite dinner and thanked me so much for making it. For years we continued to call salmon “pink chicken,” and even when she was old enough to know the difference, we continued the nickname. To this day, Basil Pesto Salmon is one of her favorite meals to eat and to cook herself. It’s super easy, nutritious, and delicious, and a great way for kids to flex their cooking skills.

To turn this dish into an extra-fancy affair, serve it as bite-size hors d’oeuvres on an appetizer buffet! And if you’re short on time, just buy some quality pesto instead of making your own.

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Basil Pesto Salmon

Salmon

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 salmon fillets, 5 oz each
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place salmon in lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper and allow to marinate while you prepare the pesto. (See Pesto recipe below.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Place 4 piles of parmesan (about 2 Tbsp in each pile) on a baking sheet, gently pat down to form into approx. 3-inch circles. Bake 4-5 min. until cheese starts to bubble and turn golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool and become crisp.
  4. Remove salmon from marinade, generously coated.
  5. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in sauté pan over med heat. When oil is hot, carefully place salmon in pan, and cook 4 min. Turn salmon over and coat with heaping Tbsp of pesto sauce. Cook additional 2-3 min. just until the fish flakes with fork.
  6. Serve topped with cheese crisp.

Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves (I like to substitute ½ cup fresh spinach leaves for half of the basil. It’s a great way to sneak in some greens)
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a food processor or high-powered blender, place the spinach, basil, and pine nuts. Pulse a few times to chop roughly.
  2. Add the cheese and garlic, and pulse several more times to combine.
  3. While blending, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream to keep the mixture emulsified.
  4. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides so all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Consistency should be similar to mashed potatoes with small, uniform chunks.

Enjoy!

May 16, 2023

Rice Atole

By

By Jenna Winger

Event Manager

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When we were trying to decide what recipe I should share, someone asked my son, Jaxon, “What’s the best thing your mom cooks?” Without even thinking about it, he instantly said, “Atole!”

Rice atole (pronounced “uh-toe-lee”) is a Mexican dessert—kind of like a pudding. Jaxon’s grandparents made it for him when he was a baby, and he looooves it. In fact, it was one of his first words! And since he loves it so much, I realized I’d better learn how to make it.

My one bit of advice is to be careful that you add both condensed milk and evaporated milk. I’ve tried to leave one out and double the other, but it doesn’t work!

white rice, spilled rice, white bowl, rice

Rice Atole

(makes 8 servings)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 5 cups water
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Directions
  1. In a rice cooker, combine rice, water, and cinnamon sticks. Cook for 10 minutes, longer if needed. Rice should be soft but not mushy.
  2. Remove cinnamon sticks. Add in butter, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla.
  3. If needed, cool the atole by adding a splash of milk.

May 2, 2023

Kids in the Kitchen: Tips for Helping Youngsters Learn to Cook

By

Ryan Crafts, Tristan, cooking with uncle, Kids in the Kitchen, peanut butter cookies, cookie sheet, glass of milk, Eat Good Food, tasting, laughing in kitchen

This summer when you start hearing the whines of “We’re bored,” what are you going to do? Put your kids to work in the kitchen, of course!

Wait, wait! Hear me out.

Cooking is a life skill that everyone needs sooner or later, so when you give your kids opportunities to learn in the kitchen, you’re preparing them for the day when they’ll move out on their own. (And they will eventually move out on their own, right? Right?)

But teaching kids to cook is about more than their independence. It also gives them confidence, teaches focus, fosters creativity, and reinforces fine motor skills and basic math skills. Children who learn to cook become more aware of what goes into their food, which generally means that they’ll be more open to trying new foods and more likely to make healthy food choices throughout their lives. Not only that, but the time you spend with your kids in the kitchen will be some of their most delicious memories.

So without further ado, here are our Top 10 Tips for Helping Youngsters Learn to Cook.

1. SAFETY FIRST

Kids + knives + raw ingredients + hot surfaces = why you need a plan to keep your kids (and everyone else) safe in the kitchen.

  • Show your kids how to hold and use a knife. If they’re younger, do it with them. (Danielle, one of our amazing Event Managers, had her very young daughters stand next to her and put their hand on hers as she cut, so they could get a feel for how it’s done correctly, They learned to respect—but not fear—knives.)
  • Don’t just warn your kids that stoves and ovens and pots and pans are hot; show them how to handle hot things safely.
  • Model the habits of food safety. Make sure they know which foods need to be refrigerated, how often we wash hands and surfaces, how we prevent cross-contaminating raw and cooked food, etc.
Kids in the kitchen, mom and daughter, cutting vegetables, learn to cook, red bell peppers, curly black hair. hold hands

2. MAKE IT FUN

Whether your kids learn to love or hate cooking starts with their earliest experiences in the kitchen. Think about how to make it special and fun for your youngsters. Turn on some music. Light a fragrant candle. Keep a few snacks on hand so that they don’t get hangry as they work. Make it a special privilege to wear Mom’s apron or use Dad’s chef knife. Work side by side. Tell stories. Let them talk about themselves. Give them small challenges or make it a game.

If you have the time and want to bond in the kitchen, challenge your child to a competition of Iron Chef: Family Edition. (Chocolate makes a great “secret ingredient” that must be included in every dish.) Invite their friends to be judges, but be prepared for a totally biased decision!

3. SHOW, DON’T TELL

Most kids (and adults) learn better when they’re shown what to do rather than just being told. Watching you peel the first carrot or measure the first cup of flour can help them complete the rest of the job with confidence. YouTube videos can be a great visual teaching tool.

4. GIVE PRAISE

When kids do something highly creative like cooking or writing poetry, they can be very vulnerable. They can easily feel criticized for their efforts, or they can feel proud and encouraged by the feedback they get. Be sure to give them sincere compliments for their successes and don’t make a big deal of their mistakes. Learning to fix errors and roll with setbacks is how kids learn resilience and gain the confidence to keep trying.

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5. GIVE AGE-APPROPRIATE TASKS

For kids to have fun and succeed in the kitchen, they have to be tasked with things they can actually do.

Very Young Kids

Children under 5 will struggle with fine motor skills. Still, there are plenty of things they can do like gathering ingredients from the fridge, wiping down a counter, or mixing things in a bowl. Meagan’s and Clayton's son, Tristan, (age 4) loves pouring ingredients and, of course, licking beaters.

Elementary Age Kids

Elementary age kids may enjoy the challenge of fine motor tasks like cracking eggs, juicing citrus, or peeling and cutting vegetables. They might be excited to use their developing skills to read recipes or perform tasks all on their own. Others, like Caleb’s daughter Hazel (age 8), will enjoy cooking most when they can do it with someone else.

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Preteens

Preteens still need some degree of supervision, but when they’ve shown that they understand and follow the safety rules, they’re ready to start using ovens, microwaves, and knives without someone standing over them. Don’t underestimate what kids this age can do in the kitchen! Caleb’s daughter Brina (age 13) decided she wanted to “cook around the world,” so she made a list of recipes from about twenty different countries and prepared them one at a time for the family, entirely on her own. She made everything from British Yorkshire pudding to Tongan lupulu to Danish pandekager. It’s amazing what kids with confidence and basic cooking skills can do!

Teens

Cooking skills become even more important as older kids get ready to leave home. Before they’re on their own, make sure your teens have had chances to learn the essentials like planning and shopping for healthy, affordable meals; keeping a clean kitchen; and using appliances like crockpots, toaster ovens, or air fryers. Independent life will be so much easier for kids if they’ve mastered a few go-to recipes and are comfortable in the kitchen.

6. INCLUDE KIDS IN THE WHOLE PROCESS

As you know, making a meal entails more than just cooking. As they gain experience, involve your kids in each stage of the process: meal planning, shopping, prepping ingredients, setting a table, managing their time in the kitchen, cooking, plating, serving, and cleaning up.

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7. GIVE KIDS OWNERSHIP

As kids grow comfortable in the kitchen, they can take on more and more autonomy. From an early age, children can be presented with choices. (“Should we have this vegetable or that one?” “Do you want to slice them this way or that way?”) Involving them in meal planning and shopping can further build their sense of ownership. So can giving them opportunities to present the food and talk about how they helped make it.

Older children can be given responsibility for making a specific dish or even for planning and executing an entire meal. Ryan’s daughter, Cayelle, (age 15) likes using her skills to plan and host parties for her friends without Mom’s or Dad’s help. The more initiative and ownership kids are allowed in the kitchen, the more likely they will become confident cooks (and hosts) for life.

8. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY

As they gain confidence, kids tend to become more creative and curious in the kitchen. If they want to experiment with recipes and try to make improvements, let them! Not every experiment is going to make the recipe better, but it will always be a success if your kids learn something in the process. And sooner or later they’re going to have a win! Matt’s daughter, Ginny, (age 18) refuses to share the secret of the World’s Best Fry Sauce that she perfected as a kid, but she’s always happy to make it for the family. It’s a chance for her to shine.

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9. TAKE TIME FOR REWARDS

Even for professional chefs who have been in the kitchen our whole lives, cooking is still work, and it deserves to be rewarded. Maybe keep a supply of Reese’s Pieces or some other favorite treat on hand to reward yourselves for a job well done!

10. TEACHING IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN

A fantastic way to reinforce lessons and skills your kids learn in the kitchen is by letting them teach their younger siblings. Or, if they don’t have willing younger subjects, let them flex their skills by teaching you a new recipe or technique they’ve learned.

Happy summer, Eat well!

April 25, 2023

Not Yo’ Mama’s Peach Cheesecake

By

by Clayton Price

Director of Event Operations

Clayton Price, Culinary Crafts, pasta, eating noodles, cheese wheel, Director of Event Operations, bald, chef, funny eating picture, chopsticks, slurp, black and white,  Utah caterer, top catering, Utah events

It’s hard to explain how important Jell-O was in my childhood. My mother had an entire section of her pantry dedicated to that relic of the 1950s. Jell-O was a staple at our table, and more than once, after she’d set out a delicious Sunday dinner of homemade rolls, homegrown veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy, and homemade pies, I heard Mom apologize, “I’m so sorry; I didn’t make Jell-O.”

My wife sees it a little differently.

As a member of the Crafts family (as in Culinary Crafts), my wife grew up with a very different culinary childhood and a different attitude about Jell-O. In our first year of marriage, my mom happened to tell Meagan that my absolute favorite dessert was a no-bake peach cheesecake topped with Jell-O. Always excited about a new recipe, Meagan decided to surprise me with it one day when I came home from school.

Well, Meagan is experimental when she bakes, discarding and substituting ingredients when it suits her, which consistently leads to tremendous results that are 1000% better than the originals. However, this is not one of those recipes.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for Jell-O.

Meagan spent months working on this recipe, making dozens of edits and substitutions. She replaced the Jell-O with a homemade peach gelée, and she substituted fresh vanilla whipped cream for the Cool Whip. She tried using Culinary Crafts' famous cheesecake base instead of this no-baked version. Meagan experimented with fresh peaches, frozen peaches, diced peaches, sliced peaches, pureed peaches, compotes, marmalades, and curds. She tried a myriad of different ingredients, combinations, and setting methods, but nothing seemed to work the same way as the Jell-O original.

After one of these attempts, I finally asked Meagan, “Why not just follow the recipe?” She admitted that she had—several times—but she had to throw them out because she couldn't make the Jell-O set.

I had to laugh. Of all the millions of things my wife, the Queen of the Kitchen, does expertly, making Jell-O is not one of them. And in this recipe, there really is no substitute for these classic ingredients.

We still make this peach cheesecake with Jell-O whenever we visit my parents, but Meagan reminds me every time that once my mother passes away, she’s never making this recipe again. She says I’d better enjoy it while I can.

And I do!

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NO-BAKE PEACH CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 12 oz Cool Whip, defrosted large bowl of popcorn

Jell-O Filling

  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 oz peach Jell-O
  • 6 cups of peeled & diced fruit of your choice (Frozen fruit works great, but I love using fresh peaches in season. Match the fruit to the flavor of Jell-O.)

Crust

  • 16 graham crackers, crushed in a blender
  • ½ cup butter

    Directions

    1. 1Melt butter and stir together with graham crackers. Gently press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9X13 pan. Place in fridge to chill.
    2. Combine water, cornstarch, and sugar in a saucepan. Boil until thick, then add peach Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Set Jell-O filling aside until it has cooled, then add peeled & diced fruit.
    3. In separate bowl, stir cream cheese filling ingredients until fluffy and well blended.
    4. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the crust. Spoon the Jell-O filling over top of the cream mixture.
    5. Chill until set. ENJOY!
  • April 13, 2023

    Pink Popcorn

    By

    by Kate Morrow

    Wedding and Event Specialist

    Kate Morrow, pink popcorn, grandma's recipe, Culinary Crafts, Utah catering, Utah wedding and event specialist, wedding and event planner

    Growing up, I always loved the treats Grandma LaDawn made. Whenever my extended family got together, my grandma would always bring a tasty treat. It’s hard to choose a favorite of her desserts, but the one that brings back the most memories is her pink popcorn.

    This recipe is really simple. It’s basically sugary popcorn dyed pink! Grandma would also change up the color of the popcorn for special occasions and holidays. For St. Patrick’s Day she would dye it green, and if it was your birthday you got to choose whatever color you wanted the popcorn! This recipe is such a simple treat that is perfect for any holiday or celebration.

    PINK POPCORN

    Ingredients

    • large bowl of popcorn
    • 2 cups sugar
    • ⅓ cup water
    • 3 Tbsp butter
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • a few drops of food coloring

    Directions

    1. Pop the popcorn using an air popper or the stove.
    2. Pour out onto a flour sack towel and allow unpopped kernels to fall to the bottom. Scoop popcorn (minus unpopped kernels) back into large bowl. Set aside.
    3. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
    4. Pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn and mix until all the popcorn is coated.
    5. Spread out the popcorn on wax paper and allow to cool. Enjoy!

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