Cooking with kids at the DeWitt’s home

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Vanessa DeWitt began cooking with 12-year-old Damon and 8-year-old Jade when they were about 7 and 3 years old. The DeWitt kitchen frequently bubbles with the tastes and smells of what Damon calls “a load of goodness.”

“I want them to know where their food comes from,” said Vanessa. The family frequents local markets, butcher shops and farmers markets. They also have a small garden where they grow their own tomatoes and herbs. “If you cook with really good ingredients, you can’t go wrong.”

Cooking as a family, said Damon, “helps us to interact more, and have more family time.”

“He loves the noisy kitchen power tools,” said Vanessa, while the artistic and theatrical Jade said that she particularly enjoys “whisking and seeing the colors mixing around in the bowls.”

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Jade’s favorite things to cook include lasagna, pesto pasta, calzones, egg sandwiches and BLT – bacon, linguini and fresh tomato.

“I love bacon,” said Damon; the BLT pasta dish is one of his favorites as well.

To make the DeWitt’s BLT pasta, sauté 2 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes and a few cloves of fresh garlic, salt and pepper in a little olive oil. Add 1 pound of cooked linguini and sauté for a minute longer, then mix in 1 pound of cooked, crumbled bacon and serve with a bit of shaved parmesan cheese on top.

“We like to make things tasty,” said Vanessa, and “adventurous,” added Jade.

“We eat very seasonal, and [when the weather turns cooler] we make seafood chowder with bacon, shrimp, corn and sweet red peppers.”

Not one for doing the same thing all the time, Vanessa doesn’t always stick with recipes. “I like to change it up,” she said.

Vanessa’s grandmother passed away in June, and Vanessa inherited her popover tray. More recently, the family visited Mt. Desert Island, where they tasted the Jordan Pond House’s signature popovers.

“I think my mom’s popovers are better,” said Damon.

“You can make them savory or you can make them sweet, but you can’t open the oven while they’re cooking,” instructed Vanessa.

Obviously with Halloween on her mind, Jade said of the savory popovers, “Vampires would hate this, [but] I would have them for dessert.”

“They love, love, love them,” said Vanessa, who shared her recipe with us.

Jade’s culinary inspirations often come from books that she reads. For example, said Vanessa, “She read a book at school about a Spanish woman who made tortilla Espanola and Jade asked to make it at home.”

To make tortilla Espanola, begin by coating the bottom of a heavy cast iron skillet with olive oil. Then, place one layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pan and cook for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Add layers of vegetables and herbs.

“Tomatoes, spinach and herbs from my garden like cilantro and basil,” said Jade, adding, “It’s a creative food!”

Whisk 8 eggs and add them to the skillet. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees “until the middle isn’t wiggly,” said Vanessa.

Invert the pan and slice it upside down into pie sections. “It’s wonderful for breakfast or brunch and, served warm or cool, it’s a great crowd pleaser to bring to parties.

“My parents live in Greene, and we [recently] had a pie day,” said Vanessa. “My dad wanted to show them that apples don’t have to be perfect to taste good, and we made three pies from the apples we picked.” Damon did all the peeling, and Jade and Vanessa’s mom made the crusts.

When asked what their favorite holiday food is, Jade said enthusiastically: “I like pumpkin pie.”

Damon agreed: “That’s what I was gonna say!”

When it comes to decorating things like holiday cookies, “My favorite thing,” said Vanessa, “is to set everything out and let them decorate,” and their annual cookie decorating party is a holiday favorite.

“For my class we made pigeon cookies,” said Jade who had read a book about pigeons, turning the pigeons into turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“She’s the best at making meat balls,” said Vanessa, “and she doesn’t give up or stop until they’re all made and they’re all the same size.”

Damon, also a sticker for consistency, “is great at making salmon pie,” a local favorite.

“I like meat pie a lot,” he said. “We’ve never made it but one of [Vanessa’s] aunts makes it every year at Christmas time.”

In the DeWitt kitchen they like to play a game called “What’s in the soup?’”

“Damon,” who someday wants to be an engineer and build airplanes, “is really good at guessing the ingredients,” said Vanessa.

“We love food,” shared Vanessa, and preparing food as a family is a great way to share love while teaching children skills that they will use and enjoy for a lifetime.

Popovers

1.5 TBSP butter, melted

3 eggs

1.5 c. milk

¾ tsp. salt

1.5 c. flour

Wish together the wet ingredients and salt.

If you prefer savory popovers, the DeWitts recommend using half wheat and half white flours, adding a couple cloves of chopped garlic and freshly snipped rosemary to the wet ingredients.

Mix in flour(s) to make a batter.

Preheat over to 425 degrees and warm up the empty popover tray (or muffin tin) for about 2 minutes. Coat 6-8 cups and fill each about 2/3 full with batter.

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, without opening the oven door.

And finally, according to Damon “prepare for the deliciousness!” The most difficult part of this recipe is, clearly, the 30-minute wait.

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