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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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A new generation drawn to the kitchen

As a mother of three grown daughters, I kinda knew what to expect when I was asked to help judge a Teen Iron Chef competition. The contest was open to boys and girls in grades 4 through 12 and hosted by the Bloomingdale Regional Library.

The thought of my tween- and teen-aged girls cooking always made me a little nervous. I'm not one for mess, and mess was inevitable when they took over the kitchen. And who knew when was the last time they washed their hands.

When I cook, I clean the cutting board, utensils, measuring cups and mixing bowls as I use them. If by chance I spill an ingredient on the counter, I wipe it up right away. The truth is, I can't handle mess. I have control issues.

Every parent at one time or another has thought, “It's just easier to do it myself.” I'm sorry to say that except for chores like setting the table and washing the dishes, the majority of the time I found it easier to shop and prepare family meals by myself.

Now, honestly, I regret not letting my girls be in the kitchen with me more often.

I realized this at the competition, as the young competing chefs dove toward the ingredient table, which was covered with frozen chicken strips, cans of black beans, corn and peas, bags of marshmallows and chocolate chips and pouches of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice.

It became even more clear when I was blown away by the look of intense purpose and skill that these kids brought to the cooking contest.

And it crystalized as I watched the young “cheftestants” in a flurry of stress and excitement finish working as the timer counted down.

They were so darn cute my face hurt from smiling.

Like the televised Iron Chef competition, which the library's second annual event was modeled after, a secret ingredient was revealed right before the competition began. This year's ingredient – Greek yogurt.

The enthusiastic chefs had 45 minutes to impress a panel of three judges with their culinary prowess.

One at a time, each team captain then delivered an entree, smoothie and dessert and explained their creations to the judges.

After the winning team was announced there were a few tears. But hey, even the Chopped chefs on television cry sometimes.

Some things never change though. It took a long time to clean the stations and even longer for me to stop smiling.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.

Greek Yogurt Parmesan Baked Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, seasoned salt and pepper in a bowl. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Coat each chicken breast with yogurt mixture and place on foiled baking sheet. Optional: sprinkle the top of the chicken with more grated cheese. Bake for 45 minutes. Season with a dash of fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, if desired.

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