by Dennis Dalman
There are very few foods 6-year-old adventurous Kaitlyn Reichel of Sartell won’t try (she even likes peas and sauerkraut), and she’s also fearless in the kitchen as a young chef, eager to try any recipe that comes her way.
A video of her making Stuffed Poblano Peppers is now online on the Uncle Ben’s Rice website, and if enough people vote for Kaitlyn, she could win a $30,000 makeover for her elementary school’s kitchen, plus $15,000 for a college fund just for her. The votes will count as 25 percent of her final score in the contest. Kaitlyn is a first-grader at Sartell’s Pine Meadow Elementary. To see Kaitlyn’s video, go to: www.unclebens.com/ben’s-beginners.
The video shows an amazingly kitchen-confident (and delightful) Kaitlyn as she speaks to the viewers while making her stuffed peppers, her mother Cindy at her side. Kaitlyn’s video is one of 230 videos on that website. Viewers have until Nov. 3 for the first round of voting, and each viewer can vote one time every 24 hours. The 25 finalists will be announced Nov. 10. Then a second round will narrow those winners down to the top five.
Cindy, also a superb cook, was perusing the Uncle Ben’s Facebook page one day when they learned about the Uncle Ben’s Cooking Contest for Beginners.
“We thought it would be something fun for us to try,” Cindy told the Newsleader during an interview during which, by coincidence, Kaitlyn was happily busy making another batch of her delicious stuffed poblanos.
A poblano is a rather large, usually mild, dark-green chili pepper, often four to five inches long and about 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide. It resembles an overweight jalapeno pepper. When dried, they are known as ancho peppers.
Poblanos, because of their larger size, are ideal for stuffing. For Kaitlyn’s recipe, see end of this story.
Needless to say, Kaitlyn’s family is very proud of her – mother Cindy, father Brandon, 4-year-old brother Joseph. Joseph doesn’t cook by himself, not just yet, but he happily serves as Kaitlyn’s “taste-taster,” and, so far, he’s seldom turned up his nose at her culinary entrees.
So far, Kaitlyn has mastered many recipes, including Chicken-Tortilla Soup, Black-Bean Chili, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp, Hawaiian Pie and, not to forget, her awesome Stuffed Poblano Peppers.
Cooking comes easy to Kaitlyn.
“It’s easy, peasy, lemon squeezy,” she likes to say.
Cindy said she and Kaitlyn won’t be disappointed if she doesn’t win the Uncle Ben’s contest because they’ve had fun with the whole process, including making the video with father Brandon doing the filming.
Cooking is an excellent way for parents and children to bond and to learn together, Cindy noted. Kaitlyn, for example, has honed her reading, science and math skills as she learns more and more about the art of cooking and baking. It also unleashes her creativity in teamwork with her mother.
Kaitlyn’s first baking effort was an angel-food box cake with pineapple in it. She made it when she was only 4, with mother’s help.
“She had so much fun making that, and she was so proud of it,” Cindy said.
Another plus about learning to cook earlier is that children, like Kaitlyn, learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits.
“She eats lots and lots of vegetables, always trying something new,” Cindy noted. “Cauliflower, radishes, green beans. Even sauerkraut.”
To Cindy, cooking will always be a family tradition, something to pass on generation to generation. She has fond, loving memories of cooking with her mother, Marlene, and with Grandma Christine “Tinker” while growing up in Lowry, Minn.
“We made a lot of traditional Czechoslovakian foods from our heritage, especially delicious pastries,” she said.
Mother Cindy and daughter Kaitlyn plan to enjoy many more years of cooking together with new food adventures, continuing an age-old tradition.
Here is the recipe Kaitlyn uses:
Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Roast four to five large poblano peppers under the broiler until they blister and turn blackish. Then put them in a big bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Peel off skins. Make a long slit in each one and remove seeds.
For base under peppers:
In large bowl, combine:
1 tsp. cumin
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chunky salsa
Mix those ingredients together.
Put half of that sauce in bottom of large baking dish. Then put the halved, roasted peppers on top of the sauce in dish.
To finish sauce in skillet:
To the other half of the sauce still in mixing bowl, add the following:
1 cup “Mexican Four-Cheese” shredded cheese or any other favorite meltable cheese, such as Co-Jack
1 cup Uncle Ben’s rice (cooked)
1-1/2 cups shredded or finely diced cooked chicken
Mix all that together well. Then gently stuff the peppers with that mixture.
Sprinkle tops of peppers generously with shredded cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered, at 350 degrees.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top of each one.