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Cookbook Author: Amy Houts Interview

Amy Houts is an author of 32 children's books and 3 kids cookbooks.  Her first cookbook is  Learning Through Cooking Activities.  Her second cookbook, Cooking Around the Calendar, helps teach kids to cook throughout the seasons as well as tips on what kids can do in the kitchen.

Her newest cookbook, Cooking Around the Country with Kids, gives children and adults the opportunity to learn more about food and recipes throughout the USA. She's also included some food trivia about the US as well giving readers a tasty experience.
All three are unique cookbooks that kids will enjoy learning to cook with.
Ms. Houts was so kind to answer our interview questions as well as share a recipe from her new cookbook. Thank you!

Cooking Around the Country with Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities

What is an interesting food trivia fact you enjoyed learning about in your new cookbook Cooking around the Country with Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities?
There were so many interesting facts I learned while researching for Cooking Around the Country with Kids. Children might be interested to know that livestock--cows, pigs, and chickens--eat “feed corn,” which is harder and drier than “sweet corn” that people eat. Another fun fact is that hot dogs used to be called “hot dachshunds dogs” because of their resemblance to the long-bodied dogs.

Have you always enjoyed cooking?
When I was in seventh grade, I baked an apple pie all by myself for the first time. It was fun! My family complimented and encouraged me. That was the beginning of a life where food and cooking has always been a backdrop. When I was in high school, I often cooked dinner for my family, at first to get out of doing other more tedious chores.

Soon I realized I wanted to learn more about cooking and planned to have a career as a chef. At 17, I attended the Culinary Institute of America for a year before working in the kitchen of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Memphis. That was when I realized professional cooking was not for me, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking with my two daughters (now grown) and for my family and friends.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
I love baking bread, cake, and especially pie. Pie is a favorite of mine because I like the way the dough feels when I’m rolling the crust. Baking is such a sensory experience where you smell sweet aromas, touch soft dough, and taste the delicious results!

What do you think is the best time of year to get kids involved in cooking? Why?
Parents have an opportunity everyday to cook with their kids. As far as the best time of year, I would say the winter when it’s too cold to play outside for very long. Baking or cooking in the cozy, warm kitchen is a fun activity when you choose a recipe that children can take part in. My cookbook suggests what children can do such as, measuring, pouring, and/or stirring. Depending on their age and ability, children can help choose a recipe. Time the recipe so you can have a snack when it’s done!

Is there anything you want to add?
Each geographical region in the USA has its own special flavors and foods creating an abundance of delicious dishes. The special foods from each region are directly related to the melting pot of people who settled here and the geography of the landscape. The fruitful plains, the fertile valleys, and the fresh and salt waters produce an abundance of food.

The following is a flavorful recipe from the Southwest chapter. It tastes good with chili, soup, or stew.

Confetti Corn Bread
Red and green chilies look like confetti in this cheesy cornbread.
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 (8 1/2-oz.) can creamed corn
1 (4-oz.) can diced mild green chilies and/or diced pimentos
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Children can measure flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center and add milk, corn, chilies, oil, egg and cheese. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened, about 50 strokes.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until light brown.
Cut into 9 squares. Best served warm with plenty of butter.

Yield: 9 servings

Easy variation: Use 2 packages corn bread mix, made according to package directions, adding 1 (8 1/2-oz.) can creamed corn, 1 (4-oz.)can diced mild green chilies, and 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese.

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