116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Even before the pandemic, the Cavanary family of North Liberty preferred cooking meals at home over going out to eat.
'It brings us together,” said Anthony, a former chef who now works as an assistant store leader for Kwik Star.
Both Anthony, 43, and Danielle, 41, grew up cooking at home and have continued that tradition with their two children, James, 14, and Macy, 9.
'I teach them a way of cooking where you can follow recipes - and that's fine - but cooking is an expression of yourself,” Anthony said. 'It's what you're feeling at that time. So I teach them how to use different herbs and layer the flavors and seasonings where it's not going to taste the same every time. That's part of the fun.”
Over the past year, like many people, the Cavanary family has been spending more time cooking and eating at home than usual.
Danielle, a project manager for Shive-Hattery in Cedar Rapids, has spent most of the pandemic year working from home. With so many of her fellow employees also spending their days at home, the company created a section on its internal website called The Quarantine Kitchen for employees to exchange recipes. Danielle has been regularly posting pictures and sharing recipes of her family's culinary creations.
Both of the Cavanary kids are attending school virtually so they're also spending more time at home and in the kitchen.
'Over quarantine, they've really blossomed with their food,” Danielle said.
When Anthony is gone for work, many times it's James who cooks breakfast or dinner for the family or snacks for his sister.
Macy has shown more interest in baking. A big success was baking chocolate malt cupcakes for Mother's Day.
'She did it on her own with Anthony just making sure she was getting the right ingredients and putting stuff in the oven for her,” Danielle said.
The Cavanary family has been conscious of what they eat for a number of years, since James was diagnosed with a peanut allergy at a young age. Admittedly, this can make cooking and eating at home easier and less stressful than eating out. Even something as simple as picking up burgers from a local restaurant has to be researched beforehand to see if the restaurant uses peanut oil or offers desserts that include peanuts.
At home, James enjoys making energy bars with granola. Because of his allergy, the Cavanarys have to check the ingredients every time, because companies will sometimes change their production methods making a brand unsafe for them to use.
'It's a little challenging sometimes, but he knows we put in that extra time to make sure that he can continue to cook,” Anthony said. 'He can continue to try new things.”
GETTING KIDS TO HELP
The Cavanarys make their own seasonings and rubs, such as taco, Cajun and Italian, sometimes with dried herbs that Anthony's dad, Karl, sends them from Tennessee.
Anthony and Danielle have the kids smell and taste the herbs and decide together which herbs go well with which dishes.
'It gets them exposed to different things and allows them to feel like they've accomplished something by making it,” Anthony said. 'Our goal is to make sure that when they go off to school, they know how to cook, they know how to take care of themselves.”
He suggests that families who want to get their kids involved in the kitchen start with small tasks that are simple but get kids invested in the meal.
'It's easy to have them start by shredding cheese for mac and cheese. Let them pour the pasta into the water,” Anthony said. 'It's little things that get them vested in the things that we make.”
The couple believes that cooking together and eating dinner together as a family is important.
'You have that time to talk about the day but also talk to each other,” Danielle said. 'So it's a time of teaching them, but you can also kind of break down the barriers while you're working side by side.”
Get cooking with the kids
Danielle and Anthony Cavanary share these tips for introducing your kids to cooking and baking.
' For younger children, buy a pair of cutting gloves that can keep their hands safe while cutting things like vegetables and bagels. You also can put their hand on top of yours to get them used to the motion of how things are cut.
' Let your kids plan a meal every week to increase their interest. This includes figuring out the ingredients, finding them at the store and helping cook the meal.
' Keep a variety of healthy ingredients in the house that can be combined to make easy snacks and inventive meals.
' Explain what healthy foods do for the body and talk about why you make certain food choices.
' Let kids experiment with smelling and tasting spices to inspire creativity.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Homemade puff pastry dough (or store-bought)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, 1 egg, salt, pepper, onions, garlic and parsley. Combine with hands until mixture is combined evenly.
Shape mixture into 1-1/2-inch-diameter meatballs.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place meatballs on baking sheet, spaced apart. Broil on high for 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flour a clean work surface. Cut pastry squares into 4x4-inch squares (8 squares total). In center of a pastry square, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Place meatball in center of mozzarella. Wrap pastry square around meatball. Repeat until all squares are used.
Place pastry squares, seam down, on parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl, and egg wash the outside of the pastry dough. Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve with marinara sauce and basil garnish.
3 tablespoons of jam (your choice)
3 tablespoons of sunflower butter or almond butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 medium eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Powdered sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 355 degrees.
Microwave the jam in a microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals, stirring between each time until the mixture is liquid enough to stir easily.
Repeat the same process with the almond butter. (If using a natural almond or sunflower butter, stir in the jar before microwaving.)
Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the milk, eggs and oil. Whisk until you have a thick batter. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.
Take dollops of the jam and spoon them on top of the batter in random locations. Repeat the same steps with the almond or sunflower butter. With a toothpick, swirl the jam and almond butter dollops lightly.
Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Check doneness with toothpick.
Cool for 10 minutes and sift powdered sugar on top, if desired.