Cooking Magic for Kids

Kids grow Container Citrus Trees

For thousands of years around the world, people have been growing citrus trees in clay pots and moving them to protected areas in the winter. Because citrus trees are attractive evergreen trees that produce masses of highly fragrant flowers that perfume the air, these potted trees have decorated palaces as well as patios and make a desirable houseplant. They have vigorous dark green glossy foliage and brightly colored fruit whose edible rind contains aromatic oils. Kids can get an organic dwarf citrus tree, like a Meyer lemon tree that can produce 30 or more lemons a year in a 12” pot.

Citrus fruit is terrific for kids optimal health as an excellent source of Vitamin C and phytonutrients with antioxidant and antibiotic effects that fight cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. Citrus oil is the most effective degreasant and cleaning agent on the planet and is biodegradable and non toxic.

Because citrus trees produce heavy fruit, upright spreading branches need to be pruned back to an outward facing bud to maintain a dense, strong branched plant that will hold the weight of the fruit, especially when grown in a container. The best way to store the fruit is on the tree to be harvested throughout the year, as some citrus can be left on the tree for several months. Kids can add fruit, beauty, and a lovely scent to their home by growing a citrus tree in a movable container on their patio.

Kid Chef Red Lentil Stew

When kids make this stew, the spices and flavors fill the kitchen with wonderful aromas. Red lentils are high in protein, fiber, and Vitamin B. Kids can add a rainbow of veggies to this dish as each color is a different spectrum of phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Brightly colored fruits and veggies are the magic secret for all around health.

Toast 1 tsp organic cumin seeds in a hot sauce pan and reduce the heat to low shaking the pan occasionally for 3 minutes and set aside. Pour a 14 ounce can of organic chopped tomatoes into a large pot. Add ½ cup organic red lentils, ¼ cup organic jasmine rice, 2 cups of organic vegetable broth, 2 chopped organic celery stalks, 1 large chopped organic carrot, 1 chopped white sweet potato, ¼ cup organic onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp fresh basil, 1 tsp fresh oregano, 1 tsp fresh thyme, ½ tsp sea salt, ⅛ tsp red pepper flakes, and the toasted cumin seeds. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 – 25 minutes. 

Kids can spread ¼ cup organic walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet in a preheated 350° oven and toast for 8 minutes. Chop the walnuts and pour into a small bowl with 2 tsp fresh parsley, 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp lemon zest, 2 tsp fresh organic lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt. Kids can serve the stew in bowls with some of the walnut mix spooned on top.

Kids make Classic Herb Sauces

Gremolata, pesto, and chimichurri are raw herbal toppings from different cultures used for sauces or marinades containing herbs, spices, nuts, and lemon. These sauces are fantastic drizzled over pasta, beans, sandwiches, grilled veggies, or soup. Kids can use fresh greens from the garden to add to the sauce: radish greens, garlic scapes, carrot tops, fennel fronds, spinach, kale, arugula. Kids can try different nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios.

Gremolata: Combine zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, 2 garlic cloves, 1 cup parsley in blender add ½ cup olive oil, lemon juice, pinch chili flakes, ⅛ tsp sea salt, pepper, capers

Pesto: Put in a blender 1 clove garlic, ¼ c fresh parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp pine nuts, add  1 c fresh basil leaves, 3 tbsp olive oil, sea salt to taste and blend until smooth. Or kids can combine in the blender, 3 cups fresh basil leaves, ½ cup cashew mix, 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 organic garlic cloves, ¼ tsp ground pepper, ¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil until smooth.

Chimichurri: Combine ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup lime juice, 2 cloves garlic, ½ minced shallot in the blender and blend. Add 1 ½ cups organic extra virgin olive oil and blend. Add ¼ cup fresh cilantro, ¼ cup fresh parsley, ¼ cup fresh oregano, ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp ground black pepper.

Kids can store these sauces in the freezer. Spoon the herb sauce into an ice cube tray and cover. When the sauce is frozen, pop out the cubes and transfer them to a resealable bag. They will keep 6 months in the freezer.

Kids Gardens Prepare for Emergencies

Kids can grow an organic veggie garden in their backyard and provide their family with a sustainable city living plan. Kids can plant potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, and cabbage in raised beds that will store well in cellars for fresh food in case the power goes out during weather disasters. Kids can also grow food in container gardens on a deck, balcony, or patio or indoors in a sunny window or under grow lights. Kids are surprised how much food they can grow in a small space.

Salad greens, kale, and stir-fry greens grow April through November and even longer under cover or in warm winter climates, like Southern California, where they grow all year. Fruit trees and berries provide backyard beauty as well as edibles to eat in season or to preserve. Two thirds of a perennial plant, such as asparagus, artichoke, and rhubarb, can be harvested to eat and continue to look nice in the landscape. Many herbs are also perennials, easy to grow, and only need a small space to provide plenty for teas and seasonings.

Salads and fruits can be eaten raw, but kids like a warm comforting meal in a disaster. Garden grills, camp stoves, and solar ovens are good alternatives to cook dinner when the power goes out, but most need to be used outside or in the garage with the door open. A good cooler with ice packs can hold often used items and the refrigerator can be kept shut. If the power remains out for an extended time, having a back up solar generator is a good plan. For those families that want self reliance, off grid solar panels on the roof are available. Growing an organic veggie garden is a good idea to provide fresh food in case of weather disasters and other emergencies.

Kid Chef Date Nut Delight

Kids love these bite size treats packed with goodness. Dates are a brain healthy food rich in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Baking with organic whole wheat pastry flour makes a more flakey tender crust with less gluten than regular whole wheat flour. The walnuts and pecans are high in protein and give this treat a nice crunch.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Kids can pop paper holders in a 24 mini muffin tray. Pour ¼ cup organic walnuts and ¼ cup organic pecans on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. 

In the blender, mix ½ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, ¼ cup organic brown sugar, ¼ cup organic chopped walnuts, 1 tbsp organic cornstarch, 2 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil, and a dash of sea salt. Kids can crumble the dough with their fingers. Put about 1 tbsp of the crust mixture into each mini muffin cup and press evenly into the bottoms. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then let cool.

In the blender, combine about ¾ cup or 6 organic chopped and pitted medjool dates, ¼ cup organic pecans, 1 ½ tbsp organic cacao powder, 1 ½ tsp organic maple syrup, ½ tsp vanilla, and 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and mix until it become a paste. Scoop the paste into a small bowl. Put 2 tsp of filling into each mini muffin cup on top of the crust and smooth down the tops. Put the mini muffin tray in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. These vegan cookies satisfy like pecan pie with less calories and less carbohydrates.

Kids cook with Lemons

When kids grow an organic Meyer Lemon tree in a pot on the patio or in a sunny room indoors, they can have a beautiful, sweet smelling tree that produces the most popular fruit on the planet.  Lemons are a  wonderful fruit to use in cooking; kids can use the juice and the zest to brighten any appetizer, salad, dish, dessert and make a refreshing drink. Lemons are good for the body; they promote hydration, aid digestion, support weight loss, and improve skin quality. Lemons are great for cleaning the house; they have antiseptic and preservative properties, and they can be used to bleach, disinfect, and deodorize. 

For a healthy and yummy salad, kids can pick the outside leaves of the salad greens and sprigs of herbs growing in their raised bed garden, add 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, and a dash of salt.  

To balance any dish, kids can add a squeeze of lemon to get just the right acid to make the dish sing. Acid balances flavors by contrasting with the sugar, salt, fat, and starch in a dish. Kids can also use the skin of the lemon, which contains essential oils, and finely grate the yellow skin  to create zest. Lemon juice and zest are used to make numerous desserts, including pie, sorbet, and cookies. 

Kids love lemonade! Kids lemonade stands are popular every summer across the country. Few fruit have played such an important role in cooking throughout the centuries as the lemon.

Kids Permaculture Food Forest

Unlike most backyard veggie gardens, a food forest is planted once and left to grow with little care. Kids can design their food forest by choosing certain local organic heirloom root vegetables, fruit trees, salad greens, herbs, native flowers, perennials, and berries that will grow year after year without replanting. Local permaculture gardeners can recommend the right varieties and may share seeds and plants. Popular perennial veggies include: asparagus, rhubarb, kale, artichoke, onion, garlic, and radicchio. Kids should plant their perennials and reliable self-seeding plants in the autumn. In dry climates, kids will need to occasionally water their food forest in the summer. Kids will also need to remove any weeds that come up before they produce seeds.

Kids can harvest most of their crop, but need to leave some plants to go to seed; or leave the largest onion or garlic bulb in the ground to produce more and harvest the rest for eating. Seeds will develop naturally; as the plant matures, it dries and drops its seeds on the soil to grow again. Perennial plants will last for years, some will die back in winter to regrow in the spring. Kids should only harvest part of the perennial plant to eat and leave a third to continue to grow.

Interplanting the herbs, flowers, and veggies with fruit trees and berries discourages pest, weeds, and diseases, as long as each plant gets the sun it needs. Kids can let the leaves fall to  the ground and enrich the soil. Although some plants look like weeds when they are producing seeds, a food forest can be quite decorative. Occasionally, kids will need to renew their food forest with seeds, bulbs, or starter plants. But mostly, kids can create a food forest, allow it to grow wild, and enjoy the harvest of Mother Nature’s bounty.