Kids can grow a handy container of organic salad greens by the door to pick for dinner as lettuces like some shade. A secret to making great salads is less is more. Too many ingredients muddle the flavors and not all ingredients go together. First wash all the greens in a salad spiner, a plastic strainer kids can use to spin the leaves dry. Kids can taste each leaf to decide which type of greens will be the bases of their salad. Some lettuces and greens have complementary flavors and a mix of greens adds texture and visual appeal. Kids can add one or a variety of veggies that are especially yummy in salad, such as, radishes, carrots, broccoli, peas, celery, corn, or asparagus. Kids can slice or grate raw veggies, tasting each ingredient to make sure it doesn’t become too busy. Kids can also roast or grill veggies for their salad. For texture and protein, kids can add nuts, seeds, croutons, beans, or chickpeas. For sweetness, fresh or dried fruits can be added. Capers and olives add saltiness, pickles add sharpness, and peppers add spice. Just before serving, kids can dress the salad sparingly, as overdressing drowns the leaves and masks their delightful flavors. For delicate greens, kids can dress it lightly with organic vinegar or lemon and extra virgin olive oil. For sturdier greens or cabbage, kids can use a richer and thicker dressing with tahini or soy yogurt. Kids can toss the salad in a large bowl, making sure all of the leaves are coated very lightly with dressing and sprinkle sea salt from above to distribute it evenly. There are so many choices; kids can make a different salad every day with what is in season in the garden.
Kids can make the best use of their small space organic veggie garden and available light by growing vertically: terracing, trellising, and using hanging planters. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. Kids can arrange containers of herbs and veggies on three or four steps so that each plant gets plenty of light. Kids can design the garden itself at layered heights, using raised beds, planter boxes, and cinderblock boosters, so that plants of the same height will get enough light.
Another vertical garden technique is to use trellises, arbors, and lattices on walls. Many veggies love to climb up a trellis, such as cucumbers, peas, beans, and melons. Kids can grow fruits and berries on arched trellises, which support growth upward, across, and outward, producing more fruit. A sunny wall with a lattice is another way to grow veggies and maximize space. Trellising enables kids to keep their veggie plants clean with good air circulation.
Hanging planters from the eaves, window ledge, railing, gazebo, pergola, and the ceiling of a sunny room is another way to use vertical space. Hanging planters are usually limited in size so kids can choose smaller veggie varieties with a trailing habit. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, and bush beans grow beautifully over the edges of hanging planters. Kids can grow a vertical organic fruit and veggie garden anywhere and provide fresh organic food for the table right where they live.
Kids in India have loved kitchari for centuries; the ingredients vary with the region, but always include rice, lentils, and lots of spices. In the Ayurvedic tradition, kitchari is used in a popular cleanse. Kitchari is a one bowl completely balanced meal rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Purifying and comforting, the beet greens in this dish boost its nutritional factor even more. In a small bowl mix the organic spices: ½ tsp coriander, ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp curry powder, and ¼ tsp red pepper flakes. Kids can peal 1 inch piece of fresh organic ginger and grate it finely. Rinse 1/3 cup organic brown basmati rice and ¼ cup organic red lentils and ¼ cup organic green lentils in a strainer. In a medium pot, heat 1 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil, add the spices and grated ginger, and stirring constantly toast them two minutes. Add the rice and lentils to the pot, coating them with the spices. Add 2 ¼ cups of water, stir, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Chop 1 organic carrot, ¼ cup organic red bell pepper, and 4 organic crimini mushrooms, stir into the pot, and continue to cook uncovered 10 minutes. Add 2 ounces of chopped organic beet greens and cook 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add ½ tsp sea salt. Total cooking time is 50 minutes.
How we experience food in our homes and environment, changes our bodies and our metabolic process. Modern hectic lifestyle has eroded family meal traditions. Recent research shows that the family meal can uplift the mental and physical wellness of parents and kids. Families eat healthier, communicate better, and become closer. Healthy habits for a lifetime can be created for kids while enjoying a nutritious meal with loved ones. Family mealtime can be made special by including the kids in the family meal planning. Kids can help planning a menu, making a shopping list, and preparing a dish. Depending on their age, they can measure, pour, and stir ingredients for the meal. Kids that grow an organic veggie garden can pick their produce at the height of freshness and add it to the menu. Proud of their offering, they learn to wash their hands, clean the produce, set the table, and keep the kitchen cleaner than when they started. Parents can discover what is happening in their child’s life at school and play, as kids will want to communicate. Family mealtime can bring beauty, value, and meaning to everyday life for both parents and kids.
Table manners help create that special environment for parents and kids to show gratitude and respect for the meal. Kids can swallow their food before talking and use their napkin to wipe sticky hands or to cover their mouth when coughing. Kids can speak kindly at the table: “Please pass the bread,” “I’m sorry for bumping the table,” “Excuse me for spilling,” “Thank you for the mashed potatoes”. When parents set the example of using good manners to enjoy healthy homemade food, kids will too. The wonderful aromas of home cooking and the laughter around the dinner table are the making of happy kids and fond memories.
Tropical avocado trees grow well in large containers or half whisky barrels on a sunny patio or deck, especially dwarf cultivars. Their bushy evergreen foliage makes a welcome ornamental addition to the patio. Originally from Mexico, kids can grow avocado trees outside in Southern California with regular water, organic biologically rich soil, and full sun. In cold climates, kids can put the container for the avocado tree on a wheeled pot caddy and move it indoors for the winter. Kids can start an attractive houseplant from an avocado pit, but such plants rarely fruit or produce fruit after growing eight to ten years, unless grafted. Avocados are self-fruitful, but some trees have flowers that are ready to receive pollen in the morning, with pollen that isn’t released until the afternoon. Other avocados display the opposite pattern, with flowers ready in the afternoon and pollen released the following morning. Planting both types of trees guarantees good pollination and more fruit. Thousands of flowers bloom on the tree between January and March and a tenth will develop into dark green fruit dangling on long stalks that mature on the tree for three to six months. Avocados are heart healthy with omega-3 oil and cancer fighting antioxidants, and kids love yummy guacamole with chips.
Mangos are the favorite fruit of kids in India with a tropical flavor and a host of vitamins and nutrients. Goji, mulberry, goldenberry, and maqui berries are Super Berries packed with protein, iron, vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants for a long life. This mix of delicious dried berries are marked Organic Super Berries in the bulk section at Whole Foods Market. Kids can preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Kids can cut one organic mango along both sides of its elongated seed, chop into small pieces and scrape the skin. In a small pan melt ¼ cup organic virgin coconut oil. Add the mango and ¼ cup of dried organic goji, goldenberry, mulberry, and maqui super berries. Grate ½ tsp of fresh organic ginger and add to the pan with ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp cardamom, 3 tbsp maple syrup, 5.3 oz soy yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla. Simmer the mixture while preparing the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk briskly to allow air into 1 ¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, ¼ cup organic cane sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp sea salt. Pour the ingredients from the pan into the large bowl and mix with the dry ingredients. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake 20 minutes and cool before serving.
When kids grow their own veggies, they want to eat what they have grown. Even small kids can help tidy the dining area, set the table, or create a centerpiece of flowers, leaves, or fruit from the garden. When kids invest in the growing, planning, and cooking of the meal, they want to enjoy the meal peacefully and eat mindfully, without electronic devises, excited to have their family enjoy what they have done.
However, some kids come to the table complaining about their food. Whatever dish has been prepared, they start crying for something else, throwing the food, and pushing it away. They whine about the meal as they play with the toy car, driving it over the fruit platter on the table. They hit their sibling with the banana. Refusing to eat what was their favorite dish in the past, they scream for their video game until they get a phone, tablet, or computer to continue their play, while some other dish they demanded is being prepared. Some kids will only eat quietly while watching cartoons. Many families with busy schedules eat at separate times and places, while the dining room table remains cluttered with stuff.
Being thankful, polite, and kind at the dinner table is the beginning of Mindful Eating. Kids can begin the meal with a song of gratitude for the abundant harvest. They can thank the many farmers, truckers, food processors, grocers, and their folks who have worked to bring this food to the table. Kids can have a taste test, like the boy in the picture above, to try new foods and compare the salty, sweet, spicy, and sour tastes of foods. Or the taste test can be to guess the ingredients in a dish. Kids can play a game to see how many chews they can have with one bite of food. Twenty-five to thirty chews per bite helps to digest the food and get the most nutrients into their system to build healthy bodies. Kids can find peaceful music to play during a dinner where everyone eats silently. Mindful Eating is kids being peaceful and present in the moment, appreciating every mouthful, especially the delicious organic produce they have helped to grow and prepare.