Kids in the Kitchen


Kids can find fun and happiness cooking in the kitchen and growing food in the garden. With all the violence in TV, movies, and electronic games and all the commercials promoting junk food, parents struggle to show kids a healthier lifestyle. American Academy of Pediatrics advise limiting kids’ screen time to less than two hours a day. Fast food and processed convenience foods have resulted in a major health crisis in America and are more expensive than a healthy home cooked meal.

Get kids in the kitchen, toddlers to teens; kids can help measure, pour, whisk, mash, slice, and grate ingredients. Many kids don’t know where their food comes from until they go to a working farm or visit the Farmers Market. Starting an organic veggie garden in pots or raised beds at home or school, kids learn about the connection they have with nature and their food. Kids can wash and dry the fruits, veggies, herbs, and greens they have picked in the garden. Kids can assemble sandwiches, toss salads, stir the pots, and keep food from burning. Older kids can follow recipes and prepare entire meals. When kids help prepare their meals and snacks, they are more likely to eat healthy and enjoy it. Cooking gives kids a feeling of accomplishment, creating a meal their family enjoys. Kids can set the table, choose quiet dinner music, and make a centerpiece of fruit and flowers. Kids love having candles on the table to set a peaceful mood and enjoy the dinner they helped to create with their family.


Kids grow Organic Eggplant

Organic eggplant grows well in Ventura County, where summers are warm and long, and makes a lovely addition to the garden with attractive clusters of glossy lavender, purple, and white fruit and delicate purple flowers. Kids can grow eggplants in pots on the patio, like in the picture above, or raised beds filled with rich organic soil and compost. Eggplants are perennials and will produce into the second year, however, it is grown like an annual for flavor and quality. Eggplants are rich in brain power with lots of vitamins and minerals packed with potent phytonutrients into a beautiful purple skin.

When kids start growing eggplants from seed, they have many more options, like slender Asian, pretty small egg shaped, or different colors and striped varieties. In the winter, kids can start eggplant seeds indoors in starter trays 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date. When seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, kids can transplant them to bigger individual pots. As the temperatures get warm enough, harden the plants by taking them outside for a couple of hours each day for a week or so and then plant outside 2 to 3 feet apart. Eggplants are heat lovers, and a second crop can be planted in mid-summer. Kids can harvest their eggplants in the summer when they are shiny and fully colored, by cutting them off the plant. The more kids harvest, the more the eggplant will produce.

Kid Chef Vietnamese Pho

Pho Masters from small villages came to Hanoi in the early 1900s to open popular pho shops offering bowls of rice noodle soup. Interaction between the Vietnamese, French, and Chinese influenced the recipes and by 1910 pho street food vendors filled the city. A blend of spices and aromatics contribute aroma and flavor to create the famous pho broth.

Kids can create Pho at home by putting 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 whole clove, and 1 tsp coriander seeds in a 6 to 8 quart pot to toast over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add 1 inch of fresh organic ginger, peeled and sliced, and 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thickly sliced, stirring 45 seconds until aromatic. Add 4 cups of water, 1 small organic Fuji apple, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks, 2 chopped organic celery stalks, 1 chopped organic carrot, 1 pound of organic napa cabbage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise, 1 cup chopped cilantro sprigs, and 2 tsp sea salt, and 5 more cups of water. Leave the lid ajar and bring to a boil, uncover and gently simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the broth through a muslin-lined mesh strainer into a medium pot to and discard the solids. There should be 8 cups of broth. While the broth simmers, soak 10 ounces of rice noodles in hot water, drain, rinse, and set aside. In a small measuring cup, combine 3½ tbsp nutritional yeast flakes with 2/3 cup hot water and let sit 10 minutes, discard the sludge on top and add to the broth with 2 tsp maple syrup and ¼ tsp sea salt.

In a pan, add 1 tbsp organic canola oil, 2 sliced organic portabella mushrooms, and 1 tbsp organic soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Bring the broth to a simmer. Dunk organic udon noodles in the mesh sieve into the broth for 7 minutes and divide the noodles between 4 bowls. Put 8 ounces sliced organic slender green beans and the white parts of 2 green onions in a mesh sieve into the simmering broth for 5 minutes and divide between the bowls. Top with the caramelized mushroom slices. Add sliced green onion tops and ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro between the bowls. Ladle 2 cups of broth into each bowl and serve immediately.

Kids cook Soups

All over the world kids love soup. When the soup is started from scratch, with a homemade vegetable broth, there is no worries about BPA-lined cans, strange preservatives, or too much salt, fat, or sugar. The better the broth the better the soup! Vegetable broth is easy to make, freezes beautifully, and tastes wonderful. Broth is made by boiling various veggies slowly for a couple of hours and then straining them through a sieve. The whole house smells good as the broth bubbles away creating a deep, rich flavor for sauces and soups.

Most soups can be frozen for up to 3 months. Kids can put left over soup in a glass container, leaving 1 inch of space at the top as it expands when it freezes, label the container with the name and date, and allow the soup to cool in the refrigerator, before freezing. The best way to defrost the soup is to put it back in the refrigerator overnight, which helps the veggies retain their texture.

Kids can make their soup from local organic in season veggies that they grow in their garden or they get from the Farmers Market. Kids can make many different types of soups including a cold gazpacho of blended raw veggies or a simple light tomato soup. Adding organic whole grains, lentils, or homemade beans creates a hearty healthy soup for a main course dinner. Kids can easily blend their homemade veggie broth with any vegetable star, add herbs and spices, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and top with a roasted veggie to create a quick delightful soup.

Kids grow Organic Tomatoes

There are over 4,000 different kinds of tomatoes. Tiny wild cherry tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. By the 16th century, they were being cultivated in Spain and Italy. Today kids around the world enjoy tomatoes in salads, soups, sandwiches, and entrees. Tomatoes are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, potassium, iron, and phosphorous. Kids can grow tomatoes in pots or a raised bed in rich organic soil on a patio or balcony.

Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated and their seeds breed true as their DNA comes from a common stable cultivar. Organic heirloom seeds are grown without pesticides or herbicides, can be easily collected, almost always self pollinates, and the tomatoes they produce are often sweeter and juicier. Everyone agrees that the texture, flavor, and nutrition of organic home grown tomatoes far surpass conventional tomatoes at the supermarket. Big seed companies fight against heirloom varieties as gardeners never have to buy that variety of seed again. There are limited varieties of hybrid tomatoes, but heirloom tomatoes are found in an enormous range of colors, sizes, and shapes. Kids can get seeds from a local organic heirloom tomato that grows well in their climate and let them dry for a week in a cool place.

In the winter, kids can start to germinate the seeds indoors in small starter trays in a sunny window. Six to eight weeks later, when the plants are about 12 inches tall and the weather is warm, kids can transplant them into a raised bed or large pots and put a tomato cage around each plant. To prevent diseases, kids can use drip irrigation and water only the root area. Mulching around the tomato plant helps to keep in moisture and discourage weeds. After about a month, kids can see small yellow flowers appear and release their pollen. Soon the flowers turn into fruit that takes another month to ripen. Kids can pick the tomatoes when they are ripe, fully colored, and slightly soft to the touch.

Kid Chef Wild Rice and Chickpeas

Kids can have a taste test with their friends by preparing a dish that contains new foods they haven’t tried before. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of protein, high fiber, low fat, and are good for the digestion. They slowly release sustained energy to the body, which keeps blood sugar levels moderated. Wild rice is the same rice that Native Americans were growing for thousands of years, easy to digest, providing energy, protein, and fiber. Wild rice and chickpeas together provide all the essential amino acids for a perfect protein.

Canned beans are higher in sodium (plus other additives) and lower in nutrition, and cost four times as much. Kids can soak a ½ cup of organic chickpeas overnight, rinsing thoroughly, and cooking 1 hour in 1 ½ cups of water. Strain and set aside ½ cup of cooked chickpeas. The left over chickpeas can be refrigerated to be used in salads or to make hummus. In another pot, bring 1¼ cups of water to boil, add ½ cup organic brown basmati and wild rice mix and 1 tsp organic extra virgin olive oil, and simmer 50 minutes. Steam 4 sliced organic crimini mushrooms, 1 minced organic garlic clove, ¼ cup chopped organic red onion, and 1 cup organic spinach. Mix the veggies into the cooked rice. Stir in ½ cup organic cooked chickpeas, 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, ¼ tsp sea salt, and ¼ tsp curry powder. For the taste test, kids can serve their friends the dish as well as taste the chickpeas and rice separately.

Kids taste New Foods

Kids can hardly wait to taste the veggies they grow themselves. When kids learn to cook from their garden, they eat fresh, healthy, delicious meals. In the picture above, kids are tasting organic salads they just picked in the fields. Fresh organic food from the garden can cure the growing health crisis caused by the modern day American diet. Picky eaters that learn to cook discover for themselves a world of flavor, especially when cooking with their own home grown organic veggies which taste extra delicious. It’s important for kids to eat a variety of foods to get many different nutrients. In the garden, kids can learn about the many vitamins and minerals packed into each different veggie. Even toddlers can help grow many of their favorite fruits and veggies in containers on a small patio.

Kids can make a fresh fruit salad to taste several new fruits plus some familiar ones. At the Farmer’s Market, kids can taste the different organic fruits and veggies straight from the harvest. Trying recipes from different countries is a fun way to experience different tastes and textures. Kids can have a taste test to discover their favorite preparation and invite their friends. For example, kids can harvest a fresh organic cauliflower and prepare it raw with a dip, steamed and mashed with potatoes, and roasted with organic extra virgin olive oil.

At the grocery store, kids can read labels on the processed food packages and discover the chemical additives and extra salt, fat, and sugar. Fresh organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans are magic foods for superheroes that kids can grow in their backyard or school garden. Growing a garden also gives kids exercise, fresh air, the experience of where food comes from, and feelings of confidence and pride. When kids are involved with their food, because they picked and prepared it, they are excited to taste new foods.