Microbes have been living on Earth for 3.7 billion years and perform such vital services that all other creatures on Earth would die without them. Microbes are in the air, the soil, the food, as well as in the human body, especially the skin and intestines. Half the cells in our body are microbial, many are helpful and only a few are destructive. Microbes break down organic substances and change their chemical makeup when foods are fermented, such as yogurt, bread, pickles, and soy sauce, making fermented foods gut healthy. Nutritionists encourage a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods to support a healthy microbial community in a healthy body. Processed food has chemical additives that have been shown to disturb microbes. Antibiotics kill susceptible bacteria but not resistant bacteria which multiply and become more common. Kids should take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by the doctor and avoid antibacterial soaps, lotions, and cleansers. Instead, kids can wash their hands with soap and water, which wash all kinds of bacteria down the drain, and wash often to avoid infection. The microbial cells and human cells work together to keep kids healthy. There are many kinds of microbes in the human body performing many tasks, like helping to digest our food, fighting harmful bacteria in the gut, and developing our immune system. Studies have shown that kids in big families or that go to day care are less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies. Kids that live on farms and interact with farm animals have the lowest rates of allergy and asthma. Kids that grow up with dogs, cats, and horses are also less affected. Antidepressant microbes in soil bacteria produce serotonin bringing happiness and healing to kids and gardeners rooting about in the soil. Kids that spend time outdoors, playing in nature, and growing an organic veggie garden are healthier and happier.
Kids can enjoy the earthy goodness of mushrooms by growing commercially developed spores at home. Mushroom kits allow kids to harvest the mushrooms at peak freshness and have the best flavor and texture easily available. The simplest kit is a plastic bag with holes, filled with straw and sawdust, and sown with the spores of a particular mushroom. Mushrooms are a fungus supported by underground mycelium (a mushroom’s equivalent to a root system). Within weeks, the mycelium will have grown outward and mushrooms will sprout from the holes. There are several species of mushroom kits: Portobello or crimini, which are tasty, versatile, productive, and easy to grow; oyster, which absorbs the flavors of any dish and grows in either straw or wood; shitake, which have the best flavor and texture and are the most productive. Kids can take the leftover medium after they have harvested the kit and stuff it into the cracks of a log or sprinkle it at the edge of a compost pile and often the mycelium will sprout again. Besides plastic bags with sawdust, commercial growers have developed mushroom logs by inoculating a small, sawdust-based plug with mycelium. The plugs are stuffed into holes drilled in freshly cut logs or tree stumps and stored for a year until the mycelium has grown into the length of the wood. Seasonal temperature changes trigger the spores to grow into fully fruited mushrooms and the mushroom log will continue sprouting for many years. Kids need to wash all mushrooms, despite rumors to the contrary, as they absorb little water. Mushrooms are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, delicious roasted, grilled, stuffed, and add a hearty earthiness in soups, stews, pasta dishes, and pizza.
Kids can create an elegant meal by preparing tomato cases filled with colorful veggies, grains, and legumes. Stuffed organic vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, squashes, and mushrooms make decorative, healthy, and delicious dishes. Because they are organic, kids can eat the skins which are rich in vitamins and nutrients. To prepare the tomato cases, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Kids can wash 3 large very firm unpeeled organic tomatoes and cut large hallows out of the tops. Salt them and turn them upside down to drain. Place the tomato cases in a muffin tin lined with cupcake holders and put water in the unused cups. Bake for 15 minutes and drain any excess liquid from the tomatoes. Steam 1 cup of chopped organic cauliflower, 5 sliced organic crimini mushrooms, 1 sliced organic carrot, 2 tbsp chopped organic red pepper, 2 tbsp minced organic red onion, and 1 minced organic garlic clove. Kids can simmer ½ cup Whole Foods organic mix of barley, peas, and lentils in 1 ½ cups of water for 30 minutes and drain any excess water. Add 1 tbsp vegan butter, ½ tsp sea salt, and fresh from the garden tiny sprigs of oregano, sage, rosemary, parsley, and thyme cut into small bits. Stir the steamed veggies into the barley, peas, and lentil preparation. Stuff the tomato cases with the veggie mix and return them to the cupcake liner in the muffin tin. Top with 1 tbsp organic bread crumbs and dot with vegan butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes and the crumbs turn golden brown.
With a simple rimmed heavy gauge aluminized- steel baking sheet, kids can roast, bake, or broil a delicious, healthy one-pan meal in minutes. The low sides and flat surface of a sheet pan allow the heat to seal and crisp the outside of the ingredients, drawing out the natural sugars, keeping the insides tender, and intensifying the flavors. The rim of the pan seals in the flavorful juices and reduces the chance of hot liquid spilling as the pan is removed from the oven. An entire meal can be prepared quickly on one commercial-quality pan making the clean up simple. For a party, the ingredients can be prepared ahead on the sheet pan. Kids can simply pop the pan in the oven at any time and still enjoy the party.
Kids need to cut the foods to about the same size and thickness so they will all cook evenly spread in a single layer on the sheet pan. Most veggies need to be brushed with organic oil or tossed into an oil based marinade before cooking on the baking sheet. Kids can add different ingredients in batches to allow for different cooking times. Heavy metal tongs are perfect for turning over the ingredients in the pan and for transferring foods to the serving platter.
Textured aluminized-steel rectangle sheet pans with at least a 1 inch rim distribute heat evenly for perfect browning. When acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, are cooked in pans made of aluminum, copper, or unseasoned cast iron, trace amounts of molecules from the metal can leach into the food. Aluminized-steel does not leach into the food, is very strong, can resist damage from cooking, and keeps its shine. Nonstick pans are easy to clean, but they are toxic to your health and to the environment during their manufacturing process. The fumes from a smoking nonstick pan can kill a pet bird in the kitchen. No scouring or abrasive cleaning products are needed as they scratch the surface of the pan. For easy clean up after baking, roasting, or broiling, kids should line the sheet pan with parchment paper before cooking and afterwards wash the pan by hand in soapy water.
Kids that grow organic veggie gardens can become good stewards of the land, growing their own independence and self sufficiency. The soil is alive! Every cubic inch of healthy soil is a miniature world of beneficial living organisms that feed all living things on our planet. This micro-universe takes the organic material in the soil and turns it into useable food and nutrients for the plant, which grows veggies rich with nutrients for kids. When a plant seed begins to grow the first thing to emerge is the primary root to absorb food and water from the soil. Beautiful veggie root systems aerate the soil and feed the microorganisms that feed nutrients to the plant. Roots bind the soil, hold the plants in position, and draw water, minerals, and nutrients from the soil to feed the plant. Kids can feed the soil with living compost to increase the biodiversity of soil microorganisms. Many of the microorganisms form intimate relationships with roots to increase their ability to utilize water and nutrients. Fungi break down dead organic matter in the compost to release valuable nutrients into the soil. Some plant roots and fungi grow together. The fungi radiates through the soil and forms a velvety covering over the plant roots, greatly increasing the contact with the soil and passing the minerals and nutrients to the plant, while the fungus absorbs sugars from the root cells. Kids can mulch their garden with organic materials to add essential elements contained in the dead plants and make them available to the next generation of plants. Kids can make their plants healthier and able to resist pests and pathogens by feeding the soil compost and mulch. Studies have shown that kids exposed to soil develop a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, and perform better in school.
Kids can make a party in your mouth meal with cauliflower, a meaty vegetable that makes a nice presentation cut in slices and roasted on a stainless steel sheet pan. Cauliflower is a yummy winter veggie in the cabbage family with abundant health benefits in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line the pan with parchment paper. Trim the outside leaves from a large organic head of cauliflower leaving the stem intact. Place the cauliflower stem side down on a cutting board and cut into four ¾ inch slices that include the stem. Kids can save the ends of the cauliflower for another meal. Brush both sides of the slices with organic extra virgin olive oil and place on the sheet pan. In a bowl, stir together 2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tbsp capers, ¼ tsp sea salt, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. If kids grow organic herbs on the patio, they can cut small sprigs of rosemary, oregano, chives, thyme and snip them into tiny pieces and add to the oil mix. Brush the mixture over the tops of the cauliflower slices. Roast until the cauliflower is golden and fork tender about 20 minutes. This filled with flavor cauliflower slice is tasty served with organic brown rice and a fresh from the garden salad.
Spring is the perfect time to start a clean eating diet as local Farmers Markets are filled with abundant fresh colorful organic produce. Seasonal, locally grown fruits and veggies are the most flavorful and nutritious. Kids that grow their own veggies can hardly wait to eat them. Kids can kick the addiction to sodas and junk food filled with chemicals, preservatives, and additives. At the Farmers Market or local farm stand, kids can learn about their food from the farmers that grow it. Overweight kids can lose weight just by switching from junk food to organic whole food. Kids discover that real whole food, fresh from the garden, is sweeter and more satisfying than the food corporations’ processed and packaged foods which have been made with too much salt, fat, and sugar. Processed convenience foods and fried fast foods have caused wide ranged health problems including diabetes and obesity. Studies show that kids who eat home cooked meals from scratch with their families around the dinner table are happier, as well as healthier. Kids can pack their lunch boxes with healthy snacks, like whole fruits and nuts, to fuel their day. Kids can make their own fresh fruit juice or infuse water with pieces of fruit rather than sugary fruit drinks or sodas. Real food is made from ingredients kids can find in nature, like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, herbs, and veggies. A clean eating diet means cooking healthy by steaming, roasting, or grilling rather than frying. Kids can start an organic veggie garden in pots on the patio this spring. Kids can cook from scratch with whole organic ingredients and lose weight, gain energy, and feel great.