The Polish people still live close to the land, growing their own food, foraging for mushrooms, and baking bread as part of their heritage. Seasonal recipes have been passed down as culinary heirlooms in an area that has been constantly invaded and ruled by different cultures. Poland was wiped off the map for 119 years and only lived on in the hearts of its inhabitants. Food became a symbol of their national identity. Beets, both tops and roots, are a favorite vegetable for pickles, salads, stews, and their famous borscht soups. When I was first married, a Polish grandma saw me looking at the beets in a grocery store in Los Angeles and she told me her secret recipe for borscht, which I have been enjoying ever since as in the picture above. Marjoram is a favorite herb. Pickles, sauerkraut, mushrooms, yogurt, and sourdough breads are often included in a Polish meal eaten between 3 and 4 pm. Pierogi, irresistible Polish dumplings stuffed with onions and potatoes, have been a staple in eastern Europe for hundreds of years. The Polish cuisine endures as a small stubborn act of defiance in the face of ever changing borders.
Cabbage has been known for thousands of years as a miracle food for good health. Kids can grow beautiful organic cabbage, an annual cool season crop that improves in flavor and sweetness in cold weather, in their raised bed garden, and plant it in the fall. Cabbage is a slow grower that takes up a lot of space. Kids can plan for a two feet square area for each cabbage plant and use a row cover to protect it from pests and weather. Cabbage is rich in vitamin K, C, A, calcium, fiber, and omega 3. It aids digestion, detoxifies the stomach and upper colon, kills bacteria and viruses, and stimulates the immune system. When kids eat organic sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, they are filling their stomachs with beneficial bacteria and microorganisms in the gut that plug gaps in the intestinal wall and reduce many diseases. Cabbages come in several varieties, to plant in the fall and harvest in early spring, to plant in early spring and harvest in summer, and to plant in late spring and harvest in fall. Late varieties are best for sauerkraut, providing the largest and longest keeping heads. As with all veggies in the brassica family, rotate these plants to prevent soil-borne diseases. Kids can harvest cabbage by removing the head, cutting a cross in the top of the cut stalk, and several smaller heads will grow. Crunchy cole slaw, raw shedded cabbage with carrots and onions, makes a refreshing salad. Steamed, grilled, or pan roasted, cabbage is great as a side dish with other veggies or in soups, stews, and rice dishes.
Kids can make healthy holiday treats with organic whole wheat pastry flour and organic fruit that are fun for breakfast, snack, and dessert. Kids can soak 3 tbsp organic dried cranberries and 3 tbsp minced organic dried apricots in warm water and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 1 ½ cups pealed and chopped fine organic apples, ⅓ cup organic chopped walnuts, 1 tsp organic maple syrup, 1 tbsp cane sugar, 1 tsp organic orange zest, and ¼ tsp organic pumpkin spices. In a large bowl, add 1¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, take 2 or 3 tbsp of the flour to stir with the apple mixture and set the small bowl aside. Combine the rest of the flour with ⅓ cup organic sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp organic arrowroot starch, ¼ tsp sea salt. Cut into this mixture 6 tbsp cold organic vegan butter. Kids can mix with a fork or their fingers until mixture has a coarse crumb consistency. Drain the raisins, mix with the apples, and pour the fruit into the large bowl. Mix ½ cup organic unsweetened almond milk into the flour mixture and stir until well blended and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Turn dough onto a floured bread board and knead gently 8 to 10 times. Roll out the dough and cut into ½ inch thick stars with a cookie cutter. Place stars 1” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Kids can refrigerate the dough between batches to get 26 – 30 stars. Bake 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
During the short winter days, kids need food to lift their spirit. Everyone knows that eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables is the number one habit for healthy living. They are also the foods that most lift our spirits. However, healthy organic foods tend to be more expensive and people have found it is easier and more convenient to consume prepared processed foods. Studies have shown that trans fats, which are vegetable oils that have been transformed into solid fats, increase the risk of depression, cancer, and cardiovascular system problems. Trans fats are found in a vast array of processed foods, baked goods, French fries, candy, crackers, fried foods, and at fast food establishments, as they tend to have a longer shelf life and greater flavor stability. Fresh picked organic fruit and veggies are sweet and flavorful as well as an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, flavonoids, plant sterols, and antioxidants, making kids healthier and happier. Local organic foods, that have been harvested early in the day before coming to the Farmers Market, look and taste better, and are able to retain more nutrients than foods that have traveled half way around the world and take four to seven days to reach the supermarket shelves. Growing organic food in a school garden, backyard, or community garden, makes it convenient and economical to eat much more in season fruits, berries, and veggies. Researchers have told us over and over again that half of a typical meal should consist of fresh fruits and veggies, but most kids and adults don’t eat anywhere near that amount. Kids eat what they grow. Pointing kids to the joys of growing and cooking their own food instills positive eating habits, leadership skills, and better attitudes. Cooking and eating is about enjoying and taking time to eat healthy food and socialize around the family table. Local organic food lifts the spirit, with a variety of fresh, diverse ingredients, delicious flavors and delightful aromas that balances bodily systems and supports mental performance.
Kids can plant leafy greens in the fall and continue sowing at three week intervals to have salads throughout the winter in Southern California, as in the picture above in my plot at Las Flores Community Garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard, mustard, and other stir fry greens and salad fixings thrive in cooler temperatures. In fact, leafy greens have a sweeter taste and more vivid colors after a frost. Many of these cool season crops will bolt in hot weather, and an emergence of flowering and seed development rather than leaf formation ends the harvest. Salad leaves as alternatives to lettuce heads have become popular with their rich spicy flavors and superior nutritional content. These leafy greens bring outstanding broad based nourishment to the table with vitamins, minerals, and a wide variety of phytonutrients. Arugula, mustard, bok choy, collards, and kale come from the cruciferous vegetable family, while spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens come from the amaranth family. Kids can start organic seeds indoors or sow directly in their raised bed garden in autumn. Mulch with compost and cover the seedlings with row covers or cloches to conserve soil moisture and protect from pests. Kids can harvest by cutting the outside leaves and leaving the plant to continue growing. Fresh leafy greens are delicious in salads, lightly steamed, or in a quick stir fry. For the best nutrition, harvest leaves in the morning. The more leaves kids harvest, the more will grow.
A magical holiday side dish, quinoa salad is light and refreshing with bursts of flavor. All the essential amino acids are found in the gluten free super food quinoa, a complete protein, with iron, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Kids think pomegranates, which are high in antioxidants, are fun to eat with juicy seeds that pop in the mouth. Kids can rinse and drain ½ cup of organic tricolor quinoa, add to 1 cup salted boiling water, and simmer for 20 minutes. If kids have an organic herb garden, they can snip fresh herbs in the morning when they are at their most flavorful and nutritious. Using scissors mince 1 tbsp fresh scallions, 1 tbsp fresh mint, and ½ cup of chopped parsley in a small bowl. Cut an organic pomegranate with a knife and break it open, allowing the seeds to pop into a bowl and removing the inedible pulp. Shell and chop 2 tbsp organic pistachios. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork and add 2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil. Pour in the fresh herbs and ⅓ cup of organic pomegranate seeds. Stir in 1 tsp organic lime zest, 1 tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 minced organic garlic clove, and 2 tbsp chopped pistachios. Serve on a bed of salad greens as a holiday side dish or for lunch with soup or sandwich.
Harvest baking is a movement toward wholesome organic foods that are locally sourced and prepared in healthy ways that is catching on across the nation. Kids that have an organic raised bed garden can add fresh picked organic fruit, herbs, and veggies to rolls, breads, pizzas, calzones, biscuits, cakes, and cookies. Using various organic whole grains, kids can bake with the harvest and share healthy baked goodies with family and friends that are packed with vitamins and minerals. Morning breads like pump muffins, tender crusty biscuits, and rich scones are perfect for featuring a seasonal harvest, such as spinach scones or butternut squash muffins. Quick breads and tea loaves can be sweet or savory, such as cornbread with fresh corn, onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs. Yeast breads, rolls, and buns that are laced with herbs, shredded carrots, and potatoes, can tenderize the bread and add an enticing earthy flavor. Kids can feel the dough spring to life in their hands when they make pizza dough by hand and experiment with different fresh organic veggie sauces, like butternut squash sauce, and toppings of herbs and seasonal veggies. Using the pizza dough, kids can also stuff calzones and create amazing flatbreads, like hummus with grilled veggies. Savory and sweet harvest pies and tarts, like eggplant and lentil turnovers or caramel apple pie, start with making a simple pie crust. Kids can use and reuse dried beans pushed up high on the sides of the pie pan to weigh down pre-baked pie shells, which keeps the crust from puffing up while it bakes. Cookies, bars, coffee cakes, pound cakes, and cakes made with fresh fruit, herbs, nuts, and veggies are moist and tender with the right balance of sweetness. Kids can include their organic raised bed fruit and veggie garden in their baking to add flavor and nutrition and create more wholesome meals.