For thousands of years, people in South India have adhered to the vegetarian traditions of the Hindu priest class and yogic diet that is laid out in the ancient holy text, Bhagavad Gita, as a way to lead a harmonious, healthful, and peaceful life without inflicting harm on others. Many of the ancient recipes from this area are vegan and gluten free. Spices are at the heart of Indian cooking. Tempering them in hot ghee, clarified butter, the spices will pop and sizzle and their flavors will bloom and intensify. Roasting them in a hot cast iron skillet releases the oils in the spices and brings out their full favor and aroma. Kids can visit an Indian store to discover the many Indian spices and their wonderful aromas. Each region of India has their own favorite combination of spices, which is why the curry sauces vary from place to place. Mustard seeds, cardamon, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, cloves, fenugreek seeds, and asafetida are spices often found in Indian cooking. Fresh cilantro, ginger, grated coconut, and tamarind paste are favorite flavoring in rice, lentil, and bean dishes. Nuts and seeds are used to give a nutty flavor and a crunchy texture to desserts and rice dishes. Indian cooking also celebrates the seasonal produce available in the gardens and bazaars which adds creativity to the distinct essence that permeates each Indian dish.
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.
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.
The climax of my many visits as a small child to the date groves in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, the largest date producing region in North America, was sampling the rich date shakes and date candies that are not only yummy but good for you. Date Palms have been cultivated for centuries in Arabian counties. Dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, providing energy and fiber. In 1912, the King Solomon Date Tree was imported from Arabia, grew healthy in the Coachella Valley, and now produces 3,600,000 offsprings each year. In California, the medjool is the king of dates because of its size, flavor, and texture and has become popular worldwide. Dates are delicious baked in cookies and cakes, mixed in rice dishes, and blended in shakes. Date Energy Balls have been enjoyed for thousands of years and were a staple with travelers during the Middle Ages. This no bake, one bite dessert is perfect for hikers today. Put 5 ounces organic medjool dates roughly chopped, 2 ounces organic almonds, 2 ounces organic pistachios, 1 tbsp organic canola oil in a food processor until ground and resembling breadcrumbs. In a large bowl, shape into balls the size of a walnut. Place the balls in the refrigerator to set. Finish by rolling each ball in either organic toasted sesame seeds or shredded coconut.
Fermentation is a healthy way to preserve foods, converting the starches to be more digestible and introducing living probiotic cultures into our guts to help absorb more of the food’s nutrients. Microbes are everywhere in the environment, floating in the atmosphere, in the oceans, soil, and in our guts. When leaves fall in the forest, microbes decompose them into soil-building humus to feed the trees. Microbes also decompose the food being fermented, and as they consume the sugars in the food, they produce alcohol and acids. There are two types of organisms that play a key role in fermentation and often these two types are used together: bacteria (lactobacillus and acetobacter) used to produce yogurt, pickles, and vinegar; and fungi (wild yeasts and molds) used to produce bread, wine, beer, and cheese. In the gut, these beneficial microbes keep the small percentage of harmful bacteria in check and activate our immune systems.
Fermented foods are not only good for us, but have fizzy and tart, savory and satisfying complex flavors. High quality sea salt is the key factor in fermenting vegetables in brine, a saltwater solution that acts on food by drawing water out of its cells, killing any harmful bacteria, and changing the pH of the environment. Kids can ferment their harvest by filling jars with organic veggies from their raised bed garden. Pictured above are peppers, squash, tomatoes, carrots, and rice salt (koji) with sea salt, spices, and pure water. Wash and chop the veggies to be fermented. Crush a garlic clove and place it at the bottom of a glass jar, add herbs and spices, and fill the jar with veggies leaving 1 inch at the top. Dissolve 2 tsp sea salt into ½ cup of water and pour into the jar, submerging the veggies beneath the brine. Fasten the lid loosely and allow the jar to sit on the counter for 1 – 2 weeks, depending on the vegetable, to ferment. Open the jar daily to release the pressure of the CO2. Taste the veggie to test the salty, sour flavor. Slow the fermentation by placing the jar in the refrigerator and eat within 2 weeks.
Kids can use a pastry bag to cover a cake with icing, decorate a cake, and make candies and desserts. Find a pastry bag that is durable, reusable, easy to clean, and comes in a kit with different size round and star piping tips. Kids can use piping tips with the pastry bag to create artistic cake decorations. Use the large round tip to make domed icing dots around the edge of a cake and stick a blueberry on top of each dome for a stunning effect. To fill the pastry bag with icing, fold the top of the bag out to help keep the filling from getting on the outside of the bag. Put the piping tip inside the bag and adjust the bag to fit the tip size snugly. Fill the bag three fourths full with icing and push the icing towards the tip. Twist the top of the pastry bag together and hold it there to ensure the icing continues to flow out the piping tip as the cake is decorated. When piping a design on a cake, kids can place an iced cake in the refrigerator for a half hour before piping the icing dots to make a pattern. Make the design on the cake first with toothpick marks, using a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip.
Kids can add fresh organic fruit, herbs, and edible flowers to the cake decoration for an elegant effect by wrapping the stems with floral tape and sticking them into the icing and cake. Kids can use fruits, veggies, and spices, as natural colorings for the icing. Fruit and veggies are not only a great source of flavor inside the cake, but their vibrant colors in juices and purees achieve elegant shades of colors and flavors in the decorative icing. Pastry bags can coat the cake top evenly by making a circle around the outer edge and a spiral in the center. Kids can use a pastry bag to create divine truffles and tarts filled with organic ganache, lemon curd, or pumpkin filling. Kids can pipe icing made with healthy organic ingredients inside cupcakes and on top of cakes, cupcakes, and mini cupcakes for an artistic elegant dessert.
Kids can sprout just about any raw organic whole grain, bean, or seed in a matter of a few days for a fun addition to most any salad. Sprouts are the plants most nutritious stage, and they are concentrated natural sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. In a jar with a lid, kids can create a miniature kitchen garden of tiny power packed plants. Lentils, chickpeas, and beans are rich in protein; during the germination process, the sprouts synthesize new protein and a surge of vitamins from the carbohydrates and fats. Wheat berries, rice, millet and other whole organic grains have all the essential nutrients of the grain magnified when they are spouted. Kids can combine one part whole grain, bean, or seed with 3 parts pure filtered water in the jar. For grains and beans use a ½ cup, for seeds, like quinoa, alfalfa, or chia start with 2 tablespoons. Cover the top of the jar with two layers of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, and let soak out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. Turn the jar upside down over the sink and drain the water through the cheesecloth. Remove the cheesecloth from the jar, refill with water, put on the lid, and shake to rinse. Remove the lid, cover with cheesecloth, secure with a rubber band, and drain into the sink, shaking out all the water. Kids can also use a sprouting jar with a screen lid to rinse and drain the sprouts, like in the picture above. The soaking water is rich in nutrients and can be used in soups or to water plants. To make sure that mold doesn’t grow, kids can place the jar upside down in a bowl on an angle so the sprouts can continue to drain and air can flow through the cheesecloth. Let set for another 12 hours and repeat the process until the beans, grains, or seeds sprout, 1 – 5 days. Keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days for a bright, crunchy, energy filled addition to a salad.