Freshly cooked organic dried beans are more nutritious, firmer, less expensive, and more flavorful than anything from a can. Kids can check the date on the package of organic dried beans to make sure they are fresh. As dried beans are not washed before packaging, kids need to rinse and sort them before cooking. For most bean varieties, 1 cup dried beans makes 3 cups of cooked beans. Kids can make wraps, tacos, and quesadillas with them all week. To make them easier to digest, kids can strain and cover the beans with water. By soaking the beans in water, the enzymes that cause intestinal gas are leached out. Kids can soak the beans overnight or, to make them even healthier, soak them for a couple of days to encourage them to sprout before cooking them. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Use fresh filtered water to cook the beans, as hard water causes the beans not to cook through or to cook unevenly. Cover the beans with 1 – 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, and slowly simmer. Smaller beans like navy beans will be done in an hour; larger beans like chickpeas can take 1½ to 3 hours of simmering over the low heat. Kids can have the beans simmering while they are doing homework in the afternoon, happy to get up and stir the beans occasionally. When the beans are almost cooked add sea salt and herbs to infuse the beans with flavor. After the beans have finished cooking and let them sit in the salted water for at least 30 minutes before serving and refrigerate them in their cooking water for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.
Just as kids love nut butters, such as peanut, almond, and cashew, kids will love nut cheeses, both cultured and non-cultured. Using the same elements of making dairy based cheese, coagulating the protein, adding lactic acid culture, and putting it through an aging process, nuts can be made into tasty cheeses. Cashews make some of the tastiest nut cheese with heart healthy monounsaturated fats , bone strengthening magnesium, and nutrients that lower the risk of weight gain. Cultured nut cheeses use fermentation and a culturing agent or two to create a more complex flavor. Non-cultured nut cheese often uses fruits and herbs to create delicious flavors of spreads, sauces, dips, and pates. The basic steps to make soft non-cultured nut cheese are simple. First soak 2 cups organic cashew nuts in water with a little salt for an hour or two to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors, leach out some of the phytic acid for better digestibility, and to make them softer to blend. Drain and rinse the nuts and put them in a food processor with ¼ cup pure water and blend until as smooth as possible. Kids can also use a blender to achieve a smooth paste with lots of pulsing, scraping, and adding of extra water. In the blender, add to the nut paste 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 2 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar and blend at low speed. Add ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 2 organic garlic cloves and 1 tsp sea salt and blend until smooth. Scrape the mixture out of the blender and place inside a cheesecloth bag. Hang the bag over a bowl and allow it to drain for up to 4 hours at room temperature. For a firmer drier cheese, kids can put the bag and bowl in the refrigerator overnight. This cashew cheese can be used in ravioli, lasagna, salads, sandwiches, and toast. Store the cashew cheese in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Anything kids cook at home is more nutritious than processed, prepared, or restaurant food, which has been filled with too much added fats, sugar, salt, chemicals, flavorings, and dyes. When kids grow an organic raised bed veggie garden, they start their dish with pure real food. Salt enhances flavor, acid brightens and balances flavors, fat amplifies flavor and creates appealing textures, and cooking determines the texture and blends the flavors together.
Salt is an essential nutrient the body needs to maintain proper blood pressure, to distribute water throughout the body, and to deliver nutrients to the cells, muscles, and nerves. Because the human body can’t store much salt, we need to consume it regularly. A smaller amount of sea salt added during cooking does more to improve flavor than a larger amount added at the table. Add salt to water for boiling pasta, in dough or batter, or before grilling or roasting veggies. Salt minimizes bitterness, balances out sweetness, and enhances aromas.
Acid balances flavors by contrasting with the sugar, salt, fat, and starch in the dish. The sour taste of lemon and vinegar are used by every culture to brighten dishes around the world. Acids have many sources that vary in flavor and in the amount of their acid concentration: vinegar, citrus, tomatoes, hot sauce, pickles, coffee, and fermented foods. Fermentation transforms carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and acids using yeasts and bacteria, like sourdough bread, wine, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, and yogurt. Fermented foods aid in digestion and bring healthy bacteria into the stomach and intestines. Cooking acids slowly into the dish mellows the food, as vinegar softens the harshness of onions. Bring a chorus of acids to a dish by tasting and adjusting to lend tang and multiple layers of flavor.
Fat carries flavor and every country around the world has its own particular fat flavor. Olive oil, sesame seed oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and peanut oil, each have their own distinct flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for human health and can be found in most of these oils. Olive oils can be fruity, pungent, spicy, or bright, as their taste varies with the region where they are produced and have a balance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Kids can look for local organic extra virgin olive oil and check the label for the production date, as olive oil is produced in the fall and will go rancid in twelve to fourteen months.
Kids can learn to improvise in the kitchen using these elements of good cooking with whatever they harvest from their organic raised bed garden. The big cooking secret is to stir, taste, and balance the salt, acid, and fat, adjusting the dish as it cooks.
Pesto is a classic Italian sauce made with fresh basil, organic extra virgin olive oil, and organic garlic that can dress up a simple plate of pasta or top a flatbread. Kids can use countless kinds of greens from their organic garden to make a pesto and add fresh flavors to their dish. Some greens are more watery and will give a different texture to the sauce. Bitter greens can work well when balanced with the fat and acid. Kids can add fresh organic lemon juice or vinegar for brightness. Parsley mixed with the basil gives the pesto a vibrant green color. Add crunch and texture to the sauce with walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, croutons, or pistachios. To make a pesto, first roast the nuts to bring out their flavor; kids can also roast the garlic to tame its fiery raw flavor. For a wonderful burst of flavor, kids can combine 2 tbsp organic nuts, 1 garlic clove, and ¼ tsp sea salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add 1 cup of greens, 3 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil and continue to pulse, scraping the sides occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the greens are coarsely chopped. Add any remaining ingredients, such as tomatoes, lemon juice, chilies, or capers, and pulse and scrape until the mixture is finely chopped but not pureed. The sauce should hold together without being runny. To store, transfer to an airtight container and drizzle a little oil over the top to prevent browning. Kids can use it fresh, refrigerate for 4 days, or freeze for a couple of months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. Kids love this versatile sauce, especially when they grow the greens in their own organic garden.
Kids can be detectives and protect their families from unsafe food in their kitchen by checking the expiration dates on the perishables in the refrigerator and the pantry. Kids can read the labels on the cans and boxes in the pantry to find preservatives, additives, and other artificial ingredients manufactures have added to food products to change the food’s shelf life, color, appearance, and taste. Kids can discover if the food crops were sprayed with pesticides and herbicides by looking for the organic label on the produce. Another clue kids can look for is the temperature of the refrigerator, which should be between 35 and 38 degrees, to keep food from spoiling too fast. Kids can read the list of ingredients at fast food places, which serve highly processed foods filled with added fats, sugar, salt, chemicals, flavorings, and dyes.
Because of these additives to our food, too many kids today have developed serious diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and asthma. There are several healthy methods that ancient peoples developed to preserve their food that kids can use today. Kids can dry food in the sun, dehydrating it and removing the moisture that allows microorganisms to grow. Kids can pickle food in vinegar, soak fruit in honey, and use salt and other spices to slow food decay. Kids can use yeasts (living microorganisms naturally occurring on the skins of fruit and the surface of grains) to leaven bread and make sourdough bread using fermentation, a chemical reaction releasing of carbon dioxide that is used to make food last, as in sauerkraut or yogurt. By growing an organic garden and preserving what they grow, kids can make a huge difference in the health of their family and their environment.
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 love the enchanting flavor of coconut and cinnamon blended together with organic brown basmati rice, wild rice, and dried super berries. Wild rice is the same rice that Native Americans were growing for thousands of years. Goji berries contain the 8 essential amino acids and are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E, minerals, omega 6 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Kids can easily make this rice dish by putting ½ cup of organic Wild Rice Mixed with Basmati Rice in a pot with 1 cup coconut milk, ¼ cup water, and 1 tsp organic virgin coconut oil and bring to a boil. Add ¼ cup dried goji berries, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp turmeric. Simmer for 35 minutes, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes. Kids love this nutrition rich rice dish that is both sweet and savory.