Broccoli is not only one of the healthiest veggies kids cans eat, but it also makes a beautiful landscape plant in the backyard garden. Broccoli is a prolific annual cool season crop, hardy to frost and light freezes that thrives best in a sunny location that is sheltered from the wind. Broccoli is rich in phytochemicals, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber, a nutritional powerhouse that fights cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Kids can start organic broccoli seeds indoors and when the starter plants reach 3 or 4 inches tall take them outside for several hours in the heat of the day to harden off for a couple of weeks. Plant the seedlings under a row cover to protect them from pecking birds and other pests and to keep the soil moist and warm. To prevent the spread of soil borne diseases rotate the placement of brassica plants, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, each season in the garden. Space the plants about two feet apart. As the central flower develops, it may be necessary to stake the plant to keep it stable. To harvest, cut off the heads and side shoots while the flower buds are closed and the heads are dark green. Cut the center head first, leave several inches on the stalk, and add compost to encourage the side stalks to develop over the next six weeks. Kids like to dip raw broccoli, along with other veggies, in hummus. Broccoli and broccoli stems are yummy in soups, rice, quinoa, and lentils. And kids love broccoli in pasta.
Kids love these decadent tarts which are organic, vegan, and gluten free. Heart healthy almonds and energy rich dates are a perfect pairing to create a crust for a sweet coconut milk pudding with organic kiwi slices. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a six cupcake tray with parchment paper liners. Scatter 5 ½ ounces of organic raw almonds on a baking tray and toast for 8 minutes with a few shakes in between, remove and allow to cool. Whizz the almonds in a blender or food processor until finely chopped. Add 7 ounces of organic medijool dates and blend. On a floured surface, divide the dough into six balls, roll out the date pastry, and cut into disks using the cupcake liner as a guide. Drape the date pastry over the pan, press into the edges, and trim off any excess. Bake for 10 minutes and cool completely before filing. Put 1 cup organic canned coconut milk in a pot with 3 tbsp organic sugar, 1½ tbsp cornstarch, ½ tsp vanilla, and pinch of sea salt and cook over low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Pour the pudding into the date crust tarts and refrigerate 1 hour. Decorate with fresh organic kiwi fruit slices on top.
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.
Cauliflower is a wonderful winter veggie in the cabbage family with abundant health benefits in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. The picture above, taken this November, is my first cauliflower this season. Cauliflower comes in many colors: snowy white, orange, green, and purple. An annual veggie that is hardy to light frosts, cauliflower will bolt in the heat and tastes better after a light freeze, making it a great crop to plant in the fall. Start the seeds indoors and when the starter plants reach 3 or 4 inches tall take them outside for several hours in the heat of the day to harden off for a couple of weeks. Plant the cauliflower seedlings in a raised bed filled with rich organic soil and cover with a floating row cover, a light weight synthetic fabric that allows sunlight and water to pass through to protect the newly planted seeds and seedlings. These covers can be installed over PVC pipe hoops to create insulated tunnels along garden rows to retain heat and moisture and keep out pests. Leave enough space, about 2 feet, between the plants to allow them to fully develop. Water regularly and when the head begins to develop, wrap the leaves around the head and bind them with twine to hold them together to prevent discoloration from the sun. When the head is 6 – 8 inches in diameter, harvest by cutting the head just below the first set of leaves with a sharp knife. After harvesting pull the entire plant from the soil to avoid soil born diseases. Fresh from the garden cauliflower can be added to pasta, rice, or soups to make a delicious and nutritious dish. Hearty cauliflower can be sliced through the stem and roasted with herbs. Kids also like organic steamed cauliflower mashed with organic red potatoes.
Poblano peppers are mildly hot bright green chilies from Mexico that have a heart shape and can grow up to 3” by 6” with thick dark forest green to chocolate brown flesh and are perfect for stuffing. Rice and beans are a staple classic pairing, rich in protein, fiber, and flavor. Kids can make the black beans ahead of time by soaking ½ cup organic black beans overnight and simmering for 40 minutes. In another pot, cook ½ cup organic brown rice and simmer for 50 minutes. Heat organic extra virgin olive oil in a large pot add ¼ cup chopped organic sweet onion and ¼ cup diced organic red bell pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves, ¼ tsp cumin, and a sprig of fresh oregano and cook another minute. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with ½ cup orange juice and ½ tsp sea salt. Simmer for 40 minutes. Add ¼ cup of fresh chopped cilantro and 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil to the cooked rice. Kids can roast 3 organic Poblano chilies on a parchment covered sheet pan in a 425⁰ oven for 20 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs until the chilies are charred on all sides. Let the chilies cool in a large covered bowl for 15 minutes. Rub and peal off the skins of the chilies, cut in half, and remove the seeds. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp vegan butter, ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs, ¼ tsp cumin, and sea salt. Place the chilies on a parchment covered baking sheet, stuff them with beans and rice, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Mash 1 ripe avocado with 1 tsp fresh lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro, and sea salt. Top the baked Poblano peppers with the guacamole. Serve with cornbread.
Kids have been eating bagels since the dawn of civilization. Evidence shows that bagels in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia came in two types: a soft, sesame-studded variety and a crispy pretzel type. The bagel has endured for centuries because it is tasty, crusty, and chewy, and it preserves better than bread. Bagels also have a practical advantage: their roll with a hole shape can be transported easily on a stick or string. Boiled and baked bagels are mentioned in the Talmud and the love of bagels spread throughout Europe, becoming famous in Krakow, Poland, the breadbasket of Renaissance Europe. In the 19th Century, bagels became a craze in New York city with 70 bagel bakeries on the Lower East Side. Bagel bakers allow the formed bagels to rest and ferment to develop the flavor. Then they boil them to give the roll an outer sheen and a crunchy, protective crust, sometimes in a malt syrup solution to help the sesame and poppy seeds to adhere, before baking them. Kids around the world today enjoy being creative with toppings for their bagels, which are a great treat for breakfast, lunch, or snack.
Kids think pomegranates are fun to eat with juicy seeds that pop in the mouth, delicious in salads, on ice cream, in baked goods, and vegetable dishes. Kids have been eating pomegranates for thousands of years, and they are mentioned in the Bible, the Mahabharata, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare. The pomegranates in the picture above are on a young tree that was planted a year ago in the Las Flores Community Orchard. Pomegranates are a super-food high in antioxidants that inhibit inflammation and protect collagen in joint cartilage. Drinking pomegranate juice can reduce the toxic effects of free radicals and protect against heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment. The skin of the pomegranate is thick and inedible and is used to make a red dye, but inside the skin are hundreds of juicy seeds. First score the fruit with a knife and break it open, put it in a bowl of water, where the seeds sink and the inedible pulp floats, and whack the rind with a large spoon. In late winter, a pomegranate tree can be propagated from a hardwood cutting about 10 inches long, from year old wood that is ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Once established, the tree is fairly drought tolerant and suited for mild desert climates, taking 3 – 5 years to produce fruit. Pomegranate season is from October through February, so kids can add this winter fruit to baked goods and delicious dishes for the holidays.