Cooking Magic for Kids

Kids Make Streusel Toppings

Kids can make a variety of nutty, sweet, flavorful toppings for a fruit cobbler, savory casserole, coconut yogurt, sorbet, or the top crust of a pie. Streusel toppings contain nuts and seeds that are toasted to keep them crispy and for deeper, richer flavor. Kids can spread organic nuts and seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet in a preheated 350° oven. Toast the seeds for 3 to 5 minutes and nuts for 7 to 12 minutes, depending on the variety, until kids can smell the nutty aroma. If they are overcooked and blackened, kids need to start over as the burnt acrid taste ruins the whole dish. After they are cooked, kids can chop the nuts and seeds to spread the oils brought out by the toasting.

A streusel topping, like the one on the pear apple crumble in the picture above, can be made with ½ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, ½ cup organic old fashioned rolled oats, 2 tbsp organic brown sugar, ⅛ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp sea salt, and ¼ cup toasted nuts. Grate 4 tbsp organic vegan butter into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Kids can mix the ingredients with their fingers rubbing the vegan butter into the nuts and flour. Scatter the streusel over the crumble, pie, or casserole and bake in the oven at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes. Or bake the streusel in a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 20 minutes for a fabulous topping on fresh fruit, yogurt, or sorbet.

Kids plant Flowers with Veggies

Inviting Nature to help grow the fruits and veggies makes gardening easier and more abundant with no need to use pesticides or fungicides that harm the air, soil, water, beneficial creatures, and the food being grown. Kids can add flowers to their organic raised bed veggie gardens for stronger, more productive plants with fewer pests. When kids plant veggies at the right time of year in rich organic soil with flowers to attract and keep nature’s workers year round in the garden, they find that gardening gets more and more fun. 

Kids can give beneficial creatures a place to live, eat, and raise families, by adding host flowers for food and native nesting plants to raise their babies. Kids can provide other nesting opportunities with insect hotels, bird houses, sandy spots, and old logs. A saucer full of water in the tomato patch can keep critters from pecking the tomatoes for juice. A relaxing ritual for the gardener is refilling bird baths and shallow saucers to provide bees, butterflies, birds, frogs, and hummingbirds with fresh water free from mosquito larvae. Kids can then enjoy watching the creatures they have attracted.

Kids can learn to compost with their garden waste and vegetable kitchen scraps along with dried leaves, coffee grinds, and paper waste, which provides the best fertilizer for their flowers, fruits, and veggies. Spending time in the garden often, doing small chores is healing to the soul and saves doing massive chores later, like spreading mulch on the pathways to prevent weeds or using a landscape cloth to keep moisture in the soil and pests out of the veggies.

Kids can plant different flowers throughout the year to have continuous blooms in the garden. Growing flowers alongside the veggies invites a host of beneficial insects that come for the flower pollen and stay for the tasty pests. Harvesting the flowers, as well as the herbs and veggies, on a regular weekly bases keeps the plants healthy producing fresh foliage and filling the house with food and beauty. 

Kid Chef Vegan Cabbage Wraps

Stuffed cabbage leaves are a common comfort dish in many European countries and make a nice presentation on the plate. The lentils give this vegan, gluten-free dish earthiness and the spices give it richness. Kids can cook ½ cup of organic brown basmati rice and ½ cup of organic green lentils in 2 ½ cups of water in the same pot for 50 minutes. 

Savoy cabbage looks like regular green cabbage but has artistic wrinkled leaves that may be easier to remove whole and have a milder taste. Kids can peal 6 large organic savoy cabbage leaves and steam them with 2 chopped organic carrots, 1 chopped organic white sweet potato, ½ cup chopped sweet organic onion, ¼ cup chopped organic red bell pepper, 1 ½ cups of sliced organic cremini mushrooms (6 – 8), and 1 minced organic garlic clove. 

In a medium pan, heat 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil and 3 tbsp organic tomato sauce for a couple of minutes. Add 1 tsp organic curry powder, ½ tsp sea salt, 1 tsp fresh basil, ½ tsp fresh oregano, ¼ tsp fresh rosemary, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the steamed veggies and simmer for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lentils and rice. 

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with 2 tbsp organic tomato sauce. Lay the cabbage leaves out flat on a clean surface and spoon the lentil filling into the center of each leaf, more in the large leaves and less in the small leaves. Fold the left and right edge of each cabbage leaf so that the two sides cover the filling, then fold over each bottom and roll them up to form a wrap. Place the wraps in the casserole dish as they are filled. Pour ½ cup organic tomato sauce on top of the cabbage rolls and bake 30 minute in 350 degree oven. Kids can freeze any leftover wraps.

Kids cook with Pomegranates

Pomegranates are a Superfood high in antioxidants that inhibit inflammation and protect against heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment. Kids can learn the secret to extract the hundreds of pomegranate seeds inside its thick and inedible skin. First score the skin of the pomegranate, which can be used to make a red dye, and cut the fruit in half. Fill a bowl with water and place both halves in the bowl. Smack the rinds with a large spoon over the bowl until the seeds fall into the water. The seeds will sink and the inedible pulp will float. Skim the pulp off of the top of the bowl and drain the seeds. 

Kids can sprinkle these yummy seeds on their salad, in a smoothie, or in most any cooked dish for a delightful pop of flavor. Kids can make pomegranate molasses by reducing pomegranate juice to a tangy, rich syrup.  Pomegranate molasses gives a boost of flavor by substituting it for vinegar in salad dressings, by drizzling it over veggies before roasting them, or by adding it to tea or sparkling water for a not too sweet drink.

Kids grow Cherimoya Trees

Kids love the cherimoya fruits, which have a sweet tropical pudding consistency and are so yummy as frozen sorbet. Because the fruits are very delicate, cherimoyas are not often seen in the grocery store, making them even more of a treat to grow. Kids can pick the juicy fruits when they are hard and bright green and allow them to soften on the counter. The fruits are rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and fiber and turn pale tan green or creamy yellow when ripe, having a white center with abundant large seeds.

Subtropical Cherimoya trees are native to South America, but grow well in the Southern Californian coastal areas in a wind protected spot in the garden. In the picture above, Bill grew a wonderful harvest of cherimoyas in his backyard in Thousand Oaks. Kids can grow a tree from the abundant large black seeds inside the fruit and grow a seedling in a 5 gallon pot in rich organic soil before transplanting it to its permanent location. Kid can water the tree regularly April through fall, but as it is susceptible to root rot, it should not be watered in the winter. In the winter, the cherimoya tree is sensitive to frost and can be covered for protection.

The short lived fragrant flowers must be pollinated by hand to set the fruit. In the early evening, the male flowers are open and kids can collect the pollen in a small bottle using an artists paint brush. Seal the bottle and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, kids can apply the pollen they collected to the partially open female flower with the brush. Hand pollination can be daunting, but the sweet cherimoya fruit are worth the trouble and kids are so proud to share their harvest.

Kid Chef Pear Nut Biscuits

Kids can grow an organic pear tree in the backyard or in large container on the patio for delicious winter snacks, that are yummy in salads, baked goods, and treats. Pears are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, making these festive biscuits a perfect addition to any meal. 

Preheat oven to 400°. Toast ¼ cup of organic chopped walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet for 5 minutes. Peel 2 pears, cut them vertically in quarters, slice them crosswise and in fourths. Put the pears and walnuts in a small bowl with 1 tsp organic maple syrup, 1 tbsp organic sugar, and ¼ tsp cinnamon. 

In a large bowl, pour 1¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, take 2 or 3 tbsp of the flour to stir with the pears, and set the small bowl aside. Whisk the rest of the flour with ⅓ cup organic sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp organic corn starch, and 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. Add the pears. Mix ½ cup organic unsweetened almond milk into the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Turn dough onto a floured bread board and knead gently 8 to 10 times to form a ball. Put the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 400°. Roll out the dough to 1” thick and use a round cutter to make the biscuits. Place cutouts 1” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Kids Sauté without Oil

Oils are one of the most calorie dense foods on the planet. Eating fried foods can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes by adding fat and empty calories, while losing water in the foods. Kids can roast, sauté, and dress salads without oil. The secret to roasting without oil is adding a flavorful liquid, like a veggie broth to the cooking process and using a higher heat for small veggie pieces and a lower heat for larger pieces. For a salad dressing, kids can add lemon or vinegar, spices or herbs, a fruit, and a choice of avocado, nuts, or seeds to the blender and blend until smooth.

Instead of frying with oil, kids can sauté with broth, coconut water, or the juice from a can of organic tomatoes. Heat the pan until very hot, add organic chopped onions, minced organic garlic, and cook until they began to color slightly. Then splash some flavorful liquid into the pan, stirring to deglaze the pan and loosen the onions and garlic, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and continue with the rest of the recipe. Kids can try different liquids to infuse their dishes with distinct flavors and character.