When kids go to the grocery store with their folks, they can make a game of reading all the different labels on fresh and packaged foods. In the produce section, kids will find labels saying “USDA organic” and “local”, which means this produce was grown on certified organic farms in the local county. Organic farming practices build healthy soil that is non GMO and free of chemicals that can pollute nearby waters or poison wildlife. Rich organic soil contains many kinds of bacteria that help plants grow. Locally grown produce is fresher and uses less fossil fuels to get the food to market. “All Natural” food labels contain no human made ingredients, but they are not organic and may contain GMO products.
To discover that cooking fresh organic produce from scratch is the healthiest and most delicious way to prepare food, kids can check the “Nutrition Facts” food label on the packages of processed food. It tells how many servings are in the package, how many calories are in each serving, and how much nutrition this food provides. Kids can also check for the ‘Use by Date”, chemical additives and preservatives, allergy advice, and cooking times.
When kids grow their own organic veggie garden, they not only get healthy organic food, but they discover their connection to the natural world around them.
There are thousands of cultivars of apples. Heirloom apples are older varieties with a wide diversity of seasons, flavor, and texture, produced in open pollination, and grown in small batches that have adapted to their local environment. Warmer winters and cooler summers in Washington State has made it the largest producer of apples nationally. However, kids can find an organic heirloom apple tree that grows well in their climate at a local nursery. Kids can grow apple trees in the school garden, the backyard, or in a planter box of rich organic soil on the patio by choosing a variety and dwarf rootstock that is hardy in their climate. To grow fruit, the apple rootstocks need to grow eight years, to experience cold weather in the winter, and to cross pollinate with another apple tree. A locally grown heirloom dwarf apple tree rootstock can be planted in a container and do well on sunny patios, balconies, and roof tops.
Apples are nature packed for the perfect energy rich, on the go snacks for kids. Kids can eat the skin of an organic apple as the apple skin contains a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cells and lowers cholesterol. Some apples are better for eating fresh, like Red Delicious or Gala, some are better for baking, like Granny Smith or Golden Delicious, some are good for storing, like Fuji or Rome, and others are best for juicing, like Cider apples. Apples range in flavor, as sun, temperature, and harvest time affect their taste. To bake the best apple pie, kids can mix their favorite tart apple with their favorite sweet apple. A fall harvest of organic home grown apples is a Super Food snack for kids.
The central hole in the bundt pan lets the middle of this moist apple cake cook perfectly. Apples are a nutritious source of fiber, rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients with vitamin A and C and potassium. Organic apple cider adds that extra apple flavor to hit the spot. Bring 4 cups organic apple cider to boil in a skillet over high heat and cook 20 – 25 minutes to reduce it to 1 cup. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray organic extra virgin olive oil on the 12 cup bundt pan and sprinkle with flour. Tap pan to evenly distribute the flour. In a large bowl, whisk 3 ¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, ½ tsp sea salt, 1½ tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp baking soda, ¾ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ tsp allspice. Place ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar in small bowl and add 2 tbsp cider reduction and whisk to form smooth icing. Cover with plastic and set aside. Set aside 6 tbsp cider reduction in another small bowl.
Put the remaining ½ cup cider reduction in a large bowl with 16 tbsp melted vegan butter, 1½ cups of organic brown sugar, 3 tsp arrowroot starch, 2 tsp vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Pour the cider mixture over the flour mixture and stir with rubber spatula. Peal and shred with a grater 1½ pounds (3 cups) organic Granny Smith apples into a bowl. Stir the apples and any juice into the flour mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared bundt pan. Bake 55 – 65 minutes with a baking sheet under the bundt pan and rotating the pan half way through. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack placed in baking sheet. Brush the exposed cake with reserved cider reduction. Invert cake onto rack, remove pan, brush top and sides of cake with the rest of the cider reduction. Let cake cool 20 minutes. Stir icing and drizzle it evenly back and forth over the cake. Let cake cool 2 hours before serving. This cake can be stored at room temperature for 3 days.
It’s time to celebrate; let’s bake a cake! While different kinds of cakes require different techniques, kids can use these six steps that all cakes have in common to create a great tasting cake.
Herbs make nice companion plants to veggie plants, other herbs, fruits, and flowers. Healing herbs are good for kids and good for the garden. Some herbs provide assistance to each other to improve growing conditions and repel pests. The garden benefits by the interconnectedness of the different plants as certain herbs, like borage and dill, attract beneficial insects, like honeybees, butterflies, and ladybugs.
When basil is planted with tomatoes and peppers, it improves the flavor and growth, repels flies and mosquitos as well as attracts bees for pollination. When chamomile is planted with cabbage or wheat, it increases oil production and flavor. Calendula keeps nematodes and other pests out of the soil. Tarragon adds flavor to veggies, enhances their growth, and almost all pests dislike the scent.
Cilantro planted with spinach, repels aphids, beetles, and spider mites. Garlic planted as a border around peas, celery, cucumber, and lettuce repels aphids, ants, and rabbits. Sage and rosemary planted with cabbage and beans repels bean beetles, cabbage looper and cabbage flies and attracts honeybees and butterflies. Kids can grow herbs in their garden and pick sprigs for dinner. Herbs are terrific additions to any dish, adding flavor, nutrients, and healing properties.
Kids can make yummy organic cookies for snacks and to share with friends. These healthy treats are filled with nutrients. Organic dried apricots are rich in vitamin A, fiber, iron, and antioxidants. Organic pecans are rich in antioxidants that are good for skin, hair, and weight loss. Oats have the highest percentage of protein and fiber of any grain.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl using a fork, cream 8 tbsp soft organic vegan butter and ½ cup organic cane sugar; add 2 tbsp of organic maple syrup and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix in ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour, ¾ cup organic old fashioned rolled oats, 1 tsp arrowroot starch, ½ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp cardamon and blend well. Stir in ⅓ cup chopped organic pecans, ⅓ cup chopped organic dried apricots, and ⅓ cup semi sweet chocolate chips. Spoon the dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes and cool 15 minutes.
October is national Farm to School month, when schools around the country celebrate local food sources. Farm to School programs connect schools with local farms to provide fresh, in season, organic produce for school meals. The programs include farm tours, food education, cooking classes, taste testing, school gardens, and composting. School lunches can be greatly improved with local organic farm fresh produce for the salad bar. Farm tours help kids understand where their food comes from, the environmental impact, and how good nutrition improves their health and ability to excel in academics. School gardens and cooking classes are also a part of the program, giving kids not only food, but exercise, science projects, and a connection to what is alive on the planet around us.
Farm to School programs are changing food purchasing and education at school and pre-schools in every U.S. state and territory. School staff, students, and parents get to know their local farmers and local economy improves, boosting economic opportunities for local family farmers. Kids in the program enjoy the fresh veggies, eat more veggies, and ask for more salads at home. Eating fresh foods, visits with farmers, and having food related education can turn kids into healthy eaters for a lifetime.