Kids think it’s fun to grow organic tomatoes from seed in a raised bed garden. Large organic Red Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes are juicy sweet sliced thick for a summer sandwich with basil and drizzled with organic extra virgin olive oil. Tomatoes are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, potassium, iron, and phosphorous. When harvesting a lot of tomatoes at once, kids can make an amazing fresh tomato soup. Wash and rough chop 5 Brandywines, 1 organic bell pepper, 1 organic sweet yellow onion, 1 organic carrot, and 1 organic celery stick with tops. In a pot on medium heat, add 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, pour in the chopped veggies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. In a blender add ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, ¼ tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp cumin, the tomato mix and blend until smooth.
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.
Kids that grow organic red bell peppers in their raised bed garden can harvest peppers that are rich in Vitamin C, E, carotenoids and other essential nutrients that will increase as they ripen. Ripe organic red peppers have ten times more vitamin C than green peppers; one red pepper can fulfill the daily requirement. For a rich creamy pasta sauce, kids can preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Deseed, devein, and chop into quarters 2 organic red bell peppers and place on a flat sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Slice lengthwise 1 organic eggplant, chop 3 shallots, and mince 3 garlic cloves and arrange on the sheet pan. Drizzle organic extra virgin olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast the veggies in the oven for 25 minutes. On a small sheet pan toast ¼ cup organic walnuts for 3 minutes. Pour ¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil into a blender, add 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 2 tbsp fresh basil, 2 tsp organic lemon juice, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, and the toasted walnuts and blend. Slowly add the roasted veggies to the blender, pulsing and scraping with a rubber spatula. This sauce goes great on ravioli, pasta, flatbread, or pizza and can be made ahead and frozen.
All in One Bowl meals are popular in high end restaurants and local food trucks. Kids can make a tasty One Bowl Meal at home with this hearty, comforting dish with organic veggies fresh from the garden. Kids can cook ½ cup organic whole grain brown rice, which retains the nutrient-rich bran and germ. Organic peanuts are a good source of Vitamins E and B, protein, and a plethora of antioxidants including resveratrol. Kid Chefs can make a tasty peanut sauce by heating 2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan, adding 1/3 cup finely chopped organic red onion, and sauté until the onion is soft. Add 2 tbsp fresh peeled and grated organic ginger, 1 clove minced organic garlic, ¼ tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and continue to sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from stove and add 1 tbsp organic soy sauce, 3 tbsp water, 3 tbsp organic peanut butter, the juice of 1 lime, and ¼ tsp salt and whisk until smooth. Wash, chop, and steam 1 organic zucchini, 4 organic crimini mushrooms, 1 organic carrot, and 1 cup organic pak choi. Add the veggies and peanut sauce to the rice and mix thoroughly. This quick, yummy, nutrient rich dish is a kids’ favorite that the whole family will enjoy.
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.
When families grow an organic raised bed garden where they live, they have easy access to fresh organic food and benefit from a sanctuary that restores them mentally, physically, and emotionally. The raised bed can be a 5’ x 4’ wooden container in a site that gets 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, away from trees and high winds. A planter box of cement or rocks edging a wall is a productive raised bed as plants growing off the ground aren’t as easy a prey for pests and disease. Raised beds warm up quicker for earlier planting and extended growing season. Staggering the plantings of veggies is accomplished easier as kids can reach, rotate and harvest crops over an extended growing season in a small raised bed. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. A trellis can be attached to the raised bed to keep vines weed and water free. Kids can fill their raised garden bed with organic soil and compost from their compost bin, garden center, or local organic soil company. To save time, money, and water, kids can easily add a drip watering system or a soaker hose with a battery run timer so that watering takes place at the best time of day for maximum absorption and minimal evaporation. Filling the raised bed with fresh balanced organic soil creates a perfect start to growing abundant fruit and veggies. Kids can add castings from Red Wriggler worms that create the highest quality compost with nutrients and micro-organisms for water retention, air flow, and minerals and make the best fertilizer for the soil and the best food for the plants. Kids can hardly wait to taste the healthy variety of homegrown fruit and vegetables that they have grown in their organic raised bed garden.
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.