Archive for June 11th, 2013

June 11, 2013

Home Connections: Cooking with Kids in the Garden

by Melissa Harding

IMG_1615Growing your own produce is both fun and rewarding; after all, you end up with something to eat when you’re done! Mid June is an exciting time for gardeners, as lettuce, peas and strawberries are starting to be ready to harvest. Depending on when you planted your seeds or starts and how warm your area has been, you may have many more different kinds of plants ready to eat. With all of that delicious food just waiting to be picked, this is a great time to break out your pots and pans; cooking with your family is both a fun way for your child to understand where his food comes from and a time for him to learn how food goes from the ground to his plate. Cooking is the science of transformation – watching dough turn into a loaf of bread is almost as exciting as watching a chrysalis turn into a butterfly! Your child will be delighted to help you in the cooking process and have a greater appreciation of the food they eat as well.

Remember, when cooking with children, always be aware of their actions; cooking is not a dangerous activity, but it is important to be aware of safety precautions in the kitchen.

In the spirit of late spring produce, here are some fun recipes to prepare with your family:

Spinach
This cold-weather green is great for kids because of its mild flavor and how easy it is to grow. This plant is truly a “Set it and forget it” kind of plant. If you haven’t planted any spinach yet, it’s not too late, simply sprinkle a packet of seeds into your garden or a suitable container. Cover with a 1/4″ of soil and water liberally, then wait. Very soon, your seeds will germinate and start to sprout; start to thin them by picking some of them to leave space for the other leaves to grow. They are ready to be picked whenever they are at a size that you prefer – “baby” spinach is really just younger leaves. Cut them off at the stems and they will grow back again and again until it gets too hot for them. If you wish to grow spinach even in the heat of summer, plant it in a moveable container or a cool area of the garden.

Creamy Spinach Pasta:
14 oz. of pasta, whatever shape your family likes
2 cups of spinach leaves, cleaned and tightly packed
2 teaspoons of butter
2 teaspoons of olive oil
3/4 cup 2% milk
3/4 grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg

1. Fill a saucepan with lightly salted water and set to boil, then add pasta and cook using the package directions for “al dente” pasta.
2. Using scissors, cut the spinach into small pieces (or rip with hands – this is a fun part for kids)
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a big pan; add the spinach and stir until wilted
4. Lower heat. Pour the milk onto the spinach, and stir until thick. Add Parmesan and stir everything together
5. Add your salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
6. Pour sauce onto your cooked pasta, mixing everything together. Add more cheese to taste.

This recipe has lots fo great parts for kids – stirring, washing and ripping spinach, measuring ingredients, adding cheese  – and still makes a great dish that everyone will love. If you are feeling adventurous, add some fresh herbs from your garden!

IMG_1807Peas
Peas are another cool-weather plant that kids love. Peas are fun to grow and sweet enough to eat right off the plant. It can be hard to gather enough peas to cook with, as it is often more tempting to just eat them in the garden! Growing peas is easy, all you need are some seeds and some thin stakes for them to vine upon; sturdy sticks from the yard are ideal for this purpose. Plant your pea seeds in the ground or in a suitable container. Cover with a 1/4″ of soil and water liberally, then wait. Very soon, your seeds will germinate and start to sprout; thin the sprouts by picking some of them to leave space for the other plants to grow. Once your plant is about 2-3″ high, place some thin stakes near your seedlings, one stake for each plant. Twist your seedlings around the stakes as they grow; they will begin to twine their own tendrils around the stake and grow up it themselves. Blossoms will appear and soon after, peas! Harvest when they are the desired size, according to the seed packet.

Pea Bruschetta
1 1/2 cups of shelled peas
1 lemon, washed
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 clove of garlic, peeled
handful of fresh mint leaves, ripped
loaf of French bread, cut into slices

1. Blanche peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until bright green; strain in a colander.
2. Using a microplane, zest the lemon into a food processor; cut in half and squeeze the juice into the food processor as well.
3. Add peas, olive oil, garlic, and mint into the food processor; place the lid on and blend until smooth.
4. Put bread slices in the oven under the broiler until crispy. Remove and spread with puree. Add more mint leaves to taste.

This recipe also has lots of great parts for kids – shelling peas, peeling garlic, ripping mint leaves, adding items to the food processor and pressing the button, spreading the puree – and has a taste that grown-ups will like as well.

Cooking with kids doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. They really enjoy helping and watching the process of food transforming into a meal before their eyes. Allowing them to help you can be a little messy and it is important to keep safety in mind, but they will love it! Don’t worry if  you don’t have fresh garden produce at home; you can have the same fun with veggies from the grocery store. The important thing is to make your meal together.

Here are some more resources for cooking with kids that we use these to help plan our own programs:
Grow it, Cook It with Kids by Amanda Grant
Start Fresh by Tyler Florence
Grow It, Cook It: Simple Gardening Projects and Delicious Recipes edited by Jill Bloomfield
The Children’s Kitchen Garden by Ethel and Georgeann Brennan
The Family Kitchen Garden by Karen Liebrich
Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen

This summer, Phipps Summer Camps include three cooking and farming camps for children ages 4-5, 6-7 and 8-9. To learn more about our cooking programs, or any summer or seasonal camp programs, check out our website.

The above photos were taken by Christie Lawry.

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