Thursday, September 30, 2010

Foodies of the Future

From the bean of Green Bean.

Photo courtesy of Booth regular, Jess Nichols of Sweet Eventide.

I opened the door to my kitchen cabinet - that kitchen cabinet. The one where I keep all kinds of crazy stuff that has rarely been used but "might" be used some day. This is where I've got my iron tortilla press. Yup. That will work. That crazy manual food chopper that I bought at a Pampered Chef party. That's totally in. The salad spinner, of course. What else. I reach back to make sure I'm not missing any other fun kitchen gadget, any thing else that might entertain a host of first and second graders. Aha, the egg slicer I picked up at a garage sale. Score.

Together with my good friend and fellow Boother, Jess Nichols, I will be running a cooking center in my son's class this year. I'm both excited and terrified. Excited because, due to some major allergies, the curriculum will need to be entirely redone and there will be no room for canned Pillsbury biscuits in this one. And terrified because I've taught a cooking center before. Its a frenetic twenty five minutes of keeping kids safe, entertained, all the while prepping for the next group. Not for the weak of heart but this year, I'm determined to channel Jaime Oliver and bring real food into the classroom.

In racking my brain to think of ways to get kids involved and invested in cooking and willing to try new, fresh and healthy foods, I've come up with the following:

First, its about creating the cooks of the future. I came across a great website, Kids Cooking Lessons, that lists cooking skills appropriate for different age groups. Kids in my center should be able to read recipes, read labels, learn what cooking tools do, learn to use a microwave and continue learning about staying safe in the kitchen. The website even lists age appropriate tasks which include cracking eggs (do it at the bottom of the bowl to minimize mess and maximize egg actually making it into the recipe), filling and leveling measuring cups and spoons, using a vegetable peeler, using a can opener, kneading and rolling out dough, filling muffin tins and so on. Culinate's article, A Child's Place Is In the Kitchen, has a number of great tips as well.

Next task is to create eaters of the future. My hope in taking this on is to get a group of kids to move beyond hamburgers and mac n cheese. Last week, we tried Cold Cucumber Soup. Nearly every child tried it and some of them even liked it!

Photo courtesy of Booth regular, Jess Nichols of Sweet Eventide.

Other additional menu ideas are:

- Spring rolls with loads of in season veggies. Kids prepare the veggies, smelling and tasting them as they go and then fill their spring roll with whatever they want. This one I did in kindergarten and it was a huge hit.

- Homemade tortillas using my fun tortilla press.

- Omelets with different veggie fixings. Many kids I know don't eat enough protein and fresh eggs from backyard chickens - mine or some belonging to other families in the class - might expand their palate.

- Deviled eggs or egg salad.

- Pizza with sliced tomatoes, fresh cheese and herbs - not the sauce and shredded cheese kind. This way the kids can really connect with what they are eating.

- Falafel and taziki. Its fun for kids to form the balls of dough plus this has chickpeas in it for a good helping of vegetarian protein. Bake instead of fry.

- Salad. Complete with salad spinner - yes the kids do LOVE to spin that one - and home grown sprouts. I'll bring in a jar for them to start the sprouts and another where sprouts are already done and ready to eat.

- Pancakes with seasonal fruit topping.

- Anything from the divine kid-friendly vegetarian cookbooks, Salad People and Pretend Soup. Those even come with pictorial recipes - perfect for the early reader set!

- A session where kids plant a seed in the school garden and then another, much later in the year, where they come back and harvest it.

- Another session that teaches kids about sprouting. I'd bring in the final product for some salads or sandwiches.

As I pull out the box grater from the top shelf and add it to the pile of cooking gadgets, I smile. I envision myself trolling thrift stores for more tools. I imagine peering into farmers' market stalls for the latest, most in season veggies for my cooking center students. And I think of the looks on the the children's faces when a bold boy tastes an onion RAW! or the way a gaggle of girls gathers together to smell mint leaves. Yes, the cooking center will be a wild ride but I'm pretty sure we'll end up in a tasty place.


EnviRambo said...

Well since your salad spinner is for education, I guess I can let that one pass. :) We all have a cupboard of rarely-used-but-someday-might kitchen gadgets. That's why I have no room for a salad spinner!

What you're doing sounds wonderful. I applaud you. If no one takes time to teach children about food and how to prepare it, then how can we ever expect them to move beyond mac 'n cheese and McDonalds?

I know you'll do great and the children will love you. So from future generations I thank you.

Dea-chan said...

Oh that will be fun! Don't forget about simple things like cutting biscuits and cookies with a glass, or there are cookies that you SMOOSH beneath a glass -- that seems particularly kid-friendly.

I'm so excited that you have the chance to do this kind of thing w/o involving fake food. Are there others teaching this? Or is it all you?

Green Bean said...

@EnviRambo: Lol, thank you for the special dispensation - though I think the kids would like your method of salad spinning just as well!

@Dea-chan: Ohhh, love the cutting biscuits and cookies idea! I also read one where kids smash cloves of garlic under a can. They love those things! I alternate this with a friend who also blogs here. We get two groups of kids, 6 at a time. Excited because our cucumber soup went over pretty darn well! The kids loved peeling the cucumbers, chopping them and sticking them in the blender.

LifetimeReader said...

What a great list of ideas! And thanks for the Kids Cooking site. One of my son's homeschool projects this year is to cook once a week. (Here's his most recent description: I can't wait to hear about all you do with the class! What fun.

Liz said...

I want to be in your class!

Jessica Nichols said...

I am so in that equally excited/terrified frame of mind! Grateful to have such a co-teacher as Green Bean. We will make Jamie Oliver proud, I just know it.

Terri said...

This sounds so wonderful! I want my daughters to learn about healthy food and how to easily prepare it so they don't grow up dependent on convenience foods. You have some great ideas here!

Green Bean said...

@Hannah: I love what your son is doing! That is so great that he is learning these skills. I hope to move my boys along that track. Also love that he has a blog! :)

@Liz: Welcome! ;-)

@Jess: Couldn't ask for a better partner!

@Terri: Thank you! I do think it is important to start when they are young to introduce these foods and skills.

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

This sounds so fun -- and challenging! Teaching the current generation about cooking and real food is so important.


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