What do kids, real food and you have in common? Of the many things we leave behind, food is a rich and abundant part of our heritage – it links history, relationship, emotion and it is above all, a celebration of survival.
Today, much of food preparation happens behind a door, behind a counter, in a truck, in a restaurant, in a store, and our kids are exposed less and less to the power of real food. A few years ago we felt called to join Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a global movement that helps kids eat better, but also supports food education around the world.
With the help of thousands of volunteers around the world and organizations joining in, the Foundation is doing some excellent work in schools and getting information to kids where it’s most needed – starting from the plate.
We can talk all day about healthcare costs and what we do to ensure that our kids are well – from choosing their school, to choosing their doctors and tutors. But as individuals, families and above all, in our community – we need to continually be reaching out to cast a light in a world of nutrition reality that is getting darker and scarier. Armed with some veggies, knives and forks, we teach kids how to be excited about their food, how to participate and how to take charge of what’s on their plate.
Giving them healthy options is key, the more they are involved in choosing, tasting, preparing, and serving, the more they are likely to be excited about it and seek an apple between meals other than a candy bar.
Just last Saturday, on May 17, we invited local friends to go to the Farmers’ market, then cooked some yummy food at home, while friends and their kids were coming and going all day – tasting this and that and taking away a recipe or two to use in their kitchens.
We wanted to share this experience with you and invite you to be a revolutionary too – you can do it next weekend or any weekend you are called to!
You are welcome to use our idea or do anything you want with your resources of market, gardens and time – just make sure you have fun and pass the cooking bug onto the little ones!
First things first!
1. Go to the market and go wild
Find the closest farmers’ market and meet your friends there. We were lucky and enjoyed a cup of coffee at Peet’s right before we set off on our adventure.
We walked through the market, with the clear idea to buy:
– interesting fruit the kids may have never tried
– an unusual vegetable
– fresh greens and any veggies we like
In the picture above, you can see our friend Autumn, a fabulous cook (and registered dietitian), sport some monster golden beets. You can use the leaves to stew some greens for a side dish, and the roots to roast to golden perfection.
As you walk through the market, sample as many varieties of fruits as you can – oftentimes this is where you find you prefer white peaches to the regular variety, or that black Tartarian cherries are sweeter than Bing. This is also a time to feed your sweet tooth 😉
Plan your drinks in advance: above, you can see me sporting the biggest basil in the market and some lemons, for what is later going to be basil lemonade! Recipe below…
We ended up with a variety of fruit to try: kumquats, strawberries, two kinds of cherries, loquats, cherimoya, mulberries…the kids loved them all. As we introduced the mulberries, we had to explain they are like a blackberry or a raspberry, because the caterpillar look doesn’t do much for them. Anytime you introduce something new, remember to associate it with something else that is pleasant and loved – bridge the gap – new things can be scary, especially when they look like bugs.
While on the topic of weird – some of our favorite unusual veggies are romanesco, kohlrabi and bok choy – all in the cabbage family, powerfully nutritious and so fun to play with! Unlike other fancy veggies they last a long time and the price is right!
Now prepare for an explosion of color!
Have you noticed how yellow squash is at the market? Kind of like the yolks of free range eggs, it makes any store bought squash pale in comparison. A recipe featuring these guys – crunch, flavor and color – below!
2. Go home and display the loot – this is important especially if you will be showing varieties of foods that your guests have not seen – you want to have them laid out, so people can touch, smell, taste and experiment before you start making the dishes.
For the purpose of education, we had two varieties of cucumbers with the squash, since they are hanging off the same family tree. The pale ones you see are Armenian cucumbers – slightly less ‘cucumbery’ but packing so much more crunch. Great for beginners in the veggie kingdom, who are always looking for crunch. We also made a crazy flower from kohlrabi and bok choy while Autumn was prepping the beets at the counter.
I think around this time I started freaking out that the drinks were not ready, so I put some water on the stove to boil.
Enter Basil lemonade.
I really wish I remembered who gave me the original recipe, I think it was Deliah up in Ventura, but don’t quote me on that. If so, we are forever grateful, as this has become one of our favorite ways to use lemons. I heard Katy Bowman talk about it last year – now I can make it – it rocks!
To make 4 quarts (2 liters) you need:
2 giant lemons or 4-5 normal size ones
1 liter of water
huge bunch of basil
honey to taste
plenty of ice
Bring water to a boil, and place basil in it. There is no math here, just make sure it’s at least 2 cups – most bunches will do. Boil for a minute. In the meantime, squeeze the lemons. Strain to get rid of seeds and place lemon water in the container for the lemonade – pitcher or large jar would be great – we used one of our favorite jars at home – no idea how it got to be in our possession, but we love that thing!
Remove the basil from the water and add ice. Mix that together with the lemon juice. Sweeten as much as necessary and keep adding ice to your liking to dilute.
How did it turn out?
Once the lemonade was made I sat with a couple of the guests to look at the fruits and explain where they come from, and how to eat them – I think loquats were everyone’s favorite and the brown slippery seeds almost got eaten – we saved them last minute.
Autumn cut up a delicious cherimoya – possibly the closest nature gets to vanilla custard! If you ever have a chance to try one, do not hesitate! I think somewhere around that time Roland set off to grate a few carrots to make our famous
Carrot ginger salad:
Here is all you need: Grate generous amounts of carrots, possibly different colors. We did yellow and orange in the picture. Once grated, salt gently and let them sit. Grate a tablespoon of ginger, mix with orange juice (fresh squeezed) and add to the carrots. At this point some light olive oil really helps bring the flavors out. Mix everything well and set aside for 20 minutes before serving.
It’s fun when multiple people are helping in the kitchen. All I am thinking is how much I love these ladies – we should do this a lot more often!
The squash is getting cut for the awesome spring garlic, bok choy and squash combo- a veggie dish from heaven. All the kids loved it and there was not a single piece left in the bowl.
Here is how we made it:
Squash, bok choy and garlic veggie slaw
Cut the squash in long thin strips. If organic don’t peel it (did you know that zucchini is one of the most common GMO products on the market?).
In the meantime, take spring garlic and cut the cloves and stalks thinly. Use a bit of olive oil in a pan to cook the garlic and zucchini together for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. As they start to soften, add the bok choy, cut lengthwise. We had baby bok choy and it was easy, but if using a larger variety, please use common sense and a sharp knife.
Add the bok choy, season with salt and pepper and stir till you see the leaves wilted.
Set aside and serve when slightly cooled down.
This dish is amazing on top of brown rice or as a side to chicken and fish – let us know what you think!
Do you have dietary restrictions?
Several of our guests were gluten free and asking about great breakfast options, so instead of telling them about one of my favorite breakfast recipes, I just whipped it up in no time.
The kids loved the crepes so much, Lisa actually ended up making the recipe the next day.
Here is the recipe for Strawberrry Gluten Free Crepes straight off Lisa’s Facebook wall where I posted it as soon as I got home that night.
To make 3 oatmeal crepes:
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup almond meal
touch of sea salt
a few drops of vanilla extract
Mix everything to a smooth consistency in a blender. Heat pan on medium heat, use some coconut oil to coat. Once you have poured the mixture thin and the edges start to cook, lower the heat a bit. Turn over, finish cooking, cool off and fill with fresh fruit. We used strawberries. Other options: fruit yogurt, creme fraiche, nut butters, even fruity cheese like Stilton.
We had a bunch of GF and dairy free people, so just strawberries was sufficiently yummy 🙂
This was not the end, but we had only so many pictures of the day.
People came, ate and went, and we loved every second of it. We ate beets, carrot salad, cauliflower, cherry and broccoli salad, crepes, cherries, an egg, olive, tomato, and feta scramble, and drank a ton of lemonade. We were full for hours and happy for days.