Creating Little Cooks, or How to Get Kids to Love Their Veggies!

Bungalow Eats cover

This post is for #LetsLunch, a monthly virtual potluck on Twitter. This month is organized by Karen of GeoFooding, who has chosen the theme of daffodils/things that make you think of spring and life.  In honor of Daffodil Days for the Canadian Cancer Society, she and her husband are generously donating $20 for every #LetsLunch post, so please join us and add your own post for this great cause.  Just tweet the link with the hashtag #LetsLunch to join!

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March is here, spring is coming, and that means a few things at my home– the garden is growing, mainly weeds… and it’s time for the annual school auction.  When I grew up in the seventies, my parents had little to do to economically support our Long Island public schools except pay their tax bills.  These days, and especially in California, budgets are trim, and school subjects you might consider basic– like art, music, and even PE– are up to the parents to fund.  So besides walkathons and bake sales and other smaller fundraisers throughout the year, the school auction is an annual ritual to fill the large gaps in the budget of a California public school.  One of the bigger draws at these auctions are the art projects created by the kids with parent input.

I don’t consider myself much of a visual artist, but I do consider culinary skills an art, so I offered/was volunteered to be the parent in charge.  I decided to kill several birds with one stone– help the school, have some fun with my kids and their friends, encourage kids and their families to cook at home, and get kids to love their veggies! My idea? A community cookbook, in this case a classroom cookbook.  I suppose I could have gone a much easier route and just stapled together a bunch of photocopied pages.  But the the easy way is not my style (for better or for worse), and this way I also got to indulge my food blogging fantasies of writing a cookbook.  So I used Blurb to produce a 60-page cookbook in full color, including recipes and photos of the kids and their dishes.  I wouldn’t have been able to do so without my kids’ fantastic 3rd grade teacher, Jody, who cooks weekly in her classroom, without a kitchen.  What better way to show kids that cooking can be fun? And as countless others have pointed out, If They Cook It They Will Eat It.  So now we’ve got one 8 year old boy who wakes up early to bake fresh Italian bread every morning for his family, and a classroom of 8 year olds who debate whether broccoli tastes better raw or cooked.  That’s pretty gratifying.

Jody cooking

I also indulged my creative side with a really fun art project– hand-printing a table cloth with fabric paint and bell peppers cut horizontally in half.  It was messy, but the end result was beautiful.  (Contact me if you’d like more detailed instructions.)

the tablecloth

I’d like to acknowledge the donations of several very generous people and businesses in the food world who kindly agreed to support this project.  (I don’t usually feel comfortable asking for things, but for my kids– anything!) Two years ago, for the first edition of the cookbook for my older daughter’s class, Mark Bittman kindly wrote an introduction, donated a recipe and autographed a copy of the cookbook.  Alice Waters has supported our project both years.  For the first edition, she autographed a copy of the cookbook and also donated an autographed copy of The Art of Simple Food.  This year, she donated an autographed copy of Fanny at Chez Panisse (so appropriate, her cookbook told in the words of her then-7-year-old daughter) that was auctioned off with the second edition.  And last but not least, Whole Foods, 18 Reasons and Sprouts Cooking Club all donated gift certificates to encourage more cooking at home.  Gratitude to all of our sponsors!

Oh, and the bottom line? These various projects raised over $5000 for our school! More important than that, there are now another 40 kids who love to cook.  One mom sent me this email: “Have you heard that there’s a bit of competition in Bungalow E about who’s had a chance to try out the published recipes at home?” I couldn’t have wished for more!

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Teacher Jody’s Brassica Fried Rice

Adapted from a recipe by Joyce Lin-Conrad, Director of Learning at Education Outside .

 Bungalow Eats, San Francisco, CA, 2013

brassica

The recipe I’m including here is one of my daughter’s favorites from class– Brassica Fried Rice. I have to admit I did not even know about the category of vegetables known as Brassica, which my 8 year old thought was hysterical: “You didn’t know that?”  I refer to these as cruciferous vegetables, which include cabbage, broccoli, turnips, kohrabi, collards, mustard and other greens.  I’ve altered the recipe slightly, subbing in brown rice for white and reducing the amount of soy sauce.  This is my personal favorite fried rice recipe, and this dish has made it into weekly rotation at my house, for a Meatless Anyday.  Even if you’re not a big fried rice or Brassica fan, I think this recipe will win you over.

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 Tablesppons canola oil

4 eggs, beaten

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced

2 cups slow-cooking (hard) Brassica vegetables, chopped or sliced into similar shapes and sizes

2 cups quick-cooking (leafy) Brassica vegetables, torn or sliced if necessary (e.g. greens)

4 cups cooked brown rice

4 green onions, thinly sliced into rings

cilantro, Chinese chives, or other herbs for garnish

Technique

1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Heat a large pot (a wok is ideal) over high heat.  Add 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil.

3.  Add eggs and scramble until medium firm.  Break into small pieces with a wooden spoon.  Remove and set aside.

4.  Wipe out pot with a paper towel.  Heat again over high heat.  Add 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil.

5.  Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant.

6.  Add slow-cooking vegetables and stir-fry until al dente.

7.  Add quick-cooking vegetables and stir-fry until wilted.

8.  Add rice.  Stir-fry for a few minutes.

9.  Add sauce.  Lower heat to medium and stir-fry until the rice is coated.

10.  Add eggs and green onions.

11.  Remove from pot and garnish with herbs.

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Thanks for coming by! If you enjoyed this, please leave a comment and share with your friends!

And please read these other posts from #LetsLunch on the theme of daffodils, spring and life.

Annabelle‘s Red Pepper and Eggplant Confit at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Zihuatanejo (Or Veal Shank Redemption Sammy) at Sandwich Surprise

Cheryl’s Barley Water at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Grace‘s Meyer Lemon and Mandarin Citrus Bundt Cake at HapaMama

Karen’s Tuna at Geofooding

Lisa‘s Salad of Chargrilled Sourdough, Tomato and Haloumi Cheese at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Lucy‘s Carrot Souffle at A Cook and Her Books

Monica‘s Roses and Eggplant at A Life of Spice

Rebecca’s Goat Cheese Panna Cotta at GrongarBlog

Nancy’s Shad Roe Southern-Style at Nancie McDermott

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18 responses

  1. Pingback: Glass of Fancy » Blog Archive » Let’s Lunch: Red Pepper and Eggplant Confit - Fashion, fiction, and life in the city.

  2. What a great project! I would totally have loved that as a kid.

    I like the all-brassica recipe idea; I cook some members of that group all the time and never touch others, so it’d be fun to mix in a few of the ones I never know what to do with.

    • Annabelle, you can use the same veggie-stamping technique on anything- shirts, scarves, pillow covers, lampshades… other fruits and veggies that work well include onions, apples, celery, Romaine lettuce (with leaves cut off)– these were bell peppers. Hope you like the recipe. I didn’t think of myself as a huge fried rice fan but I realize I now have three recipes on my site! This one is truly my favorite, nourishing and satisfying.

  3. Pingback: Shad Roe Southern-Style for Springtime #LetsLunch | Nancie McDermott

  4. What an inspiring story! The cookbook, the classroom food lessons and activities, the amazing teacher, the generosity of all the sponsors and supporters, and the proof positive that engaging kids with good food can work and work incredibly well, and spread to the community. The tablecloth looks lovely — I love knowing the artistic tool was a sweet pepper. Making that fried rice….

  5. I’m so happy to see the story of the cookbook and the lovely tablecloth! Teachers are magic. And so are mommies with imagination and the internet! Love the community support you’ve obtained for the book!

    • Hi Lucy, thank you! It was a very gratifying process and a reminder that we are all a large community; also a reminder that all you have to do sometimes is ask! I was especially pleased to see the kids’ pride when they saw the finished product, and when they made some of the recipes together in class .

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