Six Part Plant Fest – Kids Eat Veggie “Burritos”

Did you know there are six parts to an edible plant and they all have different health benefits?  Neither did I.  I went to a great event at my kids’ elementary school where the garden teacher discussed the parts of the plant, their use, and how we eat all parts by having the kids make salad burritos.  I thought they looked more like lettuce cups, but hey I was there to prep, serve and learn.  In case you’re wondering the six parts and their uses are:

1. Seeds – essential for reproduction.  Makes new plants.

2. Stems – part that carries leaves.

3. Roots – underground structure to hold the plant and soaks up water.

4. Leaves – offshoot of the stem, here “food” is made for plant.

5. Flowers – colored and usually scented.  Attracts insects.

6. Fruit – product that follows the flower.  Holds and protects the seeds.

Makes sense.  But I never really realized how we eat different and multiple parts of produce.  It was a tasty visual to understand the plant parts.  And many of the offerings came right from the school garden.  All the plant parts were chopped and grouped together so kids knew wheat they were eating.  The leaves started the burrito wrapper with big leaves of romaine.  At the stems table there was celery and green onion.  At the flower table there were nasturtiums petals to eat as well as broccoli tops.  The seeds were popular with an array of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The fruit was a variety of berries and sugar snap peas.  For roots there were carrots and radishes.  There were even sauces to choose and flavor your creation.  Kids realized too that on the same plant we can sometimes eat multiple parts.  This is helpful in thinking how to serve, prep and cook these parts as well for a diet in a variety of color, taste and vitamins.

The kids (and a few of us helpers) had a great time.  The only downside was there was only one to a customer.  Feeding 600+ students doesn’t lend itself to second helpings as many of the kids were hoping.  We make a lot of burritos and lettuce cups at home and this just gives me more ideas for using all the plant for a variety of textures and flavors.


Earth Week Wrap Up

There were so many fun events and activities during Earth Week last week.  And if you didn’t do anything special and green, no worries.  It’s one of those things you can and should do on a daily basis, not just once per year.  Here’s a few photos from last week’s activities with my children.  There was an adorable labybug release.  Where the kids released over 30,000 ladybugs to help the school garden.  There was also an adorable sing-a-long with nature inspired songs. The culmination of the garden celebration was a garden fair with games, prizes, eco friendly face painting, bake sale, apple bobbing and more.


We skipped meat for the week and I made a yummy, fresh Watercress, Edamame and Fennel Salad.    I found the recipe while grocery shopping.  It was right on the cover of Delicious Living  magazine (recipe).  I’ll share this one with my vegan sister too.  But you could also add grilled shrimp or chicken to make an easy summer meal.



( If you’re wondering about that last photo above, my son came home from digging in the school garden and found a burdock root. It could have been, but it was just too woody to eat.  He was hoping to add it to our salad but he wanted a photo with his prizes anyway.)




How D’ya Like Them Apples? With Apple Crisps recipe

Tis the season to go apple picking.  Luckily we were only thinking pumpkins, but our friends reminded and invited us up to Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol.  We all had lots of fun.  I was expecting ladders and pickers to reach the trees, however we could all stand (even my 5 year old) to pick our own.  My husband was looking at them curiously and figured they must cut them in a certain way so they do not grow tall but out.  They also grow asian pears for sale, but not u-pick.  So all in all we bought 20 lbs of apples, plus another 5 of asian pears!  I know I was surprised too.  It’s just so fun and easy and of course each child wanted their own basket.  They do add up.

our apple haul

Luckily I had lots of ideas and recipes in mind….

First we made Apple Crisps…


apple crisps

Apple Crisps

(from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry)

An alternative to boring potato chips, this simple treat satisfies a child’s need for crunch. Using a mandoline provides convenience and accurate cuts for even baking. However a careful, steady knife works as well. The apples crisp in the low heat, which dries out the moisture. Once in the oven these need no attention (just remember to turn off the oven overnight), until it’s time to pack them (or eat them) in the morning.

Makes about 48 apple crisps; 4 (12-chip) servings

2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 large organic apples such as Fuji or Braeburn

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir together evaporated cane juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Using a mandoline or a steady hand and a knife, cut the apple vertically in to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. You do not need to core or peel the apple. The seeds will fall out or can easily be removed from apple slices after cutting.

Place apple slices on prepared baking sheets in a single layer and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1½ hours. Rotate pans and cook for 1 hour more. Turn off heat and leave in the oven overnight if apples are not dry and crisp. Loosen chips with a spatula to remove from parchment paper.

Kids Korner

Shake it Up! The easiest way to lightly and evenly sprinkle sugars and spices is to transfer to a spice shaker. Having a specially marked shaker for cinnamon and sugar saves time when making other snacks such as cinnamon toast or spicing up plain yogurt. This is also a “neat” way to get children to help with decorating and flavoring tasks.


Thank You Ms. Waters

Portrait for National Gallery

As many of you know last weekend was the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA.  It is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.  Of course Chez Panisse was and is more than a restaurant.  It’s a place where a true pioneer Alice Waters, discovered and shared with Berkeley, California, and America about how simple slow cooking made with fresh ingredients grown locally, right out of the garden, benefits everyone and tastes best.  It seems so easy and obvious now, but not then.  Of course during the last 40 years Chez Panisse has been a spring board for not only a healthy eating philosophy but a spring board for hundreds of chefs and new restaurants.

Then of course there’s the Edible Schoolyard Project.  Where Ms. Waters planted a garden in Martin Luther King Middle School and turned it into a classroom (and now dining hall) for kids to learn about food, growing, cooking and community.  It has become a national and international model and curriculum for schools all over the world.

I can’t say enough about what she’s done and continues to do.  Neither can the National Gallery as her portrait (see above) will go there after being on display in Berkeley.  I got to see the portrait and experience what she’s built with the Edible Schoolyard Project last Saturday with my family as we attended the OpenEducation event where the Berkeley Art Museum was transformed into an open classroom and living kitchen.  There was a variety of “school” projects to highlight to the public what goes on in garden classrooms around the country thanks to Ms. Waters programs.  My family enjoyed fudge made from goat’s milk and saw the responsible goats.  My kids made a jar of pickles and tortillas.  We brought home seed bombs and lettuces.  We saw grain being ground by a bicycle.  And saw 5,000 honey bees in action.  It was a wonderful day to celebrate food, community and the power of teaching.  I was, and am, quite inspired.  Thank you Ms. Waters and Happy Birthday Chez Panisse!

Open Education Event
the bees
the goats
grinding grain with a bicycle


making pickles
making tortillas

Someone’s in the Salad…

This is for all those who don’t wash their produce….

My son’s school has an amazing garden with fruit trees, herbs, veggies, and even chickens.  Last week my son’s class was able to pick and bring home a bag of assorted greens.  When we got home we put the bag in the fridge.  I was quite surprised that evening, when I opened the bag to wash the lettuces and found a few hitchhikers…slugs and snails.  I thought the kids would be bothered and not eat the lettuce, but I was wrong.  We relocated the critters and washed (and washed again) the leaves to look for any other visitors.  Finally we spun it in the salad spinner.  Even in the spinner we saw one last tiny slug.

Note the round object on inside of bag
escargot anyone?

My son was proud of his lettuce and we enjoyed a tasty salad together.

Now of course if you buy your lettuce at the supermarket, it is unlikley you’ll have slugs and snails.  However it is still possible to have their feces.  So remember to wash and spin no matter if your lettuce comes right from the garden, picked at the farmer’s market or purcahsed at the grocery store.  (Yes, even that bagged salad should be washed)


A Visit to Nana’s Garden

I’m so proud of my parents.  My mom asked her gardener to pull up some lawn in their backyard and plant a vegetable garden.  Mind you it’s not that big – about 5 x 8, but there’s lot’s growing.  They’re growing tomatoes, carrots, squash, cucumber, peas and radishes.  Yes, lots and lots of radishes.

My mom was so excited to show my kids the garden on our visit last week.  And the kids had a great time watering the plants, and pulling up those radishes.  We also had them on salads and sliced them with butter and salt. 

My son shared a song with his grandparents he learned at school about growing a garden.  It’s so sweet and goes like this…

In by inch, row by row,

gtta make this garden grow.

All you need is a rake and a hoe,

and a piece of furtile ground.

Inch by inch, row by row,

someone bless these seeds I sow,

some one warm and from below,

til’ the rain comes tumbling down.


Spring Peas Please

I love peas.  Really, any peas….snap, spring, petit, snow.  There’s something about the shape and color that is very happy and reminds me of hot days as a kid.  Spring, also known as English peas have a pretty short season.  English peas are unlike snap peas in that you don’t eat the pod, just the sweet peas inside.  My kids love popping them open, then unzipping them to see how big and how many they got.  Actually when choosing spring peas, you want to stay away from those that are too fat and bulging as they’re full of starch and not as sweet as the smaller pods.

At the beginning of spring pea season I hit the farmer’s market and bought about 8 pounds from Iocopa Farms.  (Unfortunately we weren’t very lucky growing our own peas this year.  The vines are growing, but no peas.)  My kids and I shelled for days.  They really got into it.  My daughter eating them faster than we can shell them.  Really you should shell them quickly after buying and cook or eat them within a few days.  If cooking the English peas, figure that 1 pound will yield 1 cup of shelled peas.   

Besides eating them raw we also made pea puree, spring pea soup, orzo with peas and mint, and curry, herb peas.  The good thing about peas is you can buy them organic and frozen all year long.  This certainly cuts down the time to make a pea dish if you don’t have the time or the willing mini sous chefs to shell with you.  It also allows you to enjoy them year round – in or out of season.  We were able to grow the fresh cilantro and mint that I think pair so well with peas.

Here’s a few pea recipes if you’re heading to the farmer’s market or picking in your own garden now.  Or keep these recipes for the Fall, when you hit the frozen aisle and need a reminder of spring.  Oddly enough some kids like icey, frozen vegetables.  My son loved a bowl of frozen peas right out of the freezer when he was 3 and 4 years old.  I sometimes suggest frozen veggies to parents who say their kids won’t eat veggies.  Try them raw, cooked, and even frozen.  You never know…

Sweet Pea Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Give peas a chance!   Many children’s first foray into green vegetables is peas, because of their sweet flavor.  Just be careful not to overcook.  They should be bright green, not drab and gray, like the jarred version.

 1 package (10 ounces) frozen organic peas, or 10 ounces shelled fresh peas

 Steamer Method:

Place frozen or fresh peas in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1to 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until peas and tender and bright green.  Rinse peas in cold water to stop cooking.  Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Curry & Herb Peas (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

 The cumin and curry makes this dish an aromatic, but not spicy for those just trying spices.  These peas make a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meats for all ages.   

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup water

16 ounces fresh or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen, organic peas, thawed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

 Heat butter in large saucepan over moderate heat.  When foam subsides, add garlic to pan and quickly sauté until light brown.  Stir in curry, cumin, water and peas and simmer until peas are tender and heated throughout, approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, if desired.

 Mind your peas!  They will cook quickly.  If they are overcooked, they can become mushy, and lose their bright color and sweet flavor.


The Mystery of the Dissappearing Kale…

Someone’s been eating our kale…and it’s just about gone.  We have a container garden on our deck.  I’ve been amazed by how much we’ve been able to eat and enjoy from this experiment – lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, beans, herbs, etc…  Once the peas were done, we planted some kale and chard starts.  It was all growing well, about 6 – 8 weeks in, until we noticed the leaves of the kale dissappearing.  Take a look…

eaten kale

The reason we have the plants on our deck is because of our deer friends and other critters that live around the house.  My daughter found a colorful caterpiller on the radishes one day and said “He (the caterpiller) can have the tops and we can have the bottoms.  We need to share”.  This was a very nice sentiment and acceptable because there was only critter.  Of course the garden is organic (no spraying or funny stuff) so I suppose anyone is welcome.

the investigator

But the kale was different.  And why is this creature just have a taste for kale?  What’s wrong with the beans and chard?  My son went out and examined more closely and found the culprits.  Many of them.  Over 40!  They are cute little looping caterpillars that blend right in to the kale leaves.  My son was so proud and just kept pulling more and more off the plant.  We decided on a relocation program to the park below our house.  My son assured me it would take them a year to get back up to our house.  We’ll see… 

the culprits