Kids Cooking From the Garden

Okay, so the kids have helped in the garden and grown lots and lots of vegetables. Now what? Besides eating all the peas as they pick them and gnawing on the carrots after the great fun of pulling them out of the ground, what’s next? Let’s take the kids one step further and show them how to get the veggies to the table. Let’s get them to experiment. If your kids are like mine, they only like certain vegetables and they only like Mom to prepare them certain ways. Let’s shake their world a little and ask them to try these ideas:

Make pizza! Produce from the garden can work well on a pizza. Start with a good crust. I use a simple recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. Next comes the sauce. Depending on their level of kitchen skill, they can use a bottled pizza sauce or make one from scratch. The truly adventurous might want to try an alfredo sauce, barbeque sauce, or pesto sauce. Instead of always using mozzarella cheese, they might want to experiment with provolone, feta, gorgonzola, parmesan, or swiss. Next come the veggies, and your kids are only limited by their imagination and taste buds. Don’t forget all your garden herbs either. Oregano, basil, and rosemary come quickly to mind.

Each pizza can be a different creation. They can try garlic, green onions, even cooked potato chunks, asparagus tips, and basil with a white sauce, or possibly grilled chicken pieces, red onion slices, cilantro, and broccoli tips over a barbeque sauce. Your kids might prefer a traditional pizza sauce with green and red peppers, cherry tomato halves, pepperoni, oregano and basil. Ooh, here’s another one: spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli tips, rosemary, and Canadian bacon with an olive oil glaze instead of a sauce.

Tips for Success:

  • Help your child assemble all the ingredients ahead of time. Help them wash and chop so they don’t get overwhelmed (or lazy). I find they’re less suspicious of the pizza that has at least one familiar item on it; like pepperoni or sausage. If it’s really “out there” then it’s probably best to call it something other than pizza.
  • Cold pasta is a perfect backdrop for lots of different veggies, and a perfect way for kids to experiment. Corkscrew pasta, small shells, or anything that grabs their attention will work fine. My kids like the pasta shaped like little peace signs. Cook the pasta al dente and cool. To make it simple, have your child add some Zesty Italian dressing and some Ranch dressing to taste. Keep in mind that the Italian dressing will be absorbed by the pasta, so add a little extra right before serving.
  • Which veggies to add? Anything they like and anything that sounds like it could go together. Here’s a list of possibilities to get them started:
    • mushrooms,
    • red onions,
    • green onions,
    • sweet onions,
    • leeks,
    • black olives,
    • cherry tomatoes,
    • roma tomato chunks,
    • sun-dried tomatoes,
    • broccoli,
    • asparagus,
    • peas,
    • pea pods,
    • green beans,
    • cauliflower,
    • zucchini,
    • egg plant,
    • spinach,
    • peppers,
    • chilies,
    • garlic,
    • basil,
    • oregano,
    • rosemary,
    • thyme,
    • black pepper,
    • cilantro, and
    • parsley.

    They can also add cooked chicken or chopped ham, cheese hunks, and slivered almonds or walnut pieces.

Again, it’s good to help with the chopping of the vegetables. The key is to watch the proportions. Don’t overload the salad with so much stuff that you can’t find the pasta! If your kids aren’t into cold pasta, it can be hot pasta with spaghetti or fettuccini noodles and an alfredo sauce or spaghetti sauce. Just blanch the veggies first before adding them to the hot pasta.

Don’t stop there. Your kids can also try adding different vegetables to a green salad, hot rice, or soup.

It’s no secret that kids are more likely to sample food they’ve prepared themselves. By giving them choices to begin with, you’re setting them up for a meal they’ll be proud to prepare and happy to eat. Challenge your kids to see who can come up with the most creative pizza or pasta with maybe a prize for the best. Call it a Kids’ Creative Pizza Cook-off. Don’t be afraid to let them loose in your kitchen. I’m confident they can create a masterpiece. After all, they’re pretty good at making a great mud soup with sticks, rocks, grass, and sand, aren’t they?

    Editor’s Note: Peggy Baron cooks with her kids in Colorado, and runs which is a website devoted to helping other parents and kids have fun together in the kitchen. Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin' Kids Newsletter. Each bi-monthly newsletter has fun facts, recipes, jokes, games, cooking safety, and cooking terms wrapped around a different theme.