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By Anna Farrier
2nd Place, Food Article, 2020 NMPW Contest. Kids who help plan, prepare and cook nutritious foods often learn to love nutritious foods.
Food brings families together. Preparing meals and snacks together can be some of the most meaningful and influential time you’ll spend with your children. It’s fun, it’s messy, and it’s teaching your kids skills that will last a lifetime.
And something we know from nearly 25 years of Cooking with Kids, which works in school classrooms and cafeterias to provide free nutrition education to more than 5,000 kids each year in northern New Mexico: When children help prepare nutritious foods, they are excited to try them!
Kids who help plan, prepare and cook meals are much more likely to enjoy a broad array of foods, many more than adults often imagine. Since 1995, thousands of public school children have participated in Cooking with Kids’ unique and transformative food and nutrition education programing. We have seen firsthand the impact it has had on what kids will eat, both at school and at home. We have watched pint-sized participants taste a half-dozen varieties of late summer vine-ripened tomatoes from nearby farms, eyes wide and smiling mouths dribbling juice as they discover the remarkable range of flavors. We have seen the world become a little smaller, and a little more unified, when our kids make the connection between the tortillas common to Santa Fe cooking and the chapatis of India or injera breads of Ethiopia.
Kids love mixing up beans, tearing lettuce and grating cheese. It doesn’t have to be complicated — and there are ways to involve even the smallest helpers in the kitchen. Little hands can tear leafy herbs into tiny pieces, roll dough, mash beans or potatoes, or whisk salad dressing. Older kids can use butter knives to dice zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and a variety of fruits. The trick is to ask yourself, “Could a child be doing this?” It may take a little extra time and effort, but it will turn cooking into a conversation that opens the doorway to healthy eating for your entire family.
Participants in Cooking with Kids get to sauté veggies, taste soup, cut dough, measure flour, roll breadsticks and eat!
Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:
For more great ideas, check out our website: cookingwithkids.org. You’ll also find recipes, how-to videos and other family-friendly resources to get cooking with your kids. Ready to dive right in? Get The Cooking with Kids Cookbook by CWK founders Lynn Walters and Jane Stacey (available at many local retailers and at Amazon.com), full of all our tried-and-true recipes plus tons more tips for getting kids into the kitchen!
Warm Up with Hot Soup and Crunchy Breadsticks!
As the days get shorter and the nights get chillier, warm up the season with some hearty minestrone soup and breadsticks. There are lots of great ways for kids to help out. You’ll be amazed as they gobble up the vegetables they helped prepare!
Minestrone makes a delicious meal in one pot. In Italy there are many kinds of minestrone soup. This version uses kale, a highly nutritious green leafy vegetable. Cabbage, spinach or Swiss chard would also be good choices of greens in this soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 can (15-ounce) white beans (navy, cannellini or kidney beans)
1 cup frozen Italian green beans
3/4 cup chopped kale
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup small whole wheat pasta, cooked
Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat until softened. Add the celery and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Add the broth, water, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir in the zucchini, canned beans and green beans. When the soup returns to boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
Add the chopped kale and parsley and cook for several minutes more, until the greens are wilted.
To serve: Spoon a small amount of pasta into the bottom of the bowl. Ladle hot soup over the pasta and top with shredded Parmesan cheese.
It is believed that breadsticks were first made in medieval times. The Italian word for breadsticks is grissini. These crispy breadsticks are fun and easy to make.
11/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons baking yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
21/2 cups white flour
Additional olive oil and kosher salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a bowl, combine the water and yeast. Let sit for 2 minutes, until the yeast is dissolved. Add the olive oil, honey, rosemary, salt and whole wheat flour, stirring well. Add the white flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until a stiff dough forms. On a clean, lightly floured work surface knead the dough for 3-5 minutes, until smooth.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Now divide each piece into 4 equal pieces. You will have 32 pieces in all. Roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 8 inches long and place on a baking sheet.
Lightly brush the breadsticks with olive oil and sprinkle with salt as desired. Bake the breadsticks for about 15-18 minutes, turning once during the baking, until lightly browned and almost crisp. Let the breadsticks cool before serving.