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Mar 3, 2011 03:06 PM

Farmer’s Market Driven (Preschool) Cooking Projects

I need some cooking project ideas for my son’s cool preschool. They need to be fairly healthy, made in a small group, and be made primarily by the children. No dietary restrictions in this group except nuts.

And yes, seasonal, organic, and farmer’s market driven. Not ever project, but a group shops for snack weekly at a year round farmer’s market and there is usually a cooking project that emerges or is planned around the shopping.

Yes, my friends, even the preschools these days have a market driven menus. We are in Los Angeles so the markets still have winter produce as well as a riot of citrus, early spring veg (favas, asparagus, snap peas), avocados, and berries. They also have a fairly large garden with several citrus trees, herbs, and in season carrots/tomatoes/asparagus, lettuce, and pole beans.


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  1. Inarizushi might be an idea -- if the rice is made ahead of time, the kids could decide which vegetables (chopped) they'd like to add. Then scoop into the tofu shell and eat.
    Sticky though!

    1. Can't wait to read the replies! I used to do cooking projects at my son's coop preschool (Bay Area) and am gearing up for the next round when my daughter attends next year. I did a few baking projects -- I would make James Beard's breadstick dough at home and then the kids would roll them out and sprinkle with parmesan or cinnamon and we made whole wheat banana muffins. (I know that's not market-oriented, but maybe you can find other baking ideas...easy and makes the school smell so nice.) We also made fruit kebabs (the kids peeled & cut oranges, bananas, apples, etc) and threaded on bamboo skewers, served with yogurt-honey sauce. The kids really liked "taste tests" -- I bought different color bell peppers and they would vote for their favorites. My friend made "I tried something new today" stickers and gave them to kids who would taste an unusual dish. Stone soup is a great project too -- read the book and then have the kids add their bit to the pot. Does your school have a juicer? We did apple/carrot juice. You might also have luck making a variety of dips (hummus, tzatziki --sp?, etc) and just bring in blanched veg to dip. I also once read about making a healthy version of a gingerbread house using crackers for the base, cream cheese for the "glue" and veg for trees/plants in the "garden." Fun, fun, fun!

      1. Sounds fun! I was in an after school cooking class in elementary school here in LA and it was by far my favorite part of the day. I still remember my favorite "recipe" we made--mini Oreo cookie pie crusts filled with Jello-brand chocolate pudding and topped with Cool Whip and cookie crumbs. Definitely not healthy or Farmer's Market Driven, but hey...

        Will you have access to an oven or toaster oven? Maybe a stupid question, but you never know...

        --English muffin pizzas topped with veggies--prepared English muffin halves or bagels topped with pizza sauce and cheese and chopped veggies. If you have a blender or food processor, the kids could maybe help dumping in tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs for the sauce. Obviously supervised...
        --Veggie quesadillas--kids don't seem to mind these being nuked in the microwave. Let each kid top a tortilla with cheese and chopped bell peppers, shredded carrots or zucchini, onions, chopped tomatoes, etc.
        --Apple or mixed fruit crumble--the easiest tasty adult recipe. If you use berries, there won't be any need for chopping. Let kids toss fruit with a little sugar and lemon juice, spread in baking dish or individual ramekins. Kids can even help make crumble (flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon maybe) with their (clean) hands in a large bowl, then sprinkle on top of berries before baking. Probably a crowd pleaser.
        --Veggie tacos or burritos--let kids arrange and season veggies to roast (or you can sautee), adults roast veggies, then let kids assemble. Good veggies might be sweet potatoes, squash/zucchini, regular potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, corn. Serve with garnishes--shredded cheese, avocado, tomato, beans if they'll eat them.
        --Nachos--What kid doesn't love them? Just let kids choose their own veggie toppings.
        --Stuffed/Twice-baked potatoes--Bake them ahead of time and let cool so kids can handle. Adults chop in half, scrape out insides. Let kids mix in their own toppings in individual bowls (cheese, scallions, bacon, onion, bell pepper, chopped broccoli, sour cream) and scoop back into shells, then bake and serve.

        --Stuffed "salad" celery--Give each kid a stalk of celery and let them fill with something creamy (cream cheese?) and top with assorted sliced veggies or dried fruit.
        --Veggies with dip--the kids can mix up a batch of homemade ranch dressing, taking turns stirring/pouring ingredients. Portion into small dipping bowls with a variety of chopped veggies (carrots, celery, peppers, blanched broccoli/cauliflower, string beans, snap peas) and let the kids go to town.
        --Avocado turkey sandwiches--let the kids mash avocado in a bowl, then spread (sloppily I'm sure!) on toast/bread/roll, then top with a slice of deli turkey, slice of cheese, and maybe lay out a vinaigrette, mayo, mustard, and sandwich topping veggies like olives, pickles, etc. Not much of a recipe but kids sure like to layer and choose the ingredients in their food.
        --Fruit roll-ups--Not the candy... Let kids spread something creamy (if peanut butter's out, then try cream cheese--fruit cream cheese or plain beaten with a little sugar, marshmallow fluff, homemade whipped cream or half-thawed Cool Whip, or yogurt) then add chopped fresh fruit (berries?) and roll up to eat like a burrito. I would never eat this, but kids will eat anything in a tortilla for some reason.
        --Guacamole could be fun and use up several fresh fruits/veggies (avocado, tomato, onion, lemon/lime, herbs, maybe some garlic). Adults chop, kids mix. Serve with tortilla chips and veggies for dipping.
        --Fruit salad with cookies--Let kids mix their own fruit salads from a buffet of chopped fruit. Bake cookies to eat alongside.
        --Fruit shortcake--My favorite dessert mom made when I was a kid. She'd either bake or buy a pound cake or angel food cake, slice horizontally into 3 layers, then let me sit at the kitchen table to spread homemade whipped cream or thawed Cool Whip onto each layer, topping with sliced fruit (my favorite combo was bananas and strawberries). Stack slices on top of one another, refrigerate until cream sets, then slice and serve.

        Sorry this is so long. Just some ideas. Most of them vegetarian apparently. Anyway, good luck with the class! I grew up in LA going to a very multicultural tiny private school, but remember all of us kids were still pretty picky eaters. We all loved the mini pizzas the most. I remember this distinctly, and being so excited to get to try new toppings (I had never eaten a bell pepper until pizza class!).

        Oh, and one last thing! My mom came in once when I was in the 3rd grade for a "guest parent" supervision while we made some pastries. While the kids worked, my mom shook a container of cream for the duration of class to show us you could make butter like that. Everyone "oohed" and "aahed" at the end of class when that cream curdled. Tasted like sh*t but I was so proud of mom!

        1. If the school has some individual food choppers
          ( like this -
          )with supervision each child can do their own chopping. I've used them with preschoolers on farm field trips for salsa making with great success.

          The guy who does the "play with your food" books and calendars can provide inspiration too!

          1. It might be fun to do a bento thing. You could pick up some of those little vegetable cutters that make cute shapes, and maybe send in some molded sticky rice, or molded boiled eggs, if they need a little protein. Or maybe pre-cutting the veggies into shapes and letting them mold the rice would be safer, since the molds are plastic and don't have sharp edges. They're pretty cheap online, but I'm sure you have lots of good ethnic stores in LA.