The Great Veggie Challenge: Week 1

For the next seven weeks, I am teaching a course at Anser Charter School in Boise called the Great Veggie Challenge for students in grades 1-3. The course description is:

Are you ready to take the challenge and prove to yourself and your parents that you can eat – and actually like – vegetables? During this course, we’ll jazz up the old routine by learning how to cook traditional vegetables in new and different ways. We’ll even experiment with some mystery vegetables you may have never tasted before. 

As part of the course, you’ll plant your own vegetables, visit the Co-op and Whole Foods on a field trip, and visit Peaceful Belly’s farm to harvest and prepare your own delicious treats.

For the course’s grand finale, you’ll put on chef hats and prepare a gourmet veggie meal for your parents at beautiful Peaceful Belly, sharing what you’ve learned and grown to love.

Week One

By engaging kids in the process of gardening, they’re much more apt to try new flavors and experiment with different vegetables. Thus, to begin our first class, the children learned a few gardening skills from an expert.

Melissa Frazier, who specializes in weddings, cut flowers, custom pots, edible gardens, children’s classes and more, shared different types of seeds with the students, then explained how and when to plant them. I also showed them this chart, displaying fruits and vegetables which are “in season,” so they could make the connection between seeding and harvesting.

Melissa then led them to plant seed potatoes, which are actually small, whole potatoes that have started sprouting.

 After planting the potatoes, the children watered the garden.

 This garden bed is now dedicated to potatoes!

After planting potatoes, we all worked together to clip fresh spinach that was planted last fall. The weather and timing were perfect to plant and harvest in the same day.

We then headed back inside to create our first vegetable dish together. While the girls were eager to help wash and spin the spinach leaves, the boys stepped up to demonstrate their knife skills to chop strawberries.

Everyone volunteered to prepare the spinach salad by combining the spinach, crumbled goat cheese and strawberries. I had some amazing helpers!

One young lady even discovered that goat cheese and strawberries make a delicious snack.

I had prepared the dressing beforehand, a recipe printed in Bon Appetit Magazine and originating from Berry’s Restaurant in Winton Salem, NC.

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
  • 2 T. poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 t. minced onion
  • 1/4 tp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. cider vinegar

Mix all the ingredients and you’ll have enough dressing for a lot of spinach salads!

I’m sure you noticed the large proportion of sugar in this recipe, and I actually added less than suggested (~1/3 cup). Also, I only used a small amount of dressing for a large salad; so in the end, the children didn’t actually get that much sugar in their systems.

Using the thumbs-up system suggested by Stacey Antine, author of Appetite for Life, all the boys and girls gave this spinach salad their seal of approval.

I also brought along some spinach dip I’d made at home from fresh spinach. They ate it so quickly that I didn’t even have time to get a photo! The recipe is below.

Spinach Dip

  • 11 ounces of fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Drizzle of EVOO

Sauté the garlic in olive oil for a minute or so and add the spinach. Sauté until just wilted and remove from heat.

Drain liquids from spinach in a colander.  Once drained, place spinach in food processor and add the following:

  • 1 1/Ž2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1Ž/4 cup parsley

Process until ingredients are thoroughly mixed and place in bowl. Add:

  • 2 TBSP plain yogurt (I like Greek best)
  • 1Ž/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix with spoon and chill. I served the dip with whole wheat crackers (another hit!).

(Original recipe was from Cooking Light).

To finish the class, I created badges that read “I tried spinach today and liked it.” However, they were quick to tell me that they didn’t “like” the spinach, they “loved” it! Way to go, students!

Stay tuned for class #2 where we’ll roast root vegetables and sample favorite “fake fry” dishes.

Melinda Hinson