Cooking with Kids

The kids gave me a personalized stool, with Renee's Seed packets on top.
If you've been following my blog, you know I'm a fan of kids garden projects, and I've been working with one in particular, the Health, Wellness and Environmental Studies Elementary Gardens, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you use the Search button on this blog, and look under "school garden," you will find previous stories and photos. (You can help this school by visiting my website and clicking on the button, "Buy Seeds, Help Kids.") Renee Shepherd at Reneesgarden.com is generously donating 25 cents of every dollar you spend buying seed, to this remarkable school. Click here for details, or from my home page of my website. This week I drove to the school for the honor of doing 2 classes with the kids, one with the  4th grade, one with the 5th grade. (You can also follow the school on FaceBook, just look for HWES school on FB search; they'd appreciate it if you "Like" them).
Boys making tortilla chips with chili powder.
The goal was to teach the kids how to use some of the herbs from their school garden. They'd picked rosemary for the cookies, chives and mint for the salsa, and one of their hens had provided eggs. The tortilla chips are simple: spray tortillas with a tiny bit of oil, sprinkle with chili powder, cut in strips and bake until crisp.
Ingredients from the school garden.
I can't talk without using my hands and we were discussing something really important but I don't remember what it was. While the kids worked on snipping and cutting and prepping, I mixed the cookie dough. Our cookies for the day were Rosemary-Orange Chocolate Chip.

You may not realize it but children's taste buds aren't fully developed like adults, so the taste of something like rosemary isn't something kids are drawn to. Kids primarily can taste sweet, sour, salty and bitter until they're in their teens or later. But if you introduce them to a flavor like rosemary, with another flavor with it - chocolate for instance, it is more pleasant for their tastes. So each of the children tasted a chocolate chip with a rosemary leaf

That's Melinda Smith, below, who teaches, organizes and oversees the garden, writes grants and everything else to keep the garden going and teachers involved.

Melinda demonstrating the safe use of knives.
These girls squeezed lots of lime juice for the Green Grape Salsa.
Once we had all the ingredients - green seedless grapes, lime juice, poblano pepper, mint, chives and diced green onion, I whirred it up in my handy little salsa maker.

The tortilla chips came out of the oven in time for the kids to all taste the Green Grape Salsa (from my book, Salsas, from Apple to Zucchini). Almost every child liked the salsa (and we made enough to take to the Craighead County Master Gardeners where I spoke that evening).

A favorable review from one of the 5th graders.
Recipe for Rosemary-Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Grated peel from 1 orange

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
1 - Mix flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl and set aside
2 - Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy.
3 - Add eggs and beat.
4 - Add flour mixture, stirring well.
5 - Stir in chocolate pieces, rosemary and orange peel.
6 - Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets.
7 - Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Rosemary-Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to bake.
It's fascinating to see kids excited about learning. This is a remarkable school, with some of the most creative and amazing teachers. Every trip I make to the school, 12 hours round trip, I come back saying if school had been that way when I was a kid, I would have loved school!
Great helpers, it was a fun day.

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