Lil’ Nosh ~ Let’s Talk Carrots!

Carrots are more than the nibble food for bunnies! They are a fresh and really healthy vegetable for young and old alike! Let’s talk about helping your little ones learn about this wonderful vegetable http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=21.

Carrots are a root vegetable. They come out of the ground and can grow in length from only a few inches up to about three feet. Most of the carrots we see in the produce aisle of the grocery store are about a foot long. Take a child to a Farmers’ Market and challenge them to find the smallest carrots and the largest.

Carrots have wonderful health benefits, but improving vision is a myth http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/carrots.asp! So don’t tell kids to eat their carrots or they will have to wear glasses! 😉  They do have a high nutritional value and are wonderful for heart health and colon health.

I think the best FUN FACT about carrots is that they come in a variety of colors. In my store there are only orange ones, sadly. However, carrots http://indianapublicmedia.org/eartheats/colorful-carrots-cult/ come in purple, yellow, white, and red as well!

{Photo credit:: http://indianapublicmedia.org/eartheats/colorful-carrots-cult/}

If you are fortunate to live in a place where these treats are easy to find, be sure to have them on hand to show kids. Peel and taste them to see if they are different in flavor!!

Raw carrots are fresh and crunchy. They are mild in flavor and are often eaten with some sort of creamy dip. When cooked, carrots become soft. When roasted, they are perfect and delicious; they are creamy inside and a little crispy outside. This is my favorite way to eat them.

Now, if you are like my husband, carrots are not a favorite. Knowing they are healthy for him, I include them in recipes to make them tastier to eat. They are perfect chopped into soups. They make a yummy creamy soup of their own when cooked and pureed.

I have one yummy recipe that can be made with children and is sure to please. I have made this salad for picnics and barbecues and it is universally one that people ask for the recipe. And then I have to laugh. Then I tell them the ‘recipe’ and they laugh.

CARROT SALAD

You will need:

  • carrots
  • raisins
  • mayonnaise

Shred the carrots. Toss in some raisins. Put a dollop of mayonnaise on and stir. Eat!

The amounts are up to you. As long as I am shredding I usually do a pound bag. Watch little fingers. The grown up should do the shredding. If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment you could use that.

The amount of raisins is also up to you. And then the mayonnaise… go very lightly. Pasta and potatoes will sop up dressing in the fridge and you will end up adding more. But carrots are hard and do not absorb the dressing. In fact, if you use too much mayo it will just be sloppy and not taste good. So go gently.

Let me reiterate that my husband does not like raw carrots and really does not like mayonnaise! There is something about this combination that is wonderful.

So teach a Lil’ about carrots. Make some carrot salad. And as always… enjoy!

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Lil’ Nosh ~ Exploring apples

Engaging children in shopping for foods and preparing them will peak their interest and encourage them to try new things. I have talked before about taking my daughters to the produce department and while choosing the flavors they already liked, we bought something new to try. Then we followed the Two Bite Rule https://neatnosh.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/choices-and-the-two-bite-rule/ and tried a new taste.

As an educator, I have thought quite a bit about teaching children when they are young, so that they grow up with good habits and are unafraid to try new things. I remember a child in my first grade class years ago; I will call him Casey. We were talking about the food groups and putting together balanced meals. I asked the children to tell me what they had for dinner last night. Casey asked, “What’s dinner?”  I was puzzled. Keeping my composure I explained that it was the meal you eat after you go home from school. Again Casey piped up, “You eat after you leave school?” Now I was stunned.

I realized that though my husband and I were not wealthy people, our children lived a rich life and I had to make the best of it. And I knew that the biggest thing missing in my upbringing and my husband’s was fresh produce. That became a focus and a challenge. Both of my girls now eat healthy and fresh . . . most of the time! 🙂

We are going to do some talking about healthy foods for kids. I will be encouraging parents and teachers to expose children to new flavors, but just as importantly, to teach them all about the foods we eat every day. Don’t assume children know what a fruit or vegetable is called or what it tastes like. Don’t assume that a child can see something like canned pineapple chunks and then see a fresh pineapple and know that they are the same fruit! Just as I had to learn one at a time how to choose, store, and prepare produce, children do too. Take children on your journey with you!

So let’s start with the apple. And remember no fact should be ignored as too simple or too basic.

Apples are a sweet fruit that grows on apple trees. There come in green, yellow, and many shades of red. Apples have a skin you can eat, but some people like to peel it off and just eat the white inside. No matter what color it is outside, all apples are white inside! Inside the apple there is a core and this core holds seeds. The seeds can grow more apples!

Apples can be used to make many sweet and delicious treats. From applesauce to apple pie, there are many foods that apples make better. And when squeezed, apples make delicious cider or juice.

You can buy your apples in the store, but it is so much more fun to go apple picking and choose your own. You can go to an apple orchard and pick your own apples off of the trees! This means your apples will be fresher and taste even better because you chose them yourself!

    My Lil’ Tammy ~ apple picking!

Now that you have chosen the apples, find one or two fun and tasty kid friendly recipes. Help children to associate the apples and that flavor to the many recipe ideas that can be made from them! Making applesauce is always a winner. This can even be made carefully in a classroom with a crock pot.

SO SIMPLE APPLESAUCE

You will need

  • 10 apples
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp clear agave nectar (or you can use brown sugar)

Peel, core, and chunk up the apples. This, of course, is to either be done by a grown up or under close supervision!  Put them in the crock pot and add the water. Give a stir. Sprinkle on the nutmeg and cinnamon. Now for a little extra sweetness, add a little clear agave nectar. (This is a wonderful natural sweetener. If you haven’t yet discovered it, it is time!) If you do not use agave, you can sprinkle some brown sugar on the apples. Or you can leave out the sweetener altogether. Apples are yummy and sweet by themselves! Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

So moms, put this in the crock pot and your house will smell amazing all day! Teachers, do this in the morning as your first lesson of the day so that the class can monitor the progress and eat some or take a portion home. You may need to cool and store the applesauce overnight and eat for a morning snack the next day as it will be HOT!

To add a little fun, take a potato masher and periodically remove the top and mash the cooking apples. Make sure the Lil’s don’t get too crazy and splash ~ the applesauce will be hot!

Taste a little, add a little . . . if you like more cinnamon, or a little more sweetness, remember as always that you are making this for you!

Now, one more fun snack with apples. Apple chips are a great use for apples when you buy way too many! LOL! And they are a great substitute for other fatty snacks.

SIMPLE APPLE CHIPS

One apple will make a pan of chips. Of course, you can make as many as you wish.

Slice the top and bottom off of the apple.

     

Slice the apple in thin slices as even as possible. Pick out the seeds and toss them. I DO NOT recommend using a mandolin around kids! I know way too many grown ups who have hurt themselves with those.

Put them on a greased sheet pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Put in a 220 degree oven. Since ovens do not all function the same, the time will be about an hour and 1/2 to two hours. Slow baking is best. Keep the Lil’s busy though. It is hard to wait! After about an hour, flip them and add a pinch more sugar and cinnamon. On a whole apple you may use 1/2 tsp. of each.

Crunchy, sweet, and delicious!

*****

So remember Casey? I did check back on his progress after he left my first grade class. He was moved to a foster family for a time while his mama got some help. He began to flourish, to fill out, and to look healthier in the next couple of years. And he began to smile.

Take good care of the kids in your life. Teach them early to eat healthy, eat fresh, and most of all, to enjoy!

{Photo Credits ~ Thanks to Tammy Greynolds for the apple picking shots!}