Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Days of Culinary Adventures for Boys: It's a Garden Out There!

Josiah was 7 in this picture. He and Papa (my Dad) are planting a garden in our backyard. How they grow (the gardens and the boys!)

Do your boys (or kids for that matter) balk at green veggies?

Do they know the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber? 

I think we need to get back in our gardens…or at least become friendlier with the produce section in our grocery stories. 

When I was a little girl part of my responsibility as a member of my family was to work in the garden. Trust me, I wasn’t in love with garden work. Even after I became an adult and my husband and I planted a garden on our own I dreaded it. Okay. So maybe dread is too harsh. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite. 

I didn't quite understand the life skills I was learning when I was young. To become self-supporting, substainable, organic...those are goals many of us have nowadays. It's ironic that this is exactly how many of our relatives lived in days gone by. It's time we get back to some of that. Today we live in an apartment. And while I am thankful I have my Dad’s garden I can enjoy, I miss having at least the option to sow a little seed. 

You might be fortunate to have a green thumb or have a child (or children) who was born with a green thumb. My son loves working outside. To work on my parents’ farm is one of his favorite boyhood experiences. I hope it continues as he grows.

 In any event, I am doing my best to show him what cool and yummy things we can do with a bountiful harvest. Even if it comes from the grocery store.  

Before we get to the Challenge Recipe Josiah chose to make for today (Spaghetti!), I want to give you a few ideas for incorporating a garden into your life (even if you don’t have the dirt). 

Plant Me a Bean (or something) 

Let’s talk about growing something. Anything. Maybe you are already a seasoned gardener. Or maybe you need gardening wisdom. I don’t have any advice for you. Research. Study. Ask somebody with a green thumb. In the meantime, I am giving you some easy challenges to introduce the idea of “farm to table” to your boys.   

1.      Play this fun interactive game from

2.      This page is also a great interactive way to find out more about veggies. Are there any that you weren’t familiar with? I had no idea that a turnip is also called a swede. 

3.      If you have the space, I urge you to let your kids plant a small garden. This video gives easy, step-by-step advice for planting a successful kid’s garden. 

4.      Take a trip to a nursery or garden center. The best ones are run the family run kind. Those people know their gardening.

5.      If you are short on space (like me) you can always plant a container garden. Even a few pots in a window sill will produce something. This year, Josiah and I are going to plant a few herbs in pots for our balcony.

This picture is from an activity I did for a review last year. The kids (Josiah and his cousins) had to identify the herb by its smell. Josiah was surprisingly astute. I say "surprisingly" because I didn't think he had been paying attention during our little cooking lessons. He proved me wrong!

I have created a Pinterest Board dedicated to gardening with the young ones. There are so many great ideas. 

Years and years ago, this was the only method to keep a family fed through the lean winter months. It is becoming more in fashion again. In my family it never got out of fashion. I used to despair that we didn’t have any ‘tin can’ green beans in our pantry growing up. Now I hoard the canned green beans I get from my parents like they are chocolate. Persevering food is science, really. Here are some challenges to try with your guys (and gals). 

1.      Now who doesn’t like a piece of toast slathered with homemade jelly, jam or apple butter. Canning jam is not actually as hard as you might think. There are plenty of things to think about. Food safety, etc. This is a video for making Strawberry Jam. She does a great job of explaining the whole thing. 

Plus, this is a recipe for a small batch. Perfect for a guy to help mom whip up. 

2.      So this is not something you are going to find in your garden. But how cool would it be to make your own jerky. Oh, yes! This recipe does it without a dehydrator!

3.      My son loves pickles. One of the things on our “to make” list this summer are refrigerator pickles. This recipe does it just right. No fancy canning equipment required!

4.   I put this next video in because it is precious. There are a whole series of these. It is called Depression Cooking. I believe the sweet host has passed away. They are worth watching. In this one she cooks peppers and eggs. You have to watch it.

Recipe Challenge!
My challenge today is to make something that contains 3 things that one would find in a garden. As tempting as it might seem, I suggest staying away from any wiggly pests. 

My first idea was to take Josiah to the grocery store and let him pick out 3 things from the produce department to use in a dish. Some kids would go the exotic route and chose things that are unfamiliar and strange. Most won’t. At least mine won’t. He likes predictability. 

One of Josiah’s favorite meals is Spaghetti. And would you know that my spaghetti recipe has not one, not two, but 5 ingredients found in a garden. In fact, if we were to count the herbs it would be more than that! Not only that but you can make it in the crockpot. It's a good recipe for busy days. 

I am including the recipe below. Here are a few tips.

This recipe has celery, garlic, onions and carrots. Josiah used the food processor. The veggies cook down in the sauce and the food processor gets them nice and small. 

I used canned tomatoes...a whole lot. In the summer, when tomatoes are in high supply, I use whatever I have. My parents can tomatoes, but by this time of year (Spring) we have gone through them. They are my PRECIOUS. Josiah could open a can before he could read. We have our priorities straight around here.

Josiah "chunked" up the whole tomatoes with his hands. Don't worry. He had clean hands. This method will leave the spaghetti sauce a bit more chunky. I actually prefer a smoother sauce so I will give the whole tomatoes a whirl in the food processor.

Crockpot cooking is just plain handy for homeschoolers. We made 2 batches of this spaghetti sauce. And we made it after supper and let it cook all night. We were going to have an early morning so I made sure we had a plan (and supper). Don't get too excited. I am seldom so practical.

You can download the recipe below. Stay tuned for our final day of Culinary Adventures for Boys. We will be talking Wild and Peculiar Food.

 Beth @ Acorn Hill Academy ~ Nature Study
Aurie @ Our Good Life ~ Photography Tips and Tricks
Dinah @ The Traveling Classroom ~  Tips for Learning a Second Language
Julie @ Nurturing Learning ~ Art Resources
Tara @ This Sweet Life ~ Preparing for a New School Year
Sara @ Embracing Destiny ~ Purposeful Living
Beth @ Ozark Ramblings ~  Photoshop Elements for Homeschool
Hillary @ Our Homeschool Studio ~ Fitting in the Extras

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