I just finished reading Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning basic cooking techniques for making fresh, healthy food taste fabulous. Maybe it’s just because the Houston summer heat is making me crave cold foods, but my favorite section was on salads, and particularly salad dressings. I won’t give away all his secrets, but I don’t know that I will be buying salad dressing again after tasting some of his recipes!
Which brings me to kids, and salads, and why nobody, especially kids, really wants to eat salad. I can think of two main reasons: taste and texture.
Taste. Most salads are comprised of out of season veggies and plain lettuce. With a dressing that the kids either love (mine will eat ranch out of a spoon) or hate. Using fresh, seasonal veggies, and fruits/seeds/nuts/cheeses/meats, and a homemade dressing can vastly improve flavor. One combo we love is spring mix with black beans, fresh salsa mixed with a little olive oil, and crushed Doritos on top. A few chopped peppers and carrots in there make for great flavor and texture. A little chicken or taco meat makes it a meal.
Texture. Have you ever been at a restaurant and tried to gracefully eat a giant green leaf, full of gloppy salad dressing? Me too. Kids have smaller mouths, and a little leaf for us may be unwieldy for them. My solution is to either 1) chop everything into small bite sizes pieces that can be easily stabbed with a fork or scooped with a spoon, or 2) turn it into finger food. Veggie trays are fairly popular with kids, especially when served with dip or hummus.
This week we made salad boats; great taste, texture, AND they got to play with their food! Hey, if Jamie Oliver can make his fame and fortune playing with food, I figure my sweet little ones can get their hands dirty too.
Baby hearts of romaine
goat cheese (or cream cheese)
bite-size stuffers ( pepper slices, carrots, sunflower seeds, cucumber slices, tomato…)
Dressing: combine 1 part lemon juice with 3 parts good olive oil, a dash of salt, and a dash of white pepper. Place in a jar or bottle with a lid (we use an empty glass kombucha bottle) and have a child shake and count to 30.
Was and dry romaine. Pull romaine apart into little “boats.” Smear cheese at the bottom of each boat. Drizzle a little dressing on the inside. Let children fill their boats with “stuffers.” My only rule was that they had to eat their creations at the end!