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Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:14 pm

Kids’ day at the farm


Children who learn how food is grown have a better chance of liking their vegetables.

I’ve always been mystified when I hear about children refusing to eat vegetables – any vegetables, not just one or two – or viewing them as inherently awful. Vegetables in their grandparents’ produce farm and our garden were an integral part of my kids’ life. They teethed on scallions, wiped tomatoes for selling and helped shell beans or prepare corn for freezing. And they participated in kitchen tasks. But kids’ vegetable avoidance is a problem for many parents. Recent TV ads show moms desperately try to keep their kids from discovering that a brand of canned pastas have a full serving of vegetables.

Involving kids in growing, harvesting and preparing their food (other things as well as vegetables) is a wonderful way to broaden their tastes – even if it’s just planting and watering a few tomato plants or herbs, or helping make a meal. It can make for fun family interaction as well as providing kids with a sense of satisfaction and self-sufficiency.

Discovering where their food comes from and how it’s grown can also be an adventure of exploration that widens kids’ perspective. On Monday, July 25, Slow Food Springfield will present “Kid’s Day at the Farm, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Heck’s Harvest and Veentra’s Vegetables. Children will learn about chickens, take a look at tractors and farm tools, go into the field to dig potatoes, and participate in a scavenger hunt. They’ll help prepare a salsa with ingredients they’ve participated in gathering, then eat it with chips donated by Food Fantasies.

The first Kid’s Day at the Farm, in 2009, was a great success, according to Illinois Stewardship Alliance executive director Lindsay Record, who is assisting with the event. “It had a really big impact on the kids,” she says. “One parent later reported that their child had refused to eat potatoes in any other form besides French fries before. But after Kids’ day, he wanted them all the time, in all kinds of ways.”

Garrick Veenstra will demonstrate how to use various farm tools and give the kids a chance to sit on tractors. Andy Heck will be out in the fields, showing kids just where vegetables come from – beans on bushes, tomatoes on the vine, carrots and potatoes with leaves above ground and the roots/tubers below and more. He’ll also oversee the hugely popular potato dig.
Meanwhile, in the chicken yard, Slow Food Springfield co-leader Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant will talk about the birds, and Veenstra’s daughter, Sol, aged six, will show the children how she gathers the eggs, something she’s been doing for awhile now.

The cost for Kid’s Day at the Farm is $3 per person for both children and adults. Reservations must be made by July 18. Preregistration is required, either at the Slow Food Springfield booth at the Old State Capitol Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or by mailing a check made out to Slow Food Springfield c/o ISA, 401 W. Jackson, Springfield, IL 62704. Please include the names of adults and names of ages of children, as well as a phone number and email address. For additional information, call 217-528-1563 or email slowfoodspringfield@gmail.com.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

RealCuisine Recipe

My mother was given this recipe from a friend back when I was in high school. It was a traditional recipe of her Eastern European family. Knefli is essentially large-form spaetzle in larger form. My mom’s friend served it with roast lamb and gravy. That was wonderful, but I’ve since adapted it as a vehicle for all kinds of sauces; often as a main-course pasta. It’s also great in chicken broth/stock; a chicken soup with homemade noodles that takes only about 10 minutes from start to finish if there’s chicken stock in your pantry or freezer.

My kids loved the mouth-feel of knefli’s irregular pieces. It’s so easy to make that I stood them on a chair even when they were quite small, helping them tip the bowl over boiling water so they could cut strands of the dough into it. 

  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. hot tap water
  • 1 tsp. salt

Mix all the above ingredients in a large bowl to form a loose dough. You may need to add a little more water. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add about 2 T. salt. When the water is boiling, tilt the bowl of dough at a slight angle over the water and with a spatula or knife cut off the dough into shreds as it spills over the side of the bowl. Periodically dip the knife/spatula into the boiling water to clean off any dough that clings to it. The knefli should be done approximately 2 minutes after rising to the water’s surface. Drain and serve with the sauce of your choice, or cut the knefli into boiling chicken or vegetable stock for soup.

RealCuisine Recipe
Fresh tomato, brie, garlic, and basil pasta sauce

My kids loved making this sauce – and still do; it’s something they’ve continued to make as adults. If the tomatoes aren’t peeled, there’s no cooking involved beyond placing a bowl in a warm oven, making it ideal for age-appropriate kids to prepare on their own, or with adult supervision. Be sure that the brie is fresh: it should be firm and not bulging out the sides, and should smell fresh, with no hint of ammonia.

  • 3 c. coarsely chopped,
  • seeded tomatoes
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 8 - 12 oz. brie cheese*
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. – 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper

Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find. Any type works well – cherry tomatoes, Romas, heirloom black, green, yellow or striped, as well as red. A combination of colors/types is attractive. The tomatoes can be peeled or not. To peel tomatoes, drop in boiling water for 5 seconds, and remove with a slotted spoon. The peel will remove easily. Remove the seeds and the jelly substance around them and cut into bite-sized chunks. Put the tomatoes in a sieve and toss with the salt. Let the tomatoes drain for 15 minutes, then place in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the pasta and condiment when finished.

While the tomatoes are draining, turn the oven on low for 5 minutes, then turn it off.

 Cut the cheese into cubes and add to the tomatoes. Stir in the garlic and olive oil. Tear the basil leaves into pieces or chiffonade them (cut into very thin strips; best done by stacking the leaves before cutting). Add half the basil, reserving the rest, and the pepper. Place the bowl in the warm oven for 30 minutes to let the ingredients warm and the flavors combine. The tomatoes will continue to exude juice, which is fine.

While the sauce is in the oven bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a few tablespoons of salt. About 10 minutes before the tomato mixture should be removed from the oven, cut the knefli into the pot. Alternatively, use one pound of dried pasta, such as penne, or orchiette (this small shallow cup-shape pasta’s name means “little pig ears” in Italian.)

When the pasta/knefli is cooked, drain and IMMEDIATELY add to the tomato/brie mixture, tossing until the ingredients are combined and the cheese has incorporated into the sauce. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining basil.  Serves 4 – 8.

 *You can use the brie with the rind on or off, or just trim off the thicker parts of the rind. Whatever your preference, 8 oz. should be used in the dish. If the rind is completely removed it takes approximately 12 oz. cheese with rind to yield 8 oz. trimmed.

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