encouraging your kids to try new foods

I asked my boys for their input when I was selecting seeds for our garden in early spring. My older boy wanted carrots. Carrots seemed like a waste of precious garden space to me. I tried to talk him into something more interesting, but he didn’t waver. Carrots are his favorite vegetable. Raw only, thank you very much.

So we planted a short row of carrots. Our very prolific lemon cucumber vines almost covered them up, but we did have carrots to dig in late October.

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The biggest one weighed nearly a pound, I think. It made its way into a batch of carrot soup not long after we picked this book up at the library:

carrot soup

Of the eleven books we checked out that week, my preschooler asked for this one to be reread the most. On the last page, there’s a recipe for rabbit’s favorite carrot soup. So we made a half a batch one day.

You know that theory about having your kids involved in growing and cooking their food? It seems to hold true somewhat – they do tend to be willing to try new things when they’re involved in the decision making process. Both boys ate a small serving of the soup. The older boy even asked for seconds. And he suggested I write the recipe down before we turn the book in.

But when I offered them carrot soup the following day, they were willing to let their mom eat all the leftovers. I didn’t mind. It was the best carrot soup I’d ever made. (The first as well.)

kid-friendly pickle making

My boys are getting to the age where they are starting to be helpful in the kitchen. Well, almost. But the optimist in me is thinking that starting early means we get to reap the rewards sooner. And my goal is that by the time they are eight years old they’ll be cooking dinner once a week. (I’m not joking. Kids rise to the occasion. I wouldn’t want to set the expectations too low.)  So for our first son, I’ve just got a little over two years to work up to it. This is the reason pickle-making became a recent group project. One reason – the other reason had to do with the large stack of cucumbers on the counter.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s quick and there’s no sweating over a hot water bath in a steamy kitchen. You just slice and slice and slice then heat up a brine to pour over all those sliced cucumbers. Where does the teaching come in? We reviewed the sizes of measuring cups and spoons as we prepared the brine. And I reminded them about level full spoons and cups as they helped measure.

Here’s what we did.

Put these three ingredients in a five-quart container (such as an ice cream bucket) in the order listed:
1 onion, sliced
4 heads of dill
Enough pickle slices or spears to fill the container

Measure the following brine ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling:

1 quart water

1 ¾ cups vinegar

1/3 cup canning salt

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bulb garlic, each clove halved

1 teaspoon mustard seed

½ teaspoon alum

Pour the brine over the prepared cucumbers. Cool slightly, cover and store in the refrigerator.

We tried them after a couple of days, and both boys liked them. But these pickles tend to get better with age. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for that. With the amount we made, we’re expecting to have homemade pickles till Thanksgiving.