By Marshall O’Brien, written for Produce for Kids
With autumn, the air is a bit cooler, the leaves are turning colors, and a new crop of fruits and vegetables are in prime season. Apples, cucumbers, and plums are bursting with a variety of colors and textures from ruby reds to pale greens, and from tender to firm. These foods taste fabulous, and are very kid-friendly.
When kids get to slice, dice and chop and then taste the goodness of what they just cut, they’ll want to experience more. If kids see how much fun these foods can be to cook and eat, they’ll be learning about healthy foods and won’t even know it! I’m going to offer some easy and fun ideas on how to get healthy and great-tasting items onto kids’ plates.
Kebobs: Kebobs are a universal crowd-pleaser, from savory to sweet. Kids will thoroughly enjoy hands-on assembly and learning about different flavors and textures.
• Fruit Kebobs: For starters, wash pineapple, plums, and nectarines. Cut the fruit into chunks (kids might need some help handling a knife). They can carefully assemble the kebob with small stirring straws (they’re safer for very young kids to handle than wooden skewers) starting with a piece of pineapple, plum, then nectarine, and repeat the process. Drizzling caramel dip over the top would make this an extra special treat.
• Vegetable Kebobs: On the savory side, for lunch or dinner, try the following: cut boneless chicken or pork into large bite-sized pieces, then assemble with a piece of chunked sweet onion, piece of meat, mushroom, meat, sweet onion and grape or cherry tomato to finish. This is a great way to introduce children to different flavors and textures.
Brush or drizzle the kebobs with olive oil and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over them. If you’re going to grill these, liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil until the meat is golden brown and firm, about 5-8 minutes a side. This is also a great opportunity for children to learn how to
grill safely. If you’re using wooden skewers for this, make sure to soak them for a good 1⁄2 hour to keep them from burning and breaking up on the grill. Once cooked, assist children by removing the cooked vegetables and meat off the skewers so no one gets burned from the hot food and so it can cool before being eaten.
• Salad on a Stick: How about salad on a stick? Cut tomatoes, sweet onions (using just a piece), and English or seedless cucumbers into bite-sized pieces. Assemble on a skewer and repeat as needed. To complete, drizzle with your favorite light dressing or dip (Light Blue Cheese dressing would be perfect).
• Fruit Salad: Fall provides succulent, sweet choices to make extraordinary fruit salads. Cut plums, peaches, apples, and pears into bite-sized pieces. Make sure to first remove the stones (the pit in the center), and seeds. In a bowl, mix the fruit together then let it sit so the juices can mix. Kids can shell a cup of pistachios, which they can sprinkle on top of the fruit to add richness and bring out the fruits’ flavors right before serving.
There are so many colorful and flavorful things you and your family can eat and savor in the autumn.