I have read numerous books and websites about how to encourage fussy eaters to try new foods, and one suggestion that always stood out for me was to grow food with your children. The idea is that if they are involved in the whole process of producing their own food, they will be more willing to eat the food. I have grown a kitchen garden in my backyard for three years now, on top of previously growing in containers. While I would not say that the change has been immediate, I think that the general environment of being around growing food, watching it grow, learning about the insects in the garden, and sampling what we have has overall contributed to my girls willingly trying something new. They enjoy picking spinach, chives and snap peas for a quick snack while they play in the summer.
One of my favourite vegetables to grow is kale. It is a perennial plant that we grow as an annual, so it can survive winter here on the west coast and come back to life quickly. I am growing two different varieties of kale at the moment, and both of them have begun to grow again with the warmer temperatures of early spring.
|I love how water beads on the kale leaves.|
It has taken a couple of summers of making kale chips, but now all my girls enjoy eating it. In fact, because I wasn't able to harvest a large amount from my garden today and therefore only made a small batch for their snack, they were begging me to go out to the garden to get more kale. They finished the bowl I made for them in less than five minutes.
|Just harvested and ready to make into kale chips.|
I think what kids like about kale chips, much like popcorn, is the seasoning. Basic salt is of course tasty, but I have begun to mix it up with different seasoned salt. My favourite seasoning is an organic chipotle garlic salt that we picked up at a summer farmer's market.
Another trick to getting kids to enjoy kale chips it to make sure that each leaf is properly coated in oil. When it is too dry (not enough oil) it can be hard to swallow. When I toss the leaves with oil I gently rub each leaf with my fingers and thumb.
My last piece of advice is to reassure reluctant kids that if they don't like it after trying it they will not have to eat anymore. My middle daughter is easily turned off by food that looks unusual and she did not like the look of the baked kale when she first set her eyes on it. She only had a few bites the first time she tried it, but to her credit (and this is huge) she continued to have a few bites each time we made it, and now she loves it. I never forced her to eat it, and in fact she refused to try it for some time after I started making it. It helped her to hear her other sisters rave about how much they loved it.
- fresh, raw kale
- oil of choice (I use olive oil)
- salt or seasoning of choice
* I don't measure the amounts. Experiment and see what works.
- Preheat the oven to about 400 F. I use stoneware and like to put it in the oven as it is heating to ensure the chips are crispy. When I have not done this the kale remains soggy. If a conventional baking sheet is used this is unnecessary.
- Thoroughly wash and dry the kale (if the kale is wet the oil does not adhere well, resulting in dry kale chips).
|I like to use a salad spinner to dry the leaves, but if|
necessary, pat with a dish cloth.
- Rip the kale off the thick inner stalk and into pieces slightly larger than bite sized (the kale shrinks when baking).
|Left over kale stalks ready for the compost.|
- Toss the kale with oil, as much as is needed to coat all pieces. Be sure to gently rub each piece to completely coat with oil.
- Sprinkle seasoning and toss.
- Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Be sure to not layer too thickly or the kale will not crisp properly. If needed, do two batches to ensure the kale crisps.
- Check frequently. Once the kale appears slightly browned, it may be necessary to turn the layers. Because I preheat the pan I now do not have to do this.
- Take the kale chips out of the oven when desired crispness and browning has occurred. Don't overdo it or it will taste burnt. In my oven, with the stoneware, I leave it to cook for approximately 10-15 minutes.