We’re back! The Petits Chefs are back at school and raring to go this term! Typically this is a term when I have a smaller group because of other commitments the boys have like sports or the school play, but this year I have a full house of 15 boys aged 8-11. I’m so excited to be working with them this term on a brand new project – Jennifer Tyler Lee’s #52NewFoods Challenge! Jennifer is the creator of Crunch a Color, a mum like many who struggled to get her kids to eat healthy meals. and try new foods. For Jennifer, the answer was to turn it into a game. “We’ll try one new food each week,” she told her kids. “You pick!” She called it The 52 New Foods Challenge.
The book is a week-by-week guide where Lee offers practical tips to help families (with and without kids!) change the way they eat and to try new foods. Each week offers a healthy new food (the book is organized according to seasons so it makes it easy to eat seasonal), easy recipes, and a fun activity for kids. There are over 150 simple, healthy recipes (that you can cook with your kids too!) and advice from nutrition experts, making The 52 New Foods Challenge both a manual for showing parents how to enjoy mealtimes, plant the seeds of change at their family table, and easily incorporate healthy habits every day of the year, but also providing a sensible eating guide for anyone (i.e. those of us without kids!).
I don’t invite guest chefs to the Petits Chefs sessions in the winter term just because the weather is so unpredictable and it’s such a short session, so I always try to use a different cookbook or resource with the boys (especially important since I have boys who sign up for every session of cooking club for a few years in a row – “no repeats” takes on a very different meaning when you are dealing with planning 50+ cooking sessions every year!). This year I couldn’t think of a better way to take on the 52 New Foods Challenge than with those for whom it’s intended – kids!
I figured we’d start at the very beginning of the “Winter” chapter, with kale. Our school lunch program offers kale chips from time to time and I know many of the boys eat them but wondered how many of the boys had made them before. Turns out only a few so this was a great learning experience for them. I also chose a gnocchi recipe to make with them – knowing that spinach and ricotta is something they are used to eating in ravioli etc… I figured it would be an easy substitute. I mean, anything with cheese is usually an easy sell – so when they found out that the gnocchi contained not one but TWO types of cheese they were thrilled!
Before we got cooking, we tasted raw kale (yes, I made everyone take the tiniest bite!) and discussed what it tasted like. Broccoli, leaves, dirt (!), spinach, bitter, spicy, peppery. They boys have a good vocabulary for describing food, wouldn’t you say?
The chips, with a healthy amount of olive oil, salt and pepper, were soon ready and headed to the oven where our school chef kept an eye on them – they go from being “nearly ready” to over cooked and burnt very quickly so it’s best to keep a close watch on them. 25 minutes at 250˚F did the trick.
Meanwhile, the other group of boys prepared the gnocchi. No pics of them measuring flour and ricotta, cracking eggs, and mixing the dough – they were too quick…
We poured boiling water over the kale that we had torn into tiny shreds and let it sit for a good 10 minutes or so. the boys were amazed at how much it shrank. Then we drained it and wrapped it in paper towels and “patted” it dry…
The boys were amazed at the transformation!
Then we got making gnocchi…
Whilst the gnocchi were cooking (the boys loved watching them float to the surface of the simmering water), the kale chips came out of the oven:
Boys who admitted to never having tried the kale chips at school lunch assured me that they would next time (though some boys said ours tasted better!). There was not one leaf left on this tray when the boys were done. Mouths were green, fingers were being licked. Even if that’s the only way some of these boys will eat kale, I’d say that’s a win.
Once the gnocchi were cooked, we tossed them in a little Parmesan, olive oil and added some arugula. Result:
Get the recipe we used for the ricotta gnocchi (substituting kale for the spinach) on the BBC Good Food website.
Get the recipe for kale chips on the 52 New Foods website.
More kale? Check out my cheesy kale-artichoke dip recipe!
Want to see 52 New Foods in action? Check out the 52 New Foods Junior Chef Classes at your local Williams Sonoma (call your local store for details!)
Please note: The product links from Amazon, Amazon.ca and The Book Depository are affiliate links meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Read my review of The 52 New Foods Challenge on RecipeGeek.Com (and enter to win a copy!). Details here.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the 52 New Foods Challenge cookbook for the purposes of taking part in the #52NewFoods Challenge through Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassador Community. I was asked to create one original recipe for the challenge. I did not receive any further compensation for writing this post nor any other promotion of the book I might be involved with.