A Recipe for Cooking with Kids

Santa Fe's pioneering program now has a matching cookbook

If your kids have been among the more than 5,000 elementary school students who have been lucky enough to experience a Cooking with Kids program, then you already have an idea of how cool this book is.

With this 176-page spiral-bound book, founder Lynn Walters, program director Jane Stacey and educator Gabrielle Gonzales have captured the engaging style of the in-school programs. There are how-to sections on growing some of the fruits and vegetables in the book and pages that invite kids to draw pictures, write poems or reflect on their cooking experiences.

Each recipe has been perfected by years of practice, so you can be sure the dishes are things every kid can help with—and nearly every kid will eat. They're healthy and they taste good! A few years ago I observed a class of kids making the black bean tostada recipe here and I was (I'm ashamed to admit now) honestly surprised by how much the kids could do (with grown-up oversight) including chopping garlic and cooking tortillas. I was even more shocked that the end result was really, really good!

But don't take it from me. Jamie Oliver, the British celebrity chef and evangelist for healthy school lunches, named Cooking with Kids' green and white fettuccine with tomato basil sauce as one of the best school lunches in America. First Lady Michelle Obama selected the "Lentils of the Southwest" recipe as a winner in her Recipes for Healthy Kids competition in 2011.

This book is a treasure for any parent, grandparent, teacher or babysitter who needs a little help or inspiration in getting kids into the kitchen, excited about food and loving healthy meals.

Black Bean Tostadas with Salsa Fresca

From The Cooking with Kids Cookbook, UNM Press

From sorting beans to measuring spices, from peeling and mincing garlic to sprinkling on toppings, there is lots for kids to do to help make this meal.

Serves 4 to 6

Black Beans
  • 1 cup dry black beans, cooked, or 2 (15-ounce) cans
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Cook the black beans; or, if using canned beans, drain the juice from one can of black beans before putting all of the beans into a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the beans until they are no longer whole. Set the mashed beans aside.

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir in the black beans.

When the beans begin to boil, reduce heat to low, stir in the salt and oregano, and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Tostada Fixings
  • 12 corn tortillas (recipe follows)
  • 6 ounces mild cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
  • Salsa fresca (recipe follows)

Assemble and serve the tostadas: Warm the tortillas on a griddle or in the oven. Top each tortilla with a spoonful of black beans and pass the cheese, lettuce and salsa.

Salsa Fresca

Salsa transcends culture and it can now be found almost everywhere. Homemade salsa is easy to make and is one of the tastiest ways to use the summer's bounty of tomatoes, chile and fresh herbs.

Makes about 3 cups

  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and put into a bowl.

Add the garlic and onion to the tomatoes. Stir in the lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and stir only until combined.

Because hot pepper can burn the skin, an adult should seed and mince the jalapeños, then add them to the salsa.

What Kids Can Do

  • Wash vegetables
  • Mash beans
  • Grate cheese (watch those knuckles)
  • Peel garlic
  • Squeeze lime juice
  • Slice tomatoes
  • Tear cilantro
  • Measure ingredients
  • Mix tortilla dough
  • Press tortillas
Corn Tortillas

Children love working with dough. Kids enjoy squishing the dough to make tortillas using a tortilla press, but if you don't have one you can use two cutting boards. Cover a cutting board with a piece of plastic wrap. Put a ball of dough on the top of the plastic wrap, then cover the dough with another piece of plastic wrap. Place the second cutting board on top. Press on the top cutting board with both hands to flatten the dough. Slowly remove the top cutting board. You can also form the tortillas in your hands: flatten the ball of dough, then pat it back and forth between your palms until it looks like a tortilla! This method will result in somewhat thicker tortillas that will take a bit more time to cook.

Makes 12 tortillas

  • 2 cups masa harina de maiz
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

In a bowl, mix together the masa harina de maiz and salt. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands until a soft dough forms. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and let rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. To keep the dough from sticking to the tortilla press, put a square piece of plastic wrap (or parchment paper) on both surfaces of the press.

Put a ball in the center of the plastic. Press the dough flat in the press. Pick up the tortilla with the plastic on both sides.

Peel off one piece of plastic and flip the tortilla off of the plastic onto a hot griddle. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the underside of the tortilla is golden. Flip the tortilla and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.

Continue this process until all of the dough has been made into tortillas. Stack the cooked tortillas on a plate and cover with a clean cloth. Serve warm.

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