Swiss Chard Pesto for Kids

Filed under: Business Strategies,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 4, 2019

We’ve written here periodically about teaching cooking classes for kids. Well, I was looking back at an old calendar and saw entries for classes I used to teach as a volunteer at Olivewood Gardens in National City, just south of San Diego. Olivewood Gardens is a non-profit oasis in a fairly low-income community, with organic gardens and a Queen Anne house outfitted with a kitchen where classes are taught to school kids. Olivewood Gardens is designed to help families learn where their food comes from and help them learn how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals. What’s taught at Olivewood is part of the school curriculum and kids come one or two times a year. On any given day there, I’d teach six, 25-minute classes to a group of about a dozen kids.

I thought I’d share my experience there as inspiration for some of you chefs who may also be interested in working with families on these issues and demonstrate how exciting and easy to develop recipes for and cook with children.

Back on that November morning the dish I decided to make with the kids, who were in the fourth and fifth grades, was a lavash pizza with garden veggies and Swiss chard pesto.


See, we had several criteria for our recipes — they needed to be nutritious, they needed to be able to be made and eaten in 25 minutes, they had to be something the kids could help prepare, and the ingredients had to include produce grown in the gardens. As we all know, with November the pickins are a little slim–even in Southern California. What did they have in abundance? Swiss chard. So, I played around with the pesto idea and came up with a recipe that tasted good and also would be fun for the kids to squirt out of a bottle and decorate their pizzas. Sort of a cooking/art project.

The kids, of course, were completely unfamiliar with lavash (and we discovered they also need help with geography since they had no clue about what countries make up the Middle East), but they were open to trying it. First came a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then they each added a rainbow of veggies that could include mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, jalapenos, grated carrots, sliced black olives, zucchini, and tomatillos. Then a little more cheese followed by squirts of the pesto.

Each square went into a 375-degree oven for about 13 minutes. I have to say they were delicious and the kids loved them.

Now, here’s the kicker. By the third class I was looking to change things up so when we were making the pesto I asked the kids if they wanted to add any other ingredients and see what would happen. They decided on a handful of chopped tomatillo and a few tablespoons of chopped chives. And, it was delicious! Even better than the original, plus the kids were thrilled that they had created a recipe.


Swiss Chard Pesto
Makes 2 cups

1 pound Swiss chard (or kale, spinach, or other leafy green)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon honey
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup or more olive oil
(feel free to add about 1/2 a cup of chopped raw tomatillo and 3 tablespoons of chopped chives)

Carefully wash the Swiss chard leaves. Remove the tough central ribs, then tear into smaller pieces.

Purée all the ingredients in the food processor or blender to form a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar, covered with a thin layer of oil, where it will keep for a week or more. It also freezes well.

Do you teach kids cooking classes? What kinds of recipes do you develop for them?

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