How to Cook Outside with Kids

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Cooking with kids can be chaotic, fun, challenging, exhausting, and rewarding. Not every recipe will turn out perfectly; vegetables will be oddly cut and measurements may be skewed, but that’s okay! It’s the experience that matters. Cooking and eating together allows us to celebrate the joy of food and fosters exploration of new foods and recipes. And we can show kids that veggies are delicious!

Our food messaging is always positive, and we meet kids where they are at. Love veggies? Try a new one, or a new way of preparing it! Don’t like veggies? Try an adventure bite! Really hate veggies? Help prepare them, so you can see what they look and smell like, even if you aren’t ready to taste it today.


Community eats!


What do we cook?

At Fresh Roots, we love veggie-forward snacks and meals. Our meal ideas often start from the kids’ interests. Kids may make their own “farm candies” by wrapping up seeds and petals in a kale leaf wrapper with a stem tie. Other times, kids will request a specific meal, like tacos or pesto.

There are many snacks and meals you can make outside without electricity. We regularly make a big salad with a shaken dressing, or fresh spring rolls with rice paper. Pesto can be made with a mortar and pestle (and elbow grease), or no-bake cookies using pumpkin puree. Some tried and true kid-approved recipes are:

Cooking helps kids build a relationship with food, and with those they are cooking and sharing the meal with. Kids learn to read a recipe, grasp the basics of fractions through measurement, and working together as a team.

Farm fresh tacos


How do we cook outside?

Luckily, it doesn’t take many supplies to cook outside. We have a table or two and a nearby outdoor sink for hand washing (a laundry sink with a hose attached is a simple DIY). Usually the only other tools we need is the food, cutting boards, knives, and serving dishes.

We practice food safety, and the kids love to help! We set-up a dishwashing station with three bins of water: 1 with dish soap, one with plain rinsing water, and the last with a food-safe amount of bleach. The dishes then go to a dishrack or are dried with cloths. Dishwashing in this way is like water play, with soap bubbles! It’s not unusual for the kids to beg for extra dishes to wash.

Dishwasher extraordinaires


How to teach knife skills?

You give kids knives?!?!? Yes, all the time, and they do incredibly well with them even at a young age. When it comes to using knives, we emphasize again and again that they are a tool and safety comes first. So, how can you teach a kid who has never used a knife to chop safely?

  • We love starting off new chefs with plastic cooking knives. They can cut through most soft vegetables, but not through skin. A miracle tool for letting kids figure out how to chop and safely make mistakes. Even though we use plastic knives, we ask kids to pretend they are sharp metal when practicing. Once they feel comfortable and confident using plastic knives, then we graduate up to sharp ones.
  • Go over knife safety with the kids:
    • When cutting, eyes are always on the knife
    • Safety bubble from other people
    • The hand holding the food makes a “bear-claw”. This protects your fingers in case the knife slips.

Chopping vegetables using the “bear claw” method to keep all fingers safe.

Where to get food?

One of the beautiful things about cooking outside is that you can prepare meals right where the food grows — true farm-to-table cooking! We’re fortunate to steward bountiful farms and gardens on school grounds. Oftentimes there is food growing right outside our doors, we just have to look.

Many grocery stores have a rack with produce that is deeply discounted because it’s considered imperfect or over-ripe. Cooking with this food is a great way to naturally bring in discussions about food waste and ways to reduce waste in our food system. There are a number of organizations diverting large amounts of produce from the landfill by connecting it with charities and schools (ex. Food Runners).

Lastly, we’re grateful to receive donations from local food producers and suppliers. Fresh Roots once again received a generous donation from Nature’s Path, a local organic food producer, to support our kids and youth cooking programs.

Pea-camole recipe using Nature Path’s Que Pasa tortilla chips and salsa




Fresh Five Wrap Up

Summer is here, school is out, and my team and I are gearing up for the start of Camp Fresh Roots. (We still have a few spaces left for this summer – come play with us!) And so the time has come to wrap up the Fresh Five. It has been a labour of love to create and curate these resources over the past 12 weeks in this time of uncertainty. I hope you and your family have been able to use these activities to connect to each other, the world that surrounds you, and the food that nourishes you.

For this, our final week of this version of the Fresh Five, I’m collecting all the Fresh Roots activities, field guides, and recipes so you can revisit your favorites, or find ones you may have missed the first time around.

Field Guides

Edible Flowers

Flowers are beautiful, but did you know they can be delicious, too? Our Edible Flower Field Guide will help you identify some of the many tasty, colourful flowers you might find in your neighbourhood. It includes sustainable foraging guidelines, and an Edible Flower Bingo card you can bring with you as you go looking for treats. Please forage responsibly!

Field Guide to Edible Flowers

Native Plants in Vancouver

You don’t have to get out of the city of find native plant species! Douglas-Firs, Western Red Cedar, Salal, Sword Ferns, Bleeding Heart, and so many more are beloved plant members of our communities. This Field Guide to Native Plants will help you identify some of the many native species in our parks, yards, and school grounds. Plus, there’s a Bingo sheet to make your next walk even more fun!

Field Guide to Native Plants in Vancouver

Activity Guides

Super Seeds!

Grades K-4

One of our most popular classroom workshops is Super Seeds! And now you can try it for yourself! We’ve adapted our workshop curriculum to be done at your kitchen table, with just things you probably have on hand. If you have or can find Lima beans, I recommend them for this, as they are both very large (so it’s easy to see what’s in them), and the skins are relatively thin, so they are easy to peel.

Super Seeds Activity Guide

Food and Farmworkers

Grades 9-12

I’m a podcast person. I have about 30 different podcasts that update regularly in my feed, on topics from food to mythology to history to linguistics. So when I heard a recent episode of the US-based economics podcast Planet Money about how COVID-19 is impacting American farmworkers, I wanted to share it. This is a complex topic, touching on issues of food security, labour rights (or lack thereof), public health, and yes, econ. It’s sure to spark discussions, so we’ve made a bit of framing for it. I recommend listening to your older student and discussing it together. (And in case you’re wondering, Fresh Roots farmworkers are mostly local university students, and pay starts at $15.50/hour.)

Food and Farmworkers Activity Guide


Signs of Spring-O Neighbourhood Bingo

All Ages

Are your kids (and, let’s be honest, you) getting tired of walking around the same 5 blocks over and over again as you try to get some fresh air and gentle exercise during these days of physical distancing? Print out this Neighbourhood Bingo sheet! Look at your local environment in a whole new way as you notice how spring is blooming all around us.

Spring Bingo Card

Explore Your Spring Traditions

All Ages

At Fresh Roots, we think everyone should have healthy food, land, and communities, and one of the ways we strengthen our communities is through traditions! Whether your spring celebrations centre around a religious holiday, a natural phenomenon, or a special calendar date, talking to your elders about where those traditions come from is a great way to build relationships. Not spring anymore? You can do this same activity for other celebration seasons!

Exploring Spring Traditions Activity Guide

Make Veggie Art

Grades K-5

If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, a potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables!

Veggie Print Activity Guide

Touch A Mystery Veggie

Grades K-5

Nothing is more exciting than reaching into a box, bag, or jar to feel what’s inside! It turns and ordinary turnip or pepper into a mystery to solve. This lesson is one of our all-time favourites, in part because of the mystery and in part because it’s so flexible. No veggies? Use fruits, or leaves from outside, or even kitchen utensils! Use what you’ve got! For younger kids, just reaching in and guessing which of a few different options is in the box is great. For older kids, they can use this as a way to really connect with a plant they are growing or studying in a fun way. Exploring through one sense at a time is a great mindfulness activity, too.

Mystery Veggie Activity Guide

Explore Dendroclimatology

Grades 9-12

Tree rings are important tools for scientists studying global climate change, both to document a history of climate over thousands of years and to help us understand the changes happening around us today. This activity for older students uses two videos to explore what dendroclimatology is and how the stories told by trees are shaping our knowledge of climate, touching on not only science and technology, but geography, industry, and careers as well.

Dendroclimatology Activity Guide

Dissect a Stem

Grades 1-5

One of the many important things a stem does is carry water from the roots to the rest of the plant. Inside the stem are structures called xylem which provides a path for water, and the nutrients it carries, to help flowers bloom, make fruits juicy, and give leaves the water they need to make sugar through photosynthesis. Sugars from the leaves flow down the phloem that surrounds the xylem. In the stem of a celery plant, the xylem is big enough that we can see them easily with just a couple of kitchen tools.

You can try this with other stems, too. I had some success with asparagus, and I suspect bok choi would work really well, too. Experiment with the stems you have in your veggie drawer!

Stem Dissection Activity Guide

Make an Ecosystem Web

Grades 3-12

Fresh Roots grown (mainly) vegetables on our schoolyard farms. Our farmers plant rows of peas, squash, chard, lettuce, parsley, and more. We can grow nearly 100 different varieties of plants in a single season! That might sound like a lot of biodiversity, but plants and farmers are just a small part of the whole biological picture. Discover how everything from crows to fungus to the air around us contributes to the biodiversity of our farm. We do versions of this activity with kids as young as 8 all the way through adults. (Hint – making the web is only the start of the discussion!)

Farm Ecosystem Web Activity Guide

Make it Rise!


Grades K-7

Wondering why you have to let regular bread dough rise, but you can whip up banana bread and pop it in the over right away? Curious where the holes in your bread come from? What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda anyway? Looking for an alternate way to blow up balloons for your next party? Check out this activity and learn the secrets of leavening! This one is great for kids as young as kindergarten, and there’s an extension for older kids who really want to get scientific.

Uplifting Leavening Activity Guide

Make a Plant Friend

Grades 4-12

This activity is a chance to slow down and really connect with a plant in a different way than we normally do. We often think about what a plant is called, or how it’s useful to us. That can often lead to a very one-sided relationship with plants – they give, and we take. But by making a close connection with one particular plant, we can become more in tune with what it needs and what we can give back. Plus, it’s a great excuse to hug a tree, and trees are great huggers! And don’t miss the video made by Cara at our site at  Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam.

Meet-A-Plant Activity Guide
Cara’s Plant Friends

Meet Your Local Pollinators

Grades K-8

What do pollinators need to survive? And what pollinators live in your neighbourhood? Check out this activity for all ages to learn some pollinator facts. Then, take what you’ve learned out into your neighbourhood to see which pollinators can make a happy home near you!

Neighbourhood Pollinators Activity Guide

Recipe Book

I hope you enjoyed cooking and eating all those delicious recipes as much as I enjoyed creating them. With local summer produce coming into full force, it’s a great time to revisit some of those recipes with new fruits and veggies. And to make it easy for you to find your favourites, we’ve put them all into a recipe book. Happy cooking!

Fresh Five Recipe Book

With love and a fistful of sunshine,



Fresh Five: Pollinator Power!

Happy Summer Solstice everyone! Way back in April for our Flower Power week, I said we’d get to learn more about bumblebees and other pollinators, and that week is finally here! June 22-28 is Pollinator Week in Canada and the US, and with all the summer fruits and vegetables starting to show up on the farm and at your local farmer’s market, it’s a great time to think about and say thank you to the animals we can’t live without.

Did you know that one out of every three bites of food you eat relies on animal pollination? Most of the fruits (like apples, berries, and melons) and vegetables-that-are-actually-fruits (like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and peas) we eat need animals to pollinate the plant’s flowers before it forms fruits. And many other vegetables (like carrots and beets) need pollinators to form the seeds they grow from. You can find a list of just some of the foods that need animal pollinators at the Pollinator Partnership. And that’s not even thinking about all the other plants that rely on animals to help them make seeds!

So thank a bee, bat, bird, fly, moth, butterfly, wasp, or even lemur for the work they do to help our plant friends!

Meet Your Local Pollinators

What do pollinators need to survive? And what pollinators live in your neighborhood? Check out this activity for all ages to learn some pollinator facts. Then, take what you’ve learned out into your neighbourhood to see which pollinators can make a happy home near you!

Neighbourhood Pollinators Activity Guide


Learn About Bumblebees

I’ve said before that bumblebees are my favorites. They are just so fuzzy and chill and hard working. As long as you’re not messing with them, you can get right up close and watch them harvest pollen and nectar. And especially in the morning when they are sleepy and hanging out on a flower to warm up, you can even gently pet them! (One very gentle finger, please!)

The Bumblebee Queen, by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne is a fabulous way for young (and not-so-young) learners to see the whole bumblebee life cycle. And through Tumble Book Library, you can see this book come to life! To access it, you’ll need to first log into your Vancouver Public Library account, then click the link below. Don’t have a VPL account? You may be able to log in through your local library, or you can sign up for a free trial.

The Bumblebee Queen


Bees in Danger?

You’ve probably heard that bees are in trouble. Both our native bee species and commercial honeybees, which originally came from Europe, have seen declines in their numbers in the last couple of decades. You know how important our pollinators are, so you know this is a big problem for us and for other living things! But why is it happening? It’s… complicated. This activity for older students (grade 7+) helps explain some of the complexities involved. It’s focused on California, but as we’ve talked about before, a very large percentage of the produce we eat in BC is pollinated by those Californian bees.

You’ll need to create a free account to download this lesson plan!

Colony Collapse Disorder Lesson

Make a Pollinator Haven

What can you do to help our pollinators? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! 1, Give them some food. 2, Give them some water, and 3, give them shelter. Especially in the city, it’s hard for pollinators to find the things they need to survive, but it doesn’t take a lot to help them out. If you have enough outdoor space for a pot of flowers and a shallow dish of water, you can help make a pollinator haven. Check out the info from the David Suzuki Foundation on How to Create a Pollinator Friendly Yard for ideas, activities, and more, and the Wilderness Society’s Bee Cheat Sheet for a list of native plants that will bring all the bees to your yard!

How to Create a Pollinator Friendly Yard
Bee Cheat Sheet

Taste Pollinator Power!

Here’s another Camp Fresh Roots classic recipe – Pollinator Power Salad! You can use any fruits that are in season. Strawberries and cherries would be a great choice right now. Oh, and if you want to get extra fancy, chiffonade a few fresh basil leaves and mix them in with your fruit. You’ll thank me, and the bees!

Pollinator Power Salad

With joy and gratitude,



Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing

How do you get kids to eat their veggies?  Just add a drizzle of our famous salad dressing!

The secret ingredient: nutritional yeast. It tastes a little cheesy without the dairy, a little nutty without the nuts, a little salty without the salt, and all around tasty.

Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing

Makes 2 cups


  • ¾ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
  • 1 cup sunflower or mildly-flavored olive oil


  1. Add all ingredients except the oil to a mason jar and shake well to combine.
  2. Add oil, and shake some more until incorporated.
  3. Serve over salad, fresh or cooked veggies, or grains. Serving your salad in a tote is optional, but deliciously fun!

Thanks to Hollyhock for the dressing inspiration!

Download recipe cards here!



1 bunch Fresh Roots carrots

1 bunch Fresh Roots turnips

2 cloves Fresh Roots garlic, minced

2 tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring turnips and carrots to a boil until tender. Drain. Add garlic, butter, salt and pepper. Mash. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Enjoy!


Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta

3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves minced Fresh Roots garlic
3-4 Fresh Roots beets, with greens
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons chopped drained capers
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic in small bowl to blend. Season dressing generously with salt and pepper.

Cut green tops off beets; reserve tops. Arrange beets in single layer in a baking dish; add the water. Cover; bake until beets are tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Peel beets while warm. Cut beets in half and slice thinly. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in capers and 1/4 cup dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut stems off beet greens; discard stems. Wash greens. Transfer greens, with some water still clinging to leaves, to large pot. Stir over high heat until just wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain greens; squeeze out excess moisture. Cool; chop coarsely.

Transfer greens to medium bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange beets in center of platter. Surround with greens; sprinkle with feta. Drizzle with any remaining dressing.


Oven Baked Balsamic Swiss Chard

Not sure what to do with your Swiss chard? Try this easy recipe for a sweet side dish!

1 bunch of Swiss chard
3 Tbsp of olive oil
1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Chop Swiss chard; make sure the stems are chopped in smaller pieces.
Put the Swiss chards on a large piece of aluminium foil.
Mix the oil and the vinegar together; add to the Swiss chard.
Seal the aluminium foil.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350F.




3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh chives or green onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water

Blend, mix or shake all ingredients together. Enjoy!



3/4 cup tahini

2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons balsamic or apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup water


Blend, mix or shake all ingredients together. Enjoy!