Winter Spring Rolls & Kid-friendly foods

Here’s the latest installment in ‘adventures in local food with kids’  from Candice and Maria, our nursing interns, who have been working with the St. George’s Youthnet after-school program.

This time we made Spring Rolls. Maria and I thought it would be a great idea since the Chinese New Year was coming up. In the previous weeks, we had gotten feedback from the older kids telling us that they didn’t want to bake cookies and muffins “because that’s what younger kids do”. Instead they wanted to make different kinds of meals, especially ethnic foods.

Maria and I (as well as Marla and the youth net director) were surprised that the older kids were so interested in making meals instead of tasty, sugary treats! This workshop was a learning experience for the kids and Maria included, as she has never had dealt with rice paper either (one of the little boys showed her how to properly do it). What we used in the spring rolls was unique to all; we incorporated seasonal/local vegetables into them, including radish, beets, pea shoots and sweet potato, along with cucumber, lettuce and bean sprouts. The additional things we used consisted of rice noodles, soya sauce (turns out kids LOVE to soak everything in it!!!!!!), and a homemade dipping sauce, that the youth net director gave us.

Dipping Sauce:
Natural Peanut Butter
Soya sauce
lime and/or lemon juice
garlic cloves

We prepared the sweet potato and beets before we started and we decided to boil them so they wouldn’t be so hard to eat. One of the boys cut up the cucumber while others helped Maria make the rice noodles and some helped me make the sauce. Once all of that was complete the fun began. Everyone took their turn to soak their rice paper into warm-hot water for about 20 seconds, laid it out on their plate then complied anything and everything they wanted to on top. Most of the “rolls” couldn’t roll because they were so full! Each kid made either 2 or 3 of their own spring rolls… with a ton of dipping sauce and additional soya sauce.

And of course there is nothing like healthy eating without FRYING…. One of the little boys asked if they could fry them so they would look like the picture (on the package). Neither Maria nor I ever fry anything so we didn’t know how to. Luckily there was a volunteer who knew how. So he took control of the situation, heated up the frying pan added some oil and VOILA… we had UNhealthy (or less healthy…) spring rolls.

Even though we didn’t want to say yes to frying the kids all really seemed to enjoy the spring roll experience. We asked them what they would like to make the next time and after about 15 minutes of yelling out ideas the consensus was… Philly Cheese Steaks with Fruit Smoothies.  How we’re going to make it healthy and local is yet to be known.

In the end everyone cooperated and helped us do the dishes, sweep the floor and tidy up the kitchen. It was so much fun!

Yours in Food,


PS Spring rolls are a great food for your cooking repertoire, as the ingredients are flexible and can easily be adjusted to the seasons.  For a summer version of this dish, check out the recipe from our 2011 summer cooking series.

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