One of my earliest mentors taught me this lesson: A good way to get people to participate more in something, or be invested in it, is to make them responsible for it somehow. If it’s hard to get your kids to eat greens, this project is for you. If your kids like salad, but you’re grossed out when they want to smother it in ranch dressing, read on. Allow your munchkins to concoct their own funky delicacies in a bottle, and they’ll be more enthused to carry the delicious drips to their mouths on bits of vegetables.
One of the simplest ways to dress your salad is a splash of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. I sometimes use just the oil. (And eat the salad out of the bowl with my hands, but that’s for another article.) Marketing and prices might have fooled you into thinking that chili, herb or otherwise infused oil is hard to create, but it’s so easy that, with your help, children can do it.
Here’s a basic recipe for rosemary-infused olive oil.
What you need:
- 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 or 5 large sprigs of rosemary, washed and dried
- An airtight, heatproof bottle or jar
- A funnel
- A saucepan
- A stove
Put your rosemary in your jar. Warm the olive oil up in the saucepan over low heat. You’re not cooking it; you’re just priming it to suck up flavors better. After about 2 minutes, pour the warm oil into the jar and close it up. Let the jar cool, and keep it out of any sunlight. You can refrigerate the jar after it is entirely cool.
That is so easy. Now think about all the other things you could put in the jar. (Edible things, people!) For your project day, you can set up a banquet of ingredients and let your kid/s play chef. Depending on how many weird salad dressing oils you want to make in one sitting, you can get multiple containers. Since your kids will be dreaming up tastes that might not pan out on the palette, I recommend using a smaller amount of oil than 1 cup anyway. Try things out in ½ or even ¼ cup increments. Let the mini-dressers discuss and choose their ingredients, and put them in the containers. You heat and pour the oil.
Here are some other ideas for things you could prep and put out for your kids to combine.
- Chives- chopped fresh
- Garlic- roasted in an unoiled pan for 10-15 minutes, then peeled and chopped
- Mustard powder
- Cinnamon sticks
- Orange or lemon peels- chopped
That should get your brain ticking. You could also go to your farmer’s market, or where ever you get your produce, and have a look around for inspiration. Ask your kids if they have any ideas. Provided their suggestions are healthy (or at least safe) don’t dismiss crazy ones right away. Some great taste inventions come from total accidents. If radish peanut clove olive oil doesn’t sound good to you, your kids might still enjoy it. At least they’ll be eager to try their creations, and you’ll feel awesome watching them eat salads.