While an hour-long cooking class can feel prohibitively short when working with older kids and teens, it sometimes drags on with preschoolers. If the recipe is too involved, then there’s downtime that can distract little ones with no hope of bringing them all back to the table. If it’s too easy, then we breeze through it and clean up and don’t spend the full hour focused on cooking. In order to engage 16 3 year olds with a recipe they could fully participate in and actually enjoy for sixty minutes, I turned to the fun and tasty carrot ribbon salad.

Armed with peelers, graters, and kid knives, we set upon the pre-washed and trimmed carrots. While half the class took turns peeling and grating the carrots into ribbons, the other half stripped cilantro leaves from the stems and diced apple slices into bite-size pieces. Peeling and grating ¾ lb of carrots took about half an hour for tiny hands, but it was exciting and gave us time to talk about the composition of our salad. “Will the carrots be crunchy?” one student wondered. “I think the apples will be crunchy!” added another. We all agreed that it would be tasty, especially with the addition of dried cranberries, toasted pepitas, and a sweet vinaigrette.

Once the carrots were ribboned, apples diced, and cilantro de-stemmed, we cleaned up our work stations and made a dressing using ingredients and skills we had discussed in an earlier class. Honey is sticky, sweet like sugar, and comes from bees, we recalled, and mixed with equal parts apple cider vinegar and olive oil, makes a bright, simple dressing to complement the crunchy freshness of carrots and apples. The class waited patiently as equal portions were doled out, and then dug in. “I looooove carrots!” “Yum!” “Mmm, crunchy apples!!” were some of the early reactions, and then, once grilled a little further, “I like the dressing mixed in with the carrots and apple bits;” “The carrots are crunchy and sweet!” Carrots and apples are, luckily, a pretty universal favorite among these 3 year olds, and the salad was demolished within the 15 minutes we had left for tasting at the end of the class. A perfect fit!

Crunchy and Sweet Carrot Ribbon Salad
Serves 16 preschoolers and 2 adults, as a side

4 large carrots, peeled lengthwise into ribbons
1 apple (fuji recommended), diced
½ cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
½ cup toasted pepitas
1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped and loosely packed
2 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare carrots and apples, and combine in large bowl with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Whisk together honey, vinegar, and oil, and then pour on top of the salad. Garnish with cilantro and serve!

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