NC State Extension Publications


This publication includes simple recipes that childcare center cooks and educators can use to engage children in snacking and cooking with fresh cool-season fruits and vegetables from on-site production gardens and elsewhere. This is the sixth of fifteen publications about childcare center production gardens.

The first publication in this series, Growing and Cooking Fruits and Vegetables at Childcare Centers, provides age-appropriate suggestions for engaging young children in food preparation.

The fourth publication in this series, Growing Cool-Season Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens, shares easy-to-grow, child-friendly, cool-season vegetables suitable for a childcare production garden.

This publication provides a set of simple recipes for snacks and prepared dishes incorporating production garden produce for children to enjoy.

Salads Made Easy

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Salads can be easily created by using seasonal greens and vegetables harvested from the on-site production garden.


  • Spinach
  • Baby kale
  • Mixed lettuces
  • Baby chard


  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers: red, yellow, orange, purple
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Summer squash

Sugar Snap Peas

Raw or lightly cooked.

  • Eat them raw with a favorite dip.
  • Lightly steam and stir in with buttered pasta, parsley, and garlic.
  • Roast with olive oil and salt under a broiler until crisp-tender and lightly browned on the edges; drizzle with a few drops of toasted sesame oil before serving.

Roasted Vegetables

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Try various combinations from the roasted vegetables chart. Choose items that are in season and harvestable from the garden. Increase the amount of oil and seasoning as the quantity of vegetables is increased.

Try these combinations:

  • Sweet potatoes and garlic pepper seasoning
  • Red potatoes and garlic, rosemary
  • Eggplant and parsley
  • Carrots and parsley
  • Potatoes with cauliflower, onions, and rosemary

Roasted Vegetable Chart


Use 4 cups of one or more

  • Broccoli
  • Red potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini squash
  • Acorn squash


Use 2–3 teaspoons of one or more

  • Chili powder
  • Rosemary
  • Cumin
  • Garlic cloves
  • Curry powder
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic pepper seasoning


Use 1 tablespoon

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil

Salad Recipes

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Make your Own Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons of lemon juice or any vinegar

  • Lemon juice
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Cider vinegar

½ cup (or less) oil

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Vegetable oil

½–1 tablespoon of herbs and condiments

  • Herbs from garden
  • Shallots
  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Kale Salad

Serves 12 to 16

  • 1 large bunch kale (about 1 pound), washed
  • 4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces golden raisins
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and fresh black pepper

Fold several kale leaves lengthwise and using the point of a chef’s knife, cut away the thick center stems and discard. Roll the remaining stack of de-veined leaves into a tight cigar shape and slice into strips. Alternately, have children help prepare by tearing the kale into bite size pieces. Toss the kale with the cheese and raisins. Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

A young child stirs kale in a large white bowl.

Stirring kale and dressing for a winter salad.

Roasted Recipes

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 to 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; cut each half into six wedges. Combine sweet potato wedges, olive oil, and spices in a bowl. Toss gently to coat. Place wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until very tender. Serve warm.

Roasted Broccoli and Red Peppers

Serves 8 to 10

  • 5 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 1 large head)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Add broccoli, pepper, oil, lemon pepper, and garlic to a self-sealing plastic bag; shake until ingredients are combined (or mix together in a bowl). Spread the mixture out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Engage young children by having them shake the bag of vegetables and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Roasted Kale Chips

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash kale and dry well. With your hands, remove and discard the thick stems from the kale. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. Arrange kale pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until edges are slightly brown but not burnt.

Braised Recipe

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Braised Collard Greens

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 large bunch or 2 small bunches collard greens
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

To remove stems from collards, stack five or six leaves in a pile and make two long cuts on either side of the ribs from near the top of the leaves down to the stem end. Pull the stems free from the leaves. Cut leaves in half lengthwise, stack the halves, and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices. Repeat with all leaves. Submerge the collards in water in a large bowl or fill a sink with cold water and let rest for a few minutes. Gently lift the collards from the water, leaving the dirt behind.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and diced onions. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until onions are tender and transparent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute more. Increase heat to medium and add greens. Stir until greens become wilted.

When the greens have wilted, add the cider vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste; stir. Cook until the vinegar reduces a bit and greens are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning until a good balance of sweet, sour, and spicy is achieved.

Sautéed Recipes

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Sautéed Collard Greens

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 ½ pounds collard greens
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Remove and discard stems and center ribs of collard greens. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a pot of boiling water, cook collards 15 minutes and drain in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with the back of a wooden spoon. In a 12-inch heavy skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat and stir in garlic, collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté collard mixture, stirring until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drizzle collards with lemon juice and toss well.

Sautéed Mustard Greens

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds mustard greens, washed and chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until tender and fragrant. Mix in the mustard greens. Cook until greens have wilted, about 3 minutes. Add pepper to taste. In a small bowl, whisk the Dijon mustard with the chicken stock. Add mixture to the wilted greens and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated. Serve warm.

Sautéed Swiss Chard (or Spinach)

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard greens, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Toasted bread or crackers

Sauté onions and garlic until onions are clear. Add chopped chard. Continue to sauté until greens are limp. Squeeze the juice out. Spoon greens onto toasted bread or crackers. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for a few minutes at 325°F. Serve immediately.


Skip to Acknowledgments

Funding for this publication was provided in part by the John Rex Endowment. The authors wish to express appreciation to Carol Mitchell, J. Dara Bloom, Pam Outen, Lynn Policastro, and Debra Ireland for their assistance in preparing this publication.

Local Foods Publication Series Editor

Hannah Dankbar, Manager
Local Foods Program
NC State Extension

Childcare Center Production Gardens Factsheet Editor

Robin C. Moore, Director
Natural Learning Initiative (NLI)
NC State College of Design

with the NLI Early Childhood Gardening Team:

Nilda Cosco
Sarah Konradi
Mary Archer
Caroline Asher
Karli Stephenson, Graphic Designer

Prepared by:

Caroline Hundley, Project Director, NC Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative

NC State Design Natural Learning Initiative logo

CEFS logo


Lead Author, Local Food Coordinator
Wake County

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Sept. 16, 2015
Revised: Sept. 21, 2023

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