Kids cook: The craze for bowl dishes lends itself to swapping in what you have

  • Use a variety of colors, textures and flavors to build your own bowl.

    Use a variety of colors, textures and flavors to build your own bowl. photos Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

Posted5/28/2020 6:00 AM

I've always been partial to flexible recipes that allow for substitution and experimentation. Precision and fussiness don't come easily to me, or kids. That's why I love making bowls. Exploding in popularity over the past few years bowl foods show up in a myriad Buddha, burrito, and smoothie bowls to poke, power and rice bowls. They share a mix-and-match approach, Instagrammable good looks, and a nutritional bent.

Bowls can be tailored to your kids' preferences, or to what you have in the fridge. The basic "recipe" is to include greens, grains, protein, veggies and a dressing. This version reflects what was in my kitchen or, in the case of the radishes and pea shoots, my garden. Feel free to dial-up or down on any particular ingredient, or switch it up completely. I offer a few suggestions in the sidebar.


The one ingredient that I hope you won't substitute is the baked tofu, especially if you or your kids hate tofu. The flavor and texture are transformed through seasoning and baking, which was a revelation for me. Think of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts compared to their boiled version and have faith.

Gather all of the small bowls or containers you can find and fill with the individual components as they get prepped, ready for the make-your-own serving station. Let kids customize their dishes, and you may be surprised at what they choose. Just refrain from commenting or cajoling and let them experiment.

Even the extra-firm tofu is soft enough to cut with a butter knife and is good for those just learning knife skills. Kids can also measure out and whisk up the sauce for the tofu as well as the tahini-yogurt dressing. Have them wash all the veggies, rinse and measure the lentils, set and keep track of the timer on the oven or on the phone. (They seem to take that last job very seriously in my experience.)

This recipe is a mash-up of Asian and Mediterranean flavors so that you can quiz your kids on the origins of the ingredients. Tofu, made from soybeans, originated in China while sriracha comes from Thailand. There is evidence of dried lentil consumption as far back as 8000 BC in what is now Syria, and tahini (sesame paste) traces back to Persia, now Iran. If you have a globe or a world map, see if they can locate these countries and think about how these ingredients found their way into other food cultures. Happily, these once-exotic ingredients are now available in most mainstream grocery stores.

Break out the chopsticks if you have them, with forks as a backup. They will make eating almost as much fun as the making.

• You can find the School of Food at @learngrowcookeat on Facebook or contact Leslie at

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