Helping Kids Learn to Love Mushrooms with Eat Live Travel Write
This week’s featured contributor is Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write. Having done a lot of all four of her blog’s namesakes, her mission is passing a sense of wellness-minded adventure onto her students.
My first experiences with mushrooms when I was a child growing up in Australia were with what we called “champignons” (so exotic!) which were in fact, just canned button mushrooms in brine. I was a fairly adventurous eater, but in terms of ‘shrooms, these were the only ones I would eat for a very long time. I know there are kids who find mushrooms “gross”, so when I decided to introduce them to the 9 year-old boys in my cooking club, Les Petits Chefs, I knew I would need a cunning plan…
We have cooked our way through Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution cookbook this term and had a grand old time experimenting with “real food” versions of foods they only know from restaurants or boxes. Many of these recipes included mushrooms and whilst one of the boys loved them and would eat them raw, the others would taste the dishes containing mushrooms during the club but tell me that they picked the mushrooms out of the dishes when they ate them at home. I racked my brains to think of a way to showcase mushrooms for little palates and finally gave in to their pleas for pizza, knowing that not only would I be teaching them a valuable lesson (i.e. that the best pizzas are the ones you can make yourself with fresh ingredients) but also giving the mushrooms their best chance for kid-size appreciation!
We used pita bread, due to time constraints, but you could also have some adventures in pizza dough baking if you had the time. For the pizza sauce base, we made a simple tomato sauce, using San Marzano tomatoes cooked up with a little garlic and some fresh basil. The boys had a blast squishing the sauce onto the pita halves:
I selected some “funky” mushrooms that I thought would appeal to the boys: Shiitake, King Oyster, Oyster and Cremini:
And we got to work chopping them up:
We fried the mushroom pieces in a little olive oil and set them aside as we prepared the rest of the toppings – pepperoni, bacon and sweet orange and yellow peppers (as per the boys’request!).
And we set to work loading on our toppings:
I am impressed how many of the pizzas featured mushrooms, even when it was on the pizza with the topping of their choice! Their willingness to try new things made me very proud!
I always allow the boys to test our the various ingredients as we cook and when one little boy asked if he could try the mushrooms to see which ones he wanted to put on his pizza, of course I said yes. Two seconds later, he asked for more and then more again. I asked him what he thought and his response?
“OMG I LOVE mushrooms! Where have they been all my life?”
Les Petits Chefs “Where have you been all my life?” Funky Funghi Pizzas
- One small (7 – 8-inch) pocket-style pita bread
- 4-6 tablespoons simple tomato sauce (drained, canned whole tomatoes roughly chopped and cooked down to ketchup-consistency with 2 cloves minced garlic and a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil)
- 2 cups finely sliced mushrooms – any fresh variety (shiitake, cremini, oyster, king oyster), fried in olive oil and drained on a paper towel.
- 2 tablespoons diced orange peppers
- 2 tablespoons diced yellow peppers
- 3 rashers bacon, finely diced and fried
- Finely sliced pepperoni
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely sliced
- Olive oil and cracked black pepper to finish
Pre-heat oven broiler to high.
Using a bread knife carefully cut through the middle splitting the pita to form two rounds.
(Optional) Toast pita rounds (under the broiler) cut side down for a minute or two. The bottom should start to feel a bit crispy but not burnt.
Spread the sauce over each pita, cut side up. Squish the larger chunks of tomato down with the back of a spoon so the sauce spreads to the edge of the pita bread.
Spread toppings evenly over pita breads and top with cheese and basil.
Place under pre-heated broiler until cheese starts to bubble. Remove pizzas from heat and top with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Cut into quarters with a pizza cutter and enjoy!