Cooking with Kids: Beyond Ranch

Jane Hawes

It's a battle getting kids to kick the ranch-dressing habit, explained Monique McCoy, a food educator with Local Matters. The Columbus group is dedicated to teaching people about healthy, locally sourced foods.

"Ranch has a lot of fat in it," McCoy told an eager audience of students at the Dowd Education Center in Franklinton. "Does anyone know what that does to you?

"It sticks to the insides of your arteries and heart!" shouted one of the youngsters.

To help the children, who ranged in age from 6 to about 15, McCoy was teaching them how to make a healthy but still zingy-tasting dressing they could use on their lunchtime salad, though a few of them also used it to dress the turkey sandwiches they were served that day.

Many of the students were residents of the surrounding neighborhood, but quite a few, explained Homeless Families Foundation spokeswoman Susan Davis, were living in transitional housing nearby. The HFF's Dowd Center becomes another home to many of these children, providing food, education and a break from the worries they live with each day.

After walking the kids through the dressing's preparation, using a panel of ingredient pourers, McCoy asked them all to try it.

"The 'No yuck' rule applies," McCoy reminded the 50-plus students. "You say, 'No, thank you,' or 'It's not my favorite' if you don't want more."

Six-year-old Laishauna Bailey West, who got to pour the honey into the dressing mix, said she liked it, while her tablemate, 7-year-old Mackenzie Klingman, wasn't quite as impressed.

Just down the table, though, Andrew Cobb, 6, said, "It tastes like pickles. I like it."

His buddy, Tre Shepherd, also 6, said, "I think it tastes like chicken."

"He likes chicken," Andrew explained.

Not-Ranch Dressing


*1 cup rice wine vinegar (balsamic vinegar also works well)

*1/2 cup olive oil

*2 tablespoons mustard

*2 tablespoons honey

*1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or another dried-herb mix)

*lettuce and other salad veggies


Grown-up: Set out materials and measuring cups and spoons.

Kid (with grown-up help if needed): measure each ingredient into an airtight plastic container (like an ice-cream tub)

Kid: once everything is measured in, put the lid on the container, make sure it's airtight, then shake it up well.

Grown-up: pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and serve. The dressing is also good as a condiment for sliced-meat sandw