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Food ’ Category
Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Back-to-school means back to packing lunch boxes, and any parent that packs a school lunch knows that putting together a healthy, appealing meal, day in and day out, can be a daunting task. Happily, Parents contributing editor and Weelicious blogger extraordinaire Catherine McCord is here to inspire us with her new book Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals.
Why a lunch box cookbook?
I’ve been obsessed with school lunch since my son first started preschool 4 years ago. I became fascinated with everything from the perfect lunch box to what goes inside.
How can parents encourage kids to expand their culinary horizons, especially when it comes to lunch?
The more you can get your kids involved, the better. Try taking your child to the farmers market or grocery store and let them pick out their fruit or vegetable of choice. Keep a running list of favorites. Remember that variety is the spice of life!
What should every lunch include?
I make sure that every lunch I pack has a fruit, vegetable, carbohydrate and protein with a little sweet treat too. If you send a balance of foods you’ve done your job.
Why is it important to pack a colorful lunch?
Kids eat not only with their mouths, but also with their eyes. If lunch looks interesting to the eye, it can be more exciting to eat.
How often do you include treats in the lunchbox?
I like to add a little sweet treat almost everyday. That could be homemade fruit leather or a cookie or even a few yogurt-covered pretzels.
Do you make your kids’ lunches in the morning or the night before? Is it okay to pack lunches the night before?
It always depends. Most times I get the fruit, vegetable and sweet treat ready in the lunch box the night before. Then I prepare the main event or sandwich in the morning.
What are some strategies time-strapped parents can use when it comes to making creative lunches?
Keep a list of your child’s top 10 favorite foods and make sure to have them on hand at all times. You would be surprised how many interesting, simple recipes you can come up with off that list.
How can the freezer help when it comes to lunchtime prep?
Your freezer is a total lifesaver. I freeze everything from pancakes to cookies, waffles, muffins and more. Whenever you bake pop a few items in labeled zipper bags so you can add a special treat or make pancake sandwiches when you run out of bread.
What are your kids’ hands-down favorite lunches?
That’s tough! The most requested are usually Veggie Tortilla Roll Ups, Sushi Sandwiches, Banana Dog Bites and veggies with Veg-Wee Dip. Having said that I’ve never given my kids the same lunch in 4 years, so they’re used to variety.
What doesn’t belong in a lunchbox?
White food. I really hope that lunch can be an opportunity for kids to fuel their bodies with nutritious foods.
What did you eat for lunches when you were a kid?
I ate cafeteria food every day from kindergarten through high school. I dreamed about being able to bring my own lunch. I used to skip recess to hang out with the lunch ladies. When I look back I realize I have been interested in the subject of school lunch for years and years.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Michelle Dudash is an Arizona-based Registered Dietitian and Cordon Bleu-certified chef. She’s also a busy mom who wants to feed her sometimes-picky 4-year-old a healthy, balanced diet. Over the years she’s created appealing family dishes and helpful strategies for getting a home-cooked meal on the table quickly. She shares her recipes and advice in her cookbook Clean Eating for Busy Families.
Q: What do you mean by “clean eating?”
A: At its foundation, clean eating means consuming foods in their most natural and least processed state. (Also, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat it.) Clean eating to me also means opting for in-season foods whenever possible. Finally, enjoy every bite. I’m a food lover and believe that food is something to be savored and celebrated. Enjoy food intentionally while seated at the table, and avoid mindless snacking.
Q: What ingredients are important to you to buy organic? Why?
A: Organic expeller-pressed canola oil, since most conventional canola contains GMOs.
Sometimes, depending on availability, I buy organic meats, eggs, and poultry because that guarantees that these animals aren’t given drugs, antibiotics, or growth hormones.
Q: What are some tips for getting a healthy dinner on the table quickly?
A: Properly stock your kitchen early in the week. That way in the time that you would call in and pick up your takeout order, you could have prepared a fresh meal at home. My book offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists, breaking down grocery shopping into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. Try to plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Your best bet: prepare one-dish or make-ahead meals whenever possible.
Q: Healthy is all well and good. What if a mom has picky kids who won’t eat any veggies, for example?
A: That makes two of us! My daughter loves hummus, edamame, and spaghetti sauce. Beyond that I need to incorporate vegetables into other things like in my Turkey, Vegetable, and Oat Mini-Meatloaves—with mushrooms! I bake them in muffin tins and call them “meatloaf cupcakes,” dicing them and serving over whole-grain spaghetti. My daughter, Scarlet, also loves fruit so I make sure to offer fresh options at every meal.
Children are more likely to try the foods that they help prepare so get them in the kitchen with you. If your child still turns up her nose, don’t give up. Continue to offer—not force—a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it. Eventually, your child will probably surprise you. Scarlet continues to surprise me every day!
Q: How do you feel about “hiding” vegetables in foods so kids eat more vegetables?
A: “Hiding” vegetables should be your last line of defense and used only when necessary. You don’t want to add sweet potatoes to brownies and tell your kids, “Yay, eat up, now they’re healthy!” But even I succumb to hiding vegetables to add more nutrients to my 4-year-old’s diet. It’s still important to continue to offer vegetables in plain sight regularly.
Q: How else can moms encourage their kids to eat healthfully?
A: Lead by positive example. Kids become curious when they see other people, including you, eating—and hopefully it is healthy. Come up with cute names for food that resonate with your kids, like my “meatloaf cupcakes” (or anything-cupcake, for that matter).
Q: What are your daughter’s favorite dishes in the book?
A: Scarlet’s favorite recipe is Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip, which tastes even better than deep-fried versions. She also loves the Scarlet-Approved Lemon Cilantro Edamame Hummus. When I gave her a taste, she said, “I want more” and ate it by the spoonful. Her favorite desserts are Four Seasons Fruit Pizza, Dark Chocolate Whole-Grain Brownies, and Almond Butter Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Q: What are some simple changes someone could make to improve her family’s diet quickly?
A: Purge your pantry of the junk snacks made of refined flour, added sugars, and lots of sodium. Replace with whole foods, like fruits and vegetables for snacking.
Switch everything in your kitchen to whole-grain, preferably 100% whole-grain, including pastas, breads, crackers, tortillas, waffles and pancakes. If you face some pushback, stick to your guns and only keep whole-grain versions in stock. Your family can take it or leave it. They might not even notice, or eventually they will take it.
Q: What is a typical weekday breakfast in your house?
A: During the week, my husband, daughter and I all eat something different, which is easy to do because I keep plenty of quick-fix items on hand. One of my favorites is oatmeal and a cup of coffee with raw sugar and a splash of milk.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Right now I am really into Coconut Bliss Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s so creamy and delicious, especially with dark chocolate sauce. I eat dark chocolate regularly, though I don’t consider that a guilty pleasure since I have just a few bites and it contains some beneficial nutrients.
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Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Sometimes a cookie is more than just a cookie. When Gretchen Holt-Witt’s son Liam was diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2007 she realized how underfunded children’s cancer research is. To raise money she organized a giant bake sale – baking and selling a whopping 96,000 cookies. That initial fundraiser proved to be so successful that Gretchen and her husband launched the non-profit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Since then thousands of people across the country have chosen to “Be a Good Cookie,” raising money to fund research and treatment. Although Liam passed away in 2011 at age 6, Gretchen continues the mission of Cookies for Kids Cancer and has just published her second cookbook, All the Good Cookies, packed with more than 60 mouth-watering recipes. Author proceeds benefit Cookies for Kids Cancer.
Q: How many American children are diagnosed with cancer each year?
A: There are approximately 13,000 new diagnoses each year, and any point in time there are tens of thousands of children in treatment. But pediatric cancer receives less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget.
Q: Tell me about the original 96,000 cookies.
A: Liam was cancer-free at the time, and I was so grateful that he was cancer-free, but I kept hearing the voice of his oncologist who said to me that nobody cares about kids with cancer, and there just isn’t enough funding. The holidays were coming up, and people are always looking for homemade baked treats. I decided to get friends together to bake cookies, but I wanted to really push my boundaries. I started calculating … and the number 8,000 dozen came into my head.
So I made this goal, and it was much harder than I expected. It was this crazy experience. We had more than 250 volunteers, most of whom I didn’t know. It was supposed to be a nine-day baking event. But all of the ovens in the kitchen broke so it ended up being 17 or 18 days under very trying circumstances. But failure was not an option. We sold all of the cookies.
When it was over my husband and I realized that this wasn’t just a holiday thing. Cookies for Kids Cancer officially launched in September 2008. Since then we’ve had nearly 5,000 events in 50 states and 15 countries. A lot of events are bake sales, but some are garage sales, bowling tournaments, or races.
Q: After Liam passed away did it occur to you to stop?
A: I think about it all the time. I’ve become incensed at the lack of funding available, just disappointed that this is the state of our affairs. But then the reason I never give up is that I know when I see Liam again he will look at me and say, “Mommy what did you do to make it better for others?” And that would be his expectation, and I can’t let him down.
Q: Why cookies and not, say, pies or cakes?
A: It is hard to cut a pie neatly! Cake, also, is difficult to cut and serve on a napkin. Cookies are just universal. They’re fun and they’re wholesome. Plus, with baking there is a sense of sharing, a sense of community. I couldn’t take out my stand mixer without Liam pulling up a chair and standing next to me. He totally loved cooking and baking.
Q: What makes this book special?
A: Because it’s based on love. If you page through the book you’ll see more than 40 profiles of event hosts of all ages from across the country. It’s so inspiring. The recipes are awesome, simple to make, with no complicated ingredients. And all the author proceeds go back to charity.
Q: Are there one or two cookies that are especially fun to make with kids?
A: I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be good to make with kids, although the Rainbow Sables are particularly great. The Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies have only five ingredients. They’re so quick to make; you get almost immediate results.
Q: Which are your favorite cookies in this book?
A: The Faux Re-os and the Speculaas. I could just sit there with a feed basket on and eat. But there are so many.
Q: How much money has Cookies for Kids Cancer raised?
A: Over $5 million in just under five years. Seven of the projects we’ve funded have become treatments that children are receiving. But, it’s not enough. There’s no resting on our laurels.
Q: Why is it so important for grassroots groups like yours to contribute to fighting pediatric cancer?
A: The thing I find so dumbfounding is that we’re actually making an impact. I didn’t think that me and my girlfriends could do something that would help fund a treatment that would be amazing in a couple of years. How is it that easy?
Q: What can the average mom do to help support this cause?
A: Make the decision to get involved—in whatever way is best for them. The reality is that every dollar counts. You never know what research holds. But you know one thing: nothing happens unless there’s funding.
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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Picnics are a great way to enjoy warm summer days, but food poisoning can ruin the fun. The Partnership for Food Safety Education launched the free Perfect Picnic app, just in time for the summer grilling season. Perfect Picnic teaches kids ages 8-11 about the importance of food safety and how to reduce their risk of food poisoning.
I recently tested Perfect Picnic to see what I could learn, and I was so impressed. I was the master of my own park filled with trees, outdoor kitchens, and several of my park “friends.” In order to pay for all of my park amenities, I rented out barbeque spots and kept my visitors happy.
However, I quickly learned that if my park wasn’t clean, my “friends” would leave. I needed to act fast! Luckily, I made sure all visitors knew how to wash their hands to reduce the risk of contaminating food and use a food thermometer to avoid problems from undercooked meat. I also needed to keep coolers filled with ice, so all perishables stayed chilled to 40°F. In addition, all food preparation surfaces needed to be kept clean.
Perfect Picnic is a great way for kids to learn about safe food handling practices in a fun, engaging way. After a few rounds on the app, kids will be ready to help out at the next barbeque. Click here to download Perfect Picnic.
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Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Want your kid to eat broccoli and brussels sprouts? Paul Lindley, a British father of two, created Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 to do just that. His goal was to encourage his daughter to explore new foods and, hopefully, banish picky-ness. The organic baby food creator just released The Cookbook: The Red One, which just might get your kids to like their veggies, too.
Q: Why did you write this cookbook?
A: Involving children with cooking and food at an early age can help shape their future relationships with food. The Cook Book: The Red One features fun ideas and creative activities that allow little ones to experience healthy foods outside of mealtimes, from getting creative with vegetable prints to playing at a “Cool Kiddie Café.” We offer ways for children to learn more about fruit and vegetables using all their senses, to help them develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
Q: What is Ella’s Kitchen? What products do you offer and how did you get started?
A: I launched Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 to help babies and toddlers enjoy eating healthy food. I had an understanding of what makes children tick from being a parent myself, as well as from my experience working at Nickelodeon.
I was inspired to set up Ella’s Kitchen by my own experiences in weaning Ella. I passionately believe that all kids should have the opportunity to discover that healthy food can be fun, tasty, and cool.
At Ella’s Kitchen we believe that little ones eat using all of their senses, and therefore it was important for us to produce foods that not only taste great, but are bright, tactile and fun. We always approach healthy eating from a child’s perspective and take simple, natural ingredients to create foods and packaging that really connect with kids and their parents – helping them through the entire weaning process.
Q: There is a large element for children in this book. The illustrations are playful and fun and there are drawings to color. Why was this important to include?
A: We always approach everything we do from a child’s perspective and our cookbook is no different. The book is for the whole family and the easy instructions, clever shortcuts and fun activities allow little ones to engage with healthy foods outside of mealtimes. It’s all about getting children hands-on and messy in the kitchen from a young age.
Q: Why is organic, fresh, and homemade so important to you?
A: Organic food is better because it comes from carefully monitored sources with high standards in quality but habits—both good and bad—are formed in the earliest years of a child’s life. It’s crucial to start a healthy diet from a young age. Develop healthy eating habits by getting your little one involved in food; let her help during the cooking process and make yummy homemade dishes together.
Q: How and why did you get into food and cooking?
A: I’ve always loved cooking. Even as a child of 6 years-old, I used to help my mum make surprise birthday cakes! Then when Ella was born, I—like any parent—struggled at times to get her to eat certain foods. So I designed games to make mealtime fun. In our home, meals have always been messy, noisy, interactive events. The whole family enjoys the experience of creating dishes together. Sitting down to enjoy them always makes me smile.
Q: Your personal inspiration came from your children, Ella and Paddy. Did they help in the creation of the book? Did they create any recipes?
A: Two of the recipes in the new cookbook are my family’s own, including Ella’s Dad’s Sweet + Sour Prawns and Ella’s Mum’s Easy Chicken Curry. We first made the chicken curry when Ella was just three years old and she’s loved it ever since, as it’s mild, sweet and creamy. Ella and Paddy were involved in tasting lots of recipes when we were experimenting with ideas!
Q: Ella, now 13, wrote the book’s Foreword and has been in the kitchen since age 4. Does she have goals to pursue cooking professionally in the future?
A: Ella’s favorite school subject is Food Technology, so you never know! At this stage in her life she’s busy having fun with her friends. All we wish is that when she grows up, she does something that she’s passionate about and believes in.
Q: Your recipes are family-friendly, but some have unexpected flavor combos—do you have certain chefs or books that you look to? Where do you find culinary inspiration?
A: The inspiration for our recipes came in lots of different forms; from real mums and dads, friends and family, and our ever-so-clever recipe developer Emma Jane Frost. Our team of nutritionists selected and approved every recipe to ensure that kids have balanced meals to help them grow.
Q: You have tips on preventing picky-ness, but what advice do you give parents who already have picky eaters?
A: Help your kids use all of their senses when exploring new foods—this will teach them to love healthy food from the start! The key is to be patient and persistent. Little ones have three times as many taste buds as adults, which leads to a taste intensity of up to 10 times that of an adult. As a result, both sweet and bitter tastes are exaggerated, often leading to immediate rejection of brussel sprouts and broccoli. It can take 10 separate experiences of a new taste before it’s accepted, so don’t give up after the first couple of times! Keep going and your little one will eat up their vegetables in no time.
Q: Growing up, who did most of the cooking in your family? What was a typical weeknight meal like?
A: I grew up in Sheffield, England and it was my mum who did most of the cooking. Her crispy Yorkshire puddings were a big favourite in our house – whether filled with sausages and gravy during the week or as part of a family roast with meat and loads of veg at the weekend. I can still hear the crunch they made when I close my eyes now!
Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A: It’d have to be my mum’s Yorkshire puddings now that it’s in my mind – Mmmm! There are so many different things to fill them with that I’d never get bored. Ella and Paddy love them too and I’m sure we’d have fun experimenting with new things to put in them!
Q: What other important things should our readers know about you or the book?
A: At Ella’s we always try to look at life from a child’s point of view: with an open mind and with all our senses. My strong belief is that the more a young child is involved with his or her food, whether that’s choosing it, preparing it, playing with it or eating it independently—the more likely he or she is to give it a try and go on to enjoy it!
Interview has been condensed and edited.
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Friday, June 7th, 2013
Even when you want to eat more healthy food as a family, it can feel like an uphill battle. There is so much “kid food” available everywhere, and our children are served snacks and sweets at school, friend’s houses, and soccer games. The new e-book, Bite This! Your Family Can Escape the Junk Food Jungle and Obesity Epidemic, was written by Haim Handwerker, Eileen Katz, and Katherine Weber, who met at their children’s school and discovered that they shared a similar desire to return to “real food.” Even if you have chicken fingers in your freezer (like I do), the authors will inspire you to realize that making smarter choices is easier than you think.
Check out the ideas for throwing together simple meals and snacks from an inventory of healthy basics like rotisserie chicken, plain yogurt, quinoa, eggs (“the new black”), chick peas and spaghetti squash. The book (only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and PDF) has attitude, and the authors want you to get one too. It urges you to be informed, be engaged, be intentional, and persevere.
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Thursday, May 16th, 2013
No matter how health-conscious you are or what diet you’re on, there are times when you just can’t pass on dessert.
When it comes to Sandra Lee’s pineapple-passion-fruit cupcakes, Guy Fieri’s caramel apple bread pudding, and Buddy Valastro’s Italian butter cookies, I can’t think of a single reason to say no.
On May 1, I perused the World’s Largest Bake Sale at Grand Central Station, sampling sweets, meeting local bakers, but most importantly, learning about child hunger in America.
Sponsored by the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, the bake sale raised both money for the cause and awareness for the more than 16 million children affected by hunger in America.
I chatted with of New York City’s best bakers and browsed their selection of champagne cupcakes, pistachio-cherry scones, and peanut-butter-strawberry-jam doughnuts. All sweets were sold for $5, the proceeds from which were put toward the campaign.
Bake sale host Sandra Lee whipped up her favorite strawberry shortcake and banana split cupcakes for the event, and spoke to me about the urgency of the child hunger epidemic.
“Some working moms are going home with one check, paying rent, and wondering how they are going to feed their kids. Sometimes they have to choose between paying bills and food,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way in America.”
Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss,” said that as a baker and a father, he just had to be part of the event. He also shared with me a personal story about his family history.
“My dad grew up in Sicily and I remember him telling stories of going to bed hungry, after sharing one plate with his family,” he said. “It really puts life in perspective. This is about more than raising money, it’s about saying, ‘Hey, America, this is happening!’”
Ty Pennington, former host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, expressed a personal connection to the cause and donated a colorful, handmade bake sale stand for the Share Our Strength Auction.
“I may not have a child of my own, per se, but it is staggering to hear that one in five kids goes hungry,” he said. “It really opens your eyes about not wasting as much and makes you think about what we can do to make sure they are fed.”
The Share Our Strength Auction for No Kid Hungry runs through May 31 and features items donated by food masters like Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. This is your chance to take a class in the Cake Boss’s kitchen, dig in to Bobby Flay’s signature Southwestern dishes, or learn to swirl icing like New York’s iconic Magnolia Bakery.
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Friday, May 10th, 2013
I am lucky not to have any food allergies, but I still want to make so many of the delicious-sounding recipes in Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Simply Allergy-Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week. Just looking at the gorgeous photos in the book, you’d never know that ever recipe is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. Author of the blog My Allergy Free Life and owner of the online allergen-free bakery Betsy & Claude Baking Company, this busy mom of two girls has multiple food allergies. She says, “I like to think of these recipes as the little black dress of my pantry—simple and economical fare that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”
She shows you how to use (and where to buy!) key ingredients like xanthan gum, agave nectar, superfine rice flour, powdered vanilla rice milk, and sorghum flour, which can make gluten-free and allergen-free foods taste like “the real thing.” The recipes I can’t wait to try include chicken tikka burgers, chickpea French fries, beef tostadas, corn quinoa salad, herbed biscuits, and chocolate pretzel pie. Yum!
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allergen-free, allergy, cookbook, family dinner, food allergy, gluten allergy, gluten-free, recipe, recipes | Categories:
Food, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety