Archive for the ‘ Food ’ Category

Dinner in 30 Minutes: Fat Chance?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Healthy and quick have always seemed to be on different playing fields when it comes to dinner. But pediatrician and dad of two Robert Lustig, M.D., has spent 16 years trying to change that—all while treating childhood obesity and studying the effects of sugar on the body. In his latest book, The Fat Chance Cookbook, he provides more than 100 delicious and wholesome meals for families to prepare in 30 minutes or less. Still not convinced? Every recipe was vetted by high school students in home economics classes—if they can do it, so can you!

Dr. Lustig recently shared his secrets for cutting sugar in baked goods and convincing kids to eat spinach.

The main premise of the book is that not all calories are created equal. Can you tell us why that’s so important?

It goes without saying that 100 calories from a cookie are not equal to 100 calories from spinach. Your body uses and stores fuel—calories—very differently, depending on the quality of those calories.

I’m often dubbed “anti-sugar,” but I hate that. I’m actually anti-processed food. As a society, we are eating too much processed food, which contains a lot of added sugar to make it more palatable. Most of us are not consuming enough real food, which has fiber to balance its natural sugar content. We are way over the threshold on sugar and need to return to real, fresh food.

I highly recommend the TED-Ed series on hidden sugars and the food industry called Hiding in Plain Sight. It delves into the larger issues and helps parents make better decisions while grocery shopping.

What do you think is the root cause of the childhood obesity epidemic?

We are consuming all the wrong things. We need more fiber, more Omega-3 fatty acids, more micronutrients, less sugar, no trans fats. I remember when sugar used to be a condiment, not a dietary staple. It’s okay for sugar to flavor food, but not be your food. With this cookbook, my message is that you can prepare real food fast. And not one recipe includes processed ingredients.

If parents aren’t counting calories, what should they be doing?

Look at labels. More importantly, buy food without labels like fresh produce. Then determine how much added sugar or trans fats there are in the labeled foods you’re purchasing. Look for sugar hiding behind one of 56 pseudonyms like corn syrup, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose; the list goes on and on.

Be wary of health claims on the front of your favorite products. The rules governing statements like “hearty-healthy” and “low-fat” are bizzare and less strict than you’d think. Typically, if there’s a health claim on an item, you should probably ignore it and check its nutritional value and ingredients list.

Understand that real food has the answers: the fiber in your apple balances its natural sugar content. Use whole, fresh ingredients and everything improves.

Okay, so how does a busy family get a wholesome dinner on the table while running to sports games, after-school clubs, and PTA meetings?

I know exactly where parents are coming from. I have two girls, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old, so we shuffle between soccer practice and debate team. We’re always running, but somehow my wife or I find a way to get a real-food dinner on the table every night.

Our trick: stocking the pantry and freezer. I keep a lot of options in my freezer, including chicken breasts and steak. Don’t be afraid of weekend prep. It saves so much time to cook something up, store and save it, or even freeze it for later.

Cindy Gershen, who developed the recipes in the cookbook, is stellar at using leftovers. Because of her, we were able to include tips for how to do that in the book.

What are the first few steps to make toward a better family diet?

You have to build it in slowly. It takes forethought, planning, and trips to the supermarket. It takes a little time, but it doesn’t take a lot of time. Plus, it’s typically cheaper! Start by simply planning a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and prepping a few sides over the weekend.


Which recipes are best to start with?

My favorite weeknight recipes are Quinoa and Black Bean Burrito Bowl (page 214), Brown Rice with Lime and Cilantro (page 225), and Joe’s Scramble (with homemade sausage, green onion, mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan cheese; page 142). Some may sound lengthy, but the active time of every recipe is 30 minutes or less.

And my overall favorite recipe in the book is Polenta Patties with Sautéed Greens, Poached Eggs, and Basil Salsa (page 143). But that’s more for weekend brunch, and it’s slightly elaborate.

Temptation can be hard to battle. Do you ever treat yourself?

My wife loves to bake, but when she does, she cuts the sugar in every recipe by a third. That sounds crazy but it works, and it tastes better! Without being sickeningly sweet, you can taste the other ingredients like nuts and dried fruit.

Our anniversary is coming up and we’re going to a French restaurant. We’ll definitely have dessert and we’ve planned for it: we haven’t had dessert all week!

My kids know that on weekdays dessert is a piece of fruit. If it’s the weekend, then we’ll talk about treats. And the thing is, it doesn’t bother them. They don’t feel like they’re missing anything.

Growing up, were your kids ever picky about fruits, veggies, or other healthy options? How did you work around it?

Of course they were picky. I just had to keep at it. Sure, it’s a pain to keep serving up spinach, but you have no choice. It can take 13 tastes of one savory item before a toddler will like it. Sweets only need introducing once.

But don’t give in! The problem perpetuates when people opt for the easy answer: letting their kids eat refined carbs. Then those same kids become picky eaters who won’t eat anything but processed food.

Putting the effort in is hard, finding the time and where-with-all is hard, but life is hard and raising kids is hard! In the end, it’s all worth it.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

Images: Mother and happy child via Shutterstock, The Fat Chance Cookbook cover courtesy of Hudson Street Press, Healthy and unhealthy food on scale via Shutterstock.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

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How to Raise Healthy Eaters

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Kids and VegetablesWe all want to raise nutrition-smart kids, but where do you begin? Does a kindergartner need to know the difference between organic and processed foods? Aren’t babies just supposed to have breastmilk? And what about toddlers? Can we get them to do anything?

The good news is parents don’t need to go it alone in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. Local programs like The New York Foundling in New York City can help provide nutritional guidance.

“At The New York Foundling we empower our families by educating them on easy ways to incorporate healthy eating and the importance of nutrition,” said Bethany Lampland, COO, The New York Foundling. “We believe this is the most important step in enabling smart choices for years to come.”

To celebrate Nutritional Awareness Month, The New York Foundling’s Carlye Waxman, RD, CDN offers her tips on how and when to introduce healthy nutrition at different stages of a child’s life. And if you’re making feeding mistakes, don’t worry. There are easy fixes.

Prenatal: During pregnancy babies need vitamins, minerals and nutrients to develop properly. Get enough calcium by having 4 servings of dairy per day. Easy ways to do this – start your day with a yogurt (non-Greek has more calcium), have skim or low-fat milk as a snack, add cheese in your sandwich and have low-fat ice cream for dessert.

Babies: When your baby is around 6 months old, he or she can have more variety than just formula or breast milk. Introduce yogurt and cheese for necessary fat and calcium. Vegetables are important at this stage as well, not just for the nutrients they provide, but to encourage children eat their vegetables in the future. Be sure to introduce only one new food every few days to check for allergic reactions or intolerances.

Toddlers: Trying new foods may be a challenge if your toddler is choosy. Don’t force a new food if your child won’t accept it, but do try several times and don’t give up. Your child is also following your example, so eating healthy foods yourself will help him learn without even knowing it.

Kindergarten: This is the time to start involving your child in meal planning. Take her to the grocery store and ask her which vegetable she wants with dinner (present her with two or three options so she don’t get too confused). Serve foods that the rest of the family is eating as much as possible so they can learn by example. Don’t use desserts as a tool for children to eat their vegetables at this stage, or they may start to think of vegetables as bad or boring and simply a means to get to the real “delicious” foods after.

Tweens: The old adage is true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It can influence test scores and help increase learning throughout the day. If you’re on-the-go a simple breakfast can include a slice of whole grain toast, low-fat milk with cereal and a banana. For mornings that you can prepare foods, try making oatmeal with low-fat milk. Buy plain uncooked oats and sweeten them yourself with natural sweeteners such as fruit and honey.

Kids of All Ages:  Routinely have dinners at home as a family. Dinners together provide a balance of home-cooked nutrients, and serve as a time to talk about the day, the food or the meal prepared. Aim to include three things in your meal: a lean protein, a whole grain starch and a plethora of vegetables. Children will learn what constitutes a balanced, filling meal and take that knowledge with them as they grow up.

Take a look at our Food & Recipe Guide for healthy (and delicious!) recipe ideas.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Happy Kid with vegetables and fruits sitting at the table via ShutterStock

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Mayim Bialik: “I Love Raising my Kids Vegan”

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Mayim Bialik-Mayim's Vegan TableStar of The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik is a mom of two, a trained neuroscientist (!), and the author of the new cookbook Mayim’s Vegan Table. Recently Mayim spoke with us about the challenges and rewards of avoiding meat and dairy and how she gets her kids to eat Brussels sprouts.

What inspired you to write this cookbook?

I write for a website called Kveller.com where I talk about mom things like what I cooked and how I made things vegan…and there was interest in me publishing a book. I am not a fancy celebrity cook; I’m a regular mom with no chef or nanny or anything. These are the recipes I most often make for the non-vegans in my life as well as for my own family. Dr. Jay Gordon is pediatric nutritionist and pediatrician and he helped with all of the nutrition stuff in the book.

How long have you been vegan? What were your reasons for giving up meat products entirely?

I was always an animal lover and became vegetarian at 19. I still ate dairy and eggs, but after cutting out most dairy in college, my health improved significantly. I didn’t get seasonal allergies, I have not been on antibiotics or had a sinus infection since. When my first son was born, he got gassy, fussy and really miserable if I ate any dairy so I cut it out completely and that solved the problem! I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer about six years ago and after that, I cut out all trace eggs and dairy. I am vegan for environmental reasons, nutritional and health reasons, and ethical reasons. I love the lifestyle and I love raising my kids vegan.

How old are your children now? Did you ever consider not raising them vegan?

My boys are 5 1/2 and 8. Their dad and I assumed we would raise them vegan unless it wasn’t working. But it is working! They are thriving and everyone is happy with how they eat.

What are the biggest challenges of cooking for a vegan family?

Talking to them about “growing foods” – meaning the foods that make you grow – and letting them know that it’s our job as parents to feed them well makes all conversations about food easier in my house. My kids know I expect them to eat food that is good for them, and they also know I want them to eat fun foods, too. I never bargain with them or bribe them to eat. I also don’t have a lot of the rules many of us grew up with such as “No dessert unless you finish everything on your plate” and stuff like that. I have found those things don’t work for my kids, and we have other ways to make meals enjoyable and a success for all!

Mayim Bialik Vegan PizzaDo your children ever ask you for non-vegan foods? How do you respond to them?

Once they hit about age 3 1/2, they understood we eat differently and they could understand why we couldn’t eat everything everywhere we go. I simply tell them that everyone eats differently, and this is how we eat to grow our bodies best without allergies and the problems many people have from eating animal products. Now that they are older, they like not eating animals (which they think are so cute), and they eat a ton of fun, exciting food. They sometimes get bummed out if they can’t eat cake at a kid’s party, but they get plenty of opportunities to eat cake so they are very reasonable about it.

What gifts do you feel being vegan has given your family?

A sense of consciousness in our eating, which is in line with our values. And for our bodies and with the support of our pediatrician, I believe this is the best way to raise my sons for their health and optimal growth.

Which of the recipes in the book are your kids’ favorites?

They like salads, like the green salad with agave (honey!)-mustard dressing. They love brussels sprouts and kale chips, and they of course love anything with Daiya cheese like pizza and quesadillas. They like any burrito I make which is good because I get to pack lots of healthy stuff in a burrito, and everyone is happy. And of course, they like any cookie I make. And my mom’s banana bread recipe!

You’re a busy lady! How do you find time to cook for your family? 

I cook ahead a lot. I generally don’t make super-elaborate stuff during the week since I barely have time! So, simple stuff on weekdays and a special thing or two on weekends or for holidays.

Are your kids choosy? What are your strategies for dealing with that?

My older son is choosier than my younger one. I try not to make a big deal of any food preferences since they invariably lead to struggles around food, which I really try and avoid. I try and have a few reasonable choices for everyone at each meal, and my rule is that if you don’t like the choices, you can eat anything raw in the house: I will cut up any fruit or vegetable and they can have any nuts in the cupboard. It seems to work fine for us.

Mayim Bialik Vegan CookiesWhat are some surprising foods that your kids like?

Well, they love brussels sprouts chips. They don’t taste bitter when you bake them with olive oil like I suggest in my book. It’s better than potato chips we think!

What are your thoughts on organic foods, especially for families on a budget?

If you want to pick and choose, there is a list of which fruits and veggies are most susceptible to holding pesticides, and which “Dirty Dozen” to avoid. We all do the best we can with our budget and lifestyle and I think any produce is better than none. I also hope the day comes when we don’t have to choose between budgeting and having healthy, organic foods available to all of us.

Some people may not be ready to be 100% vegan, but still interested in eating a more plant-based diet. What are some baby steps you recommend? 

I know being vegan isn’t for everyone and that’s fine! My book isn’t designed to make you vegan; it’s simply providing plant-based recipes that are yummy. I think it’s good to think about what foods you already enjoy that happen to be vegan, and eat more of that kind of thing. Bean-based chills, Asian food (which requires almost no dairy and rarely needs meat for a variety of dishes), and pastas are a good place to start. You don’t need to eat processed vegan foods if you don’t want to. There are plenty of plant-based options and recipes that you probably already can enjoy, and every meal counts!

Interview has been edited and condensed.

Click here for more ways to eat clean, or try one of these delicious meatless meals. For healthy recipes sent directly to your inbox, sign-up to get our weekly newsletter!

 

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How to Drink Your Vegetables

Monday, March 10th, 2014

VanTrang Manges - Green MustacheYour kids happily eat plenty of vegetables. They look forward to lettuce, zero in on kale, and beg for broccoli. Right?

Ha.

Chances are, they don’t. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a four-year-old child should eat 1 1/2 cups of veggies a day. That can be a tall order especially when you have picky eaters on your hands.

Enter NYC mom of two VanTrang Manges. VanTrang began experimenting with green drinks for her youngest daughter when she realized that the toddler ate virtually no vegetables. One delicious drink led to another and VanTrang abandoned a career in finance to launch Green Mustache, a line of organic fruit and vegetable juice smoothies for kids. Green Mustache features three yummy flavors and is currently sold throughout the New York area.

If you can’t find Green Mustache at a store near you, or if you simply wish to DIY it, VanTrang shared with us a simple formula for blending up one of these nutritious drinks at home.

Start by enlisting your kids to help choose ingredients from each of these categories:

Smoothies are an easy way for kids to eat fruit and veggies.First, pick one of these for your base:

  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Soy milk
  • Low-fat cow’s milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Orange juice
  • Water

Next, choose a green veg:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collards

Then, pick a fruit (or two or three):

  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Pineapple
  • Apple

Finally, supercharge it with one of these power foods:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Chia seeds
  • Nut butter
  • Raw cacao
  • Spirulina

Then simply blend it all together!
More smoothie tips from VanTrang:

Make It a Family Activity: Allow your child to choose which ingredients she would like to try mixing together—experimenting with different combinations is part of the fun! And this simple formula is a great way to start teaching children about proportions and how to follow a recipe.

Color is Key: Use berries to help turn your smoothie a reddish or purple color, which might make it more visually appealing for your child. Or use lighter-colored ingredients like peaches, bananas, and mango for a paler shade of green.

Choose Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens contain high-quality amino acids, important minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are plant-based chemicals that support your immune system, improve health and longevity, and may reduce life-threatening diseases.

Freezer Fun:  Keep some frozen fruits on hand, especially some of your favorite seasonal fruits to ensure that you can have your tasty smoothie anytime. Freezing fruits is also a great way to not waste ripe fruit. If you like your smoothies extra cold like we do, use at least one frozen fruit to help chill the smoothie. And of course, you can turn your smoothie into an ice pop and serve it to the kiddos as a healthy treat!

Smoothie Sweetness: You’ll notice we didn’t add any sweeteners to the smoothie formula. Using fruits like bananas, mangos, or apples will naturally sweeten your smoothie and help mask the “green” taste of the veggies.

2+2+3 Rule: Part of the fun of making smoothies is experimenting with all the different possible flavor combinations. But keep in mind the following proportions to ensure a tastier experience: 2 cups greens + 2 cups liquid base + 3 cups fruits. Adjust as needed to make it more palatable for your child.

Thanks for the tips VanTrang!

Find more easy smoothie recipes.

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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How To Do Valentine’s Day Sans Sitter

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Whether you planned it this way or not, Valentine’s Day is here and you don’t have a babysitter. Although you and your partner may not be in for a night of wining and dining, it doesn’t mean you have to scratch the special day altogether. After all, Valentine’s Day is a holiday you can celebrate with whomever you love, right? Here is our fool-proof plan to please the kids and the grownups at home tonight.

Show the munchkins some love with a kid-friendly dinner.

Who says mac ‘n’ cheese is just for kids? This yummy comfort food will make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and satisfy the whole family. And since it’s a special occasion, try spicing up your homemade mac or the go-to boxed version with one of our 21 spins on the classic dish. We especially love the “Little Italy” recipe with spinach, oregano, and chili flakes. It tastes fancier than it is to make (which is always a good thing).

While chowing down on your pasta, feel free to bust out your favorite wine glasses and pour yourself a glass of 100 percent grape juice (we like Welch’s, which has the same heart healthy antioxidants as red wine). While it’s no Cabernet, you’ll have more energy to keep the kiddos entertained than if you were sipping the good stuff.

One of the best parts of St. Valentine’s special day? The sweets! Finish off your faux-Italian dining experience with some tiramisu gelato. Recently, a batch of Breyer’s new gelato made its way into the Parents offices and was gone in a matter of minutes. ‘Nuff said.

Indulge in fun Valentine’s Day kid crafts and activities.

Start a Valentine’s Day tradition by creating cards, treats, and other crafts with the kiddos. Your little ones will love making you a Valentine keepsake and your heart will melt from their sweet little notes and scribbles. After you’ve completed your crafts, start winding down with one of our 50 Best Movies for Kids. We think 101 Dalmatians and Shrek are the perfect “love stories” for families.

Have adults-only after hours.

If you can manage to make it through dinner, crafts, and movies without falling asleep (it’s been a long week, hasn’t it?), reward yourself with some one-on-one time with your partner-in-crime. Feel free to exchange the grape juice for your favorite bottle of wine and pop in a romantic movie. According to a study by the University of Rochester, couples who watched love stories like “The Notebook” or “Terms of Endearment” and discussed them afterwords strengthened their relationship as much as couples who had been attending therapy together.

Then, be sure to check out our tips for finding the perfect babysitter, so you can have a date-night next week.

Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny

Find more Valentine’s Day activities for your kiddos here.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock: beautiful girl with heart. valentine’s day concept

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Kelsey Nixon Wants You to Have Kitchen Confidence

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Star of Cooking Channel’s Kelsey’s Essentials, Kelsey Nixon dishes on the challenges of feeding her toddler, breaking into TV, and her new cookbook Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything.

You started your own cooking television show in college. What inspired that?

I grew up in a family where food seemed to be at the center of every get-together or celebration. In fact, when I left for college, I missed my mom’s home-cooked meals fiercely, and it forced me to step into my dorm room kitchen and start cooking on my own. I was a broadcast journalism major who wasn’t that interested in a news career, but I loved food and television. A lucky break with an internship at Martha Stewart Living working on the Everyday Food cooking show solidified things – I was going to find a way to work in food television! I returned to my university and approached a professor about supporting a college cooking show, and to my surprise, he thought it was a great idea. With his support we produced nearly 100 episodes of my cooking show before I graduated.

What’s the best (and worst) part of having your own series on Cooking Channel?

The best part is that my job is to essentially be myself! I get to talk about and teach the things that I feel so passionately about, and that is truly a gift. The biggest challenge is not knowing if the show will be renewed each season. When you put everything you’ve got into a show that represents you, you want so badly for it to succeed!

This is your first book. Why did you decide to call it Kitchen Confidence?

I felt that the title carried a strong, simple message that many home cooks are looking for. The book is full of recipes that are basic, yet not boring, and when made will hopefully spark a bit of that kitchen confidence that will slowly grow with every culinary success you have.

Sometimes cooking at home can seem expensive. What are some ways parents can save money feeding their families?

Carving out the time to sit down and plan your family’s meals for the week is no easy task, but it can be beneficial in so many different ways, especially when it comes to sticking to a grocery budget and having a plan to use up the ingredients that you buy so that nothing goes to waste. I’m also a big fan of shopping the ads at your local markets and stores. Some stores will even ad match, which is a great way to save as much as possible on your weekly grocery bill.

How has your cooking life changed since your son Oliver was born nearly two years ago?

Well, to be honest, I cook a little less! But, I feel like I cook with more intent now — intent to feed and nourish a growing family. I rely heavily on making three to four meals a week and really utilizing the leftovers. Not only does it save me time in the kitchen, but it also relieves me of the mental stress of deciding what to make for dinner every single night.

How did you move your son to solids?

I followed the guidance of our pediatrician when it came to a timeline for transitioning to solids, but when it came to what foods to introduce, I took a few more liberties. I always followed the guidelines of only introducing one new food at a time to check for any allergies, but I also made an effort to season his first food purees with a few mild spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. We went through a big puree stage, which worked for us. But for a future child I’m really interested in the concept of baby-led weaning and may give that a try. I have a few friends that are moms who swear by it!

What are his favorite finger foods?

My Oliver loves edamame, string cheese, and black beans. Ironically the only thing I have trouble feeding him is fruit! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he comes around.

Do you make special “toddler food” for your son?

I’ve made a big effort to offer our son a version of what we’re eating each night at dinner to try and avoid the habit of making multiple meals. Some nights are easier than others and I probably spend way too much time wondering if he got enough to eat, but I feel strongly that offering him a variety of options will pay off in the long run. Realistically I’ve also got a couple of go-to toddler meals on hand to use for easy lunches and nights when mom and dad order in.

Why do you tell people they shouldn’t worry about making mistakes when they’re cooking?

So many cooking mistakes can be corrected. If something tastes a little bland or you added too much of one thing or another, there’s a good chance that simply seasoning the dish with salt and pepper can correct the problem. To have the gusto to make these adjustments, you need to trust your gut. Once you start cooking this way, cooking becomes more enjoyable and freeing.

What are five things always found in your refrigerator?

Eggs, good cheese, fresh herbs, unsalted butter, and chicken thighs (in the freezer).

What are your three favorite recipes from the book?

Lemon Scented Chicken Thighs, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Maple Pecans, and Essential Yellow Birthday Cake.

The recipes all sound so appealing. What do you look for when developing a recipe?

I look for unique ingredient pairings and constantly turn to seasonal ingredients for inspiration throughout the calendar year. It’s important to me that the food sounds and looks just as appealing as it is to eat. I’m a firm believer that we eat with our eyes first, so it’s critical that the recipes I develop look every bit as good as they taste.

What do you hope cooks take away from this book?

Ultimately, I hope this book will inspire home cooks to cook more often and find joy in the kitchen. I hope that each reader finds a few recipes that are a perfect fit for their families and that they will continue to refer to the book over the coming years for classic recipes that they know will always work. Everyone needs a great recipe for things like Lasagna, Roasted Vegetables, and Birthday Cake – you’ll find just that in my book.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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Give a Valentine’s Day Bouquet…of Bacon

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Thinking of buying flowers or chocolates for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Roses and bonbons are classics for good reason, but consider a more savory idea. Something you know your spouse really wants.

Yes, I’m talking about bacon.

Back in September I was the most popular girl in the office (and on my Facebook feed) after I received a bacon bouquet from Smithfield. At first glance it looked just like a bunch of long-stemmed roses. But after a closer look—and sniff—the flowers turned out to be little bundles of porky goodness.

Smithfield has kindly shared bouquet-making instructions with us. If you’re feeling crafty, this is one Valentine’s Day gift I suspect most husbands (and, heck, most wives) will swoon for.

Valenswine’s Day Bacon Bouquet

Makes 12 Roses

Materials:

1 Package of Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon

12 Rose Stems

1 Mini Muffin Pan

1 Drill with bit (1/8” suggested)

1 Broiler Pan

1 Glass Vase

STEP 1: Prepare your pan

Drill holes into the bottom of the mini muffin pan. These holes will allow the bacon drippings to drain while the bacon cooks. Place mini muffin pan on top of broiler pan.

STEP 2: Prepare your bacon rose buds

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Open pack of Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon and tightly roll the individual rose buds, one slice at a time.

Place all bacon rose buds into the mini muffin pan. Slightly push the bacon rose buds down for added support.

Place bacon rose buds, muffin pan, and broiler pan in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Check on the bacon rose buds occasionally.

STEP 3: Prepare your rose stems

While waiting for your bacon rose buds to cook, pull all roses off their stems.

Typical components of a faux flower include a rose stem, green leaves, a green cap, and petals. Discard all flower petals, and with only green components remaining, reassemble.

STEP 4: Assemble your bacon roses

When bacon rose buds are fully cooked, remove from oven and place on paper towel to cool.

Pick your best looking rose buds and carefully slide them onto the protruding stems.

Arrange roses in a glass vase to your liking.

STEP 5: Present & enjoy!

Share the deliciousness with someone you love.

Not in the mood for bacon? Find recipes for more traditional, no-pork-added treats

 

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Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches

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Eating in Color: Helping Kids Love Fruits and Vegetables

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014


Frances Largeman-Roth is a registered dietician, author of four cookbooks, and a mom of two—with a third on the way. A health expert who has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Today Show, she has helped thousands of women find the best foods during pregnancy, lose weight the right way, and incorporate healthier meals into their lives. Her latest book, Eating in Color, hits bookstores this month so we asked her how to add pops of color to our dinner plates and why it’s so important.

This book is entirely about fruits and vegetables—when they’re in season, how to choose them, how to store them, and, of course, how to use them. I have to ask: which is your favorite?

Mangos! When I spent a semester abroad in Australia, I learned how to cut them properly and incorporate them into many dishes. There are two seasons there: fall/winter and spring/summer, so you get different varieties.

You write about a study that found only 30 percent of Americans are getting the recommended 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day. Why is improving this statistic important to you?

My father passed away when I was 12. He had all the things that we now understand as warning signs for heart disease and diabetes. We just didn’t know it at the time. Growing up we ate fruits and vegetables, but with my mom’s German background there was also a lot of cured meats and pastries. Now that I’m a parent I understand that moms and dads are super busy, aren’t getting enough sleep, and are more stressed than ever. Because of that, convenience often outweighs nutrition. But this book is about eating better in a fun and visual way.

Tell us more about the five rules you created: eat color often, don’t be monochrome, go outside your comfort zone, make dates with your kitchen, and exercise.

I wanted to explain to readers how they can actually attain this lifestyle and not just admire beautiful images of fruits and veggies. I wanted to connect the message and explain the execution. Sure, everyone is crazy about kale right now, but you can’t just rely on that one super-healthy thing. Plus, trying new things is essential to your health. We all get stuck in ruts with the same go-to recipes or takeout dishes. Pushing out of your comfort zone, though it may take more time and planning, is worth it! And eventually a new recipe will become part of your repertoire. And getting active just has to be part of it.

You describe nutrition not just as a career choice but a life path. How can families make this a priority in their life while balancing their often-crazy schedules?

When you’re rushing home from work to pick up your kids to then rush home to cook something up for them, it’s easy to rely on processed food. But if you can spend time in the morning or on Sunday, you can make so much happen! Simply put it into your calendar to “chop veggies.”

A trip to a farmers market is a great way to get inspired and it’s really fun for your kids. It exposes them to new sights and tastes. You can do something similar at the grocery store because there’s always something new in season. Just the other day I saw a beautiful dragon fruit that turned into an entire lesson: I asked my daughter where it came from, what color it would be inside, how the rough and scaly texture looked and felt. The bottom line: What kid wouldn’t want to try a super-bright pink fruit? This is such an easy way to dive in.

When your daughter Willa was learning colors in school, you offered her “reds, oranges, and greens” instead of “beets, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.” How did changing your food vocabulary help?

It sounds like such a small idea, but it made everything much less frustrating at the dinner table. I completely understand that from the parents’ perspective, trying to get your child to try one item 15 to 20 times is just too many. By the tenth try, you’ve wasted too much food and energy. Instead, go into it with a no-stress mentality. Just put a new food on the table and see what happens. Remember: sometimes kids are simply exerting independence when they are picky about dinner. If you take the pressure off both them and yourself, much of it can be resolved. This doesn’t mean your kids will eat and love everything, but it helps them try new things.

I like to display fruits and veggies in little bowls and in compartmental kids’ plates. I often ask them, “How many colors we can get on our plates tonight?” My two can get a bit competitive with each other, which can help on the dinner-table front.


Some families have super-picky eaters. What else can they do to make the introduction of new foods easier or more appealing?

Let your child have some control. During a trip to the farmers market or grocery store, ask him or her to pick out produce by color—one yellow and one red. Depending on your child’s age, have him or her pick out a recipe and then make it with them. I can guarantee that because they had a hand in it, your children will be more willing to try it.

Just remember that it takes patience. Kids can love something one time and hate it the next. (And vice versa.) But don’t ever stop offering! Their tastes are constantly changing. Or, like in my daughter’s case, their siblings can be influential. When she saw her brother eating avocado, she wanted some.

Don’t cater to “kid food.” The more you offer tater tots and chicken nuggets, the less your children will try the other things. I’m a big advocate of the family meal. Sure, you can have back-ups on hand, but you are not a short-order cook.

Your recipes run the gamut from meals, sides, and snacks to drinks and desserts. Why so much variety?

I wanted to show that fruits and vegetables have a place in everything. When I first started working on the book, I made a list of my chapters. I always knew it would be organized by color. So I started asking myself tough questions like “Besides a pie or crumble, what else can I do with rhubarb?” I approached recipes from outside the box.

You also added a black and tan chapter—including grains, seeds, nuts, and oats. (And my favorite: chocolate!) Why are these are just as important?

I think of the black and tan chapter as the items you pair with all of the other colors. It’s your base layer. To me, these items are a great way to bring in a lot of texture to your dishes.

Okay, we want the scoop. What’s your go-to when you’re in a pinch?

We have pasta often because it’s very versatile. I personally like to make roasted veggies on the side. I use whatever’s in season—butternut squash, sugar snap peas, purple onion, baby carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes. Creating a mix is best! We always have grated Parmesan in the fridge so a spaghetti dish can be done in 15 minutes.


Interview has been edited and condensed.

Author photo by Quentin Bacon.

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