Monday, August 31, 2009

back to school lunch ideas

Jennette Turner is a natural foods educator based in Minneapolis. She teaches classes and works with individuals. Here is an excerpt from her 2009 newsletter. Thought it might jog the brain a little as the school year approaches. Go to her website to sign up for the newsletter and subscribe to Dinner with Jennette for more recipes and ideas.

A Healthy Start to the School Year (by Jennette Turner)
Lesson #1: The foods kids eat affect how they learn and behave.
One way we can help our kids succeed in school is to nourish them at home and send them off with a nutritious lunch. Children need to get all three of the major macronutrients at lunch: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Protein provides building blocks to make neurotransmitters in the brain, so that your kids are able to concentrate and learn. Fats also support the brain (don't forget that the brain is over 60% fat) and provide a good source of long lasting energy. Both protein and fat help to keep your kids' blood sugar stable, which means fewer mood swings and behavior issues.

Carbohydrates give active kids quick a boost of quick energy. However, they burn fast, so if your child's lunch is primarily made up of carbohydrates, they'll be hungry again fairly quickly, which can spell meltdowns and frustration in the afternoon. Higher protein foods and natural fats will sustain your child until she gets home.

Lesson #2: Prepare nutritious lunches they'll eat.
Sandwiches are always a popular lunch item: nut butter & jelly or honey, deli meats, cheese. My daughter's favorite sandwich is plain turkey with butter – no lettuce, or she'll reject it. And make sure to cut sandwiches up into small pieces for little kids.

When sandwiches are on the menu, remember, good quality bread is key.
Studies show that whole grain yeast-free breads are the most nutritious and most digestible breads, and that they don't cause the blood sugar swings that yeasted breads do. Read the labels on your bread.

Crackers with sandwich ingredients are an easy change of pace from sandwiches. Kids can assemble them as desired. Use whole grain crackers made without hydrogenated oils, corn syrup or artificial flavors.

Try spreads or dips such as egg salad, tuna/salmon salad or chicken salad. Slices of salami, ham or brownschweiger along with cheese &/or hummus are good options, too. Note: choosing salmon over tuna salad provides more omega-3 fats.

Quesadillas make lunchtime special. We have a quesadilla maker I bought at Target for less than $20, but you can also make them in a skillet. Use whole grain tortillas – I recommend sprouted wheat tortillas, or you could use corn or brown rice flour ones for gluten-free quesadillas. Fill them with meat and cheese, beans or guacamole (they need to have something sticky so they'll stay together). Cook and then cut into wedges. Include a small container of salsa or sour cream for dipping if your kids like that.

Other fun lunch items:
Hard boiled eggs (peeled for convenience). Don't forget to pack salt!
Natural hot dogs (skip the commercially processed dogs that are usually made with preservatives such as BHA/BHT or sodium nitrate, which are carcinogenic. They also often contain flavor enhancers like MSG that are excitoxic which damage neuron pathways in the brain.)
Cubes of ham and cheese skewered on toothpicks with cherry tomatoes and black olives (this is one of Jane's favorites).
Dress up a serving of fruit and make it easy for little hands to eat. How about fruit salad? Jane likes chunks of avocado in hers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

reader garden recipe -chocolate zucchini bread

"Hi Katja, actually the zucchinis are not from my garden but are from a vegetable garden service that I signed up with for the summer. It was kind of pricey but it has been great getting a load of fresh vegetables washed and delivered to my front door ever week! It makes two loaves which is nice so you can eat one and freeze the other."

note: find your CSA (community sustained agriculture) or farm-share online, or ask at farmers markets and co-ops.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 C. vegetable oil
2 C. sugar
1 T. vanilla
2 C. shredded zucchini
2 1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. cocoa powder
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. baking powder

In a mixing bowl beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Sitr in zucchini.
Combine dry ingredients. Add to zucchini mixture and mix well. Pour into 2 greased/floured loaf pans. Bake 350 for about 1 hour until bread tests doneENJOY!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

intro to pesto

It's green, it's slimy, it's got a strong taste. It's pesto! I hadn't made it for years, but wanted to make use of our bounty of basil- this as our beloved cherry tomatoes begin to sucomb to a yellowing blight...
I made some pesto, enlisted my almost 4 year old to help me pick the basil, measure the pine nuts etc. While making it, she made faces and said, "I'm not eating that."

Those of you who are regular readers know my response...
"OK, can you put the olive oil in now? Doesn't it smell good?"

Pesto (from America's Test Kitchen)
prep time 15 minutes

2 cups packed basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves of toasted garlic (leave the skin on, toast in a dry pan for about 5 minutes while brown spots form. Let cool then peal.)

Blenderize or food process until roughly smooth. Refrigerate for 3 days, or freezer up to a month.

I served M some plain rotini along with our salad and rotisserie chicken. M started eating the lettuce leaves last night, as well as the goodies. After about 10 minutes, she took a scoop of pesto pasta and said she loved it. She ate a few more bites, then moved on to her popsicle. I was pleased, but again showed no praise or reaction. Its part of that neutral attitude to food. M seems to ask for praise when trying new foods (getting praise from strangers for eating a carrot primes the pump...) but we don't take the bait. We might say, "I'm glad you like it, want to tell Daddy how we made it?"

I have to say, I really prefer pesto on a fresh crunchy loaf of white bread, but it was a success, and put a dent in our basil. We used to use jarred pesto on Boboli with a mix of goat and mozzarella for a quick dinner.

What quick things are you making from your garden bounty?

Friday, August 21, 2009

"But, you don't like tomatoes"

And other things better left unsaid...
Plus garden update!

So, what survived the early bunny onslaught is now coming ripe in our tiny backyard garden. I have to say, M is so excited by the cherry tomatoes that she's out there checking them twice a day. We've probably gotten about 3 dozen so far, with lots of little green ones coming. She eats them with breakfast, dinner, snack... We've also have about 5 cucumbers, and one green pepper. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be green, or if it was one of the yellow and orange ones we planted but just not yet ripe... I'm learning as I go! We've had so much fun that I'm preparing a larger plot to plant twice the tomato plants next year-Dad and I would like to eat a few once in awhile!

Talking about food
Today we were at Eagle's Nest in New Brighton (a favorite indoor romp area for our third day of rainy weather.) I packed some cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas from the farmer's market and Ranch in a little tupperware. I also had Kettle Corn on hand. M started in on the tomatoes and peas. A little boy sitting nearby said, "I want some of those!" and his mom replied, "But you don't even like tomatoes!" A normal reaction, but a lost opportunity.

Perhaps reframe like this...
"They do look yummy! Want to get some next time we're at the store?"
"Aren't they a pretty color? They match your T-shirt!"
"We haven't thought about having them with dip before, that would be fun to try!"

As it was, it was our last one, or I would have happily offered to share. Just a reminder that there are lots of opportunities to frame food talk in positive ways-the essence of "nutrition education" for children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tornado hit my car-DQ anyone?

After a great webinar at Children's Home Society and Family Services on adoption and the feeding relationship, I was heading to pick up my daughter when a tornado hit. Thank goodness she wasn't in the car. I watched as it formed about 100 yards in front of my car (trapped in construction zone with cement all around, and bumper to bumper traffic.) It was surreal to watch the gray swirl, large branches and debris heading for my car. Terrifying, crazy, slow motion, trying to dial my husband on the phone with shaking hands...
I am off to Target tomorrow to buy one of those NOAA radios that will wake you up if there is a storm watch. Folks, if there is a tornado watch, don't get in your car. It was horrible. (Of note, there was no warning, or sirens, this was one of those that just popped up...)
Enjoyed a Dairy Queen Blizzard on the way home to commemorate my close call. My kiddo pitched a fit when they didn't get her order just right- cup of vanilla ice-cream, cone perched on top with a side of sprinkles. I think she could sense I was still a little on edge. I just bought an extra one to appease her. My nerves couldn't take it!
Hug your loved ones!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A mom's allergy survival guide

My friend, a mom of a child with severe allergies has lots of great tips. Here's a recent post from her blog Rhymes With Write:

not that you asked

but others have: with so many kids being diagnosed with food allergies, what are some tips of the trade for parents, either those just discovering they have allergic kids or those who come in contact with them through schools, sports teams, etc.?

so here is a list of my top 10...

1. It will get better. Not the allergies, necessarily, but your ability to deal with them. You’ll figure out what foods you can buy, what meals you can prepare, and how to deal with restaurants, play dates, school and other situations.
2. Carry meds. If your child has been prescribed an EpiPen auto-injector, carry it everywhere, and teach anyone who cares for your child how to use it. Many parents also carry convenient one-dose squirt packets of Benadryl for mild reactions.
3. Check out FAAN. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network offers lots of helpful information for free, and if you join, you can sign up for e-mail alerts when foods are recalled for undeclared allergens.
4. Get wallet cards for shopping. FAAN sells credit card sized “cheat sheets” that list all the names common allergens go by (caseinates, anyone?). They are extremely handy for grocery shopping, and for checking foods at other people’s houses.
5. Always check ingredients. Every time, even if it’s a product you’ve bought before. Manufacturers sometimes change ingredients, or use slightly different ingredients in different sized packages.
6. No nuts means NO nuts. If your child is allergic to peanuts, avoid tree nuts and vice versa; there can be cross-contamination between different kinds of nuts.
7. Be assertive. I’ve told my mother-in-law to stop bringing over brownies, asked moms at music class to put away their kids’ peanut butter crackers, and made restaurant staff miserable with requests.
8. Educate your kids so they can advocate for themselves. My daughters – the one with food allergies and the one without – can tell people what’s ok to eat and what’s off limits, and they check with me if there is any question. They're 3 and 5 - it's never too early.
9. Google is your friend. Looking for an online support group of other moms of kids with food allergies? Searching for a recipe for non-dairy cream of mushroom soup? Want to order your kid a medical alert bracelet? So much of dealing with food allergies is feeling like you have a handle on the situation. Don’t just freak out – freak out, then search the web.
10. Don’t forget about the mama (or dada). Chances are this whole food allergy thing is much harder on you right now than your child, especially if he or she is too little to really understand what is going on. Try to find ways to relieve your stress. I’ve found that exercise, Zoloft and Cosmopolitans work wonders.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where's my Mommy Food Network Star???/mini potato gratins

I was pretty excited when Melissa d'Arabian won the Food Network Star show. (I have to admit I love Top Chef and Star...) I thought she had some great tips as a mother of four, like always serve a piece of the vegetable you are serving raw on the plate (even brussel sprouts!) I was a little suspicious if she was for real, claiming to have worked 80 hour weeks, has 4 kids under 4, volunteers with the local business community and makes pie dough from scratch!
I even tried her individual potato gratin cups from the finale which were yummy! M enjoyed layering the ingredients as Melissa said she would, though they were a little time-consuming for a weeknight dinner.

Potato Gratin minis (adapted from Melissa d'Arabian) (My changes in red)
prep time 10-15 (with a preschool helper) cooking time 40

* Vegetable spray
* 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (I had Jarlsburg in the fridge so I used that)
* 2 green onions, finely chopped (I used the softer parts of a small leek)
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup heavy cream (I used a mix of half and half and chicken broth)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray 8 (12) muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions (leeks) into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 (3 Tbspns of broth/half and half) tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve. (I scooped my gratins out because they were a little soupier with my lighter liquid mix)
They were really good, and M said they were Yummy.

So, I was eagerly awaiting her new show and was SO bummed that she is doing Dinner for $10, which is 4 servings for under $10. Nothing of the Survival Skills for home cooks with kids anywhere. I think they took her biggest asset, her unique experiences as a home cook with kids who is bright and creative, and turned her into any cookie-cutter TV chef doing bistro salads and granitas. Boring! I will watch a few more, but am bummed that they sold her out, or maybe they don't see the working or SAHM mom capable of anything more than Sandra Lee's Semi-home-made concoctions. (BTW, Sandra Lee has a new series about cooking on a budget that is pretty good too.)
Just a little rant about an opportunity lost. I don't think she'll last very long...
Any of you catch the series? Thoughts?

Friday, August 7, 2009

kids and food ads

On a recent trip to Chicago we indulged in hotel pool-time and some real TV- the kind with commercials (currently we TIVO or only watch DVDs.)
I was amazed at how many "junk food" commercials there are during kids' programming. I guess I always knew they were there, but watching my kid watch them was another story. Almost immediately she asked for whatever was being advertised, and whined for food (even if we had just eaten.)
The Rudd Center recently published some studies about the effects of food advertising on children (and adults) and found that there was a correlation between food ads watched and amount of food consumed. (Kids ate 45% more when exposed to food ads.) They ate not just the promoted food, but more of food in general which means the ads are doing more than just creating brand loyalty.

We're back home now, and my kiddo is into Sponge Bob (which I'm hot and cold on) but find myself sprinting for the remote during commercial breaks. Its too much.

In a perfect world, there would be NO advertising of any foods, junk or not to children. Remember, its the parents' job to decide WHAT kids eat, not the kids. The advertisers count on "pester power" that children wield mercilessly (I read this term recently on another blog, but can't rememer who to give credit to...) We've all been there. Its hard enough to say no to candy, sugary cereal etc without constant pressure from the little angels.
If we can't get it off TV, consider watching only DVDs or TIVO and watch with your child so you can fast-forward. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

feeding without pressure

Check out my article in the Wedge Coop newsletter on Feeding Without Pressure.