Hello and a very belated Happy New Year! Sadly, it has been nearly one year since my last post, but I’ve read a couple of inspiring articles lately about kids and food, and thought I’d take advantage of this little platform I have. In 2011, I began writing, what I thought (and hoped!) would one day become a book, but four years later, it still sits as a Word Doc. on my computer. A lot has happened since then; I, along with many of my friends have had babies or are pregnant, or are thinking about having a baby in the near future. So here I share with you the section of my “book” about feeding kids. I felt a bit hypocritical writing this pre-baby, but reading through it again years later (with a seven month old), I feel the same way. What prompted this post were the following two articles:
Working as a private chef, I have learned that children can be incredibly picky when it comes to food. White foods reign supreme and vegetables still manage to have a stigma. In general, if the parent eats a variety of foods, in the presence of their children, so too will their kids. Involve your child in the preparation of food. Let them smell and touch each ingredient. Teach them the names of ingredients and where they came from. One afternoon I was breaking down a whole chicken into its parts for a client dinner and their child asked me, “What is that?” To which I answered, “This is chicken.” “But what is all that STUFF?” the little boy asked pointing at the skin and bones on my cutting board. “It’s the skin and bones”, I said. “But why is it there?” “Well because I bought a whole chicken.” “Why?” Because it’s less expensive and the bones and fat add flavor.” “Ew. Why didn’t you just buy beef?” Unless they are told, how would a child know that the crispy chicken fingers they eat out of a box actually came from an animal, called a chicken? Beef is the meat we eat from a cow. Steak is beef. This may seem like basic information, but unless taught to your kids, they really have no idea.
Kids demand 100% of your energy and attention and there is a niche market of prepared food products to feed them instantly and on the go. When buying packaged and prepared food, read the labels. When you do have time to cook at home, involve your children and make it a fun activity. Pick out a recipe together. Bring them with you to the grocery store. Play with shapes, colors and textures when composing a dish and creating a meal. When I’m at a client’s home and their children are hovering around my cutting board, I ask them to help me pick the leaves of fresh herbs from their stems or squeeze the juice from lemons and limes. Kids that are too young to handle knives make excellent prep chefs.
When it comes to eating out with your kids, don’t order off of a Children’s Menu, unless it offers smaller portions of what’s available on the standard menu. Generally speaking, kids menus are brainless and completely void of nutrition. The quality of children’s food should be held to the same standard as adult food. Don’t ever feed your child something you wouldn’t be happy to eat yourself. It is irresponsible to be careless with the food we feed our kids. Ideally, their menu should be the most nutrient dense.
Let’s talk about kids and sugar. Children are introduced to sugar from their first sip of breast milk or formula as infants, juice as toddlers and chocolate milk as kids. Just for the record, chocolate milk is not an acceptable form of getting your kids to drink milk: put it in the treat/ dessert category. As a side note, if your child doesn’t like milk, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate calcium into their diets. Cows milk contains calcium; because it is in the grass that the animal eats. Therefore, you can get the calcium your body needs from eating a substantial amount of dark, leafy greens. Not to mention other foods like, almonds, broccoli, figs, sesame seeds and fish with bones or shellfish with shells are all great sources of calcium. Back to kids and sugar. Curb their juice intake. Fruit juice, even if it’s 100% fruit, is a perfect example of carbohydrates void of fiber. Encourage your children to drink water and eat a piece of fruit. Or dilute a glass of juice with water, to decrease empty calories from sugar. Always remember that if you are going to eat sugar (and this includes juice and fruit), do so with fat and protein to avoid a spike in blood sugar. It is so easy to succumb to the convenience of sugary snacks, but even more so beneficial to try to avoid them. Remember that sugar is addictive, so if you reward them with lollipops and ice cream, not only will they crave the sweet taste, they will associate sugar with good behavior…not good! If you don’t introduce your children to refined sugar from the beginning, they won’t crave it.
As a parent, your number one goal in life is for your child to be healthy and happy. What you feed them matters. It matters because the foods they eat can either be nourishing, to support their physical and emotional wellbeing, or not. In his book, Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Eating animals has an invisible quality.” I believe this, in addition to eating most food purchased from a grocery store; all have somewhat of an invisible quality. If it’s on the shelf; it is available to me – our thought process ends there. I realize we are in a modern, sophisticated world, but do you ever stop to think that every food that comes in a package has been made in a factory? Or that “fresh” produce (out of season) has made its way here from foreign countries, thousands of miles away? My intention is by no means to be a doom and gloom reality check. Rather to encourage you to pause and think. You chose what you put into your mouth and the mouth of your child. Also from Eating Animals, Foer asks, “Why is taste the crudest of our senses?” Why does it trump the health consequences of eating junky foods? I’m a realist and because food brings people together, symbolizes celebration and fuels comfort, it’s fun to eat what we want. Just remember, there are consequences to your actions. Make sure to balance your splurges with nutrient dense, whole foods.
Perhaps the best news to receive after finding out you’re pregnant is when friends make it through their 12 weeks of waiting to announce their own pregnancy. It’s so comforting and exciting to know that your friendships will pursue and be shared by the next generation. Not to mention the fact that it won’t just be you and your partner trying to figure out how to raise a child on your own! And so for this post, here are just a few things that helped me through my twelve weeks of hibernating. What you also learn is that everyone is different. Some of us feel okay and some of us feel completely down and out, nibbling on saltines for dinner, weeks on end. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a girl or a boy or if this is your first pregnancy or second. All that matters is that you do what is right for you and your growing baby.
First trimester godsend snacks, meals and beverages
Refreshing ways to settle your nauseous tummy
- Sparkling Water with Lemon
- Ginger Tea
Odd snacks (but man did I love them)
- Cottage cheese (Friendship Brand) drizzled with Tabasco Sauce and scooped up on Triscuits
- Plain yogurt with sliced banana, chia seeds and a drizzle of honey
- Siggi’s Yogurt
- Rice cakes with almond butter
- My New Roots’ Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola
B is for…
- Bean Soup: Especially black bean and lentil (The Juice Press makes a fantastic Red Lentil that I ate weekly. I also really like Juice Generation’s Lentil Soup.
- Ben and Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt: Blueberry Vanilla Graham is insanely good (I realize this is loaded with garbage, but it made me really happy).
- Breakfast: Almost daily for lunch, I would make an egg sandwich on an Ezekiel English Muffin with a Dr. Praeger’s frozen spinach pancake and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. There were also nights when all I wanted was bacon (Applegate Farms has nitrate free) and pancakes or waffles.
- Broccoli: steamed (because I had to have something green with the other items in this category!)
- Burgers: I loved Bare Burger’s Roadhouse: pepperjack, country bacon, hass avocado, sweet apple grilled onions, red piquante peppers and smoked paprika mayo on grass-fed beef and a multi-grain bun. I also splurged at Shake Shack a couple of times.
- Burritos: I couldn’t get enough rice and beans, not to mention sour cream and guacamole.
Here’s the good news: miraculously, at week thirteen, symptoms of nausea truly seem to dissipate…so hang in there and good luck!!
A very belated happy new year everybody! I realize I’ve got to get this blog up and running again, so picking up where we left off, here is another recipe using sourdough starter. Over the past several months I’ve continued to feed and even breed my starter (now my sister has a culture of her own). Though it may seem daunting, recipes using sourdough are incredibly rewarding, delicious and extra nutritious. I promise to venture into new recipe territories soon. Stay tuned!
Whole-Grain Cinnamon Sourdough Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1 cup active sourdough starter
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup spelt flour
2 tablespoons raw wheat germ
1/3 cup whole milk (I needed extra liquid because my starter is pretty thick)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon real vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 to1.5 teaspoons cinnamon (depending on your taste)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (I used extra virgin)
1 ripe banana, mashed
3 tablespoons honey (raw is best)
1 teaspoon baking soda
For fresh sourdough muffins first thing in the morning:
You’ll need to combine the flour and sourdough starter before heading off to bed. Stir together starter and flours in a medium bowl; scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it to rise on your kitchen counter over night (at least seven hours). Note: the seven-or-so hours rising/soaking time allows for the phytates in the flour to be neutralized allowing for ease of digestion as well as absorption of the minerals in the grain.
In the morning when you’re ready to bake, either grease muffin cups with coconut oil or line with paper baking cups and preheat your oven to 400F. Measure and stir the remaining ingredients except baking soda together in a separate bowl until combined; add this mixture to the flour/sourdough starter mixture and stir well.
Finally, sprinkle the baking soda over the batter and whisk it in. The baking soda will quickly make your batter bubble and rise.
Fill your prepared muffin pan with batter and bake for 15 – 20 minutes; check muffins with a toothpick to be sure they’re done.
This recipe was altered from Happy in Dole Valley’s Cinnamon Sourdough Muffins
You can buy great tasting fresh bread from local bakeries and grocery stores, but there is something to be said for making your own bread from scratch. My mom is a fabulous bread baker. She has mastered her own recipe that incorporates steel cut oatmeal. Her bread is light as air and has the perfect amount of chew or “crumb”. I apologize in advance to the gluten-free, because great bread is all about gluten; the networks of proteins that give bread its amazing chewy texture.
After reading Michael Pollan’s latest book, COOKED, (and hoping to take after my mom) I was inspired to take a stab at baking my own bread. First, I signed up for a class at my alma mater to learn how expert baker, Michael Kallanty, makes his famous San Francisco sourdough. Just as Pollan outlines in his book, the process of making a loaf of pan au levain (bread with levain, aka, a sourdough starter) is a lengthy labor of love. I started on Thursday evening by feeding my starter, made the levain Friday, the dough Saturday and finally sampled my fermented loaf on Sunday. And to my surprise, it was heavenly. Making bread is an incredibly rewarding project. Now that fall is here, devote a weekend to it, it’s worth every minute. The ingredients are simply: flour (whole-grain and AP), water and salt. The required equipment: a scale and a pizza stone or bread cloche. And finally, just some patience and a little TLC.
If you want a little motivation in the kitchen, read COOKED. You’ll be braising meats, drinking beer and baking bread in no time. COOKED has a recipe for sourdough bread, as does Chad Robertson’s latest cookbook, Tartine Book No.3. Here’s The New York Times recipe to get you started.
When I was a kid, my parent’s made their own muesli that we jokingly referred to as “horse chow”. I remember they even traveled with it and gifted it to friends. I do the same today. You may get flack for it, but there’s no better way to start the day than with an insanely healthy, nourishing breakfast. Pair it with kefir, raspberries and sliced peach while at their peak, and in the winter with warm steamed milk and maybe a banana. I love the version from Bob’s Red Mill, but decided to take a stab at mixing up my own. Here’s my recipe:
Yield: 12 cups
1 cups currants
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup flax seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups kasha
3 cups oats
3 cups rye flakes
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently fold and mix by hand to combine. Store in airtight container.
Yield: 12 small cakes (approximately 3.5” diameter)
This recipe evolved from a zucchini fritter craving and turned out to be a light, yet nutrient dense, baked-not-fried version. The cakes are vegan, but you can always substitute an egg for the flax seeds. For a vegan “tzatziki”, I would substitute tahini and water/lemon juice for the yogurt. You don’t have to bake the dozen cakes all at once; they can be left, separated by parchment paper, in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. Bake individually as you like, but be sure to bake for 20 minutes to achieve a good crust.
Ingredients & Procedure
For the cakes…
1/3 cup millet
1 tbs flax seeds
1 tbs pumpkin seeds
- In a small pot, soak all of the ingredients listed above in one cup water (for at least 6 hours or overnight).
1 cup mung beans, soaked for 6 hours or overnight (you want to soak the beans separately, because bean soaking water should be discarded).
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
¾ tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground pimenton
Tiny pinch saffron threads (optional)
- Drain and rinse beans.
- Add beans to pot with millet and seeds with the addition of 1 cup water, garlic cloves, salt and spices.
- Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, turn off heat, but keep lid on and let sit for 10 minutes to cool.
- Empty contents of pot into a large bowl and add the following additional ingredients:
2 tbs minced shallot
1 cup whole-wheat panko
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 medium sized zucchini, grated and strained (approximately 1.5 cups)
*Wrap grated zucchini in paper towel or dishtowel and squeeze out excess liquid (discard or drink!)
1 4oz. bag shelled pistachios, finely ground in a food processor
- Using a large spatula, fold to incorporate and evenly distribute shallot, zucchini, breadcrumbs and salt into the millet and mung bean mixture. The “dough” will be sticky.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Scoop out and shape dough into small cakes. I like to use an ice cream scooper for consistent size: press and flatten two scoops together.
- Put ground pistachios and a generous pinch of salt (if using unsalted nuts) on a plate and cake by cake, cover completely with nuts.
- Lay out cakes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
For the Tzatziki…
2 tbs fresh mint, chopped
2 tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 tbs fresh dill, chopped
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 containers Siggi’s yogurt (or 12oz. of any strained/Greek plain yogurt)
1 tbs olive oil
Zest from 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
¼ cup cucumber, brunoise (cut into tiny cubes)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and fold with spatula until evenly combined.
Serve zucchini cakes with quadruple-herb Tzatziki and a wedge of lemon. A few halved cherry tomatoes go nicely with this dish, along with a green vegetable. Finish plate with a light dusting of left over ground pistachios.
Due to popular Instagram demand, here is the recipe for the Millet-Black Bean burgers I shared earlier this week. The recipe makes 5 large burgers. Served with a salad and some avocado they make for a great dinner. As left overs the following night, we gave them a protein punch by topping with a slice pepper-Jack cheese and a fried egg. Note: these are definitely grain burgers, but play with the proportions and use more beans and less grain for bean burgers.
For the burgers…
- 1 cup millet cooked in 2 cups water for 20 minutes with:
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp coriander
- ¾ tsp salt
1. Rinse millet.
2. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan.
3. Add millet, spices and salt to boiling water.
4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Turn off heat, without removing lid and let sit for 10 minutes.
- 2 large scallions (or 3 to 4 smaller), finely chopped
- 1 large handful cilantro, roughly chopped
- 4 oz. pepitas (I used a bag of these, because I had them in my pantry, but plain are just fine.)
- 1 can black beans
1. Add scallions, cilantro and pepitas to food processor and blend until combined into a paste.
2. In a large bowl combine millet, pepita paste and 1 can of black beans. Fold until evenly combined.
3. With a bit of olive oil on your hands, form “dough” into your desired burger size.
4. Although the burgers don’t technically need to be cooked, you can either brown them on either side in a pan, with a splash of olive oil (as you would a real burger), or bake in the oven at 375 until browned and warmed through.
For the slaw…
- ½ head small red cabbage, finely sliced (on a microplane is best)
- zest and juice of one lime
- Drizzle of honey
- Few dashes of Tabasco
- Large pinch of salt
1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss with your hand. You basically want to squeeze/ massage the dressing into the cabbage to break it down, making it easier to digest.
- Salsa (My favorite store-bought brand)
- Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- Drizzle olive oil
- Avocado, sliced
1. Nest some slaw on your plate and lay burger right in the middle.
2. Top burger with salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro.
3. Arrange sliced avocado around the edge of the plate.
4. Drizzle dish with extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!