Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "Food"

Rock Star Kid Eaters

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 in Featured, Food, Motherboard |

Rock Star Kid Eaters

You all are going to hate me. I’m going to sound cocky and rude and full of myself. And maybe it’s got nothing to do with me, but I think it might: My Kids are Rockstar Eaters. They always have been. I’ve never had to hide a vegetable. I’ve never pretended like Charlie and Lola that tomatoes were moon squishers and broccoli was magic trees. In fact, I don’t really get all the hoopla on the food issue. See, I sound like a total bitchy snob.

I never fed my kids separately from the food we were eating. Of course we chopped it up and for awhile, Thing 2 liked his food deconstructed — so Arroz con Pollo would be on his plate: asparagus separate from saffron rice separate from chicken separate from grilled onion. But they ate it. Always. I started serving salad to my kids for meals when they were about 2-years-old. They figured out the magic of salad bars by the time they were 3 and were begging for the salad bar at Whole Foods as a treat. Sushi is the family favorite, but I’ve limited their sashimi intake — not for fear of kids eating raw fish (the doctor said it was fine), but because it was costing us a fricking fortune. Those little kids can put away sushi like nobody’s business. I didn’t eat like that in the 70s!

I have a treat drawer. I’ve always had one. I didn’t really know how to tackle the sweets and treats challenge, so I just ditched the whole thing and put a drawer, nice and low and accessible with no child safety locks on it filled with candy and cookies. I’m not kidding. I told the kids they could have one treat per day from that drawer. They are 7-years-old now and still ask if they can have a treat from the treat drawer and will self-regulate (Oh! I had a cupcake today, so no treat drawer tonight!). They get whatever candy they want. But they don’t want it very often.

When the kids were 4, we started taking them to Farmer’s Market in Campbell with their own bags. They were allowed to fill it up with anything they chose — veggies, fruits of all different kinds went into their bags. That damn experiment was expensive too!  But it worked. My kids eat colorful, bright veggies and fruits of all kinds — and better than that, they crave them. Don’t try to pass off a plain ‘ol apple on them; if it’s not HoneyCrisp then it’s not worth eating. Snobs.

I’ve written before that I was never really good with reading kiddie books to my kids — I always, instead, read them cookbooks. But that helped with eating too because kids wanted to cook everything I read to them. Soon they learned about meats and fish and herbs and seasonings and they were able to decipher which was which. This year, I taught them to tuck their fingers and use a real chef’s knife. Although I’m standing right there to help, I think trusting them with the knife, learning about the way food feels to cut and slice and, most of all, how to respect food, has helped them with their adventurous culinary spirits.

There are of course the days when the kids sigh at the sight of something totally foreign on their plates. We remind them of Andrew Zimmerman from the awesome show, Bizarre Foods and how Andrew says you have to try every food at least twice before saying you don’t like it. Other shows help us out too — we are huge, huge fans of Iron Chef America (Cat Cora for Thing 2, Bobby Flay for Thing 1). ICA helps my kids learn that the same food can be prepared many, many ways. That opens the door to trying foods that might be new, but with familiar ingredients. Makes things a bit less scary, I think.

We tell the kids frequently that in order to travel the world, they’ll have to appreciate foods from all cultures. This was great until the kids heard of cultures that eat bugs, spiders, fried crickets and tarantulas. They didn’t like that at all.

This post is inspired by the awesome, fun team of The Yahoo! MotherBoard.

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CPGs Taking Clues from Mom Life

Posted on Aug 22, 2010 in Featured, Food |

CPGs Taking Clues from Mom Life

It’s no surprise or any kind of epiphany that consumer package goods companies follow the lead of what its primary customers need and want. It’s a duh, I know. Every CPG I’ve ever worked with has female purchasers at the top of their target lists — complete with massive efforts  like that of  the WalMart Moms and the 1:1 online targeting from P&G and J&J. It seems than any company with an ampersand knows how important it is to target moms online. Marketing to moms is compelling, but its the history of moms directing the goods that fascinates me.

Last weekend I made brunch for a friend’s 40th birthday. I found a Sunset Magazine from the month he was born: August 1970. I was ready for quiche recipes, maybe some heavy sauces, I could slow roast or even make fondue. I was wrong. What I found was a clue to the way women’s changing lives 40 years ago shaped the future of the consumer packaged goods industry.

In the early 1970s, the Women’s Movement had moved from the Mad Men phase into a wide, strong, changing world, led by some of my icons that I was lucky enough to meet, including Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm. As middle-class women aggressively hit the workforce, consumer packaged goods  had to scramble to modify their products in order to shift focus from June Cleaver to June Sells Cleavers for Equal Pay.

“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man, because I’m a woman, W.O.M.A.N., ” sang Peggy Lee (and Miss Piggy). And indeed they could. But quick frying bacon would have been helpful. Oh, and a microwave. Women needed food that was economical with a quick prep time. These working women still had their homemaker duties in full-swing. The food industry needed to respond to the change. Food companies catapulted themselves into the new focus of low prep meals including the launch of  Hamburger Helper, Kraft  Macaroni &  Cheese, Betty Crocker ready-to-eat pudding and the “new” fad of  instant iced tea mix. Instantly, meals were on the table — and along with it,  the children of America began eating processed foods with staggering growth.

Four decades later, the Hamburger HelpHER revolution has resulted in the widely known epidemic of both childhood and adult obesity. Was it the price that parents paid for the women’s movement? Maybe.

The same revolution is happening now at a great and growing pace. Companies are sporting nutrition for children that are actually — stop, gasp — nutritious. Children are being taught at an early age about the importance and ramifications of their diets; and, surprisingly, being given the power to make many of these choices on their own. Ask my kids if they want mac ‘n’cheese and they’ll always say yes, but it’s Annie Mac n’ Cheese, nothing powdered, and, they’ll tell you they are eating carbohydrates, fat and dairy. Give them a chance and they’ll tell you their favorite “superfoods” (blueberries for her, broccoli for him).

I saw savvy, educated kids in action at a Cliff/Luna Bar event in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. The kids spent time planting home gardens, showing off yoga poses and sharing food knowledge. They listened intently, but they listened with the intensity of agreement, not that of learning something new. I chatted with the Cliff lead nutritionist who came with LapTop lunch boxes for kids to decorate and talked about their commitment to healthy quick food. The consumer packaged goods companies are at it again: reaching us where we need them to. We all aspire to live the  Cliff/Luna lifestyle of sports, food, fun and giving.

My life as a working mom means butt-busting, speed-of-light work around the clock. It means I, like June Cleaver, have a responsibility to put food on my family table. But I want more than that:  I want it to feed us, not just put food in our stomachs. The influence of women on the food industry in the 70s leaves a legacy of  quick rising yeast, instant hot chocolate, Bisquick and J-ello. What is the legacy that we, as mothers in 2010,will leave on the food industry?

I was not paid for any marketing or promotion of materials or goods for any company listed above. I did, however, have a great day with the women from Cliff/Luna and ate a casesar wrap and one (okay, two) oatmeal rasin moonpies.

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100 Mile Diet: An Unsurmountable Challenge?

Posted on Jan 5, 2010 in Featured, Food |

100 Mile Diet: An Unsurmountable Challenge?

I quit chicken about two months ago. In some ways it’s completely freeing, in others, a pain-in-the-butt. There are days I cook with chicken stock, take sips from my kids’ Chicken Tortilla Soup knowing full well there are a couple of dead birds that went into making that bowl of yumminess. As I get older, I’ve come to understand how important food is to how I feel. Eat crap at the holidays? Feel like crap in January.

I’d heard of the 100-mile diet a few times before. It’s not a “diet” per se, it’s more like a lifestyle choice. In our daily lives, we eat “fresh” food that travels over 1500 miles before it gets on our plate. That’s a bumpy road to the table. Now, I’ve tried the vegetable and fruit delivery from local growers and I love it. There is absolutely no denying that the food looks and tastes so much better. But I’ve always found problems with the foods that show up in my box that we don’t eat at home. A few pounds of rutabaga just can’t be used in this house, even if I cooked with it every day for a week.

Then there is the issue of proteins. We live about 30 miles from the beach — there are plenty of fresh fish to eat and even more shellfish. Is it the best I’ve eaten? Not so much. And how about the turkey, beef and pork? My in-laws live near the famed Harris Ranch and that is a lot more than 100 miles from here.  Cheeses are easier. There are some good dairy options that are very local to the Bay Area. If we could just live on wine alone, I could sustain myself in 20 miles (I think that’s how far away Ridge Winery is). Since I can’t live on hooch alone, I’m faced with the issue: Can I sustain our family’s diet on 100-mile radius of available foods?

100-Mile Diet

100 Mile Diet

According to the 100-Mile-Diet website, I can shop as far south as Salinas, maybe stretching to Fresno, and get a bunch of local goodness from Watsonville, Hollister and Gilroy. I can get food from as far north as Sacramento (they have food in Sacramento?) and up to Santa Rosa. Now, can I do it?

The answer is, probably. The truth is, I probably won’t.

The Localvores movement has hit San Francisco, and smartly, they choose the month of September to take their 100-mile challenge. Perfect weather for fresh fruits, vegetables of both summer and fall seasons. I’m guessing the second week of January isn’t the right time of year to start the challenge.  The Eat Local challenge folks keep a great blog with resources, recipes ideas and hurdles in eating within a 100-mile radius. There is also a site that made me really think seriously about this project. The Eat Wild folks do an amazing job at scoping out farms and ranches that are within the 100-mile range. They also give you resources beyond direct-to-consumer, they give you restaurants, grocery and markets that can help with the challenge. Little excuse left, I suppose.

If I were to take on the challenge, I’d have to make sure that I could provide my family with everything they are used to eating — eggs, milk, cheese, a good burger. I’d need to scope out restaurants that served locally grown fare since there is no way I’m cooking at home every day. I’d go stir-crazy. I’d want to know what grocery stores can make my life easier. Does WholeFoods do a 100-mile line of products?  I’d want sneaky resources at my fingertips so I could wiggle my way through holidays and birthdays. And, I’d need to know that I can cheat and take my kids to the McDonald’s drive-thru on a whim.

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150-Calorie French Onion Soup

Posted on Dec 18, 2009 in Family and Friends |

My favorite winter soup recipe is a French Onion soup done with almost no fat and very low calories. It’s not a traditional French Onion since I’m going for the lowfat, low carb stuff.  It takes awhile to baby the onions, but it’s worth it for the richer, sweeter flavors. When slicing the onion, cut into thin long strips, not chunks or dice. This recipe serves about four big bowls or six appetizer-size portions.

8 sweet maui onions (the small ones have more flavor)

2 red/purple onions

1 yellow onion

2 T. olive oil

1 t. butter

1 qt. beef broth or stock (clear)

1 qt. chicken broth or stock (sometimes I use veggie stock instead)

2 c. dry red wine

Fresh thyme, salt, sugar, coarse pepper

4 slices sourdough bread, cubed and toasted (I salt them too)

4 slices Alpine Lace lowfat swiss cheese

Put oil and butter in heavy pan and melt. Add onions and cover in oil/butter. Add about two tablespoons sugar and salt and let the onions sweat for 40 minutes, stirring and babying frequently. We want them carmelized but not crispy or dry. Add wine and keep on low heat for about 30 more minutes. Once the onions are drunk and sloppy, add the stock and bring to a boil. Remove any impurities from the top. Reduce to a simmer again. Add fresh thyme, pepper, salt to taste.

Put broiler on high. Pour soup into bowls evenly distributing the onion and broth. Put croutons over the top add slice of the swiss cheese over that. Put under broiler until cheese is bubbly. Hint: I usually dab some other form of cheese onto the croutons for another layer of flavor.

Serve immediately.

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Tastes Like a Dive

Posted on Nov 19, 2009 in Food |

I concocted some random recipes the other day. The favorite? A sloppy dive food-tasting mixture that’s — shock, horror — healthy and feels like you’re being glutenous.

Let’s call it Sloppy Soy

1 package Soyrizo

1 10oz. can white Hominy (I like Juanitas)

1/2 yellow onion

1 clove garlic

Sautee onion and garlic until transparent. Add soyrizo to mixture and cook until slightly browned. Add can of drained hominy. Mix together. Cook 5 minutes or until mixture is fully incorporated. Serve warm.

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Fish Stinks

Posted on Sep 22, 2009 in Food |

When I was a kid we ate fish on Fridays (or, if we got lucky, Filet ‘O’ Fish from Mackers). It wasn’t that I disliked fish, it was that I absolutely hated the smell of fish that lingered in our house for two days. And worse, the smell of cleaning products lingering over the top of the fish smell. Ick.

I make fish a couple times a week at home, but I absolutely refuse to do the nasty fish smell in our house. I bake or grill our fish only. No exceptions. I don’t care if there isn’t a crusty skin top or a quick pan fry that makes fish taste so yummy and oily. Nope, bake the sucker. Trust me on this one.

Baked Fish

What you need:

Glass Pan
Tin Foil
Sea salt
Fresh herbs
Panko Bread crumbs
Olive oil
Halibut, Sea Ball or other white fish

What to do:
Put foil in pan, Pam on foil
Rub fish in oil, then mixture of salt, crumbs and herbs
Fold foil over half of fish
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes

No smell:
Serve fish onto plate
Take tin foil in whole and throw directly outside to your trash bin
Put glass pan in dishwasher

Trust me on this, your kitchen will smell liked warm food, not dead fish.

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