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From the moment we enter this world, our internal cues signal us when we are hungry and when we are satisfied. We are born with a sucking reflex so we can obtain nourishment. Once solid food is introduced, it’s a learning process. Up until now, we have largely considered this learning something that happens in infancy into early toddlerhood and as very intentional by the parent.

New research is demonstrating a more complex picture (Kinzler 2016).  This study identified something that FamilyCook Productions has observed for two decades: food preferences are heavily influenced socially. These research findings explain the phenomena that so many parents lament over, where the so-called ‘good eaters’ at 2, 3, and 4 years seem to become picky eaters at 5 or 6.  Not surprisingly, this can be traced to when a child enters elementary school where the meal is noisy and full of unmonitored child disdain. Socially, our children observe  and then ‘learn’ what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ by watching other children (Young 2004). These new pronouncements about foods they have previously accepted, are the result, researchers conclude, of a hard-wired human need to avoid foods that are socially rejected.

TSC pics 053The researchers hypothesize that such strong avoidance of foods that are observed as rejected by others is a protective attribute to ensure harmful substances are not ingested. So where does this new research leave a society that wants a cure for picky eaters? In our two decades of experience, we have found this answer leads right back to the family table. More than ever, with social cues being such a key factor in young children’s food preferences, the environment around feeding matters.

We have seen the importance of the social and emotional component of food acceptance born out in each session of our Willow program for preschoolers that operates in WIC centers across the US. Over and over again, parents who swear their child dislikes trying new foods watch in amazement as their child gobbles down kale salad, asparagus spears with hummus, rhubarb with plain yogurt, and even raw grated beets. Why? Because the session sets up for a communal and socially accepting group experience with prompters along the way to gradually and even ceremoniously ‘warm up’ the children to new foods.

Parents are then encouraged to use the exact same techniques at home, and are given take-home support to do so. Hence the well-intentioned parents who has spent time and energy into preparing a meal, places it on the table, and is crushed when their child refuses to eat it has new insight into the social and emotional component of food acceptance. Lacking this understanding, the child seeing a pile of new vegetables on their plate cries out for the ubiquitous french fries, ravioli, or chicken nuggets that generally live in the freezer. Mom, concerned her child will go hungry, gives in. With this action, a vicious cycle is triggered. The child has learned that when food he/she does not want is placed on the table, all they need to do is make a fuss and the offending food is replaced by their ‘kid food’ favorite. 

One of Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility” in feeding key responsibilities for parents is structured meal times in a social setting with other family members (Satter 1995). This is key for both regular meals and snacks. Making mealtime a family time sets a pleasant environment around food and eating. In this way, food is showcased as the medium that brings the family together, to connect, bond, and celebrate happy times. Mealtime is a time to disconnect from technology and media and to become aware of what is in front of you: good company and good food. It sounds so simple; yet, it’s what happened for most of human existence – until the last couple of generations. We can’t turn back the clock, but we can soul search about our own family meal habits with this key new understanding. 

 Stay connected with us! Find out what the New York Times had to say this month about our award-winning programs. Sign up for our mailing list, and check out our latest book!

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In the late 1980’s, the headline of a restaurant industry trade magazine declared “She’s Outta There.”  “She” was referring to America’s mother, portrayed as hanging up her apron and exiting the kitchen. Where was she going? Well, at the time she was in the workforce in an increasingly professional capacity and was not crazy about coming home each night to cook. In response to this, restaurants created attractively priced children’s offerings.

This supply-meets-demand phenomenon created a perfect storm resulting in the tsunami of “kid’s food” that has flooded every setting where our children eat. Everywhere they go, they are fed this same menu - at school, in restaurants and increasingly, at home. The menu items are easy to conjure up: nuggets, burgers, mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, etc. They are cheap and they don’t require vegetables or quality ingredients.

As the White House focuses on child hunger and ensuring more eligible children can receive free school lunch, policy makers and advocates are turning to kids menus in restaurants as the next frontier. In New York City, a bill introduced by City Council Member Ben Kallos aims to improve the nutritional quality of kids meals in fast food restaurants. Yet as Michael Pollan and key influencers have pointed out, our hyper focus on nutrients and calories in our policy making does not always help citizens make better choices or ensure that our kids will become better, more adventurous eaters.

So what can parents and nutrition educators do to encourage a shift to radically change menu items in restaurants and in institutional settings? We can start by recognizing that since American culture is far from homogeneous. We, can embrace our immigrant roots and strive to share with our children the foodways of the many cultures that make up our nation. Going to a Mexican or Chinese restaurant? Parents can say a polite ‘no thank you’ to the kid’s menu and explore a more authentic and unusual dish with their children. Parents can also allow children to share menu items that offer ingredients they like; this way the overall cost of the meal will not climb when they eschew very inexpensive kids menus.

By actively seeking out ethnic restaurants of various types for family dining out excursions, parents can treat dining out like a mini vacation. Parents can generate curiosity by doing some Google searches on the culture to find interesting and fun food facts. And once there, why not ask the staff to explain more about the unusual dishes and customs and context of menu items.

In our many years of providing multicultural cooking classes, we have learned that children are fascinated to discover how children just like them eat so differently in various parts of the globe. Japanese children eat fish for breakfast or Thai children thank the “Rice Mother” before each meal. Learning about these differences has helped our children in our classes become more curious and eager to taste the exotic recipes that they prepare each week.

As for nutrition educators and advocates, let’s think through our policy recommendations and consider the wisdom of a ‘win’ at reducing saturated fat and adding extra fruit or vegetables as part of a regulatory measure on restaurant kids menus. Will a few slices of zucchini on the plate or low fat mac ‘n cheese really help children become more adventurous eaters? By merely restructuring the nutritional composition of kids’ menus without moving away from these time worn menus altogether, we sacrifice variety and quality ingredients in our children’s diets. Can we really afford to make do with nutritionally re-engineering these same ubiquitous kids meals? Isn’t it time that we support American families with policies and nutrition education that encourage a cultural shift to embrace the delicious and diverse flavors and ingredients that reflect our American melting pot society?

We offer some intriguing ways to do just that for nutrition educators, public health professionals, parents and even restaurateurs. Explore our Kids Food Reboot: Serving Our Children Better campaign materials and resources. We can do this, and the media can help. Already the Washington Post made this campaign front page story a little over a year ago. Let’s raise our advocacy and policy voices louder and unwaveringly in support of children’s opportunity to enjoy the same quality food as their parents.

Sign up for our mailing list and to learn more about our award-winning programs click here. 

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In our 20 years of teaching cooking as nutrition education and family therapy, we’ve found that mixing ages can offer extraordinary group dynamics in the classroom and at home.

Throughout the school day, children are grouped by their age and abilities. But, when it comes to cooking, there are at least 3 major benefits to assigning tasks by level of difficulty for participants of different ages. This can be accomplished in after school settings, community settings, and certainly in the social services setting.

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1. Engagement flourishes with age-appropriate roles.
Parents may be hesitant to invite children into the kitchen if they are unsure how to do so safely and efficiently. Understanding this reality, we build the class experience to highlight appropriate roles and tasks for different ages. By aiming for ‘aha’ moments in each session, parents know just what to do when they get home with each child. This really alleviates parents’ fears because the class shows them how each child can contribute in an authentic and non-chaotic way. Three year olds, for example, can tear up greens and lettuce, while a third grader grates potatoes. Adolescents can be taught to use a chef’s knife and become the family meal sous chef, which makes scratch cooking for parents a breeze. But, the value of combining ages in the class setting extends beyond identifying appropriate tasks for each age.

2. Bonding.
After 20 years of program development and supporting our affiliates across the US, it’s evident that people love to cook together.  Cooking creates a common bond with little ones looking up to older siblings or schoolmates. Adolescents and elementary aged children are equally enthusiastic and proud to be able to support younger children make a solid contribution to a shared meal. There is a huge win-win opportunity created by acknowledging that everyone – regardless of age, has something valuable to contribute.

This point was brought home when our FamilyCook Productions founder, Lynn Fredericks, first began cooking with her own children who are 6 and a half years apart in age.  Back in the 90’s when Stephan was a toddler in the kitchen, Lynn took great pains to make sure he had a very defined role with each recipe, so that he would not feel eclipsed by his older brother. Such role designation plays out similarly in a program setting, where children in each age group take their cues from their peers and know their role well and take pride in it.  Everyone contributes based on their ability and everyone shares in the sense of accomplishment.

3. Practice in class makes for success at home.  
Apart from parents with twins or triplets, most parents don’t have all 3rd graders at home.  By practicing age specific roles and tasks in a mixed age class, family members return home with an understanding of the boundaries around their capabilities and know when to ask for or offer help.  This is an essential development for harmonious family cooking.  If little ones are determined not to ask for help and frustrate parents with their insistence to do tasks inappropriate for their age and ability, parents will not feel motivated to continue to cook with then. It’s really that simple. The class experience should set the parameters in a positive way that celebrates every participant’s contribution. Both parents and older siblings experience the satisfaction of assisting younger family members to help. With each accomplishment the group cheers for the youngest helper’s culinary success.

This is how youth in Teen Battle Chef across the US approach their growing interest in cooking at home. They have learned so much in the program midway into the semester that they are assigned a family cooking activity designed to include ALL family members. Each Teen Battle Chef knows exactly how to safely engage each participant based on their age and ability. The result is a successful demonstration to their parents that cooking can be a happy, delicious and nutritious family affair.

Stay connected with us! Find out what the New York Times had to say this month about our award-winning programs. Sign up for our mailing list, and check out our latest book!

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Festive Roasted Fall Vegetables

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Additional Cooking Equipment: Baking sheet or roasting pan.

For the most appealing result, select root veggies of contrasting colors. You can leave the peels on all the veggies—even the acorn squash. Just scrub them well, and make sure you cut the squash into semicircles for easy prep and beauty on the plate.

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium sweet potato 
  • 4 small shallots
  • 1 medium acorn or delicata squash 
  • 2 small parsnips
  • 2 small turnips
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Note: Children should use plastic or table knives for all child steps that require cutting or chopping.

(Adult) Preheat oven to 400 °F (200°C, or gas mark 6)

(Adult & Child) Adult slices the vegetables. Child can then cut into bite-size and attractive-looking pieces. 

(Adult & Child) Place the vegetables in a large bowl, add olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss.

(Adult) Oil the baking sheet with some olive oil. Spread the vegetables on baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are caramelized (browned or roasted to sweetness).  

(Adult) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.

(Child) Tear up sage leaves and add to the skillet.

(Adult) Cook until the butter browns but does not burn. Remove from heat; add the vinegar and season with salt to taste. 

(Adult) Serve by placing each portion of veggies on its own plate. Drizzle just enough of the sherry-sage butter over the veggies to add taste—don’t drench.

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This is the time of year when food is front and center in our lives. For some, it's a license to indulge. For others, the focus is about their culinary traditions that reflect their heritage through time worn recipes. We connect with our family and friends through gatherings with celebratory food. Then, when the holiday season is over, we make New Year resolutions to become more fit and lose a few pounds. But, could we use this time to be more intentional around the role that food plays in our holiday celebrations, and in our lives? Can this festive season be approached as a tool to bring our family -  or our educational program participants, together to celebrate with local, seasonal, and healthful food?

What does it mean to be intentional around food? Let's explore some ways to approach meals more meaningfully this holiday season.

1. Consider the menu items critically.
You don’t have to serve dishes just because you have ‘always had them at the holidays.’ Take a moment to pause and consider whether you honestly love every dish. Do your holiday recipes represent what your region has to offer in terms of seasonal, fresh food? Do they reflect the health profile of how you like or would like to eat at this point in your life?  Asparagus on the menu?  It’s really a spring vegetable, so why not swap with winter greens or root vegetables that will offer a more seasonal approach. Do those sweet potatoes really need marshmallows? What is a way to enjoy these sweet and lusciously textured vegetables?  The youth from our Teen Battle Chef program are often asked to help prepare Thanksgiving feasts for the elderly or other group settings. Our policy is to ensure that they are also helping to re-interpret ‘typical’ dishes enjoyed over the holidays by providing one or more recipes that has a ‘twist’ on tradition, such as a delectable butternut squash and apple cider soup with feta and dill. 

2. Who will prepare what?  
Do you take on too much when the holidays come along? Are you tempted to just ‘order out’ because it’s so much work?  Or from a program perspective, does making a group feast before the holiday vacation seem too daunting?  This only has to be the case if you are taking on too much yourself and not involving other family members or young cooks in your program. When our founder, Lynn Fredericks’s children were young, she re-evaluated the holiday menus and offered each of her two sons an opportunity to create their signature dish. She helped them select and cook it. This became their new tradition that continues to this day. It was their special ritual and having her boys’ participation took the pressure off of Lynn to do all the cooking by herself.better and in season during the months of April and May, so why not swap traditional vegetables with winter greens or root vegetables that will offer a more seasonal approach.  

3. Establish new traditions.
In addition to new recipes, what new traditions  could you create around cooking or eating together?  Does one child or age group in a program take on table decorations? Can someone take the lead in planning music and songs to be apart of your celebration? What about shopping? Can your students (or children) help you make the shopping list and then go with you to the farmers market and/or the grocery store? Offering ways to enhance your meal with creative additions that make it festive and special can also add to your enjoyment.  Whether it’s Kwanza, Christmas or Hanukkah, you can find special paper decorations to make from snowflakes to dreidels to paper mkekas.

Use the time of the holidays for everyone in your program or family to: make conscious decisions about what’s important for your celebratory meal. Set goals together about your food priorities for taste, budget, as well as health to ensure your meals this holiday season reflect something that everyone feels great about cooking, serving and eating!

For more thought provoking best practices, sign up for our mailing list. And - click here to learn more about our award-winning programs. 

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Picky eaters are not confined to children alone. Many finicky children grow up into adults who are averse to eating anything beyond the ubiquitous mac ‘n cheese, hamburgers, pizza, spaghetti, etc. In nutrition education, a common school of thought is to only choose program recipes that reflect the cultural background of the participants. But, there is another approach to broadening the palate of a picky eater that is not an uphill battle.

For many years we’ve effectively used multicultural recipes in our school and community programs, inviting participants of all ages to have an ‘open mind’ and an open mouth.  A sense of adventure is stirred up in participants when an announcement is made that the experience will be an exotic culinary exploration. This approach ignites curiosity and prepares participants to ‘think different’ and expect radically new flavors as well. In fact, when we surveyed elementary and middle/high school students about their favorite aspects of our program, over 75% report they love the opportunity to broaden their horizons about the kinds of foods that are ‘out there’ and learn how to cook with them.

During one of our typical family cooking classes, Thai Inspired Fish Chowder was on the menu. A parent was shocked and asked why we were not teaching his kids to make something they would enjoy, like ‘mac n cheese’. He was adamant that his kids would not eat fish, herbs or lima beans. We had confidence in our approach and by the time his children squeezed the last lime, chopped three types of herbs and helped season their soup, they were excited to enjoy it. That same dad was thrilled and surprised to let us know his kids had three helpings!

So let’s explore this strategy by breaking it down into four steps.

  1. Collaborative Planning
    Who says the primary cook or program leader has to do all the planning too?  Instead, invite picky eaters to help select the cuisine and culture that everyone will explore together. If possible, include them in the entire planning process, such as shopping for ingredients, looking up cultural references and discovering the ‘whys’ of how a culture’s cuisine and recipes evolved the way they have. Families (or groups) can rotate among members to choose the cuisine for the next meal. It’s clear that at regular intervals, each participant can choose a culture they would like to explore. After a few weeks of unfamiliar cultures and ingredients, you can then begin to draw on the heritage of the participants.  Ask them to share their family recipes and together discover ways to enhance their dishes by adding more flavor through additional vegetables. Learning about nutrition becomes more exciting and interactive when highlighting their own cultures.

  2. Strategic Recipe Selection
    Choose (or suggest others choose) a recipe that has a bold flavor profile; the goal is to wake up the palate of the picky eater in a pleasurable way. If the end-product is delicious, then the picky eater will eat it. Ask yourself what flavors do your picky eaters typically like (e.g. if they like tangy things, choose a sweet and sour soup or something that has lemon or lime flavors). Make sure the seasonings in the recipe can be adjusted to taste (e.g. make it more or less spicy), and teach your picky eaters to build the flavor and seasons to their preference - the more control they have, the more comfortable they will feel.

  1. Make it a Routine
    Expanding the palate of a picky eater takes time, so it’s important to be patient and to have fun while exploring new dishes and cuisines together. Create new habits and build and maintain progress by gradually awakening the palate meal by meal in a predictable way, rather than a once-off occasion or class. The more often a picky eater is exposed, the more likely they will begin to enjoy new flavors and textures.  

  1. Success with One Pot Meals
    At FamilyCook Productions we swear by one-pot disheslike a stir fry, curry, or stew instead of a segmented meal format like meat+vegetables+starch. There are two major reasons why: 1) it helps overcome intimidation factor of a pile of vegetables;  and 2) this strategy addresses the negative feelings that kids might have about certain foods touching each other (e.g. cold slaw touching meat loaf). One pot dishes usually offer plenty of ingredients that need to be broken down, making for lots of jobs to keep children engaged and feeling proud to contribute.

Try This

To start putting these ideas into practice, check out this favorite FamilyCook recipe and from our founder’s primer for families dealing with picky eaters and one from Jamie Oliver - happy exploring!

Scandinavian Barley Salad with Apples

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Super-tasty miso broth

 What are some solutions your family or program have used to satisfy picky eaters?

For more palate-expanding best practices, sign up for our mailing list. And click here to learn more about our award-winning programs.

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We all learn new skills differently. Some of us learn by listening, while others learn by doing. Most of us learn best with a combination of learning methods. Food, with its numerous multi-sensory properties, is a fantastic tool to enhance learning about anything.

Since we began to pioneer hands-on nutrition education 20 years ago, we became curious about why food could effectively convey complex ideas. For example, third graders grasped very abstract concepts about Japanese culture after performing the Japanese tea ceremony. We asked ourselves, what exactly is going on that makes learning ‘stick’ so well when food is involved? We began researching what the brain needs to learn. What we found is five ways that food can enhance the brain’s natural learning mechanisms. Not just by eating it, but by looking at it, thinking about it and preparing it through cooking.

1. Food Engages the Brain 

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It’s been long established that multisensory learning is an effective technique to help students retain new information. We use cooking as a means to teach nutrition because it engages all of the human senses, and is an ideal activity to support multisensory learning of new information. But what we’ve found is that learning through cooking goes beyond seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting the food. Where the senses originate in the brain also have an impact on our ability to absorb new information. The part of the brain that processes our sense of smell is directly connected to the part responsible for memory and emotion. This is why a familiar smell can trigger a past memory or strong feeling. The same can be said for taste, which is largely dependent on our sense of smell. What’s interesting is that auditory and visual information don’t pass through these same areas. When applied to pedagogy, this suggests that engaging smell and taste can better support learning than the traditional ways of teaching auditory and visual information. 

2. Food Sharpens the Mind

As it turns out, peeling a pound of carrots may stimulate the brain’s natural learning processes. The human brain learns best with repetition, especially when an activity is repeated with the right frequency, intensity and duration. Cooking has its own set of methodologies, like preparing a mise en place of ingredients before sauteing them. In our programs, we’ve found that repetition encourages students to think logically and independently about the next steps in the process. “I’ve observed many young children memorize how to cook a recipe from start to finish, and be able to repeat it at home from memory.” says Lynn Fredericks, FamilyCook Productions’ founder, “Many tasks in cooking are repetitive, and repetition is so integral in how children learn.”

3. Food Makes Learning Fun

We’d all learn new things more easily if we were in a fun, relaxing environment. Neuroscience research shows that students achieve higher levels of cognition when they’re more engaged, motivated and feel minimal stress. This doesn’t always apply to traditional school settings and directed lectures. Bringing food into the classroom is a unique way to engage students and break up the monotony of sitting and listening.

4. Food Supports Collaborative Learning

If cooking is done collaboratively in a group setting, it provides another dimension for learning. Collaborate cooking applies the principles of cooperative learning, where students work as a group to help each other accomplish a task. Cooperative learning is effective because students can observe their peers and correct themselves if they’re completing a task ineffectively. In fact, we’ve found that cooking classes taught in group settings require less didactic instruction from the teacher. This translates to less required time and resources, because the brain’s natural learning mechanisms are more efficiently utilized.

5. Food Is Relevant

One reason that students lose focus in the classroom is that they don’t feel like the concepts are relevant to their lives. Food can help abstract concepts come to life. At Manhattan International High School, we’ve partnered with their 9th grade math teachers to teach statistics within the context of food. In one assignment, students take on the role of a food critic by rating their recipes for taste, and then charting the statistical average of these ratings over time. Food engages the students and utilizes all of their senses, while cooking supports collaborative learning and repetition. This provides new dimensions to teach math concepts, both in and out of the seat.

For more brain-boosting best practices, sign up for our mailing list. And click here to learn more about our award-winning programs.

Written by Bobby Maknoon, dietetic intern at City University of New York.

 

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Food Blogger Tara Nolan tested several of our recipes in her great review of 'Get Your Family Eating Right' and wrote down her reactions!

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Our founder Lynn Fredericks talked healthy breakfasts in a guest post on the Big Picture Health blog, with recipes from 'Get Your Family Eating Right'.

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The 'One Mama's Daily Drama' blog reviews 'Get Your Family Eating Right', and talks about the impact it has had on her family's healthy eating habits.

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Parents & Kids Magazine recently showcased 'Get Your Family Eating Right' in their 'Book Buzz' column.

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Our receipe for Festive Roasted Fall Vegetables was recently shared in the Paris Post-Intelligencer, along with a description of our book.

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Learn from the experts!!! Fast food and junk food brands spend millions of dollars searching for best strategies to attract children as customers. These strategies are, as you know, highly effective. Why not learn from them for your own benefit? In our book, Get Your Family Eating Right, Lynn and I identify some of the best strategies that marketers use with kids and give examples of how to turn them around to get your children eating healthy.

Collage My future customers

One of the big ones is ‘brand loyalty.’ Companies use it to recruit impressionable kids by building playgrounds in their restaurants and giving away toys and prizes. Marketers have learned that if they build an emotional connection with their brand with children, they will remain loyal to them as an adult.

So, how can we use this strategy to our advantage? By delivering special experiences, that create fun and positive memories around healthful food. First Lady Michelle Obama is on this track - she recruited Sesame Street characters for the the produce aisle. It will certainly help parents in the supermarket - read more.

So I decided to take my kids and their friends for a full day in of vegetable harvesting on a farm. La Ferme Viltain, just a few kilometers outside Paris, offers a wide range of fall vegetables for ‘pick your own’ arrangement. City kids are thrilled when handed awheelbarrow and full freedom to run in the fields. They love to play and explore, hand pick tender spinach leaves, or pull vegetable roots. I could see they were attracted to the shapes and vibrant colors of the red beets, purple cabbage, and gigantic black radishes. The youngest ones were delighted just to chase each other around the fields. But I had an ulterior motive: to create a fun, memorable, day associated with radishes, beets, cabbages and other vegetables. Quite the opposite from forcing or pressuring kids to eat them.

Does my nine-year-old son like to eat beets and radishes now? NOPE. Does he hate them? NOPE, but slowly he is associating them with a fun memories. Even if he rejects their taste now, he will be ready to accept them in the near future thanks to the emotional connection he made with them at the farm. This way, I am creating ‘future loyal customers’ within my family for seasonal produce

Read more about food marketing to kids:

Marion Nestle Blog

FastFood Marketing

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I have been so lucky as to be a part of the FamilyCook Productions team through my nutrition internship, and what an experience it has been. Today I went to Hammarskjold Plaza farmers’ market, and I literally felt like I was 7 again and walking into the biggest candy store. From a Danish viewpoint the variety of vegetables was an incredible experience. I had never seen so many different types of kale or squash in my life! There were so many different colors and shapes, and I felt so inspired to make a delicious kale salad with my very new friend the beautiful Russian kale. 

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It is so easy to get inspired when you go to the farmers’ markets, there is something magical about shopping your produce from the hands of the farmers that have nurtured these fruit and vegetables to growth. I feel like I was shopping for delicious vitamins that would fill my body with all the energy and excitement we all need for life. The greatest gift you can give yourself is good nutrition from these amazing fruit and vegetables. 

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The vegetables and fruits that made the biggest impression on me were the different kales, so I made a salad of russian kale, baked red Bartlett pears, and yellow cherdlee tomatoes. 

Kale is not a favorite dining for many, but this vegetable has some amazing characteristics that you can get great pleasure from.
  Kale is very rich in vitamin C, which strengthens our immune system, and it is very high in fiber. Try to experiment with your kale and if you want all the wonderful vitamins and dietary fiber avoid cooking the kale.

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So for this recipe you will need: 

(Serves 4)

  • 1 bunch of russian kale from the farmers' market
  • 2 big Yellow Cherdlee tomatoes
  • 3 red Bartlett piers
  • 1 bunch of Rainbow chard
  • 1.5 cup Quinoa
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Soy 

Directions:

  1. First cut your pears into small wedges and put them in the oven at 300 °F for approx. 15-20 min.
  2. Next set the quinoa over to boil for 10-15 minutes until it has the same consistency as boiled rice 
  3. Roast the almonds with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and remove when golden and put them on a plate to cool down.
  4. Rinse all your vegetables and role up your kale and chard to ribbons, so you can cut them in fine strips. Combine 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together and mix it with the kale
  5. Cut your tomatoes in your desired shapes
  6. Now mix all your ingredients and top with, baked pears, roasted almonds and currants

A great tip is to make a big portion, so you can take it to work or school the next day.

Enjoy!

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Teach a kid's cooking class and win!

The more people register to teach a cooking class for the "Let's Get Cooking with Kids" Food Day Campaign, the more copies of our book Get Your Family Eating Right we will give away!

That's because FamilyCook and the organizers of Food Day 2013 are working together to make this campaign a success!

Here is how the contest works:

Everyone who registers a cooking class on the Food Day map of events with "Let's Get Cooking" in their event title are automatically entered in a giveaway of Get Your Family Eating Right. The winners will be drawn on Food Day.

But there is ANOTHER chance to win using your Twitter account! On Food Day, tweet about your event using the #LetsGetCooking hashtag and we will automatically enter your name in a second giveaway of Get Your Family Eating Right. Winners will be drawn at the end of the day on Food Day.

So, again, you can win two ways.

  1. Register a "Let's Get Cooking" event on Food Day map + enter in one cookbook giveaway.
  2. On Food Day tweet your event using #LetsGetCooking + enter in another cookbook giveaway. 

Pretty simple ways to promote your Food Day event AND win a great new cookbook!

So get started now!

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By Teen Battle Chef High School Students Elizabeth Cordero-Hernandez, Joel Allette, and Lorenzo Gallese

Take the L train to the last stop in Brooklyn and you will find yourself in Canarsie. Formerly an Italian and Jewish enclave, it is now home to immigrants hailing from Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean and South America. While some outer borough neighborhoods have seen exciting changes where new influxes ofpeople have created food, shopping and entertainment destinations, Canarsie by contrast has mostly seen little industry and poorer residents.  As mom and pop businesses including larger supermarket chains have left the neighborhood; there has been a devastating effect on access to healthy food.  Yes, Canarsie is a ‘food desert’ if you define the term as having few if any places to purchase a variety of fresh produce, whole grains, sustainably-raised meats and poultry and healthful snack options.

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In 2012 the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC) contracted Karp Resources to identify youth programs to engage in a ‘corner store makeover’ project. The idea was a youth-led project fueled with their energy, creativity and familiarity with their own community.  FamilyCook Productions’s Teen Battle Chef program in HealthCorps schools in NYC was identified as a collaborator due to the high level of cooking skill and nutrition knowledge students in their programs gain, and the value of working within a national network of schools through HealthCorps.

FamilyCook and HealthCorps recommended Academy for Conservation and the Environment on the South Shore High School campus in Canarsie and their Coordinator, Courtland “C.K.” Kouassiaman, who delivered the HealthCorps program that includes Teen Battle Chef (TBC).  From there, FCP recruited us  - TBC Alumni who had previously been in the program in a HealthCorps school, to serve as mentors and role models to new TBC students at C.K.’s school.  So that’s how it happened that myself and Teen Battle Chef Alums Joel Allette and Lorenzo Gallese helped to jumpstart the project that the ACE students named the “Canarsie  Health Revolution” over the winter and spring of 2013.

Essentially it was a community outreach project to help the people of Canarsie, Brooklyn to see that there are more to snacks than potato chips.  The project involved weekly meetings among the following key players: FamilyCook’s Youth Development Associate David Bartolomi and we three above-mentions TBC Alums, Karp Resources youth specialist Adam Liebowitz; C.K. the HealthCorps Coordinator at ACE and his TBC students.  First we met with a similar team of youth in Williamsburg who were from Ecostation at an ADADC sponsored launch and we met some key players like Victor Lopes who would help the corner stores from a sourcing and merchandising perspective.  We also learned about their “Fuel Up to Play 60” campaign that communicates the connection between healthy food and being active to youth.

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The goal was not to change the store but to simply embrace options whether it was moving items to the front or to just put stickers indicating the healthy options.  The TBC students also contributed ideas to new signage and ads for the project; they were photographed holding some of the healthy items for the ad campaign.

I have to say that our strategies of handing out small containers of yogurt, samples of our ‘Canarsie Special’ sandwich, and smoothies in front of the corner stores we worked with was fun and made all of us feel a bit like ‘rock stars’!  People were not used to seeing teenagers as the messengers for health in their community and they were very polite to us and attentive. They also loved our food.  By summer’s end, we had exciting positive feedback from the store owners, especially Orlando, who described how the project seemed to encourage customers to ask him to stock specific items like organic eggs. When he did, he sold out!  Clearly an empowerment among the community to ask for what they want is being fostered.  Shoppers outside of the supermarket where we were stationed always asked us when we would be coming back. The consistency of the day helped bring them back to do their weekly shopping when our team would be outside with samples of healthy food options available. We began to see repeat customers, which was very exciting.

More importantly, the community came to see us as a knowledgeable culinary resource; they began looking to us to demonstrate healthy meals they could cook from food available at the store. You could say that from healthy snack focus turned into a full blown ‘shopping makeover’ opportunity with our TBCs being asked for recipe suggestions for things like veggies and fish, which we would write down the recipe and ingredients and then they would shop for them!

In addition to these observations, we also conducted surveys of the residents and learned that all the people surveyed were interested in buying healthier options whether they knew they were there beforehand or not and they were willing to pay for them – average of $5 for healthier snacks which, as students, we thought was a lot of money and kind of surprising!  We also learned that they were quite knowledgeable about the foods that support their health – whole grains, beans, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, organic and/or lean meats – came up over and over again in our survey about what items they would like to see available.  If people are informed enough to know the good options, then it seems only fair that they are available for them to buy.

All in all, it was exciting to be a part of this project – we all felt that we had a real impact on the residents of Canarsie and that our efforts were appreciated. We are excited to see if there are other indicators like sales data that will support our affirmation that our efforts were effective. Based on our own research and the faces of the TBC youth and their ‘customers’ outside the stores, this was a successful project worth examining for its future potential, especially building onto similar projects that our NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene have been conducting.  

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The Calorie Count blog featured our Carribean Salsa and Snapper recipe in their "Back-to-School Meals" post.

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How about surprising your family and friends with a paella for Labor Day? Paella is a traditional Spanish dish and a great recipe concept to accommodate lots of people, all with one pot. Like many of our recipe concepts in Get Your Family Eating Right, paella can be adapted to what is in season as well as your family’s preferences. My Mom's favorite has artichokes, my aunt's rabbit, others add white beans or amazing shellfish. Every summer in Spain, my children are thrilled when eating paella together with our extended family. It is always delicious, and good looking; a guaranteed success!

Take your children to the farmers market and get some ripe tomatoes and seafood. You can easily buy a traditional steel paella pan online or at a department store. Whatever pan you use, it’s important that the rice cooks evenly. You can make great paellas on top of your round charcoal barbecue in the picnic area of many parks, or using a gas barbecue in the yard. Cooking a paella outdoors is fun and festive. Kids love to watch the process and help; especially with the final decorations, like placing muscles, shrimps and strips of red peppers on top. The beautiful colors always make a great photo-op for the family.

2013 8 paella 

Serves 5 people

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound          mussels scrubbed, de-bearded

3/4 cup                olive oil

1 head                 garlic separated in cloves with skin, softly crashed

1 tbsp                  salt

4 small                 chicken legs and 4 small wings

1                         red pepper cut in strips

1/2 pound             pork loin cut in bite-size cubes

4 medium             cleaned squids cut in rings and the tentacles in small pieces

2                          tomatoes cubed

1 pound                Spanish paella rice (medium grain; alternative: risotto rice or brown medium rice, not long)

1/8 teaspoon        crushed saffron

15 shrimps           head and shells on

1/2 pound             small clams

1/4                       lemon wedge per person

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  1. Place mussels in large pot of water (water level halfway up the volume of mussels you have) and bring to a boil, cooking until the mussel shells open wide.
  2. Drain, reserve water, and set the cooked mussels aside.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of the paella pan, coating with a thin layer.
  4. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden.
  5. Remove all the cloves from pan.
  6. Next add the chicken and start browning it over medium heart, turning them over to evenly brown.
  7. Add peppers and cook 4 minutes; stirring as necessary to cook evenly.
  8. Add pork and cook for 5 minutes; stirring to cook evenly.
  9. Add salt evenly.
  10. Add squid, shrimps, and tomatoes; stirring as they cook.
  11. Add rice and stir it until each grain of rice is coated with oil.
  12. Add liquid (water plus liquid from mussels) all at once: three times the amount of rice.
  13. Add saffron (if available).
  14. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, then simmer and stir slowly until broth is almost absorbed.
  15. Taste to adjust salt and control the texture of the rice. Usually, the rice should be a bit more cooked than al dente.
  16. Add clams evenly around the paella.
  17. Arrange shrimps and mussels attractively on top.
  18.  Remove the pan from the fire, and let rice rest for 5 minutes covered with a clean cloth towel or aluminum foil.
  19. Arrange lemon wedges on top of paella before serving.
  20. Enjoy the paella with a nice peach sangria!

 

 
 

 

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Sardine Collage

Vamos a la playa a comer sardinas!!! Sardines at the beach are a summertime fun in coastal Spain.  We love them just grilled and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon. Traditionally, many beaches have shack-like open air restaurants right at the shore where one can enjoy local wild catch in between swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. In Southeastern Spain, where my parents are from, sardines are abundant and cheap and the favorite food of locals and tourists. 

Even children learn at an early age to detach the juicy body flesh leaving head and tail in one piece united by their bones. Most will eat the crispy skin as well, and even some of the bones. These shacks limit their menus, mostly to seasonal fish, which makes it easier to fight picky eaters. Nature was wise to create the season of sardines around summer when there are more opportunities to cook them outdoors. Their pungent, strong odor will stay for days in your kitchen. During the winter, these pleasurable summer memories are recalled while opening a can of sardines in olive oil and eating them with bread and other vegetables.

Sardines are an acquired taste, especially if you didn´t grow up eating them. My daughter Sofia would not touch them yet; she is scared of mistakenly eating the tiny bones. She also thinks it is too much work deboning the animal for such little flesh. She grew up in New York eating fish that has no head, tails or bones. It may take her until her adult life to accept sardines. What´s important is that every summer when she is in Spain, she is building these memories associating a good time at the beach with parents, cousins, aunts and uncles devouring sardines with pleasure. Keeping fun family traditions entwined with real healthy food is key for assuring lifelong healthy diets.

What about where you live? What traditions have you followed that associate real food with family traditions and fond memories? How do you and your family connect with seasonal summer food in your hometown or the places you escape to?

Tell us your stories by entering our contest here for a chance to win a free copy of Get Your Family Eating Right

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