Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fun Lunch Asia

Every so often at our preschool, thirty young geographers huddle around the world map for a teacher-led discourse on the countries, climate, crops, exports, currencies, languages, and cultures of a particular continent.  The tiny armchair explorers offer keen insights like, "My grandma's been there!"and "The ocean is definitely bluer by Australia". Immediately following the lesson comes the day's pinnacle attraction. Fun Lunch. 

During Fun Lunch the children sample a variety of parent-provided foods and drinks from the continent under investigation.  This week the focus was on Asia and it was our turn to contribute. 

I made a huge batch of chicken fried rice and while the Looly, Bean, and Roo didn't help cook this time around, they did taste my creation along the way, preferring simple soy sauce seasoning and a splash of rice vinegar over the addition of fresh ginger and sesame seed oil. I also omitted the egg so that it would be safe for Roo. 

Two other families rounded out the menu with vada (savory Indian fritters), steamed edamame, mango lassi, and chocolate and green tea mochi for dessert!

With Asia such a diverse and delicious continent, it was tough narrowing down the food choices but it got me thinking. I'm looking forward to hosting some Family Fun Dinners in the near future. I think we'll focus on individual countries, or perhaps even regions.  I love the idea of a brief afternoon geography lesson, followed by cooking together, and gathering around the table to sample our creations. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grapefruit Three Ways

It occurred to me recently that Looly, Bean, and Roo had never tried grapefruit. Of all things, grapefruit?!

It shouldn't have taken this long. I love grapefruit. We often have a few stashed in the fridge. The truth is I've been lazy. It is inherently easier to hand over an easy peel clementine than to whittle out tiny wedges of grapefruit with the paring knife. In any event, we were overdue. 

To increase the excitement of trying a new food, I suggested a Grapefruit Three Ways challenge. The kids were intrigued. I would present them with three slightly different preparations and let them choose which one they liked best. For children who are already familiar with grapefruit, you could get more creative here and offer grapefruit juice, grapefruit and avocado salad, grapefruit sorbet, grapefruit vinaigrette over salad greens, or even candied grapefruit rind.  Since it was their first time, I kept things basic and chose:

1. Plain, fresh, cold grapefruit
2. Fresh grapefruit with a sprinkle of granulated sugar on top
3. Broiled grapefruit with caramelized butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on top

While I'm partial to the broiled variety myself, the kids were unanimous in their decision.  And the winner is...

Fresh grapefruit with a sprinkle of granulated sugar!

Now, grapefruit is fairly innocuous. It's colorful, mildly scented and has a delightfully invigorating taste. This idea of three (or more) preparations of any food, however, is a great way to encourage kids to sample something they might otherwise turn their noses up at.  We've added grapefruit to our fruit repertoire and will be highlighting more Food Three Ways challenges here soon. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kale Chips

My kids typically don't eat many leafy greens. They don't shun vegetables, but leafy greens aren't high on the list. For Roo the texture is tough. Too much chewing and the distinct threat of gagging on a stringy part is enough to give him pause. Bean nibbles raw spinach leaves, but the amount she actually ingests is pretty tiny. And while Looly enjoys shredded Iceberg lettuce and various slaw mixtures, they're not exactly nutritional powerhouse veggies. 

So imagine my jubilation yesterday as Roo and Bean hurried me quickly past the grocery store Easter candy display toward the enormous pile of fresh kale.

"Kale, Mama! They have it! So much kale! Can we get it all?"

That's my Bean. We have found our leafy green niche with a simple but most satisfying preparation.  Kale chips. They're crunchy, delicious, nutritious and so easy the kids can practically make them

Kale Chips

2 bunches fresh Kale (or more as these reduce a lot and get eaten fast!)
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces, discarding tough stems.  This is a perfect job for kids.
3. Rinse and dry kale with a salad spinner.  Again, perfect kid job.
4. Dump kale onto a couple of baking sheets and pat dry if any water remains.  If your kale heap is too high, it won't crisp up properly so spread it out.
5. Drizzle on olive oil and toss leaves to coat.  Kids love getting their hands oily. 
6. Bake in 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes until edges are brown and leaves are crisp
7. Salt to taste
8. Grab a few for you before the kids eat them all.

You can jazz these up with a variety of seasonings.  My crew prefers them simply salted but if you're feeling adventurous, try:

A sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, and garlic salt
Salt, cracked black pepper and freshly ground Parmesan cheese
A squeeze of lime juice before they go into the oven, followed by a sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper when they come out
a little Garam Masala


Thursday, February 23, 2012


Mornings start with the predawn jiggle of my mattress followed by a duvet clutching belay and ascent of one or more young climbers onto my bed.  Knees and elbows poke and push their way across my chest until a slew of small feet finally slip and settle under the warm covers.  Battered from the assault,  I'm awake and alert but miraculously, the intruders are instantaneously, deeply asleep.  After 15 minutes of gentle back rubs and subsequently more vigorous leg stroking, come wake-up songs in increasing decibel levels, followed by promises of the day's super-fun offerings, and ultimately, the prying open of eyelids.  The kids are up. 

PJ's and socks line the hallway while three bed-headed munchkins argue and jockey for the coveted first use of toilet.  There is another toilet approximately ten feet away in the guest bathroom, but that's not the point.  Everything is a battle in the morning.  Roo wants to wear a t-shirt under his long sleeved shirt. And then another short sleeved shirt on top of that.  And a sweater.  And a necklace.  Bean wanted to squirt her own toothpaste and needs to start her tooth-brushing over, which somehow entails taking off her socks.  Looly doesn't want ponytails, she wants braids.  Three upside-down fish-bone braids and 6 barrettes.  And we haven't even gotten to breakfast yet.

Looly wants oatmeal but Bean and Roo detest oatmeal.  Bean wants "something special" for breakfast.  She's not sure what it is yet, but it's definitely not anywhere in our refrigerator or pantry.  Roo wants salami. Just salami.  I promised last night that they could finish their Citiblock tower before school so no one wants to sit at the table.  And oh yeah, we're supposed to leave for school in exactly 3 minutes.


Snackfast is my best defense against busy morning food-related meltdowns.  It entails no sitting at the table, no separate meals for separate kids and no pressure.  The kiddos love it because they can squeeze in a little extra early morning play time before school, come and go as they please, and choose what they want to eat.  I love it because I don't have to negotiate over breakfast any longer. I make a plate, set it out, and bonus - wash 1 dish instead of 3.  Better still, the kids start off their day more nutritiously than they ever did with a plate of syrupy pancakes. 

Snackfast can be just about anything as long as it doesn't require silverware (though toothpicks are acceptable), not overly messy, and relatively nutritious.  I try to include a well-balanced array of foods (a protein, carbohydrate, and fruit or vegetable at a minimum) but what the kids actually eat is up to them.  I've found that in snackfast form, they are much more willing to eat beyond traditional breakfast fare...think veggies, whole grains, and meats in addition to fruits and muffins.  The possibilities are truly endless.  The only rule is that when it's time to walk out the door, snackfast is over.  Here are a few ideas to get started. 

  • Deli turkey, ham, or roast beef roll-ups
  • String cheese
  • Cheese cubes
  • Cheese curds
  • Squeeze yogurt 
  • Homemade frozen yogurt popsicles
  • Salami
  • Ham cut into sticks or cubes
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Edamame
  • Peanut butter (or Sunflower butter) on celery, toast, or crackers
  • Hummus
  • Sausage links
  • Bacon
  • Sushi 
  • Egg and cheese quesadilla triangles 
  • Mini quiches

  • Toast
  • English muffins
  • Mini waffles
  • Dry cereal
  • Pita triangles
  • Graham crackers
  • Mini bagels or Bagel Thins
  • Wheat thins or other crackers
  • Popcorn (for breakfast!)
  • Mini muffins
  • Rice cakes
  • Banana bread, blueberry bread, etc.
  • Rice balls
  • Granola bars
  • Tortilla chips
  • Whole wheat pasta penne, rotini or other finger-friendly shape
  • Roti, naan, or other flatbread

Fruits and Veggies
  • Baby carrots
  • Snap peas
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Cucumber slices
  • Baby corn
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Clementines or orange slices
  • Berries
  • Melon balls or slices
  • Bananas
  • Apple slices
  • Pear slices
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Dried Cherries or any dried fruit
  • Guacamole

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We're back!

After a lengthy hiatus, Well Fed Garbage is back with a snazzy new look and a fresh approach to eating. 

While I will still be posting periodically with updates on Roo's health status, I'll be keeping the focus positive and exploring the many ways in which our family strives to make food choices, cooking, and eating an adventure for the whole family. 
Now let's play with our food!