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Growing Up Gourmet: July 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Did on Summer Vacation

It's almost August... you've been to the beach, the park, the fair, and to see Grandma. Twice. Your kids took horseback riding lessons and learned to write HTML at computer camp. You've picked them up and dropped them off from more places than you can remember and more times than you can count. And yes, they are driving you crazy. And yes, there are still 42 MORE DAYS UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS!

Who's idea was this staycation anyhow?

But wait... there's a way to keep your kids busy AND have fun AND learn a thing or two along the way. (Oh, and in the process they may even help you make dinner -- and a margarita.)

The Unofficial Guide to
Getting Your Kids Cooking During the Dog Days of Summer
Teach your kids to...
juice limes
salt glass rims (see where I'm going here...)
zest lemons
tear basil
cut mint
wash veggies
wash lettuce
tear lettuce
spin lettuce
peel veggies
remove herb leaves from stems
slice cucumbers with a plastic knife
chop zucchini with a plastic knife
dry-rub a steak for the grill
remove the seeds from red peppers
make hamburger patties, and wash their hands after
whisk a marinade
break eggs
pound chicken breasts
measure ingredients
taste-test the spice cabinet
make a salad dressing
blend smoothies
grate cheese

Take a field trip to...
a u-pick farm for blueberry season
a local dairy farm

the grocery store for an A-Z scavenger hunt (hey, it is air-conditioned!)
the grocery store for a global foods scavenger hunt
an ethnic neighborhood's market
a different Farmers' Market

On back-to-school-night, how pleased will you be to read your son's essay hanging on the classroom wall: "This summer vacation was the best ever! I helped make dinner for my family."

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

and for when you don't feel like chocolate...

...try fruit popsicles, or Mexican paletas.

Or as Mark Bittman writes, "Mexican summer on a stick".

Try his tasty combinations for these refreshing icy pops, like berry and lime, banana, and pineapple.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer's Candy Bar

I'm hardly against kids eating sweets. Nor do I think chocolate should be relegated to their annual birthday bash. But candy bars, filled with trans fats and other unrecognizable ingredients, are an unsatisfying source of nutrition-less calories.

In a Kitchen Kid Cooking Class this week, I watched 5 kids descend on their just-made creations of chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate-dipped bananas like seagulls flocking to a bag of chips left unattended at the beach.

Now this recipe is hardly complicated, and I'm most definitely not the first to make it. But the act of melting 6 ounces of pure, dark chocolate (no additives, no big words) gave these budding chefs such genuine and unequivocal joy, made me really question the appeal of a Twix. Not to mention the process in and of itself brought almost as much pleasure as the tasty treat (albeit rich in vitamin C and yes, those antioxidants hiding in dark chocolate).

Sure, it would be great if every kid reached for fresh fruit sans the chocolate. And many do. But adding just a touch of something as forbidden as pure chocolate, and watching the kids lick it from their fingers and their lips, surely makes a case for chocolate covered strawberries, and frozen banana pops, being Summer's Best Candy Bar.

Melt 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Indulge by dipping 1 pint of strawberries and Popsicle clad bananas. If you crave a more sophisticated taste, stir chocolate into 6 ounces of near-simmering heavy cream. Even a 3 year old can do it: watch Mark Bittman's Mini Minimalist make this simple ganache.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Three Scoops, Please

A running joke in our house involves the headless overweight shopper on a busy Manhattan street corner. You know him? Perhaps you'll recognize him better as the headless overweight beach goer carrying a cooler of coke and cheese puffs. Before the housing crisis took over the nightly news, the waistlines of these headless men and women played a key role on American television screens nearly every night.

Now, the headless and overweight are kids, seriously at risk of developing lifelong health problems and type II diabetes. Time Magazine's special health issue in June was dedicated almost entirely to the juvenile obesity epidemic, reporting the staggering statistic that the percentage of 6-11 year olds classified as obese has tripled in the last 25 years. This summer, the growing BMI of American kids has piqued the media's interest. In the New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope writes about how summertime and summer camp leads to long days of (wiffle ball? flashlight tag?) cheese fries and ice cream sundaes. A CNN blog posted tips for parents to help their kids order-up a healthy plate and active lifestyle this summer.

Providing kids with nutrition education and accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables are the single most important steps in changing the course of this national health crisis. Unfortunately school districts continue to face budget cuts in areas such as physical and health education. Worse, it was announced this week that the cost of school lunches will rise 12% this fall. With such a price increase it seems even the best intentioned districts will struggle to put local fruits and fresh veggies on the menu. What does this mean? Moms and dads, friends and family, coaches and teachers, community leaders and clergy... YOU need to make a difference in the lives of America's overweight kids.

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