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Growing Up Gourmet: November 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Petite Criticism is No Small Thing for Kid Food Critic

Kids are known for their honesty, especially about food. "Gross..."; "{gasp} it had peas in it"; "OMG the best ever!!!"; "too hot/spicy/salty/green/peppery/insert any other adjective that could possibly ever be used to describe food".

So it's no surprise a 12-year old food critic has jump-started his professional calling, dishing out praise and neighs on New York's culinary scene.

The New York Times has the full story of this young foodie critic, here.

The Ruth Reichl's and Jonathan Gold's of the world better watch out...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Same ol' Veggies + Fun New Twist = "More Cabbage, Please!"

Some may call the combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded lettuce, sprouts, and carrots a salad. But paired with a bagel in Kitchen Kid's after-school enrichment "Books for Cooks" class, it's aptly called a Brown Bear Bagel Face. (Even if these bears look more like a team of crazy bearded clowns with whiskers.)

After an animated reading of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, this class of kindergartners got right to work adding cabbage eyebrows, egg yolk eyeballs, and shredded carrot beards to their sprouted whole wheat bagels. The 5-year olds loved being so creative with these unlikely art supplies.

Better yet, they loved eating them. Every. last. bite. Even a mom told me, "I never knew bagels with vegetables could taste so good." This was the perfect after-school snack for these budding young chefs, who discovered red peppers really are sweet, and how kids can be real chefs 'chopping' them up with tiny craft scissors. The bagel's complex carbs boosted their energy level, and the kids were well on their way to eating enough fruits and veggies to meet the recommended 5-a day.

But don't worry, kids don't need to create artistic masterpieces every time you want them to eat their vegetables. It only takes one delicious Bagel Face for them to discover how tasty and crunchy veggies can be. The next time, your kids might be plenty content eating them straight from their plate...

Recipe: Brown Bear Bagel Faces
1 whole wheat bagel, halved
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced or crumbled
Assorted crunchy, tasty, and nutritious vegetables, (chopped into appropriately-sized facial features) such as: shredded carrots, sprouts, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, purple cabbage, and black olives

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Dog Eats Better Than Your Kids

Hopefully this isn't true. (Though I did just poach some chicken thighs for our dog...)

But it is the title of Australian scientist Dr. Peter Dingle's new book. Dingle believes that the over-processed, chemical-packed foods that go into the average child's diet are far worse than what we feed most animals. I wondered about this. The brands at my pet store include: Nature's Logic, DogsWell, Halo For Pets, Party Animal Organic, BG (Before Grain) and Wellness. And the ingredients on Auggie's food are all easily pronounceable, all natural or properly fortified, and include familiar items like "duck, lamb, sweet potatoes, corn, and zucchini". I wanted to compare the dog food label to those darned spicy cheetos... but you won't be surprised when I tell you there just weren't any in our cupboard.

Nonetheless, Dingle might be on to something. Dogs are eating better than kids. Except when they're not:

Last year Americans were outraged to learn dogs and cats were becoming sick from contaminated dog food manufactured in China. The FDA scurried to create new federal positions to inspect imported goods, pet food recall lists swarmed the Internet and pet store shelves, and veterinarians treated many an ill dog.

It's a well known fact that four of the top six leading causes of death in the United States can be attributed to our Western Diet. Chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are literally killing us as we continue to eat, well, "contaminated food". But unlike the contaminated dog food scare, there's not enough outrage. The FDA, happily in cahoots with big agribusiness, scurries to do nothing. And there's certainly no "recall list" posted on supermarket shelves reminding us to skip the trans-fat fries, Olestra-laden bbq chips, and Splenda-ridden "sugar" cookies. Unfortunately, the only similarity between the dog food crisis and our nation's current food crisis, is the increased number of visits to medical professionals.

Cookbook author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman is outraged. Listen to him call for a dramatic change in the way Americans eat, in his talk:

What's Wrong with What We Eat:

Having trouble viewing it? Click here to go to see the video on

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Other Things I'd Like to Vote For

I've managed to live in two of the few states that put propositions on the November ballot. With confusing wording and lengthy legalese, it can leave even the most informed citizen baffled. Let alone your average Joe. (Plumber or not.) Californians today cast their vote for a wide range of topics, from constitutional amendments about same-sex marriage, the rights of a chicken, renewable energy, and parole rehabilitation. In Santa Monica, we also weighed in on traffic congestion, rent control leadership, building development, and a cell-phone tax.

I don't mean to disparage our great civic duty, or dismiss the truly electric energy that buzzed through my polling place today. But after waiting in line for 20 minutes, and spending many more inking my voice in nearly 35 different bubbles, I realized that there were actually a few more things for which I'd like to cast my vote in favor. Here's my list. Feel free to dream yours.

Prop EAT: A Provision for a Healthier, Happier America:

School Lunch Reform
Stricter Cafeteria Standards
Nutrition and Culinary Education
Junk Food Consumption Limits
Massive Reduction in Global Warming and Fatal Diseases Currently Attributed to Agriculture and Livestock Production
Teaching Kids the Value of a Good Meal Enjoyed with Friends and Family Teaching Those Same Kids How to Cook It
Elimination of "Ingredients" like Hydrogenated Oil and Red No. 40 in the Food We Feed Our Children
An Opportunity for Kids to See How Food Grows and Where It Comes From with the Likes of a School Garden
Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for All, Regardless of Economic or Geographic Restrictions
Dramatic Increase in Fruit, Vegetable, and Whole Grain Consumption
Limits on the Distance a Tomato Should Travel
A nation that Eats Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants

I'll keep dream voting... but that first poll is closing and it's time to see the real changes that will be made today.

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