Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Eats for the Kiddies (and Y-O-U)

FNCE, aka “Fency”, aka The American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, aka (in real-people lingo) a place where thousands of foodie-dietitians gather to talk food, learn food, eat food, and sample food! Salute to the grub!

But all hail the school food programs taking healthier action! With Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign on many dietitians’ front burners, it became one of the sizzilin' topic at the conference!!
The School Food Norm:
For breakfast? Why not a HUGE hunk of quiche with refined white flour crust and, to top it off: salt laden sausage, eggy goodness, and molten cheese?  Lunch serves mile-high creamed corn and French fries accounting for the children’s vegetables (though more like fatty, not-so-whole-wheat starches). Don’t forget a serving of seconds...maybe thirds. From the looks and tastes of it-school cafeteria food-past and present-has been a parade of unhealthy, with middle-of-the-road dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nibbled, okay, downed my share of cafeteria fair.  It's tough to resist those faced-sized Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, grab-n-go Poptarts, or pizza doused in enough grease to oil a kid's tricycle. Yet, these unhealthy choices morph from food into bleary eyes and a bloated stomach. Preventable symptoms? Of course! But will children be likely to choose a salad over these McDonald-esc consumables? To this, a deliberate, “Auuhhh, heck NO!” might do.

I don't fault your favorite cafeteria lady for heating-up these fattening fixin's.  School cafeterias cook and serve, suffocated by tight-gripped budgets. They run on a year-round, subsidized agrobusiness--y’know the super-sized corn, beef, chicken, potato, soybean farms and their ultra-processed byproducts. The resultant foodstuff pinballs from the producers, suppliers, manufacturers, to the lunch line and student-consumers. During this bounce back and forth food miles rocket above the thousands, gas is guzzled, chow-quality squandered, contamination risk rises, and the food variety is limited.  This large-scale food distribution and processing, is but one factor causing corpulent children. Nonetheless, students are abject to normalize canned vegetable mush, mystery meats, and Twinkies for meals.
Unstable, unprofitable, and sometimes un-nutriticious is our current food system. This is why thousands of people (scientists, non-profits, parents, teachers, school dietitians) put up their advocating fists to brawl for the Child Nutrition Act.  No matter their political party, these fighters duked it out for THE FUTURE GENERATION. And they claimed victory when the Child Nutrition Act passed on December 13, 2010.

The Child Nutrition Act Basics:
1. It trades the extensive paper work with automatic enrollment for low-income children for kids eligible for free lunches.
2. A modest 6 cents increases the reimbursement of school lunches. This money is reallocated for healthier school food menus.
3. Financial support is given for the healthy-local-tasty-fresh input of the Farm to School programs.
4. Acknowledgements are provided for model food systems.
5. About $1.2 billion  will be given over the next 10 years for more meal provision after-school, during summer programs, and to all students in schools with high poverty levels.
6. An estimated $3.2 billion will fund the establishment of new nutrition standards, strengthening local wellness policies, and increasing reimbursement rates.

7. It increases food-prep training for cafeteria staff.
NOW, to Build & Forget
Building is the tough-love, foodservice modification, and school nutrition education provided for the cafeteria workers, policymakers, your local school board, the parents, and the students. Forgetting is the TASTY (healthful) lunch that  surpasses all other unhealthy meals before it's time.

The prospect of modifying a 30-year-old food system may be intimidating, added onto the tough market, limited moneys, and resources too! But I challenge you, parents, teachers, the young (my non-parenting friends), and old (elderly is a relative term) to remember when you were a kid and all you had was a dream!? Now, give these kids a healthy head start on their childhood dreams:
Educate yourself with tons of new resources. Find simple ways to join the movement!

Hurry up, time’s a-waistin’!

While We Wait, Let’s BAKE!
This season we’ve got butternut squash adorning the corners our kitchen pantry.   It's stored cool (55 degrees F) in dry, well-ventilated conditions.  Keep it for up to 8-12 weeks. 
Simply Stuffed Butternut Squash
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 3 people

1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon 
1/2 cup dried quinoa
3/4 cup water

1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrot sticks peeled, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 apple, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
 1/4 cup olive orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (2 Tablespoons fresh OR candied ginger)
1 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

Kitchen Needs:
Baking dish
pastry brush (optional)
Large, flat pan (sauté pan) with lid
Large mixing spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
2 boiling pots with lids
2 small pieces of aluminum foil
Yourself and 2 other friends

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds (save for later). Place cut-side-up in a baking dish and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on top of the halves. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to coat all the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top. Roast for 45 minutes or until the squash begins to get tender. Once tender, set aside but leave oven on.

Meanwhile, on top of the stove, use a saute pan to cook onion and sweat carrots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. With a large spoon, mix every 1-2 minutes. Do this for 20-25 minutes or until onions are golden-brown (caramelized)Add apples after the first 10 minutes of cooking.  Put a lid on it to save energy. Once finished, set aside in a large bowl.

Place a small pot on high heat burner to bring 1/2 cup quinoa in 3/4 cup water to a boil. Once boiling, bring the heat down to low. Cover with loose-fitting lid and simmer (little bubbles). This allows some moisture to escape.  Cook it until small curly white tails spring from the quinoa and most of the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Stir and fluff quinoa with a fork. No liquid should remain.

In the pan that you sauteed the onion in, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, saute for 1 minute until fragrant and golden-brown.  Add 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and fresh or ground ginger, and the tablespoon of cider vinegar.  Simmer until thickened. Turn off burner and mix in 1 tablespoon of honey. If you enjoy cilantro and have it on-hand, try mixing in 1/4 cup fresh and finely chopped for a flavor boost.

In the bowl where the onions are, combine the quinoa, caramelized onions, and orange juice sauce. Toss to coat everything. Spoon 1/2 of the quinoa mixture into the squash halves, cover with two small pieces of aluminum foil, and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, slice the butternut squash and spoon the rest of the quinoa mixture over each serving.
Nothing goes to waste in our house. Salt, pepper, and spice up your seeds. Throw them in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes (or until toasted light brown). Top salads, soups, sandwiches, or switch in the pumpkin seeds to make squash seed pesto!
There was a butternut half that was left naked and unstuffed. I pealed, mashed, and dressed it with white chocolate and pumpkin spice for these bite-sized treats! Any leftover butternut-mash filled my morning oatmeal and pancakes!
But, nothing molds my family together like buttered-biscuits pressed festive from a cookie-gun.  The best part? All the cooks (I mean kids) that helped!
Taylor and Jakie manned the mixer. They're such baking pros!!
Taylor taste-tested the batter (with no raw eggs). He approved.
Taylor and I are loaded our weapon…only to blast out 200 cookies.
Take Home Message:
1. Bring the kids into the kitchen! Teach them portion sizes, ingredients, cutting and mixing skills, and to have at it with their own creativity!
2.Cook or decorate with the family. Togetherness does not have to involve tasting (other than the here-and-there licking of the spatula)!
3. Let loose! Eat a cookie or two! The small press-cookies' portion create bite-sized snacks for everyone. If the overeating-temptation calls, freeze or gift-up any extra sweets. You could also try waiting out the craving; cravings usually last an average of eight minutes. Until then, occupy yourself with kitchen clean up.

Here are the presents under my Christmas tree...
..and my nephew, Santa's little helper.

1 comment:

  1. I missed a key ingredient in this blog: My Boston friends.

    Danielle, Allison, Leslie, and Emily stuck with me throughout the conference. Thank you! Sarah and Laura housed me. They were the BEST hosts with their own an al natural cooking journey. Here's their holiday party menu!

    Sarah brags (as I drool):

    As the guests arrive... almond stuffed dates wrapping in local bacon with balsamic reduction sauce and whole-wheat basil pita chips dipped in butternut squash sundried tomato dip.

    Dinner is served... spicy peanut cabbage salad, kale pesto over homemade gnocchi, butternut squash, apples, sweet potatoes roasted with local Italian sausage and caramelized onions, and lemon garlic kale sautéed in olive oil.

    The dessert finale... succulent dark chocolate flourless cake and gingerbread made with oatmeal stout served with crystallized ginger and whipped cream.

    This menu was worth sharing :)