Jun 30, 2007

interview with Silvana Nardone.

Silvana Nardone is the Editor for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. She has two children: Isaiah (10) and Chiara (9 mo). I had an opportunity to ask her a few questions, and thought it might be useful to pass along her answers to all of you:

Question: What are good snacks kids can make themselves (after school)?

Answer: Keep things simple. For teenagers, the toaster oven can be handy to make mini pita pizzas or a quick quesadilla.

Question: Do you have any tricks or tidbits you can share re: getting kids to eat more vegetables?

Answer: It’s not easy—my son even has issues with carrots! I’ll puree carrots with water or broth and mix the puree into meatballs. Soups work pretty well. I just keep trying new things and every once in a while, I’ll reintroduce vegetables he’s refused before. It’s a challenge, but what has helped is involving him in the process. A couple of years ago, I asked him to pick at least two vegetables he would always eat: He chose grape tomatoes and asparagus.

Question: What do you think kids most enjoy doing in the kitchen?

Answer: Everything! I taught a cooking class for kids—preschool to fifth grade—for years. Even the little guys got into it. Cooking uses the five senses, so every second they’re experiencing something new. It’s also instantly gratifying to make something from start to finish—and eat it! Plus, who doesn’t love to get their hands dirty and make a mess?

Question: What are a few recipes that you think work well for kids to ‘make dinner’?

Answer: You can check out the recipes from our “Kids” column in the magazine or online www.rachaelraymag.com—just click on Kids. All the recipes were written for kids to make.

Thanks Silvana!

I hope you found this short interview helpful; it is useful to gather ideas from parents-feeding-children everywhere, including the editor from Rachel Ray! You already know: I love the idea of getting kids involved in, learning about and ultimately interested in the food they consume. I tell my boys they probably haven't tried their favorite food yet (and think of all the foods you love!), so it is worth trying new foods, just in case...

Jun 26, 2007

silly dilly dip.

Because if it is silly, it cannot be boring. And Brown Bag Blues are all about chasing away the blues, the boredom, and the roll-your-eyes usual of midday munching.

Though this Silly Dilly Dip can scoot into a lunch alongside the daily veggies, it also mixes well with last night's roasted red potatoes. For a lunchtime treat, put in a very simple potato salad. Why not?

My kids would try it, as long as it is only Silly Dilly Dip and potatoes (they are still getting used to extra colors and textures and wierd, unfamiliar additions. I bet in the next few months I could add one more veggie into the potato salad mix...).

Silly Dilly Dip
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
2 T finely chopped shallots
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 T Worcestershire sauce

Mix all in blender; add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve.

Jun 22, 2007

because basil is better.

My very wise son appreciates basil. On sandwiches, he asks for basil instead of lettuce. Hey, let's be frank: I am just tickled he wants greens with his sandwich.

A good friend of mine, a few years ago, was piling basil on a sandwich. My eyes grew large, and of course I was riveted and even mildly giddy at the sight. Happily the bystander, I now had a new way to experience sandwiches: a flavor that had been sorely missing from my sandwiches, a flavor profile that makes so much sense, and is so delightfully consumed, I cannot imagine how I came to be so far along in my life without basil on my sandwiches (big apologies for the run-on, but it was in all one breath).

So my son now gets to enjoy it at a younger age: basil on his sandwiches. His sandwiches may very well consist of turkey, maybe a bit of mayo and olive oil, a slice of white cheese---white cheddar perhaps---and a pile of stately basil. In this particular picture, the sandwich has the special presence of being compiled on an Italian roll. The roll smelled so good, it is surprising I had time to build the sandwich before it was gobbled up.

Try this: instead of other salad greens on your sandwich, use basil. You will have a sense of... being good to yourself. No boredom here, just a measure of self-care.

Jun 21, 2007

what kind of granola do you like?

You may already toss this into your brown bag, or in the very least you have tried granola with yogurt. Ideally, this little note is a friendly reminder of a winning combination that had otherwise slipped your mind.

There are so many granola varieties out there, whether your own recipe, in a box, from the bulk section, organic or not. You can keep it simple or find one chocked full of nuts and dried fruits.

Granola flavors are abundant, and it can be a fun exercise to offer your child [or self!] a taste test.
Granola can often be found in bulk: scoop a cup of 4-5 different flavors of granola and bring them home. Set up small bowls with some of each, label them with numbers and have your kids be the judge!

They can place them in order of like to dislike (1-5, 1 being their favorite) or just rate them (from 1-5 smiley faces: the more the better!).
With this fun experiment, there is a good chance your child will have more of a vested interest---a bit of pride even---in eating their selected granola. Put a package of granola in their lunch box with any variety of yogurt. They can scoop the granola right onto the yogurt. Just for fun, if you read this and try some granolas, tell us your favorite (in the comments below)!

Jun 18, 2007

cheese sauce for veggies.

Cheese Sauce
1 T butter

2 T flour

1 1/4 whole milk

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

Melt butter over medium low heat; add flour and stir for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk. It will thicken and bubble 5-7 minutes. Off heat and stir in cheese and nutmeg.

I liked it. One out of two sons liked it. That counts for something, right? Any vehicle to get those kiddos to eat more veggies! It is a warm cheese sauce, and I lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower to dip into this cheese sauce.

The good news is, although I made it this first time with sharp cheddar, you can make it with swiss, fontina, gruyere, mozzarella, white cheddar, a touch of Parmesan, etc. Good melting cheeses with their distinct, family preferred flavors will clinch the deal on this cheese sauce!

Jun 11, 2007

message in a bag.

I have rarely written notes to my kids in their lunch bags. But I love the idea, and the opportunity to send a midday message to your child.

The message I send is a different kind of message, one that is not hand-written on a little piece of paper, but is loving and deliberate nonetheless.

It is the message I send my children via the contents of their brown bag.

My children carry crumpled brown bags---with names handwritten on the side---in their packs with them every single day. To me, that represents a daily care package from home. And just as each individual brown bag is important in and of itself, so to is the cumulative effect of 'brown bags sent from home.'

What message am I sending, day in and day out, via each humble little brown bag? Is food interesting, boring, prescribed, varied, healthy or not? What food choices are they given? What are they learning about food? Do they enjoy their brown bag lunches? Look forward to them? Do they find the brown bag experience one for exploration, opinion and interest?

If everything is the same every day: I deliver them boredom. If they know fruits and vegetables are important to health: then they have learned something. If I put in a new fruit or granola bar: they learn to try new things. If I try to keep things changing, different, varied and novel: hopefully, they learn that change is okay. If I make them eat everything: food may seem like a power play. If I let them just try things, and choose not to like or eat some: then they are empowered to explore their palates. I could go on... but that is enough for today!

Here is a message I aim to deliver to my brown bag eaters: food is interesting, it can be fun to try new flavors---you won't like them all, but you will love some. The food you eat should be varied and balanced, it may be colorful, you can develop your palate by forming opinions about different foods, the more you learn about nutrition, the better equipped you are to make choices. Food is an adventure and brown bags are just the beginning. Food doesn't have to be boring, or bad. It can be exciting and good!

Jun 6, 2007

double the flavor, double the fun!

Let's face it: two kinds of fruit are more interesting than one. Two kinds of fruit gain twice the attention, offer double the flavor, and provide context for contrasting colors, flavors and shapes. This little bag of grapes plus kumquats offers more than just, well, grapes and kumquats. It adds interest: and that is saying something. In fact, in this bag particular bag of mixed fruit, there was entertainment for lunch hour at my children's school.

I am always trying to inject my boys' palates with attention to detail and an edge of curiosity. I prefer they learn to have opinions by tasting an ever-expanding range of flavors. So when I told them that these dainty 'mini-me' orange wannabes packed a shockingly sour punch [mom grimaces on cue] then a surprisingly sweet finish, their curiosity was adequately peeked. And what elementary school boys wouldn't want to trick their friends into eating a blithely jaw shuddering round orange ball? "Sure, it is sweet," they would say to their friends, watching them take their first bite. Eyes popping out of their friends' heads, they exclaimed coolly: "Well, sweet in the end."

And so lunchtime entertainment goes, palates and friends amused with this little fruit-like dynamite. Though you can pop the kumquats into your mouths whole, I don't prefer the seed size or crunch, so I sliced them in half, pop out the seeds with the end of a knife, and throw the half-sphere jaw-shockers into a bag with their lovely, sweet, seedless red grape counterparts.

Welcome to lunch, boys.

In case you end up trying and loving kumquats:

Jun 1, 2007

bored brown baggers

I was writing an email to someone, telling them about this site: "...it is called brown bag blues... it is about what to put in your child's lunch to keep it interesting, varied, healthy and fun. No more bored brown baggers, no more brown bag blues or blahs..."

...because my brown bag for all the years I went to school looked the same day after day. And it was boring. So my own childhood case of brown bag blues catapulted me to this here blog, where I have carved out an agenda for my children: to entertain them, to entice them and to educate them via their brown bags.

For anyone else bored with eating or making brown bag lunches: you have come to the right place. This blog exists solely to help you chase away those brown bag blues!
This site was born out of my need to establish a long---ongoing---list of new, interesting, healthy and varied lunch possibilities for my children---and hopefully yours. No more brown bag blues or blahs; here is a site to pull together brown bag brilliance from both my bagging forays and my deliberate hunt for brown bagging ideas from all over the web. I will pursue--and share---mine and others' brown bag bests.

Please don't hesitate to email me your ideas, recipes, and resource tips (janelle AT talkoftomatoes DOT com). This is a unified effort, a centralized place to pile on brown bag ideas, to find great resources and to build a community of inspired, informed, curious and deliberate brown baggers.

At brown bag blues you will find 'bags full' of lunch making ideas---ways to keep your children coming back for more. The links on the right represent resources for food choices, lunch bag items you might want to try (bagable foods and bagable drinks), how to find farms and community agriculture near you (beyond bagging), easy access to the USDA food pyramid and a lineup of online food trends/ideas.

Also, my children and I will be trying out new foods and rating them. We will apply the Brown Bag Blues rating system, which is based on these questions: Is it bagable or not? How bagable? The scale is the answer: NOT (bagable)---MAYBE---POSSIBLY---PROBABLY---ABSOLUTELY (bagable)!

Thanks for visiting Brown Bag Blues!

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