5 fun ways to get your kids to eat healthier in 2017

Is your New Year’s resolution to get your children to eat better? I got you covered like a kid in frosting at his first birthday party. 
With childhood obesity and diabetes cases at alarming levels, it’s important to get ahead of this and establish healthy eating habits now.  My kids eat, enjoy even, things like salmon, hummus, cashews, avocado, broccoli and shrimp. They ask for salads.
Don’t get me wrong. They still pound some sodium-heavy mac n cheese, and opt for French fries over almost anything else when given the option. But I can get them to eat good-for-them foods at nearly every meal with a few tricks that I rely on.
1. Get creative with names
My girls are obsessed with mermaids and princesses. So I make kale chips, which resemble dried seaweed, and I call them “mermaid snacks.”  And they’re gone quicker than chicken wings at a Super Bowl party.
tiana-pasta
Or I’ll make “pesto” by blending cooked broccoli, grated cheese, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, then toss it in whole wheat farfale (bow tie shaped noodles). I call it “Tiana pasta” since it’s the color dress that Disney princess wears. Honestly, I can’t believe it works either. For boys, you could use wheel shaped pasta with the same sauce and call it Ninja Turtle pasta, for example.
2. Let them play with their food. 
I’m becoming pretty famous for my animal pancakes. Sure, there is usually whipped cream, Nutella or chocolate sauce on them. But there is always fruit. And about the half the time I substitute regular pancake batter for Katie Lee’s power pancake recipe (with cottage cheese and rolled oats) from her Endless Summer cookbook. They are distracted by the fun faces and shapes, and race to finish.
A bowl of oatmeal can also serve as a sort of blank canvas as well. Top with blueberries, sliced almonds, etc.
face-plates
I let them become the food artists with these fun face plates too (available at Bed Bath & Beyond). And since eating healthy=eating colors, they get to make bright pictures and faces with nutrient rich foods.
get-them-involved
3. Have them help
 
If they have a hand in preparing it, they’re more likely to eat it. It’s a fact.
Try a “veggie only” pizza on a whole wheat crust that they can top themselves. Who cares what it looks like?  Pride tastes good, doesn’t it, Junior?
Or simply measure out everything you need for say, a soup or turkey chili. Let them pour in the ingredients and they usually can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Bonus: this also helps with counting and math. “Pour in two cups of flour.  Then hand me 3 eggs, etc.”
farmers-market-five-collage
If cooking with kids is too much for you, engage them in other ways to get them interested and invested in what they’re eating.
One of our favorite games in the summer and fall is “farmers market five.” I hand each child five $1 bills to purchase whatever tempts them. It’s easier in this environment because most prices are in whole dollars but you could try the same thing at a grocery store.
placecards
Have an artistic kid? Have them make placemats. Does your picky eater also thrive on order or accomplishing tasks? Ask them to set the table. It just might work.
4. Get playful with your packaging or environment.
One of my favorite lunches as a kid was served in a humble and well-seasoned cupcake tin. Each hole is filled with something healthy to make for a well-balanced meal.
Put a blanket on the floor and call it a picnic. Pack their meal in a lunch box so they can play “school.”  Make it a “mystery meal” and see if they can guess what it is by tasting it or smelling it with a blind fold on.
5. Sneak it in
 
When all else fails, you know what you have to do. Hide the healthy stuff in some of the foods they never turn down.
I purée cooked carrots and blend them into apple sauce.
Pint-sized objection:
“Why is it orange, Mommy?”
Successful rebuttal:
“Because I put sunshine in it.”
True story.
popcicle-molds
My girls also love smoothies. So I start with healthy stuff I know they’ll like (vanilla Greek yogurt and frozen berries) and I add almond milk, and a handful of kale or spinach. They never know. But I do. And what they don’t finish I freeze in Popsicle molds for a healthy dessert.
Jessica Seinfeld has two entire cookbooks, Deceptively Delicious, filled with sneaky ways to get your kids (your husband and yourself) to consume more veggies.
Now, I’m not saying that ALL of these will work. Or that the one(s) that work with your kids will work every time. But hell, it’s worth a shot. One bite at a time.
Despite all these ideas, I must admit I’m NOT the mom who feeds her kids organic, wholesome, nutritious foods every meal and every snack.  I do the best I can.  Full disclosure…I wrote part of this post while waiting in a long line at Target.  At check out my children put Cheetos and Doritos on the belt.  And they ate them on the way home.  Before dinner.
doritos at target.jpg
To me the most effective way get your kids to eat healthy is to lead by example.  And everything in moderation.  Try new things, watch your portions and as they say “eat the rainbow.” You’ll be amazed at what happens at your dinner table.
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Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration

When the wine is flowing, the food is great, and the cause is even better…it’s hard to say no, right?!  That’s why I’ll be at Veggie U’s Food & Wine Celebration on April 30th.  And you can be too!  Read on to see how to win a pair of tickets to the event, valued at $200.  

You may recall I posted about Veggie U at the beginning of the school year.  They’re an incredible organization, a non-profit dedicated to increasing children’s awareness of healthy food options, and teaching them how real food reaches their plate.

food and wine girl planting

For nine years, Veggie U has been taught in every Cleveland Metropolitan School District Elementary School.  That adds up to more than 40,000 Cleveland students who have “graduated” from Veggie U!  They’ve been encouraged to play in the dirt and learned the importance of good nutrition, as well as how food really reaches their plate.  Here’s the rub: the program costs more than $80,000 to place 180+ gardens in CMSD this year alone—and they are underfunded.

Their upcoming event represents their biggest fundraiser of the year.  And this time around, they’ve got a pretty incredible venue, the 925 Building, formerly The Huntington Bank Building.

food and wine band

 It will feature several food stations, spirits, signature cocktails and live music from The Discovery Band.  A wine pull and silent auction will round off the evening while providing further opportunities to donate to the Veggie U mission.

“Our goal is to provide great food and great fun for our guests, but to also make sure the Veggie U story is told. Veggie U believes children who are exposed to growing their own food are more likely to include vegetables in their diet. Our national non-profit organization supplies Classroom Gardens and a standards based, five-week science program to elementary and special needs students. Locally, Veggie U has been part of the learning process for every Cleveland grade schooler since 2007, as well as hundreds of suburban children,” said Executive Director, Nadia Clifford.

Some of my favorite chef/philanthropists, and local restaurants will be represented.  And these people don’t disappoint.  Featured establishments include: Momocho, Dante’s, Hodge’s, Cork&Cleaver, Graffiti Social Kitchen, Urban Farmer, and AMP150, with more establishments planned to join.

Tickets for VUFWC are $100 per person. To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, visit click here, or call 440.774.8344. Sponsorship opportunities are available and food and wine vendor applications are also being accepted.

Want to WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS to the Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration?  Send an email to Enter@VeggieU.org and put “Cheftovers” in the subject line.  The winner of the tickets will be chosen at random (tickets sent electronically).  You have until April 27th to enter.  See you there!

 

 

 

Tailgate Soup: Turn Sunday’s Smorgasbord into a Monday Night Football Feast

When your favorite football team is as terrible as ours, it’s best to make tailgating the “main event” of game day.  So we had a dozen or so people over for an at-home tailgate party before watching the Browns game.  After everyone went home, and the dishes were done, it was time to assess the leftovers.

tailgate soup-montage pic

Hmmm….a couple of brats, a ton of baked beans, the remnants of a veggie tray, burger fixins’ and a lot of Bloody Mary supplies.  (no beer..that we drank every last drop of to drown our sorrows)

tailgate soup-baked bean

Given the volume of baked beans which are not something we eat a lot of in our house…I decided to incorporate those into a soup because I know my daughter, Julia, will slurp it up!  Go time.

tailgate soup-julia

I started by cutting up two slices of peppered bacon (from the very elaborate Bloody Mary bar a guest came with!) Once I fried those up in a small stock pot, I added some chopped onions (red and white, but you could use whatever you’ve got) leftover from the burger toppings platter, and let those soften.  To that I added chopped celery and carrot (probably the equivalent of one carrot and one stalk of celery) and cooked on a medium high until those too were soft (just 3-4 minutes).

tailgate soup-veggies

(I added corn to this original batch because I had some around and thought it would be good for color.  I think it enhanced the soup, but it’s not necessary)

tailgate soup-saute

I sliced up one bratwurst into bite sized pieces and dumped that in to the mixture, along with 2 cups of beef broth.  Once that was brought to a boil, I added 1 cup of baked beans, and 1/2 cup of Bloody Mary mix.  Given the contents (peppered bacon, seasoned beans, and the drink mix) I went easy on the salt and pepper, but do it to your taste.  I also added dash of hot sauce.

tailgate soup-ladle

Let that magic simmer for about 25 minutes and you’ve got yourself a soup that will fill your belly and keep you satisfied through Monday Night Football.

Ohio City Provisions: a new, and true Farm to Fork concept

The term “Rise and Shine” was made for people like Trevor Clatterbuck and Adam Lambert.  They have been getting up before sunrise for months, working long hours readying their new project.  And it’s pretty exciting.  Both are heavy weights in Cleveland’s local food scene independently, (Trevor is the man behind Fresh Fork Market, a very popular CSA business (community supported agriculture) in Cleveland.  Adam is a well-established local chef, who’s logged hours in the kitchens of Bar Cento, and The Black Pig, to name just a couple) but together they’re doing something that isn’t being done anywhere else in town.

OCP Rise and Shine

The plans are to open up a market and butcher shop in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, near St. Ignatius High School.  The two plan to grow or raise everything they’ll sell there.  Fans of Fresh Fork will find all the good quality produce they’re used to (sourced from farms within 75-100 miles of Cleveland, organic when possible, and picked at the peak of freshness).

OCP produce

But what’s new, innovative and mouth-watering…is what they’re doing with hogs.  The pair have been experimenting with animal husbandry and feed to develop meat that you can’t get anywhere else in the state.

OCP hogs

I got a tour of the property in Holmes County where they have about 150 hogs on site.  Mangalitsa, Berkshire, Mulefoot, Red Wattle…all new vocabulary to me.  But what they have planned is not…charcuterie.  Yes, please!

OCP jen and a hog

They’ve got a supply chain in place, thanks to their “adventures in hog sourcing.”  The details of which the pair chuckle about, but don’t care to share.  After all, learning about heritage breeds is new territory for them too.  Clatterbuck has a background in business and political science.  Lambert is a self-taught chef.  But the two both seem right at home on the 200 acre property where they plan to get a lot of their product.

OCP Wholesome Valley Farm

They’re promising the best pork in the state.  The red wattles are said to be more tender.  The mangalitsas, used for things like Jamon Iberico.

OCP mangalitsa

What takes time, but will be worth the wait, I’m told…is controlling the product…all of it…from start to finish.  They are playing with breeds and what they feed the animals to get optimal product.  These hogs are given specific ratios of barley and grass from the fields.  Lambert says they have marbled loins, and even appear more red than pink when you cut into them.

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Plus, they’re also raising other animals.  They have laying chickens, meat birds and heritage birds, whose pens and coops are moved weekly to insure exposure to fresh grass and soil for them to feed on, not to mention fresh air.

OCP mobile coop

They’re also working on ways to make heritage poultry more affordable. (which currently takes 18 wks.)

OCP heritage birds

The Hereford beef they are raising will be grass-fed, sustainable and have better flavor, according to Clatterbuck.  Those with smaller frames, he says, are easier to finish without incorporating high energy corn and grain.  Their plans also include growing non-GMO (and eventually, organic) corn and soy beans on site so the animals can feed off that.

OCP beef

There is so much in the works it’ll make your head spin.  The infrastructure is already in place for maple syrup production.  There are hives on site, for bees to pollinate the produce and generate honey.

OCP maple syrup infrastructure

They have secured their cannery, bakery, frozen foods and ferments permits.  OCP has acquired heavy machinery like bean snippers and corn huskers to handle the volume when fresh produce “comes in like a hurricane,” as Clatturbuck says.

OCP canned goods

When the store is up and running you can expect incredible products.  Believe me, I’ve had some of Chef Lambert’s charcuterie and it is unbelievable.  A true art.  But he’s even upped his game.  Clatterbuck and Lambert are fresh off a 2 day charcuterie workshop in Gascony, France.

forage with strangers charcuterie

And since it costs more (time and money) to raise these kinds of hogs, you can bet they won’t be selling them as pork chops.  You’ll see smoked and cured meats, specialty sausage and charcuterie.

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Clatterbuck and Lambert are aiming to open Ohio City Provisions in January.  Can’t wait to see what will fill their cases, and the bellies of Clevelanders once they open their doors.

Veggie U: Teaching kids to grow, harvest and thrive on fresh veggies

How many times have you tried to talk a child into eating their veggies?  It’s a monumental task in some households.  Equally daunting is the fight against childhood obesity.  But the green-thumbed folks at Veggie U and their partner teachers are helping fight that battle…one vegetable at a time. 

Veggie U set up

I came into contact with the non-profit while attending a speaker I featured in a previous post (Robyn O’Brien).  I was immediately drawn to their display of seedlings and indoor grow lights.  When I started inquiring about who they are and what they do, I knew it was something worth sharing.

Veggie U tasting

The mission of Veggie U is to teach kids about where vegetables come from, and how they grow.  And the idea is if they understand it better and take pride in cultivating them, they are more likely to eat them.

veggie u feast day

It was started by a family of farmers in Milan, Ohio…the same people behind The Chef’s Garden which focuses their output on the need of chefs.  Several local chefs are also involved in supporting the program, as it educates the next generation of restaurant-goers about good food.

Veggie U lesson plan

The organization provides schools with everything they’ll need for an indoor garden.  They ship the seeds, soil, grow lights, root viewers…even composting worms (a big hit among the 3rd grade boys, I’m told).  They provide 25 one hour science-based lessons that can be taught during designated plant science or health class time.  The classroom eventually harvests 17 different vegetables, showcasing them in a “feast day.”

Veggie U studying

“I have always been interested in helping my students make better choices about food and daily exercise and this was the greatest gift to have a program that was designed to do just that. To top it off, it was already aligned with the Ohio Academic Content standards-Extended version (which are used for students with learning disabilities). This was such a bonus as an educator, to have a complete comprehensive curriculum that was already aligned with the standards and had all the materials that you needed to teach sensory friendly lessons of such an important nature,” said Kristin Dickerhoff, Intervention Specialist at Murray Ridge School.

veggie u teacher

Dickerhoff’s classroom has students with Autism, many who have severe sensory issues and avoid various food textures and smells.  Those kids often fixate on a narrow list of foods and therefore don’t get proper nutrition.

“Having the Veggie University curriculum and the opportunity to show children hands on how “Good Food” reaches their plates was such a blessing.  I was completely blown away at how these precious students who on a typical day would only choose to munch on crunchy chips or soft yogurt were trying raw veggies during the first week’s “veggie Testing” lesson,” said Dickerhoff.

Veggie U comparing soil

Now that Veggie U is part of their routine, Dickerhoff has launched “Healthy Snack Wednesday” in their Primary wing of 50 students.  Each week every student in the wing gets a healthy snack prepared by her class and delivered to each classroom.  Her special needs kids use this opportunity to practice communication skills during drop off.

“I can’t say enough about how much this curriculum has changed the lives of each and every one of my students and how it has evolved into so much more,” said Dickerhoff.

veggie u shipping

Shipping is their number one expense.  Kits are put together by volunteers, but they run $450 for new kits, $225 for refills or renewals.  They operate through grants, corporate sponsors, fundraisers and sponsorship.  Only 6% of schools fund their own programs.

The take-aways are real.  Veggie U reports a 30% improvement in willingness to eat veggies among their graduates.  Students develop writing skills as they journal the process.  Even vocabulary skill are incorporated. (Examples: hypothesis, variable, conclusion, germinate)

Veggie U watering

Veggie U is now in 36 states and 6,500 classrooms, with more than 164,000 graduates.  They have indoor gardens in every Cleveland Metropolitan School District elementary building, as well as Toledo, Akron and Canton schools.  They’re currently trying to grow their presence in Hawaii, where 85% of their food is imported, hoping to encourage future farmers.

Forage with Strangers

I had the distinct honor of attending (in all honesty, crashing) a truly spectacular event, the inaugural “Forage with Strangers.”  It brought together influencers, connectors and innovators in Cleveland.  And we strangers bonded over a universal language: GOOD FOOD.

Let’s start with a little “behind the scenes” insight to how I came to be a part of this experience.  Over the course of the last year, I have been trying to immerse myself in the local culinary scene.  I’ve come to know some incredible people and eaten some spectacular food.  Social networking, no doubt, is a huge component of this.  So on Monday night, I started to see posts on Facebook and Twitter about this “Forage with Strangers” concept.  I was intrigued.  Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I started making some inquires.  And by mid afternoon, I was invited to join in.

I love people in the food world.  They just want everyone to have a good time and be well fed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a microphone, or a a blog.  But I sincerely appreciated the willingness to include me in such a cool and intimate experience.

Here’s what the day was all about:  A creative thinker from The Adcom Group teamed up with Kalman & Pabst Photo Group to orchestrate a networking event connecting local food brand reps, with local farmers and producers.  The idea was to drum up business for everyone involved.  But for as long as I was around, no one mentioned dollars and cents.  Everyone was just talking about food and ideas.  So refreshing and so delicious.  Yet still so productive…and in the end, probably profitable.

The group started the event with a five course “pre-foraging” meal dreamed up by Dante Bocuzzi.  In my year as my station’s designated “food reporter” his name has come up more than anyone’s in the city as the guy you’ve got to work with, and whose food you have to eat.

forage with strangers van

The next morning, the group ventured out in a van to half a dozen locations to “forage” for ingredients that would be used for a catered feast that night.

forage with strangers bounty

Photos Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

The 150 mile trek included Yellow House CheeseRittman OrchardsSpice AcresTrapp Family FarmOhio City Farm and Heinen’s.  The group gathered gorgeous fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, artisan cheeses and savory proteins.  In all, 40 bags were hauled back to the host site of the “Forage with Strangers” dinner.

forage with strangers happy hour

When I joined the party it was already time for happy hour.  Chef Bocuzzi and Chef Douglas Katz of Fire Food & Drink worked feverishly with a team of helpers to turn the day’s haul into tonight’s feast.

forage with strangers chefs working

Beer Master Sam McNulty of Bier MarktBar CentoMarket Garden Brewery and Nano Brew among the participants…as was Chef Adam Lambert, of The Black Pig and the upcoming Ohio City Provisions (a partnership with Fresh Fork Market).

forage with strangers table

The space was fantastic…full of natural light, props, and working kitchens for the commercial photographers at Kalman & Pabst to work their magic.

Forage with strangers cheese tray

We started with an impressive array of cheeses from Yellow House and Mackenzie Creamery and a charcuterie display to die for, courtesy of Chef Lambert.  I couldn’t stop myself from seconds and thirds of his chicken liver parfait, topped with Guernsey butter (from his own cows, and flavored with thyme and orange zest)

forage with strangers charcuterie

Wine was poured and conversation flowed among movers and shakers in the food world. I was eager to devour the details, and jealous that I missed all the foraging.

 forage with strangers diners

The inviting communal table set for 30 was soon filled with an incredible bounty.  Everything brought out family style, as you might imagine large farmers’ families do.  Even though the table stretched the length of the large space, there was barely enough room to set all the large platters full of farm fresh food.

tempura fried heirloom tomatoesforage with strangers walleye

Tempura fried heirloom tomatoes and Lake Erie Walleye with miso and radishes.

roaste beet-plum-goat cheese-salad  corn tomoato and cucumber salad

Plum and roasted beet salad with goat cheese.  Corn, cucumber and tomato salad.

Chef Doug Katzforage with strangers roasted chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken livers and Harissa roasted chickens by Chef Katz.  Plus hand made gnocchi ratatouille from the pasta master himself, Chef Dante.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

We ate and talked and shared ideas, and ate and listened and shared seconds, and ate and laughed and shared inspirations.  The meal ended with everyone reflecting on their favorite part of the day.

forage with strangers dessert

There was dessert…oh yes, there was dessert.  Dante made an apple tarte tatin, and Doug crafted a couple of spectacular ice creams with fresh fruit toppings.

I left the dinner table buzzing with ideas and tingling with inspiration.  There are immensely talented people in my city who believe they can change their world and yours with food and shared experiences.  I want in.  How about you? 

Door to Door Organics: #joydelivered now in Northeast Ohio

To me, getting a fresh organic produce delivery is as good as flowers delivered to my doorstep.  Because in my house, food is love.  And I love what I’m feeding my family now that Door to Door Organics is filling up my fridge.  The food geek in me was pretty excited when the first boxes arrived.

DTD boxes

As part of their effort to spread the word about their new presence in the Cleveland/Akron area, Door to Door Organics, https://ohio.doortodoororganics.com/ offered me the opportunity to try their service and products (complimentary) then provide a review.   I’m a Kicthen Maven!  #kicthenmavenCLE  And what’s best? I have $50 gift certificates and discounts to give away to Cheftovers readers and followers!!  All you have to do is follow my blog, share this post, or comment.  I’ll be randomly selecting winners from those who support Cheftovers and Door to Door Organics. (@dtdorganics, https://www.facebook.com/DoorToDoorOrganicsOhio)

Here’s how the process works: You sign up via their website (linked above) and chose the size produce box you’d like to have delivered to your home or office, (fruits, veggies or a combo) and the frequency (weekly or bi-weekly).  Then you can customize!

What I really like about this service versus traditional CSA’s (community supported agriculture, where you get a grab bag of local, in-season produce delivered regularly) is that you can set your preferences and substitute items.  The complaints I always hear from CSA participants is when something is in season, they often get too much of it, whether they like it in the first place or not.  Door to Door Organics allows you to set preferences when you sign up.

I don’t want anything to do with Brussels sprouts.  I think they taste like feet, no matter how much bacon you cook them in.  So I put those and a few others on my “Don’t Want” list.

On the other side of the coin, I got to put together a list of fruits and veggies that my family thinks are awesome.  Since we are not an “all organic” household either, I chose produce that I believe are worth eating organic (and left out those which don’t matter as much to me).  In addition, you can substitute items.  A few days before your delivery comes, you’ll get an email listing the items that’ll be in your box of #joydelivered.  You’re allowed up to five substitutions.  There are many to chose from and it’s easily spelled out what you can get instead for the same price.

This week I’m planning to make a new enchilada dish (subsequent post and recipe coming soon!), so I substituted something I wasn’t interested in, and added a couple jalapenos.  I also noticed that my “Bitty Box” would have another pound of organic carrots in it.  We hadn’t yet finished the bag that came last week, so I substituted that too.

To finish, I shopped for things I’ll need for the recipe I’m developing, like rice and black beans.  This saved me a “bonus” trip to the grocery store where I’d end up buying more things I probably didn’t need.  I think a dozen organic brown eggs are going to be added to my order every week!  Yum.

DTD organics meat and dairy

I was also pleased to see that the dairy and meat I added to my order came in a well insulated box, as it sat outside on the back patio until I came home that evening.  (the meat that could be frozen, was, adding to the “chill” factor in the “add-ons” box).

DTD cooler box

I am a new customer to the organic groceries world.  So in the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I must say…the price on some of this stuff is significantly higher than I’m used to.  But the “convenience” factor cannot be ignored.  And those who already shop and eat organically are familiar.  I also value and appreciate that the produce is local (when possible) along with products from several vendors.  I love that.

Door to Door Organics Bitty Box, feeds 1-2 adults for $25.99

Door to Door Organics Bitty Box, feeds 1-2 adults for $25.99

I have been meaning to try a CSA for several summers now.  But honestly, adding another errand to my to-do list (driving to a pick-up location at a designated day, time and location) is not appealing.  But getting #joydelivered through Door to Door Organics has been great.  Easy, healthy and delicious.  I plan to continue it!

My readers and followers can get a discount on their first order.  Use https://ohio.doortodoororganics.com/signup?gift_cert=CHEFTOVERS15O