03/31/13

A Small Bit of Standing on Soap Boxes

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First, a small disclaimer: I do know that ideas are generally accepted best when presented by those with either expertise or experience, especially when it comes down to ideas that even dip their toes into the concept of how parents choose to do that voodoo they do. I know. Don’t think of this as a militant stance, or that I believe that one thing works for everyone in their respective niches. These are just some of my meandering ideas, and I’d love to hear your agreements or disagreements.  Just please, if you start feeling venomous, remember that with just a simple click of a button you can navigate away!

Hugs!

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This and the whole philosophy surrounding it are just so insane to me. It makes me shake my head.

My first issue: what has happened to the relationship that people have with food? Do so many people really live in a school of thought that food that is good for you is undesirable and needs to be disguised as something unhealthy? And why? Have you eaten a raspberry lately? Or some cucumber? Delicious, and also very desirable. So ridiculous!

I can kind of see the logic that would lead to this theme of hiding nutritious ingredients in unlikely places; if food that is good for me is something I don’t want to eat, I could hide it in food I do want to eat, and then it won’t be so terribly awful to put in my mouth, right?

There are some major flaws to this, though. If you’re hiding spinach in your brownies those brownies aren’t going to be as tasty as they could be, be honest with yourself because they really won’t be.

If you’re adding spinach to your brownies because you’re trying to eat better; I hate to be a balloon popper but a spinach brownie is still a brownie. Adding spinach doesn’t take away all of the butter and sugar, ingredients that one would likely be trying to avoid in the process of eating better. And in the case of the book I linked to above, all of the processing the vegetables go through decreases some of their nutritional value. Before pureeing the veg to kingdom come you need to overcook them first so that they’ll turn to textureless mush more easily.

Why can’t you eat your spinach in a delicious salad (if you’re feeling particularly healthy, skip the bacon), and then once in a while treat yourself to a delicious brownie that isn’t sullied with vegetables that don’t belong there? The brownie will be tastier for it. You get to eat well but don’t deny yourself. You get nutrition and a treat once in a while. Doesn’t that sound like a plan that makes sense? It does to me, but maybe I’m crazy.

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I just find this whole good food versus bad food, clean food versus dirty food, good food can’t be clean food, this is ok to eat but that isn’t, food is the enemy environment is really confusing and disappointing.

My second issue is that we’re teaching these things to children! The book, which is old news but is the perfect example of all this broken thinking, is a collection of recipes specifically designed to hide fruits and vegetables in brownies and chicken nuggets to get children to eat them. It’s called Deceptively Delicious. Deceptively. Are you really looking to deceive your children? I thought the position of parents was to teach. (From what I’ve read in reviews, these deceptions are not always delicious either.)

I’m going to repeat myself, generally opinions with experience to back them are better respected than opinions without experience. I don’t have children. I haven’t stood through day after day of “All I want to eat is french fries!” from a small child, I can only imagine the frustration. One day I might come to the thought, “I’m going to feed you chocolate chip cookies made out of chickpeas so that you don’t die of malnutrition because I love you!” And then you’ll be able to call me on this high falutin’ blog post acting like I know something about parenting. Feel free to say I told you so should it happen. I can see why parents could come to this point and give that type of recipe a try.

But what I hope is that you try to teach your child (if you’re actually living these experiences) to have a better relationship with food than that. Feeding them chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas in them may be a quick fix, it may get some nutrients in when you’re feeling scared that the only things they’ll ever eat is fried food and sugar, but it isn’t really teaching them anything. A child that is only fed brownies and cookies is likely going to want brownies and cookies more than a carrot stick or apple slices, no? Going along with all of the advertising out there that makes unhealthy food look ultra desirable, and good food uninteresting, isn’t going to help a developing person build a healthy relationship with food.

Isn’t the point to expose kids to all sorts of different things, so that even though they aren’t going to like everything, they can find healthy things they like to eat? To try and build a relationship with food that bases itself on being able to enjoy healthful food because it is really tasty as well as being good for you, as well enjoying the more decadent selections like cake and brownies (hopefully without too much overindulging). It may not be as easy or as simple as feeding them deceiving desserts, but this effort will hopefully help lead to children who are overall better eaters and more healthy in the terms of their lives.

There will probably be times where any parent is going to have to dress up a vegetable to make it more appealing to their child. When faced with a plate of veggies, even the kids who are most adventurous eaters will sometimes not want it. Sometimes you’ll need to make your healthy food a little bit extra attractive. When I was small I really loved dipping things (…still do) and so it made it easy for my mom to get me to eat vegetables if there was something to dunk it into. The thing here is that instead of Little Dana being tricked into eating something healthy by being told it was something that it wasn’t, I was knowingly eating vegetables, just in a way that small me liked. I love vegetables now, with or without something to dip in.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope people don’t lie to your children about what they’re eating. It doesn’t do much good to them to be trained that all food (healthy or not) should come in cake form, and it also doesn’t really help them to build a very healthy relationship with food.

Don’t blend broccoli into brownies! Try this riff on trees and cheese. I can’t guarantee that kids will eat it no matter what, but if they do at least you aren’t lying to them about what they’re eating. They’ll now there’s some delicious broccoli in there. No deception, but really delicious.

… and I’ll step down from my soapbox now. Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Cheesy Broccoli Bites

(recipe adapted from Stacey Snacks)

1 lb of broccoli

3 eggs

1 Cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 Cup grated mozzarella cheese (I used skim, that’s what I had)

1/4 Cup parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Cup breadcrumbs

Directions

  • Chop the broccoli into rubble.

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  • Steam the broccoli for 3-5 minutes, just until it goes bright green and barely starts to soften. It will cook more in the oven, and we want it to have some texture at the end of it all, so don’t steam it to mush!
  • Beat the eggs together in a mixing bowl while the broccoli is steaming. Add in the cheeses, pepper and breadcrumbs, stirring to combine.

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  • Once the broccoli is finished steaming, strain it and tumble it into into the egg and cheese mixture. Stir it all together.
  • With your hands, form small patties (about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter) and place on a baking sheet.
  • Bake in a 375° oven until the cheese is gloriously melted and the broccoli bites have browned on both sides (~30 minutes, flipping about half way through the baking process).
  • Devour!

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As Mr. says: “Broccoli and cheese, what’s not to love?”

As a note, I found that the patties didn’t hold together as well as they seemed to in the pictures that accompanied Stacey’s recipe. Maybe her eggs were bigger than mine, but if you are making some Cheesy Broccoli Bites and the patties don’t seem to be holding together well once formed, I’d suggest adding an extra egg because they’re the main binding ingredient.

Trooper likes his broccoli raw!

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Happy eating!

This time last year: Lasagna Cupcakes

And the year before: Lemon Raspberry White Chocolate Cake

And the year before that: Chocolate Guinness Cake

04/22/11

Exam Eats

Wow. April has been quite a month. What’s being going on in your ends of the neighborhood? I haven’t been here for a while.

It’s been that exam-y time of year again, all books and no fun. The end of this term was rough, I was feeling stupendously stressed out about the looming graduation. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be done school yet. I’m not sure if I’m ready to grow up yet. Having a degree sure feels like a grown up sort of thing to have, as does having a house, but so much of me is balking at the grown-up-ness of it all.

Being all stressed out, my tummy has been giving me issues. Having a nervous tummy really takes a lot of the fun out of being a culinarily inclined person like myself. While I was avoiding eating to avoid feeling sick, or attempting stop from throwing up, my normal exam time diet fell through: no hint-of-lime tostitos with salsa, none of these lovely roasted chickpeas. On a normal year I live off of that tasty snack-y food, but no such luck for a Dana with a sore tummy.

I did find a new, tasty and quick to prepare exam snack, though, one that covers three food groups, and takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish. When you’re elbow deep in notes and textbooks it’s just the perfect thing.

Cheddar Apple English Toasts

(makes 2 servings)
Ingredients

2 English muffins

1/2 Cup sliced or grated cheddar cheese

1 apple, cut into slices.

Directions
  • Set the broiler to high.
  • Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the English muffins.
  • Put the English muffins under the broiler until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.
  • Arrange the apple slices over top of the unctuous melted cheese.

Sweet, salty, gooey and crunchy, they’re a little bit of everything and you can eat them with one hand while you read.

Mister, who is normally the one with the nervous tummy but was fine because he wasn’t the one writing the exams, suggests that these toasts be made with sharp or old cheddar rather than medium, so that they would have more flavor contrast. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

05/18/10

Tom’s Best Biscuits

Mister’s family and I were up north in the lovely town of Swan River this weekend. Though the reason for our being there wasn’t a very happy one, it was a good couple of days because I got to see some of the places in Mister’s childhood that were pretty special in his upbringing. We went to his grandparents farm, the lake where he learned how to fish, and I got to meet some of his extended family members. Because of his having grown up out of province, and the trip to Swan being quite a drive, most of his childhood haunts are far away.  It was nice to take a walk down memory lane and learn about the things, people and places that have affected his growth into the man he is today.

These biscuits are his dad’s recipe (Hi Tom!) and Mister and his brothers ate them often while growing up. Normally he makes them round, as we did too, but I couldn’t resist a couple of hippopotamus shaped ones as well. A hippo shaped biscuit is just too irresistable a thought.

Tom’s Best Biscuits

(from Company’s Coming Muffins & More 1983, Best Cheese Biscuits)

Ingredients

2 Cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 Cup grated cheddar cheese

1/3 Cup cooking oil

3/4 Cup milk

Directions
  • Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add the grated cheese, stirring to coat.
  • Add cooking oil and milk, stirring to form a soft dough.
  • Turn dough out onto a board and knead gently 8-10 times. Note from Tom: Do not over-knead!
  • Pat dough out to approximately one inch thick.
  • Cut out your biscuits using a biscuit cutter, glass, or cookie cutter. Hurray for hippopotamus!
  • Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, at least one inch apart to attain crisp sides.
  • Bake in a 425° F oven until nicely browned (~15 minutes).

These biscuits are good with pretty much any spread I’m told, but we ate them with butter and honey.