Tag Archives: Liz Neumark

CHOP CHOP: Making Healthy Kids

31 Jul

51cOOkEU-eL._SY300_Hardly a day goes by when you’re not brutally aware of the obesity crisis that’s overwhelming kids (and adults, too, for that matter. The most recent country to raise the alarm about extreme weight gain and processed food is Australia.) But it is children we should worry most about because good or bad eating habits and food cravings form early in life, and it is incumbent upon us all to steer children in healthier directions.

You read lots about the medical fallout, including diabetes and heart conditions – but the social stigma, and resultant poor self-esteem, can damage a child just as profoundly. One wonders how the psychological disconnect between scrawny fashion models on Project Runway and disappearing waistlines plays out in teenage behavior and achievement. The reality is that snacking is a great growth industry and virtually every packaged food company around the world is seeking ever more ways to sucker kids into consuming ever more unhealthful food – all the while telling them, disingenuously, to eat smarter. One company, Uncles Ben’s, has just launched their second annual “Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest” where children in grades K-8, along with their parents, can submit home videos demonstrating the preparation of a rice-based dish. While rice is an important staple in many at-risk communities, I believe it may be a worthwhile effort to begin the conversation. That is, if rice is a small part of the equation (and preferably brown rice) and lots of fresh vegetables, a bit of protein, herbs and spices make up the rest of the recipe. It’s an appealing lure: The winner gets $15,000, an appearance on Rachael Ray, and a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for the child’s school.

Fortunately, there are valiant attempts to stop the scourge of junk food, processed food and fast food as a national diet. There is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, Lynn Fredericks’ innovative crusade to make kids healthier through hands-on, evidence-based FamilyCook programs in schools, communities, and farms across America; Katherine Newell Smith’s new project in Fairfax County Virginia called Real Food for Kids, that advocates for better school food with a pilot soup, salad, and sandwich bar that is slated to open in September. There is Nancy Easton and Bill Telepan’s formidable Wellness in the School (WITS) program, Liz Neumark’s brilliant Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farms in the Hudson Valley, and countless more initiatives across the country. There is even my own book, EAT FRESH FOOD: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs (Bloomsbury), reviewed in the science section of the New York Times (2010), which attempts to jump-start a solution by means of a very simple message (or plea, in my case) – to eat fresh food.

Now comes another wonderful approach that is already attention-worthy with a global platform. Sally Sampson’s CHOP CHOP is a quarterly non-profit food magazine that, since its inception in 2010, has distributed over four million copies to pediatricians, children’s hospitals, schools, and youth-based community organizations. In addition, the magazine is distributed in 12 countries and is published in both English and Spanish. ChopChop’s mission is to inspire and teach kids to cook and eat real food with their families. “Filled with nutritious, great-tasting, ethnically diverse and inexpensive recipes,” Ms. Sampson’s vision is to reverse, or better yet, prevent childhood obesity.

And just this week, her vision, and that of an impressive Advisory Board, including Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, is illuminated with a brand new cookbook, published by Simon & Schuster. Chop Chop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family is a natural extension of the magazine which won a James Beard Award as publication of the year 2013. The magazine is $14.95 for four issues; while the attractive trade paperback, chock-a-block with great photos and more than 100 recipes (including an appealing sounding vegetable chili and yummy salmon burgers), is a bargain at $19.99.

Sally Sampson’s own story is also book worthy. A veteran cook and cookbook author, she is the mother of a child with a chronic illness who chose to do something “meaningful by using cooking as a way to address the obesity epidemic.” A girl after my own heart.

As I see it, cooking can be a valuable social connector for kids, teens and families — more delicious than any web experience could ever hope to be. Social networking, an obfuscation in presenting the truth about human relationships and experiences, much like the notion of reality TV, does nothing to strengthen real bonds between families and create meaningful memories of personal accomplishment and team play. The very act of cooking postulates an interesting idea that may ameliorate the growing concerns about healthy eating. If families started cooking together, and then eating together, there’s a good chance they can create healthy taste memories to last a lifetime.

ChopChop headquarters, located in Watertown, Massachusetts, is funded through sponsorships and subscriptions. Noble in its cause, ChopChop, the book, is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and will make its debut on August 13th. Put it on your shelf next to Eat Fresh Food, Liz Neumark’s upcoming Sylvia’s Table, and Lynn Fredericks’ just-published Get Your Family Eating Right! The revolution continues.

A Radically Joyous Hanukkah

1 Dec

NEWEdible.Latke.hiresThis year Hanukkah is going to be a little different.  First of all I’m going to be a judge at a big deal latke competition with other Brooklyn foodies at BAM on December 10th.  I was honored to be asked by Liz Neumark, creator and impresario of Great Performances and owner of Katchkie Farms and Sylvia Center.  Everything she touches is magical and meaningful. I’m thrilled to be joining Leonard Lopate, Gabriella Gershenson from Saveur, and Lee Schrager from the New York Wine and Food Festival. We will be sampling 17 different kinds of latkes and you can join me!  Just reserve your spot by clicking here.  Even though I’m not a maven, Hanukkah has always been special.  My family was once featured in a cover story in Gourmet Magazine about my three-ingredient Hanukkah celebration at home.  This month, I have written a story about Hanukkah in my Cooking Light column called Radically Simple.  You can check out the recipes below.  And on December 14th, along with the true food maven Arthur Schwartz, I will be a judge at an applesauce! tasting at Park Slope’s very cool synagogue Congregation Beth Elohim.  As most of you know, Hanukkah is a holiday filled with illuminating rituals:  Eight nights of candle-lighting and gifts, and foods fried in olive oil!   The former refers to the miracle that happened during the rededication of The Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, when a tiny bit of oil, enough to last only one night, lasted eight. The latter are edible expressions of the miracle:  Crispy potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts (known as sufganiyot), traditionally top the list.  But this year, a few new dishes will grace our table at home: nuggets of cauliflower fried in olive oil and served with tahini & pomegranate seeds, and radically simple latkes made with three root vegetables.

Every household prepares latkes differently but grating a little of one’s knuckle into the mixture is often a reality!  Once upon a time, latkes were made from potatoes only but this year, ours include sweet potatoes and parsnips, and a bit of exotic perfume provided by ground cumin.  Another twist?   Instead of ubiquitous applesauce as an accompaniment, I serve these crispy latkes with a dazzling beet puree meant for dipping or drizzling.

For dessert, there is no simpler offering than fleshy dried Calimyrna figs and Medjool dates served…frozen!  They taste like candy and are a delicious with morsels of bittersweet chocolate or gold-foiled Hanukkah gelt, to be eaten one-by-one. Come to the latke tasting!  Try my latke recipes in Cooking Light!  And enjoy.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Crispy Root Vegetable Latkes with Beet Puree
Get the latkes going first, and while they cook, puree the sauce.

2 cups grated peeled sweet potato
2 cups grated peeled baking potato
1 cup grated peeling parsnip
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup grated onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8-ounce) package precooked red beets, drained

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place first 3 ingredients on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, eggs, and onion in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add potato mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until combined.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl. Heap 3 tablespoons potato mixture into pan to form a patty; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 patties. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place latkes on a baking sheet; keep warm in oven. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 18 latkes total. Sprinkle latkes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Garnish with dill, if desired.

4. Combine apple and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with latkes. Serves 6

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Fried Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds
Cilantro gives this a bright, zippy taste and lovely color; the leaves are especially festive when strewn with pomegranate arils over the cauliflower. Serve with hot sauce and cut lemons, if you wish.

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/3 cup tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pomegranate arils

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Add 6 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Place cauliflower on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Roast cauliflower at 375° for 18 minutes or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add pomegranate arils; toss to combine. Serve with tahini mixture. Serves 6

%d bloggers like this: