Monday, July 25, 2016

Did Your Kids Evolve? From Picky Eater to Foodie

As it should be: peanut butter tops the 'picky eaters' Lucky Bars
Back to school - learning to eat well
As a mom who has been in the trenches and come out the other side - with most of her sanity intact - I think I'm an authority on pick eaters.

Reader, I also WAS the picky eater.

My kids were also picky eaters, a term I really think should be called owner of a refined palate. And honestly, when those picky eaters grow up, they really do turn into foodies.

How the evolution started
As a Jewish mother, I had that classic food issue: food is love. If my kids are rejecting my food, they are rejecting me.

Yes, those are condiments!
But hard as it is to to let this go, I had to let my kids develop their own palates. It helped that I remember how I grew to love pickles.

When I was a kid, I hated all condiments (which mostly revolved around mayonnaise and ketchup, two things I still can’t stand). I lumped pickles into that category, but I noticed that people were always happy when they were eating pickles.  So I forced myself to eat them, developed a taste for them, and now pickle my own vegetables.

At the #KidzVuzBTS back to school event, two ends of the spectrum were represented.  

Picky Eaters Unite 
The Backyard Food Company's pickles
First there was Luckybar, founded by the mother of a picky eater. These tasty bars have more protein than two eggs, so you don’t have to worry about your kid not getting enough nutrition. As a vegetarian, who raised three vegetarian children, I am particularly sensitive to protein availability. The bars have no gluten or GMO ingredients and come in five kid friendly flavors: Pirate Peanut Butter Chocolate, Cosmic Chocolate Caramel Almond, Chocolate Campfire, Crazy Coconut and Strawberry Sandcastles. 

In the interests of journalism I sampled the PB and almond bars, which were delicious.

And yes, I am still picky  - er , of refined palate -and won’t eat marshmallows or coconut.

Once your kids are over the hump
When you have more adventurous eaters, you can introduced The Backyard Food Company. This Rhode Island company, started by two dads from their backyard bounty, is basically ALL condiments. 

The Backyard Food Company makes apple butter, sweet tomato jam, and, yes, pickles. I tasted the crisp bread & butter pickles, slices that go well on a sandwich. The Rhode Island Red relish, made with red peppers, habaneros and ginger, pairs well with mild cheese.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Which is for you? All-inclusive vs A La Carte Hotel

What is your vacation jam?
One of the reasons to travel is to experience the local cuisine. But this can also be a burden; sometimes, you just want everything taken care of for you. 

This is especially the case when my vegetarian family travels together.  We love exploring local restaurants, and all the free things to do with kids in each place we visit, but there is work involved in sussing out the food and activities options.  This is where staying in an all inclusive can be advantageous . You don’t have to do any thinking - everything is taken care of, and you can just spend your time relaxing.

If you are trying to figure out which is better for you, remember that your needs change all the time - what is right for you now may not be right six months later, or a year.

Are you a joiner?
If you and your kids like organized activities, than an option like  all-inclusive resorts in Cancun could be for you. When my children were younger, they really enjoyed the supervised children’s programs at resorts, and staying at an all-inclusive meant we didn’t have to consider the extra cost each time we dropped them off. 

For one week long stay in Cancun, we split our time in two; half the time at an all-inclusive, the rest at an a la carte hotel, where we could dip our toe into local restaurants and spend the day sightseeing or playing at the beach with our children.  After all, part of a family vacation is time together!

All inclusive options usually include alcoholic beverages
Do you like to drink?
Most all-inclusive resort residences include free alcoholic drinks. If you and your spouse want to have a couple of drinks during the day, you don’t have to consider cost. But if you never drink, remember that the price of your all-inclusive is based partly on you taking advantage of the ‘free’ drinks. Your deal isn’t as sweet if you are a teetotler.

Do you like staying in an upscale resort?

It may be hard to believe, but some people prefer roughing it on vacation, staying at a dive where they can slob around in ratty t-shirts and let the kids be as messy as possible. 

Then there's the rest of us. Hot spots like the all inclusive resorts in Cabo San Lucas include family sized villas with marble floors, spa tubs and private balconies. You have plenty of space to spread out, and access to such resort amenities as a full service spa and a children's pool.

Do you like privacy?

If you stay with your children in a suite, it is often a living room with a pull out couch, and a bedroom. So when the kids go to sleep, you have to be quiet; sometimes, you can’t even access the bathroom without walking past the kids. At the resort residences,, the kids can have a separate, private place to sleep and you and your spouse can enjoy each other’s night-time company.

This post is sponsored by Vacatia.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Escape from New York: Weekend in the Country

They didn't look but we enjoyed the view from Mt. Holyoke
After spending the holiday weekend in New York City, we are plotting our next weekend getaway. Not that I don't love a NYC 4th of July; in fact, holiday weekends, when you live in NY, are best spent at home, enjoying the relatively quiet beaches, tons of parking, empty restaurants and lack of traffic.

Last time I had a car to test out, we drove up to Northampton, MA for a weekend of hiking. There are plenty of trailheads nearby where you can park for free and enjoy a day in the woods.

We headed to Mt Holyoke, where the Summit Hotel once welcomed guests. The hotel is closed, though it still has rocking chairs on the porch where you can enjoy the expansive view (park rangers also set up a telescope). What it did not have, when we hiked there, was running water, though it is supposed to be available Memorial Day though Labor Day. There are always porta-Johns, but be sure to bring plenty of drinking water when you hike just in case there is no water.

At the summit
There are several different trails here, none particularly rigorous, but all leading to the almost 1,000 foot summit. You are rewarded there not only with the view but also with picnic tables where you can have lunch.

Ducks swimming in the stream at Smith College
You can also spend a day wandering around downtown Northampton, which is filled with vegetarian restaurants, cafes and boutiques. From downtown, walk over to Smith College, which has miles of wood trails, and a stream where dogs can cool off. We also saw families of ducks swimming around and lots of flat stones for skipping across the water.

Enjoying the sunset from the car on the way back to NY. The traffic, not so much.
Note: GM loaned me a Buick Regal. I was not compensated for this post.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Rejoice! The Fresh Fig Sandwich Returns

Eating seasonally and locally means eschewing the imported tomatoes in winter, even when they look pretty decent, and reveling in the ephemeral pleasures of ramps, fiddlehead ferns and, in New York City, New Jersey tomatoes for the farmers market, bursting with rich juice and flavor.

Now is the time of the fresh fig. If you've never had a fresh fig, go ahead and read D H Lawrence on the proper way to eat one (Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems) then get a pint of luscious fresh figs. You can enjoy them the D H Lawrence way, but I think their flavor is ennobled by coupling them with a soft, not too pungent blue cheese in this sandwich:

Fig vegetarian sandwich (for 2)

4 fresh figs, (black mission figs are best) with the tips snipped off
4 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
olive oil
a handful of fresh basil leaves
fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
half a baguette, split both lengthwise and top to bottom

Spread each piece of bread with the cheese - you should have 4 pieces of baguette
Chop the basil and sprinkle on the cheese.
Slice the figs lengthwise and place on top of the cheese
Sprinkle with olive oil
Squeeze some lemon juice on top
Grind some fresh pepper on top of that

This should sit for about an hour for the flavors to meld, but if you can't wait, dig right in - it will still be delicious.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Real Cooking Competition: Ellie’s Real Good Food

Ellie with guests at her launch party
Television abounds with cooking shows: chefs making Instagram-worthy meals and reality shows where amateur and professional chefs compete to remake processed food or combine ingredients that should never been in the same home, let alone the same plate (salmon cupcakes anyone?).

What I’ve not seen till now is a chef who is also a nutritionist making real food that busy parents or grad students can throw together quickly. Ellie Krieger, a New York Times best-selling author, has a new show, Ellie’s Real Good Food on public television.

At the launch party for the show, Ellie described her approach as “the sweet spot where delicious and healthy meet.”

Talking about Real Good Food
In fact, in Episode 2, Say Yes to Chocolate, Ellie shows how a little good chocolate goes a long way. Keep her hot chocolate recipe in mind for when the weather turns cool (or for cool nights at the beach this summer). She uses just 3 ingredients: good quality cocoa powder, a bit of sugar and low fat milk. You can make this vegan with soy or almond milk, or spice it up with some fresh ginger; this is far superior to the fake chemical laden packets most of us reach for.

Busy Mom AND grad student
My daughter is in graduate school and has very little free time; imagine also being a new mom! Ellie shows a mom who is also a grad student that whisking together your own salad dressing takes just seconds, and it keeps for a week. No more high fructose corn syrup in dressing, or cheap oil.

And for breakfast; I’ve always soaked steel cut oats in milk overnight for cold weather breakfasts, but I never think about oats in summer.

Ellie has a recipe for rolled oats soaked in milk and plain yogurt, with blueberries and chia seeds. It’s a delicious, healthy breakfast, and since you mix it up the night before, you can just grab and go in the morning.

Now that’s Real Good!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How to Eat Well and b.good

vegetarian brooklyn
Spicy avocado quinoa bowl at b.good
Like many New Yorkers, I have a bias against chain restaurants. I prefer to frequent a local coffee shop than a national chain, and I almost never choose to eat in a chain restaurant.

I have to rethink that bias with the Brooklyn opening of b.good. This Boston-based chain, about a dozen years old but new to me (despite frequent trips to Boston) quiet landed in Brooklyn Heights last month and is expanding to Jersey City, New Jersey and Park Slope, my Brooklyn neighborhood, soon.

This is a chain with a huge difference: each store highlights local purveyors and farms. In the Brooklyn store, this means using the excellent breads from Tom Cat Bakery, whose artisan breads also grace the tables of Le Bernardin, Jean Georges and Bobby Flay restaurants. Pretty rarefied company.

vegetarian brooklyn
Some of the local farms used at b.good and the West Side veggie burger
Eight New York farms provide the produce and meat used at the b.good in Brooklyn, so the food is fresh.

And a family foundation provides micro grants to local community organizations; in Brooklyn, the community partner is P.S. 8, a local public school.  On the b.good app, where you can order food in advance (to go in compostable containers, natch) you can donate the the school; when the store rewards you with free meals or sides, you can donate those to the community partner as well.

vegetarian Brooklyn
b.good's seasonal watermelon and feta salad
The tagline is "real food fast" and the fast casual place- meaning you order at a counter and carry your own food to a table - includes kale and grain bowls, burgers (veggie or meat) and salads. It is ideal for a vegetarian or vegan, and has many gluten free options to boot.

I sampled a wide variety of the b.good offerings and was impressed with how tasty and fresh everything was. The spicy avocado and lime bowl stood out: served on a bed of organic quinoa (or a super-grains mix  or short grain brown rice, kamut wheat, hard red wheat berries, millet and lentils) the salad also included kale, black beans, corn, grape tomatoes, cilantro, queso fresco and chipotle. Equally delicious was the power bowl, with kale lentils, carrots, brussels sprouts, crunchy chickpeas and pepitas, over either grain and topped with a local egg over easy.

vegetarian brooklyn
Hungry yet? The power bowl has easy over eggs

The seasonal salads now include watermelon and feta with arugula, baby spinach  and sundried tomatoes.

Dressings and pickles are made in house; the mustard and ketchup are from Sir Kensington, a wonderful NYC based maker of artisan condiments.

We tried a couple of veggie burgers (also made in house) including the vegan West Side with avocado and fresh salsa, and the Elizel with asparagus and sharp cheddar. You can get any burger with a beef patty, turkey or vegetarian.

b.good also has breakfast bowls, kid's meals and cold pressed juices and smoothies.

Warning: this could be habit forming.


Monday, May 16, 2016

The Best of the New York Baby Show

The Thule RideAlong with windscreen

When I was in the weeds, cranking out kids and worrying about every developmental milestone and crumb of nutrition, I was easy prey for marketers. Just about every infant or toddle safety device seemed necessary to me, and every child conveyance was in my arsenal: umbrella stroller, jogging stroller, infant car seat, baby car seat, infant carrier, sling, backpack, Baby Bjorn.

Now that my kids are a little older, I can look at some of these items with a critical eye and consider what I really needed versus what I bought blindly. So I searched the New York Baby Show last weekend for the top contenders.

Bike with mom and dad
What jumped out at me was the Thule RideAlong, a front carrier bike seat that has an optional windscreen. I love to bike and when our children were younger, we tried out a variety of bike seats and trailers. The rear bike seats that we used had a few flaws; most importantly, that the biker (me) couldn't see the baby behind her. Cycling around New York City is fraught enough that craning your neck to check on the baby made it untenable.

Plus, all manner of schmutz would pelt my daughters and dirt would fly in their tender eyes. This bike seat, which mounts in front of the biker - genius! - so mom or dad can keep a watchful eye on the baby, also has machine washable padding. The seat can also be locked to the bike frame so no one can steal it.

But that windscreen - what a great idea. The clear screen lets the baby watch the action without dirt, or pollen, attacking her.

A better pouch: Once Upon a Farm's cold pressed fruit
Easy feeding for babies
After breastfeeding my kids, I fed them organic baby food, which back in the day came in jars. Now there are several brands that have organic baby food in pouches, which are easier (and cheaper) to transport, so they save on environmental costs, and don't shatter in your bag. Once Upon a Farm uses cold pressure, much like cold pressed juices. The advantage is that heat doesn't kill nutrients

Kiddylicious vegetable crisps - you might have to fight your kids for them
The pouches have to be refrigerated, but they stay fresh for up to four hours out of the fridge; if you need to bring food for later, you can freeze a much and let it thaw in your bag. I tried the mango, which had intense fruit flavor and was delicious.

Snack food for little kids - and adults
Pirate's Booty was all the rage when my children were little - it's made from kale and spinach! But, truth be told, it has a bit of a strange taste. Kiddlylicous makes vegetable crisps that crunch, but are so much better than potato chips. The sweet potato chips actually have small amounts of Vitamin C and Iron, and the carrot ones have some protein and calcium to boot. They have no gluten, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, or GMO ingredients and they are low in fat and salt.

Thanks to Momtrends for inviting me to the New York Baby Show. Opinions expressed are my own.