Tagged: kids

11 Mar


It’s National Nutrition Month: Throw a Green Smoothie Party for All Ages


You don’t have to be a nutritionist to talk to kids about whole food. This conversation, which helps kids build lifelong skills around taking care of themselves, should be passed on from adult to child. It’s an important conversation to have, like many others in their lives, but it doesn’t have to be boring or awkward. Learning about nourishment can be so fun–especially when you share the time with children. The amazing thing is, most kids know more about whole foods than we think!

Since March is National Nutrition Month, I thought a great way to celebrate food and bring awareness around nutrition was to get into a classroom and  blend up some goodness with kids . I went into a class of sixth graders and together with their teacher, we got the blenders going and threw a Green Smoothie Party. It was a pile of fun, it was simple to do, and not only did the kids learn a few things, but I did, too!

Food is always an exciting topic with grade school kids and, in my experience, is one that keeps them engaged and enthusiastic–sometimes to the point where they are bouncing out of their seats, eager to share what they know about nourishment. This type of conversation can be made even more fun if there is something yummy for you and the children to prepare together.

Why not have a Green Smoothie Party on St. Patrick’s Day in a classroom in your neighborhood? Contact your child’s teacher, do a bit of homework on the ingredients in your smoothie, buy your food and you are ready to go! Just pack up your blender, a knife and some delicious, smoothie-worthy whole foods and go blend and dance and celebrate well-nourished kids!

The idea is to open a dialogue with kids around the subject of whole food. Get them thinking about things like the impact that skipping breakfast has on their body, or how soda pop can make their bones brittle. Ask them what they know about foods and nutrients and get them considering how what they put in their bodies every morning directly affects what they get out of their day. What they know may surprise you!

Here is a recipe to help get you started.


Super Duper Green Smoothie

.    1 avocado (ripe) Good fats for brain health and healthy hair and skin

.    1 small bunch of kale Calcium for bones and B vitamins for energy and brain health

.    1 small banana Potassium for a strong heartbeat

.    1 tsp coconut oil Magnesium to relax muscles, and good fat for brain, tummy, hair, skin

.    1/2 tsp spirulina This is a superfood that comes from the sea. It contains almost all the nutrients you need! It is really a whole food!

.    1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider For natural sweetness

.    1/4 cup mango coconut water (not from concentrate)?Electrolytes your cells need to talk to each other– nature’s sports drink!

.    2 tbsp hemp seed or 1/2 cup organic vanilla greek yogurt Protein for muscle building

.    unpasteurized honey to taste

.    ice (or use frozen banana)


Add avocado, banana, coconut oil to blender. Sprinkle in spirulina. Add apple cider and begin to blend, adding other wet ingredients until desired texture is reached. Add honey slowly until it is sweet enough. Yum!

The food industry assumes that children want beige, bland, sweet and boring food products, and that kids are picky and controlling when it comes to what they eat. That may be true for some, but after today’s Green Smoothie Party, I know differently for sure.

I walked into the classroom full of grade six students, armed with my blender, some kale and avocados, and a sort of twisted sense of adventure. I was a little nervous that this sometimes-judgmental group of preteens might be resistant to drinking something green. I thought they would screw up their faces and stick out their tongues and exclaim nasty things about the green smoothies I was demonstrating as a part of their Whole Foods Nutrition unit in Health. Instead, a fight broke out about who got to have seconds, and even thirds, and whether they preferred spinach over kale.

When I asked them what they thought whole foods were, the answers were surprising: “Food that comes from the Earth”; “Food that has not been processed or changed by chemicals”; and “Food that doesn’t contain additives or preservatives.” They already knew! When I asked how many of them take fish oil supplements at breakfast, about eighty percent of them put up their hands. These kids, from a variety of ethnicities, income levels and neighborhoods are smart. Their daily nutrition and the interest that their parents and their school take in their health has got to have something to do with it.

They knew that sugar suppresses their immune systems, and many of them do their best to avoid it, most of the time. They knew that vitamins give them energy, and that vitamins come from brightly colored plants. They didn’t even balk at my gross-out ace in the hole: showing them that they could eat kale for breakfast. Thank goodness we had something to blend and drink because these kids left very little for me to tell them that they didn’t already know. When it was smoothie time, EVERY kid had a glass, no one scrunched up his or her face in disgust, and as I said, they clamored for more. They told me that their smoothies tasted fresh, scrumptious, delicious, and energizing–words that some adults struggle to use sometimes in relation to food.

I have been practicing nutrition for almost a decade, and I have certainly seen a crescendo in relation to how well-informed children are about their food. This is an encouraging trend. In a world where we hear so much about childhood obesity, the perils of a fast-food lifestyle and early childhood morbidity, it is so refreshing to know that parents and educators are listening. Children are being nourished. And parents are learning and doing the best they can. The courses that Rouxbe has created are brilliant tools for helping families move past the fear, the confusion and the disorganization of trying to prepare nourishing meals.  For the first time in a long time, I’m comforted knowing that kids are getting their veggies. They are growing their minds and bodies, and eating well. And most importantly they are using real food to do this. They are getting into the kitchen, making themselves snacks, and learning one of the most important life skills of all: to feed themselves–one smoothie at a time.

I am heading back to the classroom on St. Patrick’s Day for another Green Smoothie Party, but this time, the spin will be a bit different. The kids will be presenting their ideas to their class on what they would put into their own Green Smoothie. We will choose five different ones from the group that represent different flavors–I’m hoping for one with pineapple, one with berries, one that tastes like salsa and maybe even one with chocolate. We will blend them up, put on some great tunes, and have a Smoothie Dance Party to celebrate the energy we get when we eat and drink whole foods. I can’t wait to see what the kids come up with!



28 Jun


How to get kids to eat Everything


I have heard that some parents struggle to get their kids to eat a variety of things. Many parents simply don’t have a strategy. I used one I learned from my grandfather.

When I was four, I stayed many weeks with my grandparents. My grandmother was an excellent cook, and my grandfather a very good gardener who dearly loved his food. He especially loved eel. In fact, I often shopped with my grandmother at the fishmonger and I was given the responsibility of choosing the live eel from the tank which would eventually end up on my grandfather’s plate. He took educating his grandchildren very seriously, and on this occasion used eel as part of his strategy. He had invited an old army friend for lunch who was quite excited about these eels himself. I had never tried them, and never wanted to, but suddenly all this anticipation of eels made me curious. I was given a bowl of noodle soup, but all I remember wanting that afternoon was some of that eel stuff. When the casserole of the eels came out of the old wood-fueled oven, the guest’s eyes lit up. My goodness, I thought, these things must really be good. My grandma basted them with the tomato-based sauce, finished them with a few drizzles of olive oil, and brought them to the table. They were shiny, piping hot, cut into chunks. There was nothing else to accompany them. They looked magnificent. Was there enough for me? I was shy, too afraid to ask my grandfather if I could have some. These were made especially for him and his war buddy. I ate my soup quietly but stared at the eels and mesmerized by the gestures of incredible pleasure made by the old guest. His eyes, his nose, his brows, his chin, his hands, even his feet expressed a pleasure I had never seen before by someone eating food. Can food do this? My soup is good, but it’s not doing the same thing for me. Soup is for babies. I wanted what they were having. I absolutely had to know what those eels tasted like, but not courageous enough to intrude on their eel-tasting bliss.

Luckily the old guest noticed that I coveted his eel. He asked me if I had ever eaten eel before. I simply replied, “No”. I could have pressed, but obviously not brave enough. However, the kind old man then asked me if I’d like some. But I ruined the opportunity by turning to my grandfather instead of jumping to the offer.

He’s not ready for something like eel yet, my grandfather said. My disappointment was almost unbearable, but I knew not to make any scene. And then came the lesson: Eel is an acquired taste. First you acquire the taste for chicken. Then you acquire the taste for rabbit. Then you acquire the taste for carp. And only then are you ready for eel. I knew exactly where he was going with this. I often refused to eat rabbit, which my grandfather likes to eat at least once a week. And I simply disliked the smell of fried fish, especially carp, which he also loved. In order to eat the eel, I had to graduate to it. And it worked. I ate rabbit and carp to my grandfather’s delight, eventually to mine too. I did eventually graduate to the eel. I remember the day I chose the eel for my plate, a day as special as when I bought my first pair of hockey skates. The eel was delicious. Today I describe it as a combination of rabbit and carp.

Tony Minichiello

Culinary Instructor, NWCAV

Filed Under: Miscellaneous

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03 Oct


Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich


The other day we were on set and we were talking about sandwiches. I was talking about peanut butter and banana sandwiches for some reason, and Daniela (one of our camera people/editor/super woman) said she had never had, or even heard of a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

This could be because she is originally from Mexico. Instead she grew-up eating things like fresh corn tortillas with chorizo and avocado. Even though now-a-days, I would much rather have those tortillas and chorizo, there is still something about a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I may eat them only once a year, but that first bit sure is good. My version is a bit different than it was when I was a kid, as I use fresh whole grain bread instead of white bread. I also use organic fresh peanut butter (or sometimes almond butter), but the feeling I get sure does take me back to being a kid. I even eat it the same way…around the edges first…saving the very center for the last bite.

Since that day on set, I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich for Daniela, she said it was good…better than she thought even. But I am pretty sure she hasn’t had one since then :-)

Are you a peanut butter and banana sandwich lover? My brother-in-law likes his with cheese instead of the bananas…I never did get used to that one. My mom used to eat, thick sliced raw onions and jam sandwiches…yuck!

What takes you back to your “after school snack”, maybe it’s a bologne sandwich on wonderbread with French’s mustard? Come on share…we won’t judge you.

Ciao for now, dawn

P.S. –  After much talk about sandwiches, I couldn’t help but think (and make and eat) of one of my favorite “after school” sandwiches. For about a year, I used to eat this sandwich everyday after school.  The pickles are what made it, of course back then they were not petite cornichon, they were Bicks!

13 Sep


Gnocchi, so easy a five year old could do it!


Learning to cook is not just something we must do to survive as humans, it’s a life skill that we hold with us forever. Being a relatively new father of three little girls, I always find it inspiring when I impart a new life skill onto one of them. Learning to walk and talk are the big ones that all parents wait for but in our house, learning to cook and how to have respect for food has been just as important to their development.

From a very young age, my oldest daughter Kate who just turned five, has been interested in what goes on in the kitchen. She realized early on that what shows up on her plate at dinner table, starts in a very different form in the kitchen and she wanted to see it all. For my wife and I, it was an epiphany of sorts because anything that Kate didn’t recognize on the table and was hesitant to try, she would taste once I told her she helped me make it. To date, the only thing she didn’t enjoy were olives, but she’s since developed a taste for them too. She also always cautions me about making things too spicy, so I let her inspect and smell everything and if it passes her inspection, we use it. If later tells me it’s too spicy, I remind her that she approved everything and then she’ll try it again.

Her love of quality food has now taken her to the market where she will not let me put anything in my basket until she’s inspected it fully. It has to be one perfect apple or peach to get past her stringent eye. It takes a simple shopping trip to a whole new level of scavenger hunt, looking for the best of the best. If she should ever get a job as a food inspector, she’ll either be responsible for elevating suppliers to the best they can be or bring them to financial ruin as very little would be accepted. I know that I’m having an effect on her because one day when we were looking for pasta, she picked out the best-looking one and said, “this one is rough extruded, it’s the best daddy.” I was so proud. The lady next to us in the aisle said, “Pardon, what did she say” as she picked up the same box for a closer look (see Pasta Lesson in the Rouxbe Cooking School if you don’t understand what “extruded” means or how to select quality pasta).

Last week Kate helped me make laminated pasta by cranking the handle on my new pasta machine till she cold barely crank anymore. This week we decided to make one of her favorite foods, gnocchi. She has many favorites already but from the first time I made homemade gnocchi, this one went to the front of the class. It is by far the most requested dish after maybe French toast or pancakes. I had let her try to shape some them the last time we made it with moderate success, but this time I thought, it was time we both took a leap forward. From helping me decide if the potatoes were done to when to add the eggs, Kate was involved. I did the cutting of the dough but she was the flour girl always ready to give me a dusting when I needed it. After letting the dough rest, which she was sure to remind me to do, we both rolled out the long snakes of dough. She was flouring everything as I cut the gnocchi down to size and then it was time to shape.

I showed her the thumb method on the gnocchi paddle a few times and then let her go. When the pieces stuck together, I showed her what to do and how to fix it and after that, she was telling me when she needed a dusting of flour. We made a big batch that gave us enough to freeze for another night and of course enough for dinner that night so she had a lot to shape.

It was her menu that night, she picked everything from the butternut squash to the piggy (pork) as she likes to calls it. She cleaned out the squash for me practicing for when she’d have to clean a pumpkin for Halloween soon enough. I peeled it and cut it up but she added the olive oil and mixed it up by hand while I added the seasonings. She then helped me arrange it on a baking sheet for the oven. She also approved all the spices for the dry rub I used on the pork that I was preparing to go on the bbq. She even picked the fresh sage from the garden for the gnocchi sauce. To top it off, she even set the table for dinner.

I don’t know how early you should let your kids into the kitchen and expect them to actually make anything edible. I started to cook when most people learn, after they moved out of their parents house, which when thinking back to my frozen food days, was far too late. Kids learn at an incredible pace and have such a capacity to absorb what we show them so don’t be afraid to sit your’s down on a stool next to you in the kitchen. You may be surprised by what they pick up and you might even find yourself having more fun in the kitchen. As Kate finds things she wants to be when she grows up, she always adds them to her resume, which right now reads like this: Princess, ballerina, singer, ninja, artist, and/or chef. Of that list I have no idea what she’ll achieve personally, but she’ll always be my princess and I don’t think she’s ever going to starve.