Archive for the ‘apples’ Category

It’s Food Day — What Are Your Kids Eating Today? (School Lunch Check-In)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Today is Food Day 2012,* last week was National School Lunch Week — so it seems like a good time to check in on what our kids have been eating in school.

While our county public schools advertise all the right buzz words — whole grains! local produce! fresh fruit! — the menu could still use improvement. My son loves a hot lunch, though, so I mostly allow him to choose whether he wants to buy or bring a lunch. Here’s my assessment of the menu thus far in this school year.

  • The Good: Local and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are always two or three fruit and vegetable options and usually they are fresh and raw, not the stereotypical over-cooked, limp and blah veggies.
  • The Bad: Chocolate milk. My kindergartener discovered quick it was up to him which drink to choose. And then proclaimed to me, “TruMoo Chocolate Milk is healthy because they serve it at school!” (Um, yeah. THIS IS WHY SCHOOL LUNCH REFORM MATTERS. You can preach nutrition in the classroom all you want but it doesn’t matter if you don’t offer them nutritious choices in the cafeteria.)
  • The Curious: Last year, Meatless Monday options were provided every other week. They’re gone this year. Now, there is a choice between two entrees each day, but nearly every other day an Uncrustable is one of the options. Um, what?

On the menu today:

today's lunch menu

I’m pretty sure serving Uncrustables *on Food Day* is a cry for help, don’t you think? (Never mind that they’ve been recalled.)

When I pack lunches, I keep it simple. A fresh apple, always, and even after school the boy’s been known to snack on one or two more before dinner. (We have a “you-can-always-have-an-apple” rule in our house.) He isn’t a big fan of sandwiches, but he likes mini whole wheat pita pockets or (all-natural nitrate-free) lunch meat and (organic) cheese slice roll ups. I even made a homemade Lunchable one day (organic crackers, Newman-O — don’t usually include dessert, but that was a special treat).

foodietots lunchbox

Part of the reason I let my son buy the hot lunches is that, done right, they can encourage kids to try new things. In preschool, my son had healthy hot lunches served family style and he would often eat things he had turned down at home. When sending lunches, unfortunately, kids are so easily influenced by what their friends are eating. One day last year, my son came home asking for a Nutella sandwich, because his friend X got one every day. So I explain that some foods are only to be eaten as special treats, and try to make healthier versions if possible, like with the homemade Lunchable.

Last night, I attended a local event organized by parents in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, who are conducting their own campaign to reform school lunches. As part of the event, four teams of high schoolers competed to prepare a salad bar on a school budget and within the USDA new healthy lunch guidelines. Each team presented something delicious that they were confident their classmates would eat. As one of the team members emphasized, after surveying classmates, “We would eat healthy food if given the option.”

salad bar competition

DC Central Kitchen Chef Ed Kwitowski spoke, offering his experience from cooking meals for nine DC public schools. He explained that when they introduce new items to the menu, they’ve had great success by hosting tastings in the schools — beets prepared several ways, for example, or just introducing new flavors like their new harvest salad with barley, mushrooms and squash.

Chef Ann Cooper, known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, was the keynote speaker at the event. Naturally I was nodding along in agreement at her presentation, which emphasized that we have to reinvest in kitchens in schools and make healthy food delicious if we want to teach children to enjoy it. She also argued for school gardens — more on that soon.

If your schools aren’t moving fast enough to make school lunches healthier, there are ways you can take action. Visit The Lunch Box toolkit for ideas. Join your school’s wellness committee, if there is one, to learn about what’s already being done and identify a first step to take. Maybe it’s chocolate milk, maybe it’s offering local produce — any big change begins by taking that first step.

What are your kids eating for lunch today?

*Food Day is a national event to celebrate and advocate for healthy, affordable and sustainable food for all. Visit their website to learn more and to find local events taking place this week.

food day 2012

Apple Cranberry Kale Salad and Kale Day with October Unprocessed

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

We love our kale in the foodie tots’ house — yes, even tofu-fearing husband has learned to appreciate it — so of course we had to jump on the Kale Day bandwagon on social media today. You see, the blog Eating Rules has an “October Unprocessed” challenge, now in its third year.october unprocessed 2012

The challenge urges people to go one month without processed foods, using a simple “kitchen test”: if the item you’re buying contains only ingredients that could be made in a home kitchen with whole ingredients, it’s okay. This rules out artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup, for starters. It’s a great way to jump start a change in your family diet, if you’ve been contemplating a switch to real foods, or just follow along for a ton of great information and recipe ideas. And, as part of the real food love fest, founder Andrew Wilder declared today International Kale Day. Kale is a superfood packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and K, and most of us could stand to eat a little more of it.

Like the classic lemon-parmesan version, making this apple kale salad begins by massaging kale with salt. (Kids love to help with this step.) Let it stand while chopping the apple and nuts, and whisk together a quick dressing of maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Toss it all together and let it sit while you finish up the rest of dinner. The salt and dressing help tenderize the kale, and the finished salad is simple and full of fresh fall flavors. (Credit is due to my friend Jill, who first turned me on to the apple-kale combination.)

apple cranberry kale salad

Recipe: Apple Cranberry Kale Salad
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper, optional

Instructions:

1. Place kale in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Massage salt into kale for two minutes.

2. Whisk together maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and olive oil (and pepper, if using–I usually add to the adults’ salads later). Add apples, cranberries and pecans to kale, add dress and toss gently to combine. Let stand 5 to 15 minutes before serving.

Check out the link round-up for more kale inspiration — and feel free to add a link of your own. Happy Kale Day!


Kids Cook Book Soup: Apples!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I hope you haven’t had your fill of apple recipes just yet, because we have several more to share for the very first round-up of Kids Cook Book Soup. Thanks to all for sharing your apple inspiration, and please read to the end for the November theme announcement! With no further ado…

From Jen at The Gould House, “Eldress Bertha’s Applesauce”

kcbs-1-applesauce

Jen and her 2-year-old daughter, Ella, used apples from their farmers market to make this applesauce. Jen writes, “Ella enjoyed counting the apples, catching the apple peels as they fell into the bowl, and mashing the apples after they were done simmering on the stove.  She also ate her first whole apple while I was doing the chopping.  The applesauce was delicious and it made the house smell so “autumny”—definitely a keeper!”

From Melissa at Little Locavores, Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash — with Apples

kcbs1-3-applesquash

Melissa created this fall recipe with the thought of appealing to those who don’t like squash unless it’s doused in sugar. I don’t know if it won her farmer’s sons over, but this flavorful dish has extra kid-appeal when served in an acorn squash bowl. (Melissa and her son recently went apple-picking at Seedling Orchards in South Haven, Michigan.)

From Kelsey at The Naptime Chef, Spiced Apple Cookies

kcbs1-2-cookies

Kelsey and her toddler daughter made these scrumptious cookies, with New York McIntosh apples, to occupy a rainy afternoon — just one of many recipes in her “Apple Mania” arsenal.

And here at FoodieTots, Spiced Apple Hand Pies

kcbs1-4-handpies

We picked apples at Virginia’s Crooked Run Orchard, reviewed How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World, and baked kid-sized apple hand pies. Yum!

~

And if these aren’t enough ideas to use up the apples in your crisper, here are a few more kid-friendly apple recipes:

Kids Cook: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

This is our entry for Kids Cook Book Soup — Apples! Check back later today for the full round-up.

The Story: This lovely book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, by Marjorie Priceman, caught my eye at the bookstore with its colorful illustrations. In it, a little girl sets out to make an apple pie but discovers her local market is closed. So naturally, she charts a course around the world to pick wheat in Italy, sugar cane in Jamaica, and apples in Vermont. I admit, on one level my locavore’s conscious felt a pang of guilt, but it was too cute a story not to buy. Besides, the point of eating local, for me, is to ensure my son knows where his food comes from. Even if it’s not always somewhere nearby.howtomakeanappliepie

The Lesson: My son knows apples grow on trees, and milk comes from cows. This may seem obvious, but it’s not always! My brother went through a phase as a kid where he insisted that milk came from the grocery store. No amount of arguing could convince him it came from a cow. (This was probably just stubbornness, we certainly were exposed to cows.) Anyway, last week I picked up the boy from daycare and headed out to do errands, and I had failed to pack snacks. I asked if he wanted to go to the drive-thru for apple slices, and he replied, “We could go to the farm and get apples!” In an ideal world, yes, but convenience won out this time.

The Recipe: I recently went to Williams-Sonoma looking for yeast. They didn’t have it, but of course I managed to come home with a bag full of new must-have kitchen tools, including these adorable apple and pumpkin pocket pie molds. The boy saw the one I was packing in my niece’s birthday present, and started to whine, “But I don’t have one of those yet!” So he was pleasantly surprised when I pulled out a second one for him. I decided to stick with the recipe on the box for the pie crusts, which I was glad to see called for butter. I halved the recipe to make 4 little pies. This really doesn’t take too much more effort than making a full-size pie, and the results are just too cute.

Spiced Apple Hand Pies
crust recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 to 8 Tbs. ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • maple sugar

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in food processor to combine. Add butter chunks, and pulse until it resembles a course meal. Add water, a little at a time, pulsing between each addition until dough begins to come together. I only needed 6 tablespoons. Remove and press into flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. (Or, if you’re in a hurry, 30 minutes in the freezer.)

Filling:

  • 1 apple, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients and set aside while dough is chilling.

To Assemble Pies: Prepare egg wash. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and use the mold to cut out 8 shapes. If you don’t have the molds, use a large cookie cutter to cut shapes. Cut a leaf-shaped vent into the top crust pieces. Place the bottom in the mold (or on your parchment-lined baking sheet) and place 2 tablespoons of apple filling in the center. Brush a little egg wash around the edge, lay a second piece of dough over and gently press in the mold or together with a fork. Brush the top with more egg wash and sprinkle with maple sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat to make the remaining pies. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 22-24 minutes, until crust is golden. Cool on a cooling rack at least 10 minutes before eating. Makes 4 small pies. Enjoy!

Note: I skipped the second freezing step, as we were in a hurry to finish before bedtime, so my crusts browned more quickly than they should have. But they tasted great! Oh, and despite the book’s instructions, our apples and eggs came from local farms.

Pork Chops with Apples and Maple-Rum Sauce

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

To me, nothing says fall quite like pork chops with fresh picked apples. I’m not sure where the association comes from, since I can only remember my mother making pork chops with peaches. Nevertheless, when the leaves are falling and the temperatures finally take their sudden plunge (seasons never change gradually here in DC!), you can bet pork chops will be found in my cast iron skillet. This variation prompted my sometimes meat-adverse toddler to shout, “More meat please!”, much to his father’s delight. The caramelized garlic and apples and sweet sauce are a perfect counter to peppery pork, and sure to warm you up after a cold day.

Recipe: Pork Chops with Apples and Maple-Rum Reduction

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves, skins on and smashed with side of knife blade
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1/8 c golden rum (or apple cider for an alcohol-free version)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously salt and pepper pork chops. Heat skillet over medium high heat and sear pork chops about 2 1/2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Add garlic cloves and apple slices to pan, pour maple syrup over the top and cook in the oven 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove pork chops, apples and garlic from pan, covering to keep them warm. Place pan on stove over medium heat and add rum. Cook until sauce reduces at least by half and begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Arrange pork chops, apples and garlic on plates and drizzle with the sauce. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!