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Posts tagged with Kids

Cooking away the CSA, week 15: On raising a kid who likes vegetables

Ahhhhh, what's up doc?

Ahhhhh, what's up doc? by Sarah Henning

Every Monday when we pick up our CSA bag from Rolling Prairie, our 4-year-old son goes with us. And every Saturday when we go to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, he goes too. And when we harvest (or work) in the garden, he’s out there, bending over the rabbit fence, checking to see how our peppers are doing.

He knows so much more about food than I ever did at his age. This is not a knock on my parents at all. I think I just wasn’t interested like I am now, and as he’s turned out to be.

And let me tell you: I’m so happy he’s interested. Because we’ve had a much easier time trying to get him to eat healthy, real food, I think because he knows what it is, sees where it grows and helps us pick it or buy it or lug it home from our CSA.

We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with where food comes from, and I think finally it’s starting to rub off.

You see, I wouldn’t say our kid eats any better than yours.

It would be completely wrong of me to suggest he’s a little angel who thumbs his nose as ice cream while chowing down on kale. Truth is, he absolutely loves ice cream and only eats kale if I hide it in his morning smoothie (though, usually, he can tell it’s there and will tell me it’s “gross”).

Yes, he does eat (and enjoy) ice cream.

Yes, he does eat (and enjoy) ice cream. by Sarah Henning

At dinner, he’d prefer to have some form of cheese and carbs (quesadilla, grilled cheese, etc.) as his main meal with a side of fruit and avocado, followed by chocolate/ice cream/or nothing if he didn’t clear his plate. The vegetables he’ll eat out of hand — and usually with some sort of bribery involved — are pretty much limited to baby carrots, cooked peas and corn on the cob, if I’m being really honest.

But, every so often, we have a breakthrough.

You see that carrot pic? He hadn’t eaten a carrot like Bugs Bunny in a long time, but decided this week to go for it. He even peeled it himself.

Same goes for cucumbers and sweet peppers — he used to turn his nose up at them, but now he’ll eat them sliced and he’s happy to do so, no “if you eat five bites, you can have a chocolate chip,” type bribes. And most of that is thanks to our repeated growing and buying of those two vegetables locally. We must have offered slices of each to him a thousand different ways, and this summer, it’s finally taken.

I say all this because I posted that carrot pic on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it was really great that we were raising our kid to eat healthy foods. I think it’s sweet that someone thought we’re doing a good job, but here’s the thing: While we are raising him to eat healthy foods, he’s still a kid. And kids are notoriously willful about what they’ll eat.

He doesn’t eat junk — I firmly believe in avoiding having it around to begin with — but is he going to eat carrot a la Bugs every night? Probably not, even though that would be lovely if he did.

We do our best and that’s all we can do. Perfection would be, well, perfect. But balance is much, much more attainable. Even if it kills me to admit it.

So, this is my message to Lawrence parents, who probably fret, like I do, if our kids are eating healthy enough: Just try. And don’t beat yourself up if your kid doesn’t take to kale right away.

It’s easy when you read a blog about someone else’s life to think they’re perfect or at least pretending to be. I try to make this blog as accessible as I can, and I just thought I’d point out that though fruits and vegetables are king and queen of our household doesn’t mean we’re glaring at you for doling out ice cream sandwiches instead of watermelon on a hot day. Nobody should do that to anybody.

I’d much rather spend my energy on teaching my son about good food than yelling at him for enjoying something that isn’t idea.

Instead of expecting him to be perfect and non-ice-cream-sandwich-loving, we spend our time immersing him in the act of growing, picking and purchasing food than do trying to force-feed him kohlrabi. We also spend time making dinner with him and letting him help by stirring, peeling and just generally being a part of the whole eating process.

And that is working for us at this point.

So, of our CSA goodies from last week — kale, potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, broccoli, corn on the cob — how much did our son eat? Only the corn. Yep, and that’s OK. Even if it’s not perfect.

Our goodies this week? Cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.

This week's goodness: cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.

This week's goodness: cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes. by Sarah Henning

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A big, fat puzzle: School lunch, budgets, calories and our kids — what you can do

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference.

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference. by Mike Yoder

Last week, I wrote a story about the puzzle that is school lunch.

What's so puzzling about lunch?

How about everything.

It needs to be cheap. It needs to be USDA-approved healthy. It needs to be something kids actually eat.

About eight ways to Sunday, those things DO NOT go together in mass quantities.

In both Lawrence and Eudora alone, thousands of students at all grade levels are eating school-prepared meals daily. Some, for both breakfast and lunch. And, in case you hadn't noticed, funding for schools (and their lunches) is a bit contentious right now in the state of Kansas. So, no more money is probably coming for school lunches right now ... which isn't helping out our school nutritionists at all.

Each week, those charged with making sure school lunches comply nutritionally are also having to factor in not only more strict dietary guidelines, but rising food and labor costs and the sheer reality that kids won't eat everything under the sun. Not to mention, many kids are bringing their lunches to school because either they or their parents aren't too pleased with what's going on their kids' plates.

And, believe me, parents who are upset about school food, the schools hear you — and so does Jamie Oliver. The Lawrence schools trashed their fryers years ago. In Eudora, the only fryers in the entire school system reside in the high school's very cool culinary arts kitchen, where they're used sparingly. Many schools in both towns have school gardens that add to their students' plates through a loophole in the government system. The Lawrence schools even have a pilot program going to see how economically (and practically) viable a local farm-to-school program really is.

So, school lunches are getting there. They're getting healthier, they're getting more attention, they're getting less prepackaged. But it's not perfect and everyone involved knows it — the kids, the parents, the teachers, the administrators. If one thing became clear to me while talking to them about school lunch it's that everyone is trying to improve upon and even end the days of "tater tot casserole." (Yes, that's something that's served.)

As a parent, my first reaction to the idea of my son eating a school lunch wasn't a good one. I still remember being literally the only kid in my class who didn't like the hexagonal mishmash of cheese and hamburger known as "fiestada pizza" in elementary school. But, I also remember fishing quarters out of my dad's change bowl to grab a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie from the a la carte line in middle school. And, sure, my high school had a salad bar, but the only thing I ever got from it was four dinner rolls for a dollar to store in my backpack as pre-track practice fuel.

Um, yeah, I was about as imperfect as school lunch as a kid, and I don't expect my kid, or anyone else's to be any different.

So, what can we do to make the puzzle easier to solve? To make things healthier, more locally sourced and full of good, REAL food?

We can let our kids go through the school lunch line.

This is a hard one for me, because, since motherhood, I always figured I'd be the hippy dippy parent sending my son to school with kale salad and a kombucha chaser. But, in talking with local food advocates, educators and administrators, it became clear to me that this thinking won't do the schools one iota of good.

Rather, the more students who participate in the school lunch program, the more funding the schools will get to improve what goes on their plates. More funding equals more made-from-scratch items, more money to buy locally grown fruits and veggies, and more chances to make improvement.

My son still has a few years to go before he's grabbing a lunch tray five days per week. I'm hoping that by then, the farm-to-school program and school gardens will be in full effect at every Lawrence school and he'll have some much better choices than fiestada pizza or tater tot casserole.

And even if things don't improve quite so rapidly, that's OK, I'll feed him the best I can at home. Because all we can do is the best we can, especially when solving a big, ol' fat puzzle.

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Keeping a lid on the party (an ode to Pinterest)

As a working mom, a lot of the time I'm pretty horrible at following through. I will get all excited about something and then not have enough time/energy/remaining braincells to actually do it.

I could give you examples, but honestly they're endless, just ask my friends and family. Anyway, this acquired trait is most definitely on display with the number of websites I join and then abandon. Google+, Goodreads, Red Lemonade, Tumblr ... the list goes on and on.

But, every now and again, I will find a site that I use every day. Twitter and DailyMile have become staples for me. They're interesting and more than that, they're useful, which means they get gold stars from working mommy me.

But my absolute new favorite is Pinterest. If you aren't familiar, it's a site where you can create "pin boards" of things you like on the web. Your ideas are organized, stay in one place so you can find them again, and others on the site can follow your boards and get ideas from you. And, of course, you can get ideas from them and their friends/followers.

Of course, I'm all about ideas from others because of the previously mentioned lack of time/energy/remaining braincells I have during most of my non-working life. Therefore, I've become an addict for Pinterest — checking it each night before I go to bed and repinning new ideas until my eyes glaze over and I think my watch is lying to me about how late it is.

One of the ideas I found that I thought was genius was this pin that showed up in my feed. It's an idea for a get together, where instead of having a drink bar, you pre-mix cocktails, pour them into mason jars, seal them and set them on ice. That way, the drinks are done, there aren't any spills and it makes for a pretty presentation, too. (Oh, and it's eco-friendly and cheap — double score!)

I absolutely loved that idea, but being the aforementioned working mom, I also have no delusions about how often I'd actually have enough people over to use such an ingenious idea. I.E. — once in a very blue moon, after the kiddo's bed time when the pretty presentation would be wasted.

So, when I realized we'd need drinks to go with the snacks I'd set out for my son's third birthday party this weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to try. I grabbed the biggest bowl I had, ice and mason jars and set out not cocktails but apple cider and lemonade, as you see above.

The set up worked great, was fun for the kids and the adults and made for really easy clean up. I'll definitely do it again, and recommend it for any holiday parties you might have coming up (the kind where mason jars aren't too low-brow, of course).

As for the birthday boy, he enjoyed some apple cider from his cup, and got to have a chocolate cupcake. Though, he had to wait through the party for the cupcake (you can see him mooning over the cupcake pre-party below).

Don't worry, he ate the whole thing after opening his presents. See, I do follow through on the important things.

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