Monthly Archives: September 2007

Do You Always Eat Such Good Dinners?

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Good Dinners

Yesterday after school, we had my daughter’s friend, Emma, over for a play date. Like most multi-tasking mothers, I started getting ingredients for dinner ready while they were playing. Emma kept coming into the kitchen to stare at my ingredients and to ask questions. When I told her that we were making Asian Lettuce Wraps, she wanted to know why I liked to make foods from other countries. I happily explained how fun it is to try new foods. She leaned over the steaming pot of pad thai noodles and loved that they were almost invisible…I am so lucky to have a career that sparks such enthusiasm in kids!

When I found out that her mother was running late, Emma ran to the table to eat dinner with my kids. After the first bite, she asked, “do you always make such nice dinners?” I looked at the table and had to laugh. It was simple and took less than 30 minutes to prepare. But it made me realize that before I began meal planning, I made the same things over and over again. Emma explained that she was tired of the foods she got for dinner, and asked me if I could tell her mom what I did to the food to make it taste so good.

When her mother came to pick her up, her stood wide-eyed as the kids asked for seconds…and thirds, and ate their asian broccoli slaw! She admitted that until she saw Emma eating with such gusto, she hadn’t realized that she was in such a food rut. She started asking questions about What’s Cooking Weekly, my online meal planning service for families, and decided that she would give it a try. Even if she just tried a few of my menus, or simply added some of my sides to her existing repertoire, she said it was still a good value. She was also excited that she would start saving money on groceries, since she would go into the market knowing what she was looking for.

She nearly had to drag her daughter away from the table when I said that I had to save the rest of the food for my husband, who hadn’t arrived home from work yet.

So, what was that simple menu that caused such a sensation?

Asian Broccoli Slaw:
1 bag broccoli slaw mix from Trader Joe’s
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. sesame oil
2 Tbs. sesame seeds

Combine dressing mix and pour on salad, to taste.
Yes, that’s it!

Pad Thai:
This is embarassing – I used a package from Trader Joe’s that was in the back of my cabinet for 6 months. The kids loved it, and it was so easy that I’ll use it again. Next time, I might add some scrambled egg, tofu and maybe some julienned bell peppers or carrots.

Asian Lettuce Wraps:
1 pound ground turkey
1 can water chestnuts
1 small red onion
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
Juice from 2 limes
1 Tbs. brown sugar
Large lettuce leaves (bibb lettuce works well)

  1. Dice water chestnuts and red onion. Combine in a bowl, along with the oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, salt, lime juice and brown sugar.
  2. In a large skillet, begin to brown the ground turkey. After 3 minutes, add red onion mixture.
  3. Cook until the turkey is done.
  4. Serve by putting the turkey mixture on top of a lettuce leaf. You can wrap them like a burrito, or like a taco. Either way, be prepared for some of the filling to fall out. The kids loved the fun and challenge of eating their food like this!
  5. Serve with Asian broccoli slaw, pad thai noodles or steamed brown rice.

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Science In The Kitchen

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Science In The Kitchen

Yesterday was the first of my new After School Cooking Class series for Kids. Our class was called: Science In The Kitchen. After teaching high school biology years ago, it was fun to bring the laboratory into the kitchen!

What was on the Agenda?
We made popovers, invisible ink, sorbet in a bag and expanded marshmallows in the microwave.


4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Butter, jam, syrup or honey, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Grease 12 large muffin tin cups or 12 custard cups.
  3. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well.
  4. Add the milk, flour, and salt, and beat until just blended.
  5. Fill the muffin tin cups or custard cups 3/4 full with the batter.
  6. Place the pan on the center rack in the oven.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes without opening the oven door.
  8. Serve the popovers hot with butter, jam, syrup, or honey.

What Makes Popovers “Pop”?

Steam is released from the liquids in the batter as they heat. It is confined in the oven (don’t open the door!), and gets trapped inside the gluten from flour proteins, starch, and protein from eggs. The popover literally ‘pops’ with steam, but the steam doesn’t escape because the stretchy protein holds it inside the batter.

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Go Ahead – Eat Out

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You have been working all day, either at home with your kids or at the office. At the end of the day, you are ready for someone else to step up and take care of you for a change. But instead of throwing yourself on the sofa with your feet up, reality sets in and you have to think about dinner. The simplest option, of course, is going out to eat or getting take-out. But for some reason after doing it habitually, we feel guilty, as if we are cheating, or doing something unhealthy. Here are some tips for enjoying restaurant food without the guilt.

  • Drink a glass of water when you arrive at a restaurant. Sometimes people confuse thirst for hunger.
  • Skip the soda and save your sugar intake for something really special (did anyone say chocolate?!)
  • Eat Smart. Did you know that while super-sized options save you money, they nearly double your fat and calories?
  • Get your dressing on the side, so you can use what you need without drowning your food.
  • Order appetizer portions instead of entrees. By controlling your portion size, you can prevent yourself from over eating. Or, if you order an entrée, ask for a “to-go” box and pack up half the meal before you start eating. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Remember – restaurant food tastes good for a reason…lots of butter and salt! With that in mind, consider avoiding cream sauces and gravies if you are watching your waist-line.
  • Choose healthy carbs, such as whole grain bread, brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
  • Your mama always told you to eat your veggies. Well, she’s right (of course)!
  • Look beyond the Kid’s Menu. Appetizers from the “regular menu” should have plenty of delicious options for kids that will expand their palates and help them to eat healthier.
  • Your kids are watching what you eat. Be sure to set a good example.

If you are feeling guilty for eating out so much, give yourself a break. You are not alone. The average family eats out 29% of the time, where they spend 44% of their food budget. Cut yourself some slack. Go ahead and eat out, just make good choices.

Michelle Stern owns What’s Cooking, a Certified Green business that offers healthy cooking classes and birthday parties to children in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her online shop contains unique sustainable gifts and party favors as well as What’s Cooking Weekly, their online meal planning service offering recipes, grocery lists and tips on making cooking with your kids fun and simple.

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Fast food: 6 ways to healthier meals

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Making Smart Choices at a Fast Food Restaurant

Fast Food: Friend or Foe?

You are in the car, shaking and cranky with hunger, as you taxi your children around town…A whiff of food comes through the window, and you find yourself steering towards the fast food drive through. Such convenience!

But is it really possible to make healthy choices at a fast food restaurant? Here is what the experts at the Mayo Clinic have to say…

Can fast food be part of a weight-loss or healthy diet plan? You might not think so. In fact, you might even think that you can’t have a meal that’s both quick and healthy.
But this isn’t necessarily so. An occasional stop at a fast-food restaurant can fit into a healthy diet plan. The key is to choose wisely.

  1. Keep portion sizes small. If the fast-food restaurant offers several sandwich sizes, pick the smallest or order half a sandwich, if available. Bypass hamburgers with two or three beef patties, which can pack more than 1,000 calories and 70 grams of fat. Instead, choose a regular- or children’s-sized hamburger, which has about 250 to 300 calories. Also, skip the large serving of french fries or onion rings and ask for a small serving instead. This switch alone saves about 300 calories. Or better yet, select a lower calorie option.
  2. Choose a healthier side dish. Take advantage of healthy side dishes offered at many fast-food restaurants. For example, instead of french fries choose a side salad with low-fat dressing or a baked potato. Or add a fruit bowl or a fruit and yogurt option to your meal. Other healthy choices include apple or orange slices, corn on the cob, steamed rice, or baked potato chips.
  3. Go for the greens. Choose a large entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or garden vegetables with fat-free or low-fat dressing on the side, rather than regular salad dressing, which can have 300 or more calories per packet. Watch out for high-calorie salads, such as those with deep-fried shells or those topped with breaded chicken or other fried toppings. Also, skip salad extras such as cheese, bacon bits, croutons and fried chips, which quickly increase your calorie count.
  4. Opt for grilled items. Fried and breaded foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and breaded fish fillets, are high in fat and calories. Select grilled or roasted lean meats — such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham, or lean roast beef.
  5. Have it your way. Don’t settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal. Ask for healthier options and substitutions. For example, ask for reduced-fat mayonnaise or mustard on your sandwich. Or at a fast-food Mexican restaurant, request salsa with your meal instead of shredded cheese and nacho cheese sauce. Try to avoid special dressings, tartar sauce, sour cream and other high-calorie condiments.
  6. Watch what you drink. Many beverages contain a large number of calories. For example, a large soda (32 ounces) has about 400 calories. Instead, order diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water. Also, skip the shakes and other ice-cream drinks, which can contain more than 1,000 calories and all of your saturated fat allotment for the day.

You can eat healthy away from home, even at fast-food restaurants. The bottom line: Be choosy. Make wise menu choices and focus on portion control.

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Looking forward to Deceptively Delicious!

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Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food

Sounds amazing! If the raving reviews are on the right track, this book, written by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, Jerry’s wife), is something to look forward to! Here is what some people have to say. I’ll be sure to let you know my opinion after it comes out in October! Don’t miss the sample recipe below…

–Anderson Cooper, CNN Anchor, Anderson Cooper 360 and best-selling author of DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: A memoir of War, Disasters and Survival
Deceptively Delicious is a book anyone wanting easy, healthy meals will find indispensable. Page after page, you’ll find yourself saying, “what a great idea!”

-Sarah Jessica Parker, Mother
“It’s not just a cookbook, it’s a manual. For everyday. And what a clever and inventive way to change mealtime discourse. Oh what joy.”

–Liz Lange, Founder and CEO, Liz Lange Maternity, and Mother
“Jessica Seinfeld’s secrets are not only good for children; they’re a real treat for parents too. I’m definitely hungry for a second helping!”

-Kelly Ripa, actress, co-host, Live with Regis and Kelly, and Mother
“Jessica Seinfeld is genius. She puts practical advice, delicious and easy recipes together in such a creative way! Somehow she makes good nutrition taste delicious.

–Alexandra Wentworth – Actress, Writer, and Mother
She incorporates genius recipes with whimsical quotes from her kids and other moms and the photographs are practically edible. This is my Bible.

–Arthur Agatston, MD, best-selling author of The South Beach Diet and The South Beach Heart Program
Seinfeld makes a terrific contribution to childhood nutrition. Her approach will make meals [easy] for parents to prepare and a joy for kids to eat.

–Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D. Founder and Director, NYU Child Study Center
Easy and fun to use with practical steps for parents to provide delicious choices for their kids and create a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

It has become common knowledge that childhood obesity rates are increasing every year. But the rates continue to rise. And between busy work schedules and the inconvenient truth that kids simply refuse to eat vegetables and other healthy foods, how can average parents ensure their kids are getting the proper nutrition and avoiding bad eating habits?

As a mother of three, Jessica Seinfeld can speak for all parents who struggle to feed their kids right and deal nightly with dinnertime fiascos. As she wages a personal war against sugars, packaged foods, and other nutritional saboteurs, she offers appetizing alternatives for parents who find themselves succumbing to the fastest and easiest (and least healthy) choices available to them. Her modus operandi? Her book is filled with traditional recipes that kids love, except they’re stealthily packed with veggies hidden in them so kids don’t even know! With the help of a nutritionist and a professional chef, Seinfeld has developed a month’s worth of meals for kids of all ages that includes, for example, pureed cauliflower in mac and cheese, and kale in spaghetti and meatballs. She also provides revealing and humorous personal anecdotes, tear–out shopping guides to help parents zoom through the supermarket, and tips on how to deal with the kid that “must have” the latest sugar bomb cereal.

But this book also contains much more than recipes and tips. By solving problems on a practical level for parents, Seinfeld addresses the big picture issues that surround childhood obesity and its long–term (and ruinous) effects on the body. With the help of a prominent nutritionist, her book provides parents with an arsenal of information related to kids’ nutrition so parents understand why it’s important to throw in a little avocado puree into their quesadillas. She discusses the critical importance of portion size, and the specific elements kids simply must have (as opposed to adults) in order to flourish now and in the future: protein, calcium, vitamins, and Omega 3 and 6 fats.

Jessica Seinfeld’s book is practical, easy–to–read, and a godsend for any parent that wants their kids to be healthy for a long time to come.

Scrambled Eggs (with Cauliflower)
Created by Jessica Seinfeld
From the book Deceptively Delicious
Serves 2

Hidden cauliflower puree provides kids with half the daily value for vitamin C. With more than 19 grams of protein per serving, these scrambled eggs pack a powerful protein punch!


  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower puree *
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • Pinch of salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, sour cream, cauliflower puree, Parmesan and salt.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, then set the pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. Add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula, until the eggs are scrambled—firm but nice and moist—2 to 3 minutes.

*Cauliflower Puree:

Cut off florets and discard core.

Steam for 8 to 10 minutes.

In a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes, with a few teaspoons of water if needed for a smooth, creamy texture.


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Children’s Ads on TV Push Sugar and Fat

If health advocates want to combat obesity by teaching young people how to eat better, they might want to cast an eye on competing messages on television.

When researchers looked at what foods were being advertised on programs watched by children and adolescents, they found that most products were larded with sugar, salt and fat.

“The overwhelming majority of food-product advertisements seen on television by American children are of poor nutritional content,” said the study, which is in the current issue of Pediatrics. It was led by Lisa M. Powell of the University of Illinois.

The researchers focused on advertisements seen by two groups, ages 2 to 11 and 12 to 17. To gauge viewership, the study looked at the shows’ popularity ratings.

The researchers considered more than 50,000 commercials seen by the younger group and more than 47,000 seen by the older one. The team found that 97.8 percent of the food advertised for the younger group was high in fat, sugar or sodium. The figure for the older group was 89.4 percent. Commercials for fast-food restaurants were not included.

The study noted a finding that in 2005 young people watched television an average of more than three hours a day. And it cited an Institute of Medicine report finding a link between television advertisements and weight.

The biggest segment of advertising for younger viewers was for cereals, most high in sugar. Older children were most likely to see commercials for sweets.

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Home-Made Play Dough

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You won’t believe how easy it is to make home made play dough! Not only will they love to help you in the kitchen, but your kids will play with it for hours afterwards. And you can rest easy, knowing that the ingredients are safe for your family.

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
2 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. liquid watercolor (your choice of color, of course)
2 cups water

  1. Mix together ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until dough leaves the sides of the pan.
  3. Remove from the pan, and when cool to the touch, knead for a few minutes.
  4. Store in a resealable container.

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