Anyone can be "the family chef". You just need good recipes and techniques! Chef Amy Fothergill shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.

Get information here about her cookbook, The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Feeding Children...and a Quick Salad Dressing Recipe

I was talking to a friend today about challenges we face when feeding our children. What they will and won't eat, how much negotiation there can be, strategies when cooking or dining out, and how to get them to eat vegetables. It's a constant challenge. Birthday parties, going out, marketing on tv, walking through the grocery store. I find it very exhausting. I feel like I am a constant sugar patrol person, trying to add up how much juice they might have had or when was their last "treat". But, I do have to admit, there are times I give in to survive, like when I travel by myself with them. I have to relax or I won't get through it sanely. When we get home, it's back to business.

My point is that rather than making yourself crazy during the holidays and/or while you are traveling, it's ok to lighten up a bit. As long as they know when you are home, it's back to normal. For example, at home, we don't drink a lot of juice. But when we are on vacation, it's about survival. Yes, when we get home, they might ask again but it's easy to say, "Oh, that was a special treat on our vacation." I think this is especially important when flying. You just have to get through it.

But what happens when you are out and there are so many tantilizing treats, luring your children in? I find it very difficult. My son has started calling me mean when I don't get give in to his request for sugared milk or every cookie he sees. I try my best and try to distract him with something else. It hurts when he says it even though I know he doesn't mean it. I wish he would be happy with "But we are having a treat later. Yes, you can have something after dinner." It's those moments in motherhood that I just want to fast forward through. It's such a struggle with how much do you give in to them vs how much control you have.

I also avoid food shopping with them like the plague. Last week, I went at 7:15 pm and left them with my husband. It was so much easier. Before I shopped, I sat down and thought about what we were doing for the week, to what I had committed as far as cooking, and what I had in the fridge to use up. After a week of not eating our normal diet, I started in the produce section. Baby carrots, apples and bananas went into the cart. Then some lettuce and zucchini. That was a good start. I sometimes go up and down the aisles, checking to see what's on sale. If my favorite organic/healthy cereal is on special that week, I might throw that in the cart. The bulk aisle is another favorite. It can inspire me. When all was said and done, I felt so much more relaxed. I got home, unloaded the groceries and helped put them to bed.

The next day, when I made dinner, I wanted something light for them. We had just come back from this trip and I felt the need to eat healthier than we had: baked taquitos, carrots, steamed broccoli and salad. While I was making the salad, my 3 yr old daughter wanted to help. Together, we washed the lettuce and used the salad spinner. While I prepped the other veggies, she tore the lettuce into pieces. It was a great job for her. Then, she helped with the dressing which was big hit.

A friend of mine suggested using rice wine vinegar as a dressing. I had never done that before, except when I made Asian dressings. I have now replaced my standard salad dressing with this one. Everyone likes it and at the end of the meal, the salad has been consumed. And it's so easy. I put the lettuce I'm going to use in a bowl. I estimate a handful of lettuce per person and then I might throw in an extra one as well. I drizzle olive oil (about 2 tsp) and some rice wine vinegar (about 1 tsp, maybe less). I add another drizzle of agave nectar (about 1/2 tsp) and flavor it with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. My kids love to use the pepper grinder. I mix this all together with the salad spoons and serve. If I have other veggies like cucumbers, shredded carrot or red pepper, I'll add that as well.

I know I'm very lucky to have such good eaters. But, here's what I have found. They eat salad when I eat salad. They eat things that I think taste good. I only make them eat food (that I know they like) if there's a question about a treat at the end of a meal. I don't give them a snack before dinner. I do give them treats, even things I don't think they should have (like sno cones!) once in a while. Instead of saying "No" to everything, I try to use phrasing like "Yes, after you have ..."

I know feeding kids is a constant battle. My only suggestion is to keep trying and not to be discouraged. Offer fresh vegetables, even if you have to top it with cheese, olive oil or butter. Keep easy fruit like apples and bananas on hand. Try dipping those with peanut butter or almond butter.

And lastly, what ever you are doing, you are doing a great job. My transition to eating healthier foods has happened over the course of 5 years. I won't judge you but I will try to give you suggestions. Keep reading the blog or email me. I hope I can help.

Here's to good eating and one whole happy family.


Gabrielle said...

Amy, I love, love, LOVE this dressing! We have some amazing heirloom tomatoes in our garden and this dressing is ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS with them! I throw in some basil & mozzarella and YUM! THANKS!

The Family Chef said...

Gabrielle, you are VERY welcome. It's our family favorite and the most popular one in my classes. So glad you enjoyed it.