Figs and a Fulcrum: Rethinking Balanced Meals for Kids (Week 39, 52 New Foods)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on October 03, 2013 0 Comments

An unexpected scenario in our kitchen when we decided to try something new: cooking with figs.

Balanced precariously on a block of cheese was a ruddy wooden plank, two stainless steel bowls, a package of unsalted butter and a big batch of freshly picked figs. It was an unlikely scenario in our kitchen—one that I hadn’t expected when we decided to try cooking with figs.

A humble and unassuming basket of figs from a friend’s garden was the catalyst for our food experiment. When they arrived on our doorstop, we couldn’t ignore the signs. A new food for my kids, a relatively unfamiliar one to me, and a hallmark of the season, it seemed only natural to welcome figs to our family table and make it the food of the week in our 52 New Foods Challenge.

So together as a family, we talked about the ways we might like to try figs. I was happy to simply eat them straight from the basket, or tossed in a salad. My husband voted for an Italian-inspired recipe, prosciutto-wrapped figs with a blanket of basil. My son suggested trying them with a familiar favorite, yogurt and honey. My daughter took it up a notch, to a deliciously sinful fig bar recipe reminiscent of her favorite cookies: Fig Newtons. We had our plan, figs four ways.

It was that last recipe that inspired the makeshift scale that was constructed on my kitchen counter. The recipe called for a pound of fresh figs. Without a kitchen scale, how were we to know how many figs to use?

My six-year old son James is studying balance in his first-grade science class this semester—perfectly synchronous timing for our fig conundrum. He started by suggesting that we could just hold a package of butter in one hand and a bowl of figs in the other and guesstimate. But in action he discovered it was harder to decipher the difference between the two sides.

“We could make a scale!” he suggested, surprising even himself. “We need something long and straight for the arms.” He scurried to the garage, with my husband, to source materials for his contraption. The oversized ruler he used in his first try proved to be too flexible, which led him to the sturdy wooden plank. A block of cheese from our fridge served as the fulcrum. With the package of butter on one side, he started adding figs to the other—one by one—until he achieved the balance he was seeking. About 14 figs.

Google could have easily answered our question. Or I could have just bought a basic kitchen scale. But those solutions would have lessened the learning that was at hand. By letting James experiment, and figure out a solution for himself, he had the opportunity to learn much more than how many figs are in a pound. He exercised his creativity in coming up with a solution, constrained by the materials at hand. He encountered failure (albeit a small one) and modified his method to find a new path, instead of just giving up. He worked persistently to find a solution and felt satisfied with himself at the end—a much different kind of satisfaction than the one he would have felt with a set of search results.

Yes, searching for the answer on Google would have been faster, easier, simpler. But like so many things in our 52 New Foods Challenge, the journey is about so much more than the destination.

A mother of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color®, and author of the upcoming book, The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin/Avery 2014), a week-by-week playbook to get your family eating healthy, one new food at a time. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

Read More

Basic Knife Skills: Hulled Strawberries (Week 24, 52 New Foods)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on June 27, 2013 1 Comment

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 1

Experimenting in the kitchen, my six-year-old discovers an easy way to hull strawberries.


Strawberry season is here! Our weekly visits to the farmers’ market always include a stop at the strawberry farmers’ stall. My kids happily fill up on samples, red juicy fruit dripping down their chins. We travel home, our market basket filled to the brim with fresh summer berries.

Exploring fun ways to cook with strawberries for my forthcoming book, THE 52 NEW FOODS CHALLENGE (Penguin / Avery 2014), we discovered that several recipes call for hulled strawberries. But teaching a kindergartener to independently wield a paring knife to carefully carve out the hull of a fresh strawberry was proving to be a challenge (mostly for me!). Precariously holding a ripe, red berry in the palm of his hand while digging away at the center of the berry to remove its hull was not my idea of a safe project.

With a little experimenting, my six-year-old son James came up with this clever idea.

Here’s what you’ll need: fresh strawberries, a paring knife and a chopstick.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills what you need

Step 1: Make a bridge or fist with your hand, then cut off the green top of the strawberry and discard.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 1

Step 2: Cut off the tip and place it in a bowl.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 2

Step 3: Using a chopstick, poke the hull out by pushing the chopstick through the top of the berry. The hull will pop out easily.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 3

Step 4: Gently remove the hull with your fingers. Voila! Hulled strawberries!

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 4

Step 5: Proceed with chopping your berries. Remember to keep the flat side of the fruit down.

What are your easy tips for hulling strawberries? Share your ideas!

Read More

The Perfect Plumcot: Ripe Fruit for the Picking! (Week 23, 52 New Foods)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on June 19, 2013 0 Comments

Pick the perfect plumcot Ripe fruit Crunch a Color

A local farmer shares her tips on how to pick the perfect plumcot!


A happy, orange colored fruit caught our eye this week at the local market. “Would you like a taste?” enquired the sun-drenched farmer. Her generosity was met with enthusiasm, as my kids clamored to taste a bite of this sweet surprise. “It’s a plumcot!” the farmer explained. No matter the name, my kids decided it was absolutely delicious and would be our new food of the week.

Picking through the pile, they noticed subtleties in the color of the fruit. Some of the little gems were a warm orange color, similar to an apricot, while others had a yellow-ish, green hue.

“How can I tell which ones are the juiciest?” my son asked. James, who is six years old, is not at all shy about engaging in a conversation, especially when it’s about food!

“If you’re looking for ripe fruit, that you plan to eat today, pick the ones that are a soft orange color. Touch them gently. They should have a little bit of give, but not too much.” guided the farmer. James went to work, carefully placing his treasure in his tattered woven bag, while saving a few to be enjoyed immediately.

plumcot ripe fruit crunch a color

“Be sure to pick a few that are green near the top.” the farmer advised. “Those will be perfect in a day or two if you leave them on the counter to ripen.”

As for how we prepared our new food of the week, it was a simple wash, slice, eat. The fruit was so delicious that it wasn’t around long enough to make anything! No complaints here.

What have you discovered at your local farmers’ market? What are your tips for knowing when a fruit is ripe and picking the best of the crop?

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children, creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun, and author of the forthcoming book The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin / Avery 2014). Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

 

Read More

Try Something New: Learn How to Cook Radish (Leaves and All) (52 New Foods, Around the World Week 18)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on May 18, 2013 1 Comment
how to cook radish crunch a color


Grow a love of new foods from the ground up. Fresh from the garden, this week we try the often underappreciated radish (leaves and all).


A love of new foods starts in the garden. Our tiny kitchen garden has been a steadfast source of new food inspiration for our family. It’s where my daughter discovered that she likes cauliflower – raw more than cooked. It inspired both of my kids to try all sorts of leafy greens – from butter lettuce to baby kale. And this week, it invited them to try radishes (leaves and all).

radish leaves crunch a color


We’ve spotted radishes at the local market many times, with lackluster interest. But growing radishes changed our perspective. Sowing seeds, helping them grow, and thrilling in the pleasure of pulling those little pink buds straight from the ground changed our relationship with radish.

We started simply -- sampling radish in its raw form. My daughter, who tends toward artistry in her approach to foods of any kind, spent an unencumbered weekend morning gingerly slicing our fresh radish into delicate, wafer thin layers, creatively cutting them into fun shapes inspired by her favorite characters like Totoro, and artfully arranging her creations on a tiny tasting platter for everyone to enjoy.

how to cook radish raw crunch a color

how to cook radish raw 2 crunch a color


Then we moved to cooking. Drawing inspiration from Deborah Madison’s captivating new book, Vegetable Literacy, we gathered a few more ingredients from our garden and together we experimented with how to cook radish, ending in a lovely sautéed radish salad. This recipe is a wonderful example of how to use the whole plant – it incorporates the radish and its lovely dark green leaves, leaving nothing to waste.

how to cook radish vegetable literacy crunch a color


We plan to continue experimenting with other ways to try radish -- marinated with pomegranate molasses, tossed into a Mediterranean style salad with spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes, or nestled in a hummus-stuffed pita.

hummus pita with radish crunch a color


Sauteed Radish Salad

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Crunch a Color points: 15 red, 15 green, 10 green

Inspired by Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy

Ingredients:

3 to 4 small radishes, finely chopped
½ cup shelled peas
½ cup asparagus, sliced on a diagonal
A handful of radish leaves
Juice from ½ of a lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Directions:

1. Wash and prepare your vegetables. Gather as much as you can from your garden. Round out your recipe with fresh veggies from the farmers’ market.

2. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the asparagus and radishes. Simmer for about 3 minutes.  

how to cook radish leaves crunch a color


3. Add the peas and radish leaves. You can add a touch of water at this point if you need. Continue to simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the peas are bright green and the leaves are wilted. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a little salt.

sauteed radish leaves 2 crunch a color


* Have you tried radish leaves? What other ways should we try radish? Share your ideas! 

Craving more easy recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s post: Homemade Hummus.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

Read More

Healthy Homemade Hummus (52 New Foods, Around the World Week 17)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on May 13, 2013 0 Comments
homemade hummus


A healthy homemade hummus is the first of many ways we plan to try our new food of the week: chickpeas.


There’s a lot to love about chickpeas. Mark Bittman recommends them as an ingredient in one of his top three go-to recipes. They are inexpensive, healthy and can be prepared in a myriad of ways. When I asked what we should make with our new food of the week, friends brought a bounty of ideas to the table: pop ‘em in stews, toss ‘em in salads, blend ‘em into hummus, snatch a few for a snack!

dried chickpeas


We decided to start with a simple, homemade hummus. And we did it the slow way -- gently toasting sesame seeds to create our own tahini, slowly soaking the dried beans overnight, then blending it all together to create a delicious homemade hummus.

Getting my kids to try our new food this week relied on two key strategies.

First, cook together. When my kids prepare a new food, they are much more likely to try it! Cooking together is an essential part of the equation.

The other key is timing. Fresh veggies (along with a new food or two) arrive at the table first. At our house we call it the “veggie course.” This strategy gives my hungry helpers a choice of veggies first (before they load up on carbs!). It also buys me extra time to put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal before we sit down together as a family.

What we Liked: Our healthy homemade hummus outshined any store-bought hummus by a long shot. From a taste perspective, there was absolutely no comparison. As for my kids, they were willing to give it a try, but the garlic in this version was a bit too strong for their liking. Instead of chalking it up to a failure (which it wasn’t), we talked about what parts of the recipe they might change. What did they think of the texture? Which flavors did they taste and which were too strong? The next version we plan to make is with roasted garlic, which we all agreed would soften the flavor a bit. Most importantly, we are working together to find the right mix for our family.

Healthy Homemade Hummus

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Crunch a Color points: 10 protein

Ingredients:

homemade hummus ingredients


2 cups chickpeas
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp tahini (see make ahead below)
Juice of one lemon
1 large clove of garlic, chopped

Make ahead:

For the tahini, lightly toast 1 cup of sesame seeds in a sauté pan over medium heat. About two minutes. Let cool, then blend with 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor until smooth. 

For the dried chickpeas, cover fully with water and soak overnight. Drain, then boil gently for about an hour and a half. Let cool before using.

Directions:

1. Load your ingredients into a food processor. Blend! Add a touch more olive oil to adjust the consistency if you like.

homemade hummus step 1


2. Serve with freshly cut veggies.

homemade hummus


* How do you like to prepare hummus? Share your ideas!  

Craving more easy recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s post: Amazing Avocado.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

Read More