Summer on the Run

Too many reasons to list why I’ve been remiss in writing.  Been very busy is first and foremost and will have to do for now.  But, I’m still cooking up food, occasionally having a tough time with my youngest two and sometimes I get stuck in a rut of the same food all the time.  But with summer comes so many possibilities.

Summer can actually be a tough time to eat well but it shouldn’t be.   Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant and they should be incorporated into all meals.  What I’ve been noticing is that unless I cook at home, it’s hard for my kids to get many of those fruits and vegetables in places we might be on a given day.  The lake that I grew up on is where my boys take swimming lessons.  The kids love the concession stand there.  But it gives me added stress because they serve fried food like “curly fries” (curled, spiced French fries) and chicken tenders (yes, they’re real breast meat, but they’re still fried), hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.  They do sell salads but when given those sorts of choices, my boys always want the fried food, burgers and dogs. They also sell ice cream and other “frozen confectionaries” like SpongeBob popsicles and PopShots (quick frozen dots of artificially colored and flavored juice).  And besides the poor nutritional value in these foods, there’s the cost.  It gets expensive if you eat this food daily or even semi-weekly.  So, of course, I have to set limits before we go.   Like, “today you can have _____ but no _____.”  Or, “I’ve made us lunch, we’re not getting anything but an ice cream after, and only the real ice cream, not the colored stuff.”  Or even, “I don’t have money today to buy anything.”  They hate that last one.

Here are a couple of ideas I’ve found success with while at home.  One of my all time favorites are the magic beans. beans purple pot corn rainbow chard


While out, I try to order sides of vegetables or salads.  If we’re at friends who are only cooking up hot dogs and burgers with maybe chips, then I try to fill them up on more veggies while at home.  Healthy sides and snacks like the roasted seaweed snacks and cut up fruits and vegetables help fill the nutrition gap. 

And as my last link suggests: it doesn’t need to be gourmet to be healthy. 

This is the video I made at my friend’s house showing how to cook Swiss Chard.  Some of our kids were running around and making comments.  Her daughter was so cute in some of hers!  It was like a screen test, but I haven’t made another how-to video yet.

I didn’t finish cooking it as it was hours before my friend and her family was actually eating.  As I mention, I’d finish it off with butter, salt & pepper. 

Swiss Chard Fight

One of the events which led me to write this blog was a fight my youngest and eldest children had… over Swiss chard.  Really.  They fought over a vegetable.  And one that most kids wouldn’t even eat let alone fight over.  I hadn’t even eaten it until 16 while visiting another country.  At dinner one night my 3 year old got up from the table (which is not an uncommon occurrence around here, to the complete chagrin of his grandparent).  My oldest son took the opportunity to stealthily stick his fork into the younger one’s pile of Swiss chard and shove the forkful into his mouth.  Well, the younger one caught him in the act, ran over and grabbed his face screaming, “No, that’s mine!” He really grabbed his cheeks hard.  Over chard.  I was so proud.

Ok, obviously, the behavior wasn’t ideal, but the object of their desire was healthy food.  It (chard) is something I didn’t learn how to cook or even eat raw until a few years back (yes, I tried it at 16 but that doesn’t mean I cooked with it for another 16 years).  I thought, I might be on to something here.  I’m not sure this happens everyday.  Yes, siblings squabble over the silliest things.  Yes, kids eat food.  But, I read daily about how dire our diets are getting.  How kids are unhealthy from eating junk food, getting obese, entering puberty early, etc.  I want my kids to be healthy and I’m sure every parent wants the same thing.  I figured if my kids are fighting over who gets to eat the Swiss chard not who has to eat the Swiss chard, maybe I have something to share.  Maybe if I tell you how I do it, others who’ve had trouble getting their kids to eat well will find insight and inspiration.  I hope I’ve helped.  I really am not here to preach. 

Today at the beach a longtime friend pointed out her potato chips to me and how there are no preservatives or artificial ingredients.  I remarked that there’s really no nutritional value in potato chips- just empty calories and lots of salt.  But, I really wish I’d kept my mouth shut. I don’t want people to be afraid of food around me… whether it’s good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.  I want the relationship between us and food to be normal.  No pressure, no prejudices.   I tried to make it up by saying we eat potato chips and usually pick that brand too, but I sounded insincere.  She reads the blog, so she was proud of eating something not so bad.  But, I probably messed it up by making the empty nutrient statement.  I guess I just want everyone to realize I am not perfect.  And I must say, I really enjoyed my Snickers Ice Cream today.  I love some junk—candy, cakes, French fries, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But, strive for the healthy stuff.  Limit the unhealthier stuff.  And enjoy it when you do eat it!  And make sure those kids of yours get the healthy choices often.  Because amazingly when they’re given them, they often eat them.  But for your sake hopefully they won’t fight over them.

© 2010


“What is a CSA?” some might ask, others might already be in one.  Community Supported Agriculture (fruits, vegetables and even meat, eggs and dairy) is one way to reinforce your children’s healthy food habits, help our local economy and the environment.  By buying local you help reduce the impact of transporting the produce to your supermarket; decrease the harmful chemicals used and ingested; and can teach children where food comes from!  We belong to one at a local farm and our first “shared harvest” is ready this week.  I’m so excited!  The amazing flavors of freshly picked produce will convert anyone.  For instance a strawberry from the supermarket tastes bland and like cardboard compared to a freshly picked organic one from our CSA- it’s juicy and bursting with rich, strawberry flavor. 

At most CSA’s you pay a portion before you receive anything— you are actually paying for the seeds, etc. and then pay the remaining cost half-way through.  You share in the bounty from May/June until October/November depending upon the weather, blight, pests, etc.  Last year the wet weather wreaked havoc upon the crops, so we’re hoping for a better year.  It’s the chance you take when going “all natural” and not relying upon hot houses or pesticides to control the outcome.  But what you receive is so much better in nutrition and in taste. 

Each Wednesday we go to the farm, collect our bin full of fruit and vegetables and create our next week’s meals around them.  The kids love to see the cows, sheep and chickens.  They see the gardens with the plants growing and this year will help weed and maybe even harvest.  On an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution a classroom of children didn’t recognize any vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, etc) but how many children have seen broccoli before it’s harvested? It’s really a wonderful experience all-round.

Even though I’d grown up with a garden and my mother cooked great foods, I had never cooked Swiss chard, kale, beet greens and some squashes until they came in our bins a few years ago.  So my children had never eaten them before either.  Now they are a regular part of our diet, even when we’re not receiving our bins.  I believe it’s helped them want to eat the food when they’ve seen it grow or discovered a new one in our bin. We also plant a few herbs and vegetables in our garden (tomatoes, chives, mint, basil, potatoes, peppers).  This year I’ve cleared away more of our ever intruding weeds to make room for some beans and salad greens.  I’m not the best gardener, so I hope we get lucky!  At least the kids have fun!

Rainbow chard is an excellent vegetable to introduce.  The colors and textures are great for kids. The stems, unlike kale, can be chopped and served with the leaves.  I wash and chop the leaves and stems into one inch strips, steam for a few minutes, remove from heat and when we’re just about to serve, reheat in a pat of butter, couple of pinches of sea salt and twists of fresh ground pepper.  My boys love the earthy flavor and the rich colors.  

From my reading about foods over the years, I’d learned that certain nutrients from vegetables cross over to your blood better if they’re served with a little bit of fat.  So fat-free salad dressing is not the best way to go.  A tiny bit of butter, a little olive oil, or even some cheese… actually a better way to eat those veggies.  I stick with butter most times because the vegetables flavors aren’t masked.  And kids will eat it!