My kids have been stuck at home since mid-March. Our summer garden was overrun with fresh cucumbers. The world was on fire. Nothing to do but make pickles. Continue Reading…
Borrowing words from my friend, writer Renée Bacher, I threw up my hands recently upon reading my bank statement, and screeched to my children, “Stop eating! You’re devouring your college funds!”
For years, the amount of money I spend at the grocery store has been creeping . . .no. . . skyrocketing, up. I used to fantasize about how much I’d save when our children were finally out of diapers. Right. Diapers were cheap compared to the endless list of items I collect at the supermarket to satisfy their needs as growing kids, and mine and John’s as food enthusiasts. Even if we didn’t like food so much, getting meals for five people on the table (two to three meals a day, seven days a week) ain’t cheap.
I finally got frustrated. There had to be a better way of doing things. And so, after 15 years of marriage and 14 years of parenting, I bit the bullet and tried what so many people before me claim works like a charm. I started planning meals. I generally resist forced organization, and part of me sees myself as a childless gourmand who thinks she can still eat at dinner 10 pm and shop at the “market” every day with an eco-basket. “Food should be spontaneous, not restrained!” I’d think. “They don’t plan meals in France!”
I finally got over myself and started planning meals. And guess what? It does work like a charm.
Popcorn balls, at once gooey, sweet and crunchy, are a classic fall treat. They’re perfect Halloween party fare and they’re great for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, too. This version, developed by nutritionists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center here in Baton Rouge, is also nice for after school snacking because it’s made with honey instead of the typical binder, corn syrup. You can really get creative with the trail mix additions, too.
Recently, my friend Katy asked if I had any suggestions for healthy snacks for young people. Her high school aged daughter is a dancer, and finding lunchbox and afternoon snacks that offered nutritional value and not just empty calories was a challenge. I’ve got two swimmers and a runner in my household, and now that school has resumed, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Truly nutritious snacks take more thought than that oversized box of Sun Chips from Costco, and it’s not easy when you’re operating at break-neck, back-to-school speed.
For advice, I shot an email to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, an international leader in nutritional research and a sometimes overlooked local resource here in Baton Rouge. In addition to ground-breaking metabolic research, Pennington also has lots of easy recipes and healthy eating tips. PBRC staff members Alisha Prather and Stephanie Malin fired back a list of kid-tested snacks that don’t require a ton of ingredients.
Fulfilling my pledge to teach my children to cook this summer, I grabbed the youngest (the only one I could find at the time), and said, “let’s cook chili!” He was game. Doing something without his older brother and sister to boss him around sounded appealing, so off we went into the kitchen to make our family’s signature four-ingredient chili. It’s fast, simple and homey, and we eat it year-round, even in stifling 90-plus degree weather.
This is the summer that my children, ages 13, 11 and 8, WILL learn to cook.
Yes, I should have done this before now. But like most busy moms, I’ve been more focused on slapping dinner on the table than about explaining how it got there.
I realize that my kids are only getting older, and one day soon they’re going to need to scramble their own eggs. And that, as you know, is not as easy as it sounds. The one thing that cooking requires, more than natural talent or creativity, is practice. And unless I invite them in to make some messes and slow me down, they will never learn.