Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Giant Step for Earth Day

Behold! One more citizen on planet earth pedaling their way to independence with a small carbon footprint. Despite her tiny feet, my granddaughter pedaled her way into the next rite of passage this past weekend. Training wheels removed, jeans, shoes and helmet donned, she rode where others have certainly ridden before, and yet that plunge into independence is truly a solo ride.

We have many rites of passage during our lives but none quite so intimidating and completely alone as the first bicycle ride without the benefit of support from mechanical apparatus or the firm grip of a parent. Each of these milestones are often the product of trial and error as in our first steps and studying as in reading, or practice as in driving. We have the benefit of a teacher or imitating a sibling, a table to walk around or driving instructor with a set of pedals.
Yet when we ride a bike, truly ride a bike, we are alone. There are those standing along the sidelines cheering us on, but ultimately it depends on our own power, confidence and sheer determination to keep the wheels balanced, hands on the handlebars and our bodies in sync with a moving vehicle. I find it to be a unique moment in a child's life (or at any age) when you first realize what you are capable of doing with your own steam.

What a fantastic way to celebrate Earth Day! My granddaughter and I are going on a bike ride to see all of Mother Nature's Glory along the way. Because that is what a wise grandma and her bike riding buddy would do!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Veggies Tonight Without A Fight

As the oldest of seven children, the only thing I remember about dinner time was you better not be late to the table and no dessert unless you cleaned your plate. This, of course, led to a few options if you didn't like what mom was cooking, but it also meant you went to bed hungry as there was no getting around the rules.

As a young mother, I made sure that my children ate only organic, homemade foods. They never had box mac and cheese (apologies to Kraft) and canned food meant what I had grown in the garden and canned myself. I even made my own bread, complete with grinding the wheat. Yes, this little Red Hen, made it all. Baby food was pureed freshly cooked in my kitchen.
Yet, my children had a few picky moments. Today, rather than play the blame game of "starving children" or bribes of dessert or nagging about empty calories, prepare to take on Veggies Tonight Without A Fight with the Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine. Her latest book Simple Strategies For Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals, a New York Times Bestseller, has inspired healthy eating habits in the most picky of eaters.

The book not only makes nutrition easy to slip between the muffins and cupcakes, but it makes it easy to prepare. This win win combination could be the turning point for a nation of fast food junkies, overweight children and food allergies. The secret? Making simple purees from foods packed with vitamins and high in antioxidants. As simple as making a milk shake, the purees become a tasty base for sauces and batters, hiding the good stuff from the picky eater and putting it where it can benefit growing bodies.

My favorite is Mac and Cheese Muffins. Easy to stick in a lunch box or after school snack, these muffins have it all.


4 large eggs
1 cup orange puree (see below)
2 cups low fat shredded cheese
2 cups cooked macaroni
salt and pepper to taste
Make puree - I yam or sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped. 3 medium carrots peeled and chunked. 2 - 3 tablespoons of water. Put in a medium pot covering potato and carrots with cold water and boil for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and put in food processor with the 2 Tablespoons of water. Keep on high until the puree is smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper liners and spray lightly.

Whisk eggs and orange puree. Mix in 3/4 cup of the cheese and divide batter among the muffin cups. Top each muffin with a tablespoon of cheese. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes until golden brown and bubbly on top. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Missy has a variety of innovative cooking ideas in her Sneaky Cookbooks, even one entitled How to Cheat On Your Man (In the Kitchen). This book, again on the New York Times Bestseller List, offers ways to hide healthy foods in hearty meals. Featured on the Today Show, Missy has found the way to a cooking and healthy lifestyle change - through our stomachs! Grow it, cook it, eat it yourself and you won't have to worry about food recalls. Remember - you are what you eat! That's what a wise Grandma would do.