Thursday, December 20, 2007

Overweight Preschoolers

According to the report, The Role of Child Care Centers in Obesity Prevention published by The Future of Children, almost one in every four preschoolers is overweight. And, of the country's 21 million preschoolers, 13 million of them spend a good part of their day in a childcare center. It seems like a no-brainer then that childcare centers represent a huge opportunity to significantly influence obesity prevention among children. The cook at our center seems genuinely interested in improving the breakfast and snack items. So, I need to start generating a list. I am hoping that friends, family, acquaintances, and others who want to see healthier snack and meal options for preschoolers will post their favorite recipe or snack idea.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 21: Breakfast - whole wheat pancakes, pearsauce; Lunch - red lentil soup, Pink Lady apple, 100% whole grain English Muffin, cheddar cheese; Snacks - blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards), plain yogurt

Childcare Center Menu, December 21: Breakfast - applesauce, pancakes, syrup; Lunch - lentil soup, pears bread and cheese sandwich; Snacks - monkey bread, cucumbers

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 20th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 20: Breakfast - Ancient Grain cereal, pearsauce; Lunch - marinated and baked tofu, 100% whole grain toast, bok choy (Giving Tree Farm), red kabocha squash; Snacks - sweet potato

Childcare Center Menu, December 20: Breakfast - pear and apple muffin, Lunch - BBQ chicken, California vegetables, pears, bread, potatoes; Snacks - taco shells (otherwise known as chips) and salsa

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Survey Results Part II

Well, I was wrong. It turns out that the last food and nutrition committee was productive and that the committee agreed on some goals, based on survey responses, to improve the food program. Since I had to skip the meeting (maybe I should always skip the meeting...) I don't know what those goals are. Except that I was volunteered to identify some healthier snacks to substitute for all of the cinnamon bun crackers, saltines, cookies, cakes, smiley fries, etc. That shouldn't be too difficult. I am only half joking about skipping the meetings. I have been thinking about removing myself from the committee because, well, I simply don't have the time. I am buried in my research and in applying for postdoctoral positions. But there is a part of me that feels obligated to continue participating on the committee. I feel lucky that Caroline doesn't have to eat the food that is served at the center. But I feel badly for all of the other children who do eat there, day in and day out, two meals and two snacks a day. So, I'll give it another month. And about the daily pearsauce - we're finding that it is pretty much the only thing that helps to keep her somewhat regular (though still straining). I'm just glad that she likes it!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 19: Breakfast - 9 grain hot cereal, pearsauce; Lunch - egg salad, 100% whole grain bread, carrots; Snacks - Ak-Mak crackers, cauliflower

Childcare Center Menu, December 19: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - egg salad sandwich, tomato slices, honeydew; Snacks - celery, cream cheese, saltine crackers

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Locally Grown Dry Pinto Beans!

I found locally grown dried pinto beans at the East Lansing Food Co-op this weekend! It's been a chilly, snowy day so I made a pinto bean stew with locally grown red kabocha squash, tomatoes canned this summer, and corn kernels frozen this summer. It was delicious and together with cornbread, the perfect meal for a cold winter night. The recipe is from Deborah Madison's other cookbook, Greens. I followed the recipe but skipped the chili peppers and garnish (cilantro or parsley). I used sweet Hungarian paprika in the stew but I think that it might have made the dish a bit too spicy for Caroline. She ate it but only because I cooled it down with a huge dollop of whole milk yogurt. I thought that sweet Hungarian paprika was....well, sweet. I guess it could have been the cumin that gave this stew its kick. But it was good and Caroline ate it so it will be added to my repertoire of Michigan winter dishes. I don't know if it will mimic tomorrow's lunch entree though because we didn't get a copy of the childcare center menu last Friday.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 17: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - cornbread and pinto bean stew with red kabocha squash, tomatoes, and corn; Snacks - tofu cubes, pomegranate

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Survey Results In!

Last month, the Food and Nutrition Committee at Caroline's day care sent out a survey to all of the parents. I'm the chair of the committee (surprise, surprise) so I was involved in creating the survey. The results are in! The sample size is small (less than 25 percent) but it was clear that I am not the only one that is dissatisfied with the menus. Parents seems frustrated with how many sweets are served (syrup, jam, cookies, cake, cinnamon bun crackers, etc.), the lack of variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and how often white bread is on the menu. But now that the results are in, I'm wondering what the director and cook are going to be willing to do to address parents' concerns. I have a nagging feeling that the answer is "nothing." I've been on this committee now for 9 months (chair for 6) and I can honestly say that I have not seen any improvements to the food program. This week, the children - some of them only 1 year old - have been served pound cake, fruit cocktail, hot dogs, French fries, and croissants (and I don't care that they are "wheat" - a croissant is a croissant). Tomorrow, they'll get chocolate chip cookies for snack. Why? And more importantly, how are we going to go about improving the menu? The Food and Nutrition Committee is meeting to discuss the survey tomorrow.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 14: Breakfast - O's, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards); Lunch - scrambled eggs, 100% whole grain toast, chard, tomato soup; Snacks - pearsauce, plain whole milk yogurt

Childcare Center Menu, December 14: Breakfast - fruit cocktail, wheat croissants; Lunch - turkey sandwiches, carrots, pears, bread, potato soup; Snacks - chocolate cookies, carrots

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December 13th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 13: Breakfast - Ancient Grain cereal, pearsauce; Lunch - whole wheat English muffin cheese pizza, broccoli, corn (frozen, Titus Farms); Snacks - whole wheat graham crackers, peaches (canned this summer)

Childcare Center Menu, December 13: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - cheese pizza, broccoli, pears; Snacks - wheat crackers, apples

December 12th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 12: Breakfast - Ancient Grain cereal with pears; Lunch - tri-color spaghetti and meatballs, mixed vegetables; Snacks - peaches (canned this summer), Ak-Mak crackers

Childcare Center Menu, December 12: Breakfast - fruit cocktail, raisin bread; Lunch - turkey hotdogs, red and yellow peppers, honeydew, French fries; Snacks - baked potatoes with cheese

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hard Red Spring Wheat Apple Pancakes

In October, just before the farmers' market closed for the season, I bought some grains from Mattie Jennings. Mattie and Archie Jennings own Jennings Bros. Stone Ground Grains in Nashville, Michigan. They started their operation in 2005 with seven different varieties of ancient grains (ranging from 150-6000 years old). Today, they sell 2 lb bags of organic (spelt, buckwheat, hard red spring wheat, multi-grain and non-organic grains and mixes (Hopi blue corn, Bloody Butcher corn, Truckers Favorite, Hickory King, Reid's Yellow Dent, Black Aztec). When I first met Mattie, she was giving away spelt graham cracker samples. Caroline loved them and I was sold! I have the hard red spring wheat and spelt flours in my freezer and have been treating Geoff and Caroline to hard red spring wheat pancakes on Sunday mornings. I love the texture and taste of these flours. Tomorrow, I will add thinly sliced apples to my pancake batter and make whole wheat apple pancakes for Caroline's afternoon snack.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 11: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - cheese quesadilla, broccoli, corn; Snacks - whole wheat apple pancakes

Childcare Center Menu, December 11: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat croissants; Lunch - enchiladas, corn, kiwi; Snacks - pound cake, cucumbers

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ancient Grain Cereal

I'm feeling bored with the task of mimicking the childcare center menus. The same menus are recycled every week and California vegetables or some closely related mix of frozen vegetables are served at least two but usually three times a week. I wonder if the children are bored? I wonder if Caroline is bored? This weekend, I tried to mix things up a bit by introducing Caroline to some new ancient grains. I made hot cereal on Saturday morning using toasted barley, millet, and oats. I ground the grains in my Cusinart Mini-prep and cooked them up in 3 cups of boiling water for every 1 cup of grains. I also added a handful of raisins. I cooked the grains and raisins (covered) over low heat for about 40 minutes - enough time for the oats and millet to soften and the raisins to plump up. The barley, though cooked, added a nice chewy texture to the cereal. Before serving, I added a touch of honey (from Craig's Hilltop Honey in Lansing), whole milk, and a pinch of nutmeg. Caroline loved her new ancient grain cereal!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 10: Breakfast - ancient grain cereal, pearsauce; Lunch - mushroom and chard lasagna, peas (frozen, Cascadian Farm); Snacks - whole milk yogurt, blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, December 10: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Golden Grahams; Lunch - turkey lasagna, mixed vegetables, raisins; Snacks - yogurt, crackers

Childcare Center Menu, December 10:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December 7th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 7: Breakfast - 100% whole grain toast, apple butter, pearsauce; Lunch - brown and white rice, marinated and baked tofu, bok choy; Snacks - peaches (canned this summer), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, December 7: Breakfast - pineapple and corn muffins; Lunch - turkey and rice, California vegetables, oranges; Snacks - saltines, soynut butter

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Stand-In Returns

Well, being on our own actually is quite tough. Local, sustainable Super Mom is in Arizona leaving me and Little C to fend for ourselves. Despite the best of intentions, we've resorted to canned organic soups with Wolfgang Puck's smiling mug on the label for dinner. Based on general interest in the creamy tomato last night and hearty chicken noodle tonight, I'd say Mr. Puck is onto something for the two-year-old-and-under set. Lunch can only qualify as best effort, I'm afraid, though the reviews from daycare today were good.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 4: Breakfast - whole wheat toast with Organic Valley ricotta cheese, sliced organic pear; Lunch - brown & white rice, Amy's organic spinach pizza, steamed carrots, blueberries; Snacks - Ak-Mak crackers

Childcare Center Menu, December 4: Breakfast - pineapple & bagels with cream cheese; Lunch - chicken & rice, mixed vegetables, grapes; Snacks - soft pretzels

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Red Cabbage and Curly Kale

Mac n' cheese is on the menu tomorrow but since I didn't have the right ingredients, I experimented using what I had on hand. Our friend Christine gave us a beautiful red cabbage from her garden a couple of weeks ago so I dug that out and used it in place of green cabbage. That was an easy switch. My recipe calls for mushrooms and since I didn't have any on hand, I used curly kale. I didn't choose kale for any particular reason - I just had a big bunch of it in my refrigerator. I served my red cabbage and curly kale mac n' cheese for dinner tonight and Caroline seemed to like it! Geoff and I liked it too but I think I like the green cabbage and mushroom version better. I am off to Arizona tomorrow morning so Geoff will be in charge until Thursday. I'll be attending the 2008 Food and Society conference planning committee meeting. What's Food and Society? It's a program of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that "is based on a vision of a future food system that provides all segments of society a safe and nutritious food supply, grown in a manner that protects health and the environment, and adds economic and social value to rural and urban communities." Thanks for standing-in for me, Geoff!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, December 3: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - red cabbage (Christine's garden) and curly kale mac n' cheese, peas (frozen, Cascadian Farm), Snacks - 100% whole grain bread, apple butter, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, December 3: Breakfast - Grape juice, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Golden Grahams; Lunch - mac n' cheese, California vegetables, bananas; Snacks - carrots, breadsticks
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