Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Food Bribes

Lately, I have been feeling conflicted about how I feel about food bribes. I know that food should never be used as a bribe as in, "If you finish your vegetables, you can watch T.V. (or have dessert, or play with your friends, etc.)." But are all food bribes equally bad? Lately, I have caught myself bribing Caroline with food. I was especially disheartened this weekend when eating dinner at my sister's place up in Toronto. It was Caroline's (and her cousin's) 2nd (and her cousin's 7th) birthday celebration and my sister Michelle made a fabulous meal: pork ribs, steak, bean and corn salad, potato salad, tortilla chips, and guacamole. Michelle's kids ate everything but Caroline was only interested in the chips. I love tortilla chips and guacamole so I know where she was coming from. I gave her more chips but insisted that she first eat the salads. Later that weekend, I found myself saying things like, "You can have another tomato if you take a bite of the egg salad." I hate to admit this but in the past, I've even coaxed Caroline into eating another bite of egg salad (or whatever) by giving her only half of a cherry tomato and bribing her with the other half. Did I really just admit that? What?! Am I crazy? Does it really matter if Caroline wants to eat a pound of tomatoes but not her egg salad? Or zucchini instead of yellow summer squash? I asked my sister Sophia about how she handles these types of situations with her three kids. She had good, practical advice. Let your kids eat as much of the healthful foods as they want -- don't get in the way of them gorging on fresh, peaches, carrots, tomatoes, and even pasta. If you're serving treats like chips or French fries with dinner and you think they've had enough just say, "That's enough chips (or French fries)," and put them away. Simple. No more food bribes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

And Food From Friends

We missed the farmers' market again this weekend because we were up visiting my sisters and their families in Toronto. But my friend Colleen picked up some tomatoes for me at the Meridian Farmers' Market on Saturday. She tossed in a couple of cucumbers from her share at the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm and another friend, Ginger, threw in some fava beans from her garden. Thanks, Colleen and Ginger! Salad is on the menu tomorrow but since lettuce is not abundant this time of year, I'll make a zucchini and heirloom carrot slaw for Caroline's lunch. The zucchini is from our friend Christine's garden. Thanks, Christine! And I picked up the carrots from Steve (Green Eagle Farm) at the Meridian Farmers' Market last weekend. The slaw is nothing fancy, just a handful of shredded zucchini mixed with a handful of shredded carrot. Caroline munched on this combo today and was eating it off of her fingers so I am assuming that she liked it!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 29: Breakfast - French toast (Flying Goat Farm eggs), pearsauce; Lunch - lentil croquettes, cucumbers (MSU Student Organic Farm), zucchini (Christine's garden) and heirloom carrot (Green Eagle Farm) slaw, 100% whole grain bread; Snacks - grape tomatoes (Meridian Farmers' Market), fresh mozzarella cheese

Childcare Center Menu, July 29: Breakfast - French toast, applesauce; Lunch - chicken nuggets, kiwi, bread, salad; Snacks - sweet potatoes, apples

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where to Buy Organically Grown Blueberries

Organically grown blueberries are hard to come by but they do exist! My friend Anne went blueberry picking at Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville, Michigan last weekend. John Van Voorhees and Joan Donaldson grow certified organic blueberries and sell them as u-pick or frozen ($15 for 5 lbs and $85 for 30 lbs). Anne and her family picked 9 lbs of berries (big and beautiful) and also bought 5 lb box of the frozen blues (smaller). Contact Pleasant Hilll Farm at (269) 561-2850 for more information.

I am tempted to buy blueberries from John and Joan since theirs are available right now but I am trying to hold out a couple more weeks for Bruce Walton's blueberries (Walton Orchards). Bruce is a farmer up in Benzie County. I guess I could buy from both but I buy Bruce's blueberries by the lug (25 lbs), which is more than enough for our family of three. I have been buying his blueberries for years. His berries are huge (the size of my thumb) and delicious. And they are Demeter certified - organic certification plus biodynamic standards that include a biodiversity land set aside and processing standards that emphasize minimal product manipulation. It is a certification that is based on sustainable, not just organic, farming. Bruce's blueberries are $4.25 per lb - pricey but worth every penny. For more information, contact Bruce at (231) 645-7679.

Michigan Blueberries!

Blueberries are in-season! Last weekend, we picked up a quart of blueberries ($6 per quart) from Sue Threadgould (Threadgould Gardens). The Threadgould's don't grow their own blueberries but sell blueberries that they buy from another farmer. Since Sue wasn't sure how they were grown, I contacted the farmer myself. The farmer (I didn't get his name) was a very nice man who told me in detail how he grows blueberries, what he sprays and when. Bravo and Indar (fungicides) are sprayed before the fruit develops and two other chemicals, which I didn't quite catch, are sprayed when the blueberry is still in its green fruit stage. Geoff and I ate the Threadgould's blueberries but gave Caroline berries from the pint of local and organically grown ones that I picked up at the food co-op last weekend. I did a bit more research on blueberries and according to the Environmental Working Group, blueberries tend to have low pesticide residues making them a good choice when buying fruit grown with chemical sprays. They even made it onto their list of cleanest 12 foods, or foods that are lowest in pesticide residues. Organically grown blueberries are hard to find and I have to admit that when I can't get my hands on local and organically grown blueberries, I feel comfortable (though still a bit conflicted) about giving Caroline blueberries that have been grown by a smaller scale (versus industrial scale) Michigan farmer. We ran out of the local and organically grown blueberries earlier this week so today, I sent a small handful of the Threadgould's blueberries with Caroline to eat for her afternoon snack. Even though they weren't organically grown, to me, they beat the red bell peppers --which rank right at the top of the dirty dozen list -- that were on the menu today.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 24: Breakfast - oatmeal, prunes; Lunch - salmon salad, 100% whole grain bread, cucumbers (Wildflower Eco Farm), carrots (Green Eagle Farm), Celebrity tomatoes (Wildflower Eco Farm); Snacks - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), yogurt muffin

Childcare Center Menu, July 24: Breakfast - cream of wheat with raisins and bananas; Lunch - fish sandwiches, cucumbers, apples; Snacks - brownies and red peppers

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flying Goat Farm Eggs Now Available!

Flying Goat Farm eggs are now available for $3.50 a dozen! The Hamm's have more eggs than they can use and are looking for a few new customers. The eggs are not certified organic but the hens are fed organic feed and also have lots of room to roam around outside. I have been buying eggs from the Hamm's for almost 4 years. Some of the eggs are brown or blue or green or speckled reflecting the many breeds of hens raised at Flying Goat Farm. The yolks are a beautiful bright yellow-orange color and give the eggs a creamy, rich texture and great flavor. If you're interested in buying eggs from the Hamm's, contact Mike Hamm at

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

The farmers' market is bursting with color! Chiogga beets, red beets, green beans, dark green leafy greens, tomatoes, cukes, blueberries...Since we were planning to meet friends at Nordhaus Dunes for a camping trip this weekend, we thought we'd have to skip the farmers' market today. But we got rained out and changed our plans at last minute and went to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. Before heading out, we hit the market and loaded up with food for the week. Geoff will be in charge of cooking for the first half of the week (I'll be in Atlanta at the Society for Nutrition Education conference) so we didn't buy as much as usual. We ate the chard for dinner tonight in an easy chard and potato dish. The chard melted in my mouth like butter. It was wonderful.

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: blueberries (Threadgould Gardens); Boothby's Blonde cukes, heirloom carrots, zucchini, yellow summer squash, Cousa squash, chard, orange beets (Green Eagle Farm); mixed cherry tomatoes (Owosso Organics); Celebrity tomatoes, Jade cukes (Wildflower Eco Farm)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Tomatoes

The first tomatoes of the season are here! Caroline and I went to the Allen Street Farmers' Market this afternoon and we were both excited to see that Jane Bush (Appleschram Organic Orchards) had tomatoes. She only had a few and they were expensive but they looked perfect and delicious so we bought 1 medium ($1 each) and 2 large tomatoes ($1.50 each). I'll pack a tomato for Caroline's snack tomorrow along with fresh mozzarella cheese and wholegrain Melba toast crackers. Caroline has gone back and forth on the fresh mozzarella cheese. Last summer, it was my go-to food. A couple of weeks ago, she wouldn't touch it. Today, she couldn't get enough of it. I am learning - yes, it's about time - that this is just the way children eat (or don't eat).

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 17: Breakfast - quesadilla with whole wheat tortilla and cheddar cheese, strawberries (Threadgould Gardens); Lunch - brown rice with feta cheese, onions, chard, dill; Snacks - tomato (Appleschram), fresh mozzarella cheese, Melba toast crackers

Childcare Center Menu, July 17: Breakfast - flour tortillas with cheese, strawberries; Lunch - chicken lo mein with red peppers and onions, watermelon; Snacks - trail mix, cucumbers

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pink n' Pretty Fruit Medley and Other Favorites

One of the first books my mom bought when she immigrated to Canada in 1971 was The New Purity Cook Book: The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking. My parents moved from Japan to Lethbridge, what was then a small town in southern Alberta. Ingredients to make traditional Japanese meals were scarce and expensive back then so my mom had to learn how to cook with what was available locally. In addition to its easy-to-follow recipes, The New Purity Cook Book includes a seasonal calendar for fruits and vegetables and step-by-step instructions on how to preserve them for the winter. Cooking terms like “fold,” “simmer,” and “whip” are defined and hand drawn illustrations show how to measure flour and grease a cake pan. It’s here where my mom learned how to make holiday treats like almond crescents and snowballs and salads like pink n’ pretty fruit medley, a combination of fruits set in a raspberry flavored jelly powder mold. During the day when my dad was at work, my mom also learned how to cook “Canadian” food from a German woman (or Russian…she can’t remember) who had a daily cooking show on the Lethbridge television channel. The woman’s recipes were available at the local meat market where my mom would pick them up after the show and try to replicate them in her kitchen.

When I was about 3 years old, my family moved to Vancouver. Six years ago, my parents moved back to southern Alberta. Lethbridge is a much bigger city now with a thriving Japanese community. Even though Japanese cooking ingredients are easy to find now, my mom still uses her old cook book. The book’s binding fell off years ago and the hard cover and pages are now held together with Scotch tape but it’s in here that you’ll find some of our family’s favorite recipes, each marked with my mom’s familiar handwriting.

Caroline and I have been visiting my parents for the last two weeks. We head back to Lansing tomorrow morning. Whenever I come home, my mom makes my favorite foods, both Japanese and Canadian. She didn’t make the pink n’ pretty fruit medley (we haven’t had that for years) but Caroline did get a chance to try her Chicken à l’Orange and other dishes that I love. Some of the recipes are in The New Purity Cook Book but most are in her head. I’ve posted a few on Caroline’s Lunchbox Recipes.

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