Friday, May 25, 2012

A Heartfelt Thank You

Photography Credit, Artisan Events
When I posted about my son’s little league snack on Monday, I could not have anticipated that it would generate so much interest! Jeez, Louise.

I want to welcome those of you who are new to Little Locavores. In this blog, I write about my efforts and those of my family to eat well. I also often chronicle the work that I do as the Executive Director (or head spear as I like to say) of Purple Asparagus.

Purple Asparagus is a non-profit that educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and planet. During the school year, we teach our flagship program, Delicious Nutritious Adventures. Delicious Nutritious Adventures gets kids excited about fresh fruits and vegetables through guided tastings and hands on cooking. In the 2011-12 school year, we visited over 30 Chicago Public Schools, providing regular monthly programs in 18 of those.

As the school year comes to a close, we receive the most charming thank you letters both from our kids and from the teachers, two of which I’d like to share here.

First, from the kids:

And then from the teachers:

Dear Melissa,

            We would like to take this opportunity to say a heart-filled thanks for bringing the Purple Asparagus workshops to Galileo.    Our students have loved every minute of the program.  They experienced new foods, tasted what they made and became aware of the huge variety of local and organic fresh fruits and vegetables available to them.

            The presenters were friendly, knowledgeable, and addressed all our students’ questions and insights.  They were patient and understanding to needs of all students.  Each month they came prepared to engage and challenge the children to try nutritious and healthy foods.

            It was exciting to see our kids taste and love unusual fruits and vegetables.  At first we had our reservations, thinking they might not be willing to try these foods, but were we wrong.  Many times students finished the samples and asked for seconds.  More than once we had students ask the presenters to write the foods down so they could ask their moms to purchase the foods for them.  Students also related their trips to Whole Foods in search of these foods.

            It is our hope that Purple Asparagus will be back next year to offer our new first graders the opportunity to experience this exciting and hands-on learning.  Our kids have brought their ideas and experiences home to teach and share with their families. This type of extended learning is what we hope to achieve when we teach each day.  It has been our pleasure to participate and once again, thank you so much.  You have opened our eyes to healthy and good foods.


                                                            Jack Beven, Mary Mattson and Valerie Sarvin
                                                            Galileo First Grade Teachers

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Snack Attack in the Snack Culture

Every spring, when Little League games begin, three little words strike terror into the hearts of health-conscious parents all over the country: post game snacks. When I hear the phrase, visions of neon colored sugar water and Costco valu-paks brimming with sodium and artificial colors fill my head.

I try to advocate balance as my son’s chief dietician. As my mom says, one bag of junk won’t ruin your body. As a result, I don’t forbid Thor from taking a bag of Doritos or a bottle of Gatorade but instead let him decide for himself. Fortunately, he usually politely declines knowing that healthier and tastier alternatives await at home (Greater Than coconut water and Tia tortilla chips are delicious natural alternatives to these chemically enhanced treats).

This year, however, is different. My husband, our team’s coach, and I paid for Purple Asparagus to sponsor the team. Forgoing the folksy tone, I’d adopted for past emails as snack mom, I drove straight to the heart of the matter. From my email:

“Some of you may have seen a recent article in the Trib suggesting that kids who play organized sports eat more junk food because of the treat culture pervasive in youth leagues. I’d like us not to be that team. To encourage that, I want to give a few guidelines.

  • The post game nosh is a snack, not a treat. If our team track record persists, they’ll be plenty of time for those (both of the kid and adult variety) towards the end of the season - the White Sox like a good party. But after a game, the kids need something to replenish their energy, not send them into sugar shock.
  • Please be conscious of allergy concerns. If any of your kids has a food allergy, please let me know. I know we all want our kids to be safe and will accommodate any food allergies.
  • Let’s try to avoid foods with artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of loaded sugar and salt. I promise I won’t bring your kid kale chips if you don’t bring mine Cheetos.”

You know what? Thus far, we’ve had awesome snacks ranging from a banana and a bottle of water to homemade pumpkin whoopie pies.We’ve got a winning record not only on the field but also in the snack realm. Do I attribute this to my well-crafted email? I wouldn’t flatter myself. I think we lucked into a great group of parents. And, perhaps, sometimes folks just need a little encouragement to pass up the potato chips in favor of the apple chips.

Pink Lemonade
Serves 4

For three years running, we’ve served Pink Lemonade as the beverage portion of my snack rotation. Ordinarily, I use strawberries to create the hue, but this year I had a mushy blood orange to rid my fridge of. It turned the lemonade a salmon-y shade of pink.

1 blood orange
3 lemons, approximately
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar syrup

Juice the blood orange into a 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough lemon juice to the blood orange juice to make 1/3 cup of juice. Fill water into the cup to measure 3 cups total of liquid. Stir in sugar syrup. If the lemonade is too tart to your taste, add more sugar syrup gradually.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Supermoms Against Superbugs

Greetings everyone,

Two years ago, I wrote about the clear and present danger presented by the over use of antibiotics in the livestock industry in The Morality of Meat. Children dead within days of being exposed to Methicillin Resistant Staph (or MRSA), the development of superbugs resistant to our antibiotics - it scares the shit out of me.

Despite all the attention to childhood obesity, I firmly believe that this is the number one public health crisis in America. We need to change the hearts and minds of our government and our populace, to demonstrate the importance of keeping our antibiotics safe and effective for our children when they need them.

Because of my advocacy in this area, I was selected to be a “Supermom” for an event called Supermoms Against Superbugs. Today, Thor, Mike, my mom and I travel to DC to participate tomorrow in a day of advocacy in Washington, D.C. We will celebrate and unite moms and dads across America to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for their children and families.

Organized by The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, our goal is to encourage the White House and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce antibiotic overuse in food animal production—a practice that breeds drug-resistant bacteria that can make us sick.

I will be joined by chefs, pediatricians, farmers, and everyday moms who have a particular interest in this issue.  Some raise food animals without the routine use of antibiotics, some serve meats raised without antibiotics in their restaurants and homes, some work on the frontlines treating a growing number of children with antibiotic-resistant infections, and some have personal stories to share about how antibiotic resistance has impacted their lives.

I hope you will join me by participating virtually! No planes, trains, or automobiles required, just a computer with an Internet connection, a smart phone, or a tablet.

Here are some things you can do:
·         Visit Supermoms Against Superbugs to learn more about the event, including bios on all of the Supermoms and a list of virtual actions you can take on May 15. 

·         Follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we prepare for our trip and take Washington by storm!

Thank you for your support!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dad, Man the Grill for Mom

Ah, Mother’s Day: a day for dads and kids to celebrate Mom by making a giant mess out of her kitchen. While I’m sure that there’s a goodly percentage of dads out there who pull off a delicious family brunch without flour on the ceiling and eggs in the cabinet hinges, my husband is not one of them.

To read more, visit Williams-Sonoma's Blender blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Open Letter to my Marvelous Mother

Photo Credit, SC Johnson, Right@Home
Dear Mom,

Culling out a single food memory from my childhood would be impossible as there are so very many, so here is my open thank you letter to you.

Thank you for our family field trips to farm stands on the east end of Long Island. At the time, I had no idea how important it was for me to see real food in its natural state.

Thank you for being a gracious and creative hostess. I couldn't possibly remember all of your parties, but some of my best memories are of making and serving dinner by candlelight for a Colonial Williamsburg dinner, clambakes, and cocktail hours that lasted several hours on our boat. But of course, I'd be remiss in not recalling your very popular, annual survival party - an outdoor event on New Year's Day. Yes, you served too much food and people drank too much. But the laughter that you inspired will ring forever in my ears.

Thank you for taking risks. What were you thinking when you taught a group of 4th graders to make croissants for a French class project with no oven. (Oh, yeah, I would probably do something so silly these days).

Thank you for your willingness to experiment. While you'd never touch a roll of sushi, you exposed me to so many different cuisines as a kid - I remember the fondue pot, the wok, the crepe pan, and of course your famous krumkakers filled with sweetened whipped cream.

Thank you for showing me the importance of family dinner. While I may forgo the candles that you set out, we continue this tradition every night, one that keeps our family strong.

Thank you for not being perfect, for the occasional Dorito, coke and McDonald's visit. Although you made what we may now consider mistakes, it's comforting to know that if you get all the big stuff right, things will probably turn out okay.

Thank you for birthday cakes, raucous parties, cooking lessons, nourishment and nutrition, and of course for soft-boiled eggs.

I'm pretty certain that I have never pulled out an egg cup in my own home. I've scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, omeletted, fried, even coddled, but never made myself a soft-boiled egg with sliced buttered toast like you served me on a many a cold morning before school. Thank you for that memory, so simple, so unspoiled and yet so profound.

Thank you most of all for being my mom.



Soft-Boiled Eggs
Do I really to give a recipe for this? Probably. Because many people weren't lucky enough to have a mom like mine to show them the ropes in the kitchen.

3 eggs

Bring a pot just large enough to hold the eggs filled with water to a hard boil. Add the eggs and cook between 3 and 4 minutes or until done to your preference. Cut of about a 1/4-inch of the egg's top with a serrated knife. Serve with thinly sliced buttered toast.

If you're looking for a home run recipe to make for your marvelous mom, try the Orange Delight Pancakes pictured above, a recipe I created for SC Johnson's Right@Home website.
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