Napkin on Your Lap!

February 24, 2009

Check out this article from the NY Times:

Slowing Down School Lunch

The South Beach Diet author, Arthur Agatston, shares his thoughts on the benefits of a civilized school lunch experience. I agree that, yes, slowing down is one way to actually taste your food…now to make the food taste good!

A cafeteria line at IKEA

A cafeteria line at IKEA: the boy chooses chicken finger, fries AND a side of macaroni and cheese

Oh, school lunch. While I ate (and didn’t eat) my last institutional meal years ago, the image of gluttony and junk is forever grease-blotched in my mind. In high school, lunch for many was pepperoni pizza covered in ranch dressing with a side of gravy-laden french fries, topped off with soda and stacks of par-baked chocolate chip cookies. Back then I had enough sense to avoid the cafeteria fare–albeit for the sake of looking fit in a leotard. But I knew my Mom’s sack lunch was healthier and often shook my head disapprovingly at those boys with the fries. To this day, if I see anyone eat fries by the forkful I am transported back to those lunch tables and visions of oily pubescent faces. Eeew.

Today it makes me cringe that someone thought it was a good idea to serve junk to growing teens. When I see images of that same junk being served to elementary-aged children, it gets me boiling mad. With all of the published nutrition research and public health experts lobbying for policy change, it is ridiculous that our government supports the serving of crap on a styrofoam tray.

I firmly believe that kids will “get” nutrition, for a lifetime,  if we (nutritionists, teachers, parents, taxpayers) get them to know and taste good food. Food introduced to them as a vegetable garden, a mock restaurant, a science experiment, a cultural exchange, a pick-and-chop exercise, a meal with family, and yes, a nutritious homemade lunch at school. Sadly, the message of enjoying food is not  reaching most of our country’s children. Even in schools boasting gardens and farm-to-table curriculum, the cafeteria still serves up packaged, processed foods and USDA commodities (aka big industry left-overs). So how are kids supposed to make the connection between food, enjoyment and health?

This year a new administration will reevaluate the National School Lunch Program. Perhaps I am hopeful that there might be some CHANGE. I want to share the following links sent to me by a prominent nutrition educator in NYC, Fern Gale Estrow. The first is a video about big industry’s influence on deciding what is served to children for lunch. (If you are wondering why kids are still drinking soda with their nuggets and mozzarella sticks, take a look!)

The second link is an article from this week’s NY Times, No Lunch Left Behind, by Alice Waters and Katrina Heron…“The National School Lunch Program, costing around $9 billion a year, has turned out to be a poor investment. It should be redesigned to make our children healthier.”

In the Times article, notice the mention of the Berkeley school district. This public school district yanked chef Anne Cooper from her chef position at an exclusive Hamptons, NY private school to revamp their entire lunch program. Her story is one of success and inspiration and told in more detail in her book, Lunch Lessons, which I highly recommend. Start local, do something!

The Food Lobby Goes to School

No Lunch Left Behind


After a week heavy on the dining out, and the beef and pork (ask me about the 1″-thick bacon in the BLT at Char no. 4), I am declaring this week a home-cooked vegetarian one!

Going forward–for at least a week or two–I’m planning meals around a vegetable and trusting that my bean, broth and grain-heavy pantry will fill in the gaps.

Since we are in the dead of February, I’m leaning towards roots and greens. Below are simple menus for this week:

Tuesday: Sweet potato soup

Wednesday: Braised Lacinato kale and white beans

Thursday: Baby spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, sun-dried tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese

The Sweet Potato Soup pictured here received a little kick from fresh ginger root and garlic that I had in the fridge. I bought organic Jewel sweet potatoes, along with juice oranges to add flavor and pack it with vitamins. The recipe resulted in a gorgeous soup the color of a sunset, or of course, a jewel the color of which I have yet to see in my lifetime.

I enjoyed this with a side of whole wheat toast slathered with hummus; but, on its own it is beyond satisfying. The fiber and potato starch produce a naturally thick and creamy belly-filler. Because of its thickness, I think it makes a delicious puree for an infant if you elect to season the soup at the end. Truly a meal for all generations, can’t beat it.

Jewel Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger root (2″ piece, peeled)
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (from 3-4 juice oranges, or purchased)
  • 2# Jewel sweet potatoes (about 3-4), peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth (I prefer Imagine brand)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  1. In a large soup pot, cook onion in the olive oil on med-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the orange juice; stir and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the potatoes, broth and salt (omit salt if feeding some to an infant–you can add later on); give a stir and bring to a boil.  Return to a gentle simmer and cook 25-30 minutes, until the potato can be easily halved with a wooden spoon. Remove the pot from heat. (While the soup cooks, you may toast the walnuts if desired).
  3. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree until completely smooth. You may add 1-2 cups water at this point to thin the soup to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the walnuts.

I Linzer Heart You!

February 15, 2009


Just in time for the day after Valentine’s, I send you all my love and Linzer Cookies!

The jam runneth over in these raspberry-filled Linzer knock-offs (mine use plain old sugar cookie dough–and no scalloped edges). I purposely added too much fruity filling…got a little joy out of watching jam get squished up through the center and out the edges.

Also enjoyed watching my husband and sister-in-laws’ faces as they munched on their edible Valentines.

Until next year, heart cookie cutter…

Thanks to Pat Kiernan of NY 1, who I depend on for a wry delivery of the morning headlines, I hear there’s an article in the Times about people who are unplugging their fridges to shrink their carbon footprint. I immediately have to read about this phenomenon and wonder, are these just Manhattanites living in studios who have ditched their 2′ x 4′ dorm fridges to make a green statement? I can actually see how this would work in a pedestrian-friendly city like NYC. Here your legs can carry you to the store several times a week–carbon-free–and city CSAs are often portioned for 1-2 person households. Oh, and people here tend to eat out, a lot.

I’ve posted a link to the article below. It includes some good arguments for and against the fridge. For me, I can’t imagine living without one, I’ve named my blog after it for goodness sake! And it is entirely necessary for my catering business and food safety issues.

I propose another green question to the fridge-less, how are you going about recycling those giant hunks of plastic?

Trashing the Fridge

Revealing Refridge

February 4, 2009

It's what's on the inside that counts

It's what's on the inside that counts

Fridge and Tunnel has officially gone Bridge and Tunnel! It was a momentous weekend as we hopped the River East and headed towards greener pastures in Brooklyn, NY.

Not surprisingly, the first thing I unpacked in the new place was my large insulated tote, packed to the brim with the contents of my old fridge. The new fridge, with its three ample crisper drawers and the absence of a stalactite growing down it’s backside, is clearly a step-up from the old tenement fixture we left behind. In response to my friend Alisa’s inquiries, yes, we do indeed have “adult-sized” appliances. Even the sheet trays fit into the oven horizontally…oh the prayers that have been answered.

Today I posted an article to Delicious by Russ Parsons from the LA Times, The Refrigerator Personality Test. It reminded me of the fridge-cleaning task I had just completed–deciding what gets packed and what gets dumped, recycled or given away. As the author sits on his kitchen floor sorting out the expired from the inspiring, he comes to identify he’s a pickle guy and a sentimental one at that. The food–regardless of its fate–brought back fond memories of friends, special meals and travels and perhaps also revealed in a way what he holds near and dear.

So while my fridge stands relatively devoid of actual fresh food, I wondered if some of the condiments and frozens might reveal a bit about my personality.  A condensed inventory includes some frozen bison burgers, Haagen Daaz Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream, peanut butter, Tabasco, Brooklyn Lager, Bragg’s Aminos, nutritional yeast, flax seeds, Guatemalan hot sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, Heinz ketchup, Dijon mustard, butter, tomato paste, chimichurri sauce, and New York pure maple syrup. Anyone care to analyze?