I sat my kiddos down over BINGO and BEERS (grownups ONLY) in the new year and told them our very difficult new truth. There's going to be some new foods on your plate in 2017, you are going to think some of them smell and you will think some of them look stupid. You may not like quinoa. You may not prefer braising greens. I know you can't stand the way the baby sweet pea vines squeak on your little tiny teeth. But they will be there, on your plate alongside some older and friendlier foods and I do not want to hear a peep until you are asked for comment. Capiche? And so we began our journey of navigating foods that make my three blended family children gag.
Enter Sara Forte of sprouted kitchen, one of my absolute favorite experts on pure and whole foods, she can elevate a brussel sprout dish on her Instagram to Taj Mahal status.
Kate: I’ve been practicing avoidance with new and healthy foods. sometimes *they* can smell it coming and the negative chi coming from the table is disheartening at best after a day of work + mommy stuff. Sometimes I want to serve eternal mac + cheese to protect my sensitive mommy heart. A meal is a gift from my heart to them and rejection is the total pits.
Sara: I totally get it. My son is 2.5 and much pickier about vegetables. He used to eat everything and now I have to fight and bribe him to take bites and it's exhausting. I stopped pushing because it ruins my dinner time and now I realize he mostly just eats bread and protein. Oops. Hoping for some changes soon too and I know that's on me. Hope you have better luck with feeding your variety of eaters! It's hard to offer one meal and stick to that but I know kids come around when they realize that is what is served. Wishing you luck!
Kate: You make me feel more normal. What's your favorite kids dish that collectively has the least push back?
Sarah: Roasted squash or sweet potatoes. They also love scrambled eggs, sautéed or roasted tofu and most any protein. I cook mostly vegetarian but my kids enjoy animal proteins and that is fine with me. Veggie burgers are also a crowd favorite.
Kate: What's your favorite kid snack of least resistance?
Sara: Green smoothies. I do half a banana, a ton of greens, nub of celery, almond milk, flaxmeal and frozen berries and they suck that down. I mean my kids' favorite food is honestly packaged protein bars unfortunately, I like the ingredients in the perfect bars, but I save those for when we're on the go, I don't offer them when we're home.
Kate: I used to call these shrek shakes. I stopped doing this after some kale got caught in ruby's throat and she gagged. I am super inspired to try again.
What does the inside of your fridge look like?
Sara: Depends on where I am on grocery runs. It's mostly vegetables because they take up lots of fridge real estate. I always have sandwich stuff and a few sauces or condiments for easy rice bowls and such (tahini, pesto, miso citrus sauce from my second cookbook, muhummara, hummus). Almond milk, orange juice, bread...pretty standard stuff, I suppose, but random odds and ends because I always make more than we need so there are leftovers.
Kate: I’m into that miso citrus sauce.
What are some staples to keep in your home that make life easier?
Sara: A few wholesome cereals, string cheese, a low sugar or homemade granola, beans (bean, smashed sweet potato, avocado and cheese burritos happen quite frequently here), applesauce. I make two dressings on Sunday and those cover my salads thru the week. Smoothie fixings and a good protein powder. I make a huge batch of roasted vegetables during the week and repurpose those to either just throw on my one year old’s tray or put in a wrap for my son or I dip them in hummus while doing other things and call that lunch. They sustain us in so many ways. Same goes for a roasted chicken. It is always at least two meals.
Kate: At one point in my career I was featured on some fancy blog and I noted that I mixed up complete proteins on Sundays. That was completely before my second child and my divorce and it makes me concerned and delighted to think that I could get that kind of thing done on a Sunday. I do think that roasted veggie thing is brilliant though and I am taking that to heart! Thank you.
Does color play a part in your meal planning - what are you attracted to, what colors inspire you?
Sara: It meant a lot more to me before I had two babies :) I feel like color and contrast or even sometimes monochromatic tones are so attractive and make food more enjoyable to eat. The kids don't care so much and I don't have as much time. When I am making food for work or other people, I for sure believe color is a large part in what attracts other people to food.
Kate: Yes, but you still roast up a bunch of veggies on Sundays and that’s amazing.
I read recently that in some other cultures dairy and meat is used more for flavoring and garnish. I’m into that! How do you feel about ratios of meat and cheese?
Sarah: Yes! I believe the same here. My husband and kids really like meat so I try to have mostly vegetables, a bit of a grain or starch and a small protein. I think it is best to get full on mostly vegetables. I love giant salads but usually put a sprinkle of cheese in there to make them tasty and filling. I keep dairy to a minimum in all other areas, but I always seem to enjoy my salads better with a sprinkle of cheese. But yes, I think the American diet in general is WAY too much meat and dairy and we should be mimicking this thought process! Also, less expensive.
Kate: What's your relationship with beans like?
Sara: I love them, but they do make me gassy so I don't eat them often. I know they have a lot of fiber but I think they are tough on most peoples' systems. I used to eat a lot more because I thought they were my veggies protein source but I find I feel better with a little fish or an egg on top of whatever vegetables I am eating. I go in phases.
Kate: How do you manage your grocery shopping? I have a coop for produce and then find myself at two grocery stores and the whole process takes a bit of time and coordination.
Sara: Same here. I usually do a local farm, Trader Joes and a regular store in the course of a week and Costco every other. I know what I like from each place and there is no way to get everything in one place. Especially as I am trying to get organic and wholesome ingredients and not go broke doing so, I have to move around for certain things. I suppose it is inefficient in some way but it's also just how it goes since food is so important to me.
Kate: Between the green smoothie and the roasted veggies and learning that even beautiful foodie famous people on Instagram are A. real and B. have kid veggie struggles, my mind is blown.