Archive for February, 2009

How Seasonal Bargains Came Together Quick for a Super-Satisfying, Healthy Meal

February 27, 2009 4 comments

Grocery shoppingI went to Central Market yesterday with my list. I was planning to make Curly Endive Salad with Poached Pear, Pecans and Blue Cheese (see previous post for the recipe) that night.

Walking in, I was pleased to see some really nice, fresh looking jumbo asparagus for only $1.99 a pound. With some hollandaise sauce,  it would make a scrumptious partner to the salad.

Then I saw they had fresh blueberries and lovely strawberries on sale. Like the asparagus, strawberries must be newly in season, and therefore, not only looking better than usual but also cheaper than usual. I rarely buy either one because they’re expensive, and strawberries are notorious for testing high on levels of residue from pesticides. But I figure it’s probably not as bad when they aren’t forced to grow out of season. And, as I often say, “The body can process a certain amount of toxins.”

So for less than $5 I could get a lot of berries, for a nice dessert for the four of us, really a third course of super nutritious fruit to round out the meal.

For the salad, I decided on some fragrant red pears instead of the really expensive Asian pears, which would have been a closer match for the quinces the original recipe called for. I figured they’d be just as good.



Voila! A really quick, wide-spectrum, healthy meal of an abundance of vegetables and fruits, many raw, for a night I knew I wouldn’t have much time.


Added bonus: this vegetarian fare includes good protein sources: egg, nuts, cheese. Some of us also added a little plain organic yogurt (also a bargain buy) to the fruit. I always keep in mind my mostly-vegetarian 18-year-old.

I figured it was a good omen when my cashier’s name was Delicia (see receipt below).

We got home late and I was able to whip up this three-dish meal in about a half an hour. It was fun to make and quite a hit with everybody.

This meal was delicious as well as really elegant looking. I felt exceptionally satisfied after the meal. I didn’t get pecky (as the British say) as I often do before bed time.

I estimate the meal cost me around $20, but the salad is enough for all of us to have again for lunch today. Not especially cheap, but very nutrient dense, so worth it once in awhile. It’s still a bargain compared to eating a lesser quality meal in a restaurant. Receipt2 

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon / 27 February 2009 / All rights reserved

Curly Endive Salad with Poached Pear, Pecans and Blue Cheese

February 27, 2009 1 comment

Curly Endive Salad with Poached Pear, Blue Cheese and Pecans

This salad recipe is a definite keeper! Out-of-the-ordinary, highly flavorful, elegant, and good-for-you in every way, yet quick and easy. It also includes nuts, a great source of protein and a nice change from meat, along with a little cheese. Almost a meal in itself, it’s an excellent option for vegetarian teenagers.

I’ve always served dishes like this to my kids, even when they were toddlers. They’ve always eaten everything because no one ever told them they weren’t supposed to like it.

If you expect resistance from your child, act a little happy-mad-scientist / exuberant chef while fixing it. Then just eat it yourself, act like you didn’t plan on giving him any, and visibly enjoy it. The little one might wonder if he’s missing something. Say, “You don’t want any, do you?” and maybe ask your spouse, “Is there enough?” Watch the response.

2 C water

¼ cider vinegar

3 T light brown sugar

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 t minced fresh ginger root

½ t ground coriander

1 small cinnamon stick

Salt, pepper

Two firm pears or quinces (a winter fruit that’s like a cross between apple and pear), peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 ½ C pecan halves (6 oz)

2 T sherry vinegar

2 T red wine vinegar

¼ C vegetable oil

¼ C walnut oil

1 t sugar

1 ½ lbs curly endive, frisee or chicory salad

1 C crumbled blue cheese

Preheat the over to 350°.

In a medium pan, combine the water, cider vinegar, brown sugar, jalapeno, ginger, coriander, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the sliced pear, cover and simmer over low heat about 10 minutes. Drain the pears and put in a small bowl. Discard the poaching liquid.

Meanwhile, spread the pecans on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the sherry and red wine vinegars with the oil and sugar. Whisk until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Put some of the curly endive in each plate. Top with poached pear, pecans, blue cheese and dressing.

Serves four for dinner and four again for lunch the next day.

Adapted from Food & Wine’s 2008 Annual Cookbook.


© French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 27 February 2009 / All rights reserved

Having Trouble Getting Kids to Eat? Feed Them, but Cook For Yourself

February 27, 2009 1 comment

Mom cook “Good—leaves more for the rest of us,” my mom used to say to any kid who didn’t want to eat something.  At our house, eating was the club we wanted to join.

A powerful tactic for parents who want their children to voluntarily eat the most nourishing foods is to enthusiastically prepare and enjoy eating those foods themselves. 

A begrudging, unenthusiastic cook is missing out. Why not conquer your boredom and turn a chore into a game? It pays off in so many ways for you and for your kids.

“Feed them, yes; but do not cook for them. Cook for yourself,” advises Robert Farrar Capon in The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection.

“What [kids] need most of all in this vale of sorrows is the sight of men who relish reality,” Capon writes. “You do them no lasting favor by catering to their undeveloped tastes. We have not acquired our amplitude for nothing. No matter what they think, we know.  We are the ones who have tasted and seen how gracious it all is. What a shame if we were to hide that light under a bushel.”

Like with the emergency air masks on the airplane, you have to take care of yourself first in order to be able to take care of your child. The more passion you genuinely feel for what you cook, the better the chance they will catch your enthusiasm.  Modeling enjoyment of good things will likely foster your child’s enjoyment of the same.

I occasionally ask my husband or kids if there’s something they’d like to eat, and sometimes I might make what they ask for if I also happen to be in the mood for it, but generally I shamelessly follow my own whims and cravings.  Making what I feel like cooking or eating is the best cure I know to stave off cooking boredom and reluctance. Whether I hear the call of a certain flavor, of something new or of an old favorite, I follow Capon’s advice: “Please yourself, first, last and always.”

©French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 27 December 2008 / All rights reserved

How to Stay Skinny and Healthy While Eating Whatever You Please

February 27, 2009 Leave a comment

"Love God and do as you please." - St. Augustine

I’m pretty slim, and so are my kids and husband, so occasionally someone asks me if I “watch” what we eat. I don’t have a simple answer for that question.

I’m no Don Gorske, the guy in the documentary Super Size Me (an excellent tool, by the way, to turn kids off to fast food) who claims that Big Macs make up 90 percent of his solid food intake, averaging two a day since 1972. He also drinks little but Coke. Yet, at 6’2″, he weighs only 185 pounds.

I do eat whatever I want and, since they’ve gotten bigger and they’re conditioned, I let my kids eat whatever they want, but I don’t want to give the impression that we stay fit, slim and healthy in spite of eating junk. My motto is “Love healthy food and eat whatever you want.”

We can eat whatever we want because what we want is all manner of healthy foods. We like all that stuff. So, whatever we want to eat, we eat. If we want a Little Caesar’s pizza or a Snickers bar, we eat it. It’s not all the time, though. I usually don’t feel that great afterwards. I don’t bring  soda, candy, or any other junky snacks into the house. If I did, it would be tempting. We would eat it if it were there. I buy all healthy foods, and we get hungry, and we eat them and enjoy them.

At the end of the day, we all tend to do what we want. Going against our heart inclinations is too hard for any length of time. So this love of what’s good for them is a pearl of great price for our children.

“Take advantage of the last moment when you have complete control over what your child consumes,” writes Mireille Guiliano in French Women Don’t Get Fat. “As children we develop our lifelong sense of what is natural and comforting, and the adult continues to seek comfort from the same sources, regardless of how unhealthful. . . The best gift you can give your child is a conditioned attraction to the things that are good for her.”

We condition a child’s attraction by introducing him to the widest variety of vegetables, fruits, and flavors, in season, carefully prepared and presented winsomely.

“Tasteless fruits and vegetables won’t win them over for life,” Guiliano notes.

If your tastes and your child’s are jaded, and you love what’s bad for you more than what’s nutritious, you can make the choice to find healthy foods that you can love. The great adventure of eating well is a lifelong journey.


© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 26 February 2009 / All rights reserved

What I’m Cooking This Week

February 23, 2009 1 comment

"Many cards and letters have come in requesting" some sample menus. That’s what my old French teacher used to say before he gave us some disagreeable exercise. I’m trying three new recipes this week, which I hope will be easy and delicious, anything but disagreeable. If they're winners, I will post them on this blog.

Moosewood Tonight, I’ll serve "Warm Salad," from the Moosewood vegetarian cookbook (, "featuring an assortment of ultra nutritious leafy greens, lightly cooked and delicately marinated."

I just came home from Central Market with armloads of ingredients: escarole (a curly salad), red Swiss chard, Savoy cabbage, mustard greens, leeks, cauliflower, celery and mushrooms. It's marinated in just vinegar, Parmesan and pepper. Seems like it could use a little olive oil to me. We'll see. With it, I’ll probably serve a garlic-pesto marinated pork loin I got free with a coupon.

Tomorrow, I have planned "Jicama, Orange and Fennel Salad," 

also from the Moosewood cookbook (,-Orange-and-Fennel-Salad-recipe.html).

Jicama is a Mexican tuber resembling a light brown turnip, very crisp and fresh. This salad also includes a few sprigs of arugula (which will come from my garden), and 10 leaves of a Belgian endive.

It has a dressing of olive oil, orange juice, balsamic and raspberry vinegars, garlic and honey. It also calls for a garnish of Pickled Red Onions, which I made yesterday.

So far, we are eating a very caveman diet: greens, roots, meat. The kids each took a bag of raw Brazil nuts as part of their lunch today (along with applesauce and granola bar and who knows what else). They usually take leftovers of whatever we had the night before.

With the salad, I’ll serve Spanakopita, a Greek dish: creamy cheese and spinach filling between layers of buttery, flaky pastry. Not so caveman, but sounds yummy. It’s from one of Cynthia Pedregon’s Peach Tree Tea Room cookbooks. The Peach Tree is a little restaurant up the road in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Sometime in the next three days, I’ll probably use the extra leeks to make my French mother-in-law’s famous carrot soup, one of my husband's favorites. It’s just a bunch of carrots, a couple of potatoes, and leeks (added to cook later than the rest), all chopped and cooked in water till tender, with maybe a bay leaf or two, maybe a garlic clove or two. It’s blended with a soup mixer, though I like to keep as many of the leek pieces whole as I can, so I scoop them out before blending. Add some a salt and pepper and serve with a little cream.

I hope not to buy anything more until Thursday morning. If we run short, I’ll pull out a few eggs and make an omelet, or maybe boil some noodles. I only spent $44. Not too bad for three days’ worth of food, I thought.


 French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 23 February 2009 / All rights reserved

The Nine Worst and Best Things to Say to Kids at the Table

February 19, 2009 6 comments

Brussels sprouts boy

The Nine Worst Things to Say to Children at Dinner Time

1. “Eat it.” / “You can’t leave the table until you eat your _______.

“Human babies, like the young of other species, have wonderful appetites unless they are sick or unless they’ve become disgusted with too much urging or forcing,” said Dr. Benjamin Spock.

We’re born willing to eat the foods our bodies need, and also knowing how much we need to eat. Force feeding results in the opposite of what you want, long-term. Encouraging a child to eat more than she wants not only teaches her to disregard her appetite but also builds resistance to eating what you want her to eat.

2. “Clean your plate.”

More classic force feeding. Why encourage a child to overeat? Perfect for getting kids used to ignoring their body’s signals.

3. “One more bite.”

Yet another version of force feeding. If eating is good, is eating more better? Babies know when they’ve had enough. If we listen to them, they’ll keep that ability. The more we push, the less interest they’ll have in eating. Kids, like the rest of us, also appreciate that their feelings matter.

4. “No dessert unless you eat that.” / “There’s dessert if you eat that.

Using these tactics is the best way to increase a child’s desire for dessert and decrease his interest in the target food.

5. “Good job!”

No better way to let a child know that healthy eating is a duty, an act of self-denial, not something we do for the joy of our hearts. Teaches them that there is virtue in eating when you’re not hungry (or if you’re an adult, in not eating when you are hungry). Everybody is born wanting to eat until we’re told we should eat. Why try to control a kid when no control is called for? Kids are people, and when people are controlled a lot, they tend to get negative and resistant. They may assert themselves in undesirable ways just to have some self-determination.

6. “It’s good for you.”

Not the most compelling reason to eat something. It implies that there is no other reason to eat it. It’s pretty clear at that point that taste isn’t its forte. Really, no reason need ever be given to eat. Humans have to eat. They are programmed to be satisfied by eating. If you regularly put nourishing, well prepared food in front of a hungry child, and give them permission to eat it, it will follow, as night the day, that they will eat it, with gusto even. Further action tends only to backfire.

7. “Kids are starving in Africa…”

Manipulative guilt trips only increase the unpleasantness children will associate with eating. It may make them eat but it won’t make them like it. Any reasonably normal kid will eat what they’re given if they are allowed to get hungry for it, just like those kids in Africa. They’ll even eat it with joy if they’re not pestered.

8. “Do you like it?

An invitation to fussiness, this question offers the option of not liking it. It’s a great way to direct a child’s mind toward the idea of refusing to eat, especially if she senses your fear.

The less you talk about not liking food, and the less you validate their pickiness, the better. The expectation to set up is that of course we like food. They might discover to their surprise some day that they don’t really like a certain food, but it shouldn’t be a routine test.

The question also demonstrates a lack of authority. You know what’s good; you know what kinds of foods to serve. Present a confident front.

9. “What do you want to eat?”

Another question that’s only asking for trouble, unless it’s for the child’s birthday dinner or maybe one of your very rare meals at a restaurant. More fear, more lack of authority. Don’t forget they have an appetite. Leverage that appetite by serving only the foods you want them to eat.

Girl with veg

Nine of the Best Things You Can Say to Children at the Table

1. “Bon appétit!”

This salutation takes the place of saying grace at most French tables. It is a blessing on the eaters, wishing them the joy of coming to the table with a healthy hunger to be satisfied.

Another French expression that points out the central role of the appetite in good eating habits is “Quand l’appétit va, tout va,” meaning “when the appetite goes, everything goes.”

2. “Are you hungry?”

This question puts a child in touch with the only necessary motivation to eat. If he’s not hungry, he shouldn’t eat (though if he is, dinner time’s the time). The combination of a hungry child and well prepared, tasty Real Foods—nothing more, nothing less—equals a kid who will eat his vegetables.

3. “Would you like some? How much do you want? Don’t take more than you can eat.”

Such comments further tune the child in to his own hunger and how much he feels like eating. Furthermore, it puts a premium value on the food itself. It communicates that “we care about food; it’s something precious.”

4. “Yum!”

Simply enjoying your own dinner is a completely natural, normal way to show kids the way things go. It’s a wisely passive and positive alternative to making an issue of what they are eating.

5. “I heard/read/saw something interesting/funny/surprising today…”

Having a pleasant conversation at the table rather than browbeating kids about what they’re eating leads to good digestion and better relationships.

6. “I didn’t really make enough for you.”

Once when my kids were small, they didn’t like the looks of something I’d fixed. My daughter said, “We don’t want any of that.”

“That’s good,” I responded. “I didn’t really make enough for you guys.” With no hesitation, they piped up, “But we want some!”

So I told them, “Well, I guess you can have a little bite.” Their instant reply? “No, a big bite!”

At the first crossroads, if I had taken up the gauntlet and said, “Well, you need to try a bite,” we can all imagine how the rest of the conversation would have gone.

7. “It’s kind of an adult taste.”

My mom would feed us this line any time we said we didn’t like something. I believed it then and I believe it now. Putting it in those terms takes a bit of the glory out of childish fussiness, gives them something to aspire to. It also gives them an out: they won’t lose face if they decide to like it later. Rather they get to show their maturity, like graduating to big boy pants, when they’re big enough to like those grown up foods. It’s a grown-up way to respond to their refusal to eat that defuses rebellion. If we push, kids tend to dig their heels in and hang onto their dislikes.

8. “Tastes do change. It’s been awhile; do you want to try it again?”

This tactic puts the ball in her court. Like No. 7, it gives her a chance to change her mind without feeling like she’s surrendered. No pressure, no force, just an opportunity.

9. “Good, that leaves more for the rest of us.”

Again places value on the food, sets it up as something we enjoy and we want, but that no one need fight over. So much more dignified and effective, not to mention more pleasant and natural than begging, pleading or negotiating.

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon / 19 February 2009 / All rights reserved

For Pure Pleasure: Assume the Best

February 9, 2009 1 comment

N-healthyeatingkids135x170 “Wouldn’t it be great if kids came into the world with the innate desire to eat the right foods?” asks Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious, one of two recent books filled with techniques to smuggle vegetables into a child’s stomach by way of the foods kids willingly eat.

“Getting a child to enjoy healthy food is next to impossible, but there is no harm in trying,” says a website that advocates “making” kids eat healthy foods by piling them in amusing structures on the plate.

A baby’s inborn appetite leads her through pure pleasure to the nourishment she needs to grow, mentally and physically. How would our race have survived this long otherwise? Or brought forth the ingenious developments in today’s world? But somehow, after a year or two of school, children stop wondering why. They seem to lose the delight in discovery. Even before that, they lose much of their appetite for foods that will nourish them.

So what goes wrong? Could parents’ assumptions be feeding their resistance?

In our educational system, as in our culture of feeding children, we often function as if the design of a child is a colossal farce, a big joke on us. We work on the assumption that kids lack any appetite for what they need to thrive. We expect them to resist what’s good for them and desire what is harmful. We adults often see ourselves the same way; adults just have more will power and foresight to eat or do what we should. Until kids develop their own will power, it’s up to us to compensate for their lack.  We reward ourselves and our children for learning, for eating, for “doing what’s right,” often with an indulgence in a little guilty pleasure.

Missy Chase Lupine, author of The Sneaky Chef, provides a list of “in” foods that kids “are known to shovel in without an argument”: gooey candy, all white carbs (sugar and white flour), pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, cookies and chips. These foods can provide the vehicle to covertly transport down the unsuspecting child’s gorge those foods that Lupine can just tell you right now that you’re going to have to disguise: most vegetables (especially green ones), whole grains, beans, fish, nuts, and even some fruits.

Whether it’s dry, boring facts or bland vegetables, children do indeed need plenty of external lubricators to choke them down.

Enticements, compensations, camouflage, praise and spoonfuls of sugar can make repulsive healthy foods go down. Grades, competition, acceptance, videos, games, entertainment, fun and rewards can all be the big drink of water needed to swallow the academic pill.

“We need to trick our minds into thinking we’re eating sinful foods, when in reality we are consuming something with all of the nutritional benefits of a bowl of vegetables,” notes Lupine.

“Why should healthy food feel like a punishment?” she asks. Just hide the spinach in chocolate pudding.

And so it goes.

One of the central tenants in the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason is that as other appetites are stimulated, the more the appetite for learning—or healthy foods—atrophies. For example, stimulating the desire for a dessert by offering it as a reward suppresses the desire for the vegetable you have to eat to get it.

We teach children in word and deed that what we want them to ingest is not desirable but a duty. We present vegetables fearfully, apologetically, expecting the worst, or as the means to an end, with little thought of making them delicious in their own right.

If we parents don’t like vegetables (maybe don’t know that they can be delicious), we assume that our children won’t like vegetables. We can’t pass on what we don’t have. We have little expectation that healthy foods can be delicious or learning delectable if that has not been our experience.

But with an open mind, we can all rediscover our original pleasure in genuine nourishment through inspiring and thought-provoking ideas, well written books, and beautiful art and music, along with flavorful, varied, well prepared Real Foods.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 9 February 2009 / All rights reserved

This post is featured on the Charlotte Mason blog carnival on Oct. 12, 2010.