Archive for December, 2009

Maple Glazed Carrots and Turnips

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The maple glaze gives the vegetables a delicious, sweet flavor.  It was also delicious on the grilled fish I served with them both times I made it.  Not every body likes turnips but they were much softened by the glaze and I found their bitterness a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the carrots and the glaze. I’m sure other vegetables work also work well with this recipe: rutabagas, parsnips, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, onions…

4-5 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

8-10 or so carrots, peeled and cut into bite size chunks

2 T olive oil

2 T sherry vinegar

1 C broth

2 T pure maple syrup

2 unsalted butter

 Put the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over them and toss well to coat. Spread them out in one layer and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast at 350 until lightly browned and tender, about 35-40 minutes. Drizzle the vegetables with the sherry vinegar and toss to coat. Roast again until sizzling, about three minutes longer.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring the broth and maple syrup to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to about ¼ C, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.

Transfer the roasted vegetables into a warmed serving dish, add the maple glaze and serve right away.

 Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 4 January  2010 / all rights reserved

The Secret Life of Kids: Are Picky Eaters Still Picky When No Grown-up’s Around to See?

December 18, 2009 3 comments

I sometimes suspect that picky kids may be like the white people in Eddie Murphy’s classic Saturday Night Live sketch, “White Like Me.”

Murphy goes undercover, disguising himself as white, and discovers the “truth” about how wonderfully white people treat each other when blacks aren’t around.

White shop keepers are not only suddenly warm and friendly once all blacks leave the premises, but they also give away their wares for free to other whites. A cozy party with champagne for all the whites on board breaks out on the city bus as soon as the last black person gets off. He’s given a $50,000 loan, actually a gift, by a white banker once the black banker leaves the office.

If we parents could disguise ourselves as kids, might we witness a similarly drastic shift in our youngsters’ attitudes toward all those healthy foods some of them don’t want to eat?

My daughter recently reported that when she took a liver pâté sandwich to school, a group of her friends caught sight of it, wanted to know what it was and demanded to try it. She told them they wouldn’t like it, they didn’t want it, that it was liver, but they absolutely insisted. And they liked it.

I don’t know, it just sounds so unlike most of the kids I’ve seen reacting to foods, especially something as ill-reputed as liver.

What’s really going on here?

Related posts:

Foolish freedom: why some kids refuse to eat even to the point of harming themselves

How to get kids to eat liver (recipe for pâté)

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 18 December 2009 / All rights reserved

Foolish freedom: Why some kids refuse to eat, even to the point of harming themselves

December 17, 2009 9 comments

CHILDREN CAN BE like sheep, or wild mice. - photo by Anna Migeon

Sometimes a kid can be like a wild mouse. What a wild mouse does when brought into a cage in a lab illustrates something about why kids—or grownups—do some of the things they do.

A group of wild mice was captured and brought into a lab. Locked up in cages, they were taught to turn on their own cage lights. Given the choice between bright light, dim light or no light at all, the mice would always choose dim light. But whenever the dim light was switched on for them by humans, the mice would run and change it to either bright light or no light.

In another test, the mice, who for their own good needed and wanted to run about eight hours a day, were given a wheel to run on and also taught to turn it on. So they would regularly turn it on and run. But again, if the wheel was turned on for them, they would flick it right off again, even if they needed to run.

The mice, who knew they didn’t belong caged in a lab, felt the need to control their environment and their own behavior more than they were getting to do. They were able to turn on their own lights and wheels, so they didn’t want anyone doing it for them. They controlled what little they could, even to their own detriment.

Does this behavior sound like anyone you know?

Of Mice and Kids

“This is foolish freedom,” writes James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., John C. Norcross, Ph.D., and Carlo C. Diclemente, Ph. D., in Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, where the studies on mice are reported.

Of course it’s foolish, but mice and boys and girls rightly want to govern themselves as much as possible, even if at the cost of their own well-being. People pushed to the point of seizing freedom this way often reject any kind of influence, note the authors of Changing for Good, at least from those who have been attempting to dominate them.

Kids, who can and will eat without anybody breathing down their necks about it, also tend to take control where they can, and can we blame them? Kids find power in fussiness, and foolish or not, I can understand that desire for self-determination. It’s a normal reaction to being pushed and prodded.

Foolish freedom isn’t only for kids. Parents, especially those who have been over-controlled themselves, also exercise it. They may think, “No one’s going to tell me what to eat, or how to feed my kids.” People that were over-controlled as kids may also tend to over-control their own kids’ eating, even if it not only doesn’t work but backfires on them.

Kids need limits and boundaries and instruction, but eating is one of the few places they are best left truly free from the beginning. All they need is the right environment set up. Like sheep left in a pasture of good grass, they know what to do and will do it. Like the wild mice, if they are free, they don’t have to find freedom in foolishness.


Related posts:

“How to get kids to the dinner table: Get an attitude”

“Taking a detour: one good way to neutralize a kid’s food resistance”

“Masterly Inactivity: using sphinx-like repose to end the food fight”


“The best way to the stomach is through the heart”

“The false dilemma of controlling what kids eat”


© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 17 December 2009 / All rights reserved

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Jan. 15, 2010.

How to get kids to do what you want: Good deed its own reward

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

CHILD SPOTTED at the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market on Saturday, eating a red pepper right then and there. He obviously just wanted it, without any other reward given.

I hope the kids of San Antonio don’t hear that they might win an award if they do something nice in the next 60 days.

The San Antonio Police Department with the sponsorship of Valero Energy are handing out the first of 5,000 coupons for free drinks at local Valero convenience stores to kids they catch doing a good deed.

These rewards will be less detrimental if they come as a surprise after the fact than if dangled in front of kids’ noses like a carrot on a string.

It’s a saving grace also that the pay off for a selfless act is so low. The bigger the carrot offered, the more likely kids would tend to feel manipulated and even end up resenting what they have to do to get it.

This attempt to improve youth behavior is clearly well-intentioned, and such tactics are fairly effective with lab rats. Humans, however, come with more complex motivations and responses.

“Extrinsic motivators are most dangerous when offered for something we want children to want to do,” writes Alfie Kohn in Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s Praise, and Other Bribes.

LITTLE BROTHER also acting like it's normal to eat a raw vegetable while in public.

What are we telling kids when we offer them rewards for things like helping others?

First, are we suggesting that we think they wouldn’t want to help others without compensation?

Awards also appeal to self-interest, in contrast to concept of a good deed. Offering rewards for kindness appeals to the lowest level of reasoning. Similar to telling people not to steal and kill for the reason that they could end up in jail, it’s the weakest of all arguments for good behavior, as Kohn notes.

Encouraging people to think about what’s in it for them does little to encourage thinking of how others feel or about what’s right.

If a kid wouldn’t do a good deed before, what are the chances he’ll do one for the chance of winning a free drink? For someone who would do a good deed anyway, a reward risks robbing him of his honest satisfaction.

Imagine you’ve just done something selfless, even heroic, stopping to assist someone who’s being attacked, for example. You’re feeling like a decent person who just did someone some good. Then a police officer materializes and offers you a coupon for a free drink at the gas station. How would you feel?

Who wants to appear to have done a good deed in order to get a free drink? Many teens are probably more likely to conceal their good works or avoid them altogether if they know the police are eagerly watching them.

If this program is successful, it may continue. But how will it be evaluated? Will we see a drop in juvenile crime? Can we expect to see more young people doing random acts of kindness in hopes they’re observed so as to win a free drink? I think it will work about as well long term as offering desserts to reward eating healthy food. Nice try, but I’m skeptical.

If kids feel cared for, and see selfless behavior around them, if they’re taught to think about how their actions affect others, they tend to want to be good to others. That has its own rewards.

But promoting all that is a much bigger task.

Related Posts:

Suzuki Gives a Lesson in More than Piano

How you might be teaching your child to hate the very foods you most want him to eat

© Sacred  Appetite  / Anna Migeon  / 14 December 2009 / All rights reserved

The habit of paying attention (or not) and the role of eating in forming it (or not)

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Would you say your child is usually:

• Focused on what she is supposed to be doing at any given moment?

• Fully present or mind elsewhere?

• Interested in what you or teachers present to him?

• Bored and disengaged by school work or healthy meals?

• Easily distracted and has difficulty in paying attention?

• Ready to do what it’s time to do?

Maybe it’s not just those preservatives and food additives that are causing attention deficit in kids. Whether you child generally pays attention and is interested in what’s going on or whether instead he is habitually inattentive and bored can be largely a matter of training and habit. Functioning in a continual state of distraction instead of focus can be the result of conditioning.

It depends on a few simple differences in tactics, including at the dinner table.

In what ways are we building the habit of not paying attention in our children through the way we feed them? Let’s compare two scenarios:

The Smith family

The Smiths are having meatloaf, like they do every Monday night. The children just had some chips and soda a short time before the meal, so they aren’t very interested in dinner. Their thoughts are on getting back to the TV and video games. They refuse to eat the canned corn, so Mom tells them they won’t get dessert unless they do.

The baby isn’t hungry either, but by Mom’s pretending the spoon is an airplane and turning on the TV, he is distracted enough from the food itself that he allows a few bites to pass his lips.

The older kids eat a few bites of their dinner, distracted also by the TV and motivated by the promise of dessert. Generous portions of dessert follow.

The youngsters are not worried about getting hungry later. Before bed, they’ll find some more chips or cookies or make themselves peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwiches.

The Jones family

The Joneses are eating an Asian style shrimp and cabbage salad. It’s the first time they’ve had it. It smells, looks and tastes yummy and is a bit different from anything they’ve had before. They’re used to trying new things, so they’re open to it.

The children had a little snack right after school, but nothing since then, and by now they’re also hungry. They know that dinner is the time to eat, that no snacks will be available once they leave the table, other than maybe a piece of fruit or some yogurt if they stay up late.

They taste the new dish with interest, and fill and refill their plates themselves from what’s on the table, till their plates are empty and their stomachs are full. The TV is off, and they chat about the day. Nobody tells anybody to eat anything.

Mom asks them if they can guess what is in the main dish and tells them how she found or prepared the unusual new ingredient that gives it a unique taste.

Even the baby knows it’s up to her to eat what she needs; Mom and Dad don’t coax her. Because she’s used to eating at certain times and not in the habit of random snacking, she’s intent on her meal. When she balks at the final bites and starts to throw food, Mom whisks it away. The kids don’t get the munchies later because they’ve been well nourished by their meal.

Clearly, one situation provides the structure and habits that lead to healthy, normal eating. The chaos, distraction and food boredom in the other home leads the focus away from the meal itself and results in malfunctioning appetites.

In the same style, in the classroom, we train children in the habit of being attentive or distracted.

Teachers can either:

• Review the same facts or materials for those who didn’t listen the first time or two with the goal of getting it into their heads

• Allow children to be passive receptacles, taking in a little here and there without effort

• Focus on dry facts, such as what year a certain battle happened or the name of a book character

• Water down material so it will be “easier” and make a game out of memorizing the facts

• Offer rewards and incentives for retaining the facts, which won’t go down otherwise

• Fill any down time with entertainment and distractions


• Establish a classroom habit of presenting material only once, so they’re always learning new things

• Hold children accountable for the material after one exposure to it

• Require children to assimilate the material through active and productive responses to it (discussion, writing, retelling)

• Present facts connected to ideas and stories that stimulate thinking and emotions

• Challenge students’ thinking and abilities

Related posts:

“The Perils of Monday Meatloaf”

“Eating Mindfully: How to keep your kids from getting fat”

“Single-Minded, whole-hearted attention to eating”

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 3 December 2009 / All rights reserved

This post was featured in the Charlotte Mason blog carnival on Feb. 2, 2010.

Liver and spinach that kids will love: Spinach Crepes Bernoise

December 3, 2009 12 comments

Think it’d be nice if you could get your kids to eat liver? or spinach? How about both at once? Here’s an unusual, easy and delicious recipe that my kids have always loved. The key: pretend you have no interest in whether they eat them or not, but enjoy them yourself. Ask very casually if they want to try any. Do not urge them. If they are hungry and you do not press them, they are pretty likely to try it.

Spinach Crepes Bernoise

Spinach crepes:

3 C fresh spinach

3 C milk

2 ¼ C sifted flour (whole grain if desired, or mix of whole and white)

4-5 whole eggs

Pinch of salt (to taste)

Pinch of nutmeg (to taste)

6 T melted butter

(you might want to actually bump this up to 4 c of spinach and milk and so forth. There are never too many crepes. We eat them plain if we run out of filing.)

  1. Place well-washed spinach in a saucepan and cook it gently, stirring and covering, until wilted. Drain it and when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze it into a ball between your hands until all the liquid is removed.
  2. Place the cooked spinach in the blender. Add a little milk and puree until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining milk and the rest of the ingredients except the melted butter and blend at high speed.
  3. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the butter, and let the batter rest for at least two hours, or overnight.
  4. To make the crepes, butter and heat a nonstick skillet. Pour some batter in and tilt the pan around to spread the batter thin.  The first one never works right, but then they do. Cook until lightly brown and turn over. Stack them carefully on a plate.


4 T unsalted butter

6-8 chicken livers, cleaned and dried

Salt and large pinch of white pepper (or black)

½ lb mushrooms, cleaned and minced

4 T minced scallions

16 oz cream cheese (room temperature)

½ to 1 stick of butter (original would call for 2 sticks, but that’s too much)

4 t minced dill (optional, but I think essential)

1. In a heavy skillet, melt 2 T butter. Add the chicken livers and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Season with salt and white pepper.  When they are cool enough, mince them and place them in a mixing bowl.

2.  Melt the remaining butter in the same skilled, add the mushrooms and scallions and cook until they are lightly browned. Season lightly with salt and pepper and add them to the livers.

3. Cream the cream cheese and dill together.

4. Blend the cream cheese with mushroom-and-liver mixture together.

Fill the crepes with the mixture, roll them up and place them in a baking dish. Pour a little melted butter over the crepes and heat them in the oven at 325° for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Perla Meyers’ excellent European-influenced The Seasonal Kitchen: A Return to Fresh Foods

Related posts:

“How to use the Negative Reverse Selling Technique at the Dinner Table”

“Is your child neophobic?”

Having trouble getting kids to eat? Feed them, but cook for yourself”

©  Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 3 December 2009 / All rights reserved