by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, August 21st, 2014
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Holidays, November 21st, 2013
My littlest daughter was always complaining that she was too short, whining about being the shrimp of the family, until the day came when she could brush her teeth without a stool. Suddenly, she realized how much taller she was, and how the tiny bits of daily growth had sneakily added up to something quite significant. That is the nature of slow-but-steady change. We had a similar experience on vacation this summer, except that it was about the tremendous growth we’ve witnessed in our picky eaters.
I’ll back up. I have four daughters, and two and half of them are picky eaters. While I’d had some success in improving their eating with a few strategies here and there, I wanted to see a more fundamental shift, not just an occasional willingness to eat a vegetable. About a year and a half ago, I started researching picky eating. I suspected the story was bigger than finding a magical recipe that would make my kids like spinach. My research confirmed my suspicions: Picky eating was a complex issue with many causes. And each one of my kids probably identified with several of the root causes to varying degrees. So I decided to create a program that focused on root causes, something beyond tips and recipes. I invited Food Network viewers into my home to watch and learn along with us. The result was the unique Food Network Web series called The Picky Eaters Project. By the time we completed the program ourselves and the cameras came down from our family dining room (we called it “carrot cam” because it spied on us all throughout dinner!), my girls were eating foods I never dreamed they would (Margaux liked peas?!) and had started making their own wise choices about healthy eating (Charlotte was reading cereal labels before choosing a box). The response from fellow parents of picky eaters was tremendous, and we were thrilled that The Picky Eaters Project was included as a Webby honoree last year.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, October 24th, 2013
I don’t want to scare you, but Thanksgiving is one week from today. Until now, I have purposely ignored all the too-early holiday decorations put out by overeager stores. I don’t mean to be a Scrooge. I just don’t want to get sick of the holidays because I love them so dearly. So I systematically turn my cart down another aisle anytime I catch even the tiniest glimpse of a twinkling light or bit of tinsel when I’m shopping. (Am I alone in shielding my fall from winter so vociferously?) My point is: If you do the same, this is your official alert to wake up and smell the pumpkin pie. It’s officially the holiday season.
Some readers have already been asking me about family traditions: Who does the cooking? How do I include my kids? Since my head is out of the sand and I’m fully embracing the season, I thought today would be a great time to answer those questions with some tips and ideas on how to include the kiddos in the holiday cooking (and eating!). And given that I have a couple of pickier eaters in my brood, I’m throwing in some extra pointers on that front too.
Get my top five ways to include the kids in holiday meals
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, October 10th, 2013
I’ve always had the dream of being that mom on the block who just always happens to have a big kettle of brothy soup simmering on the stove, on the off-chance that the neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street want to come in out of the cold and warm up to a steamy mug of goodness. Word would spread, and perhaps some neighbors would drop by, lured by the savory smells wafting out of our always-opening front door. I’d smile warmly (I’m certain I wouldn’t be on a work deadline of any sort), and I’d hand them a bowlful of liquid heaven, along with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.
Turns out, though, my four girls don’t play kickball, and I don’t allow them in the street anyway. Plus, as I type, just days from November, I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Soup is a year-round affair, if you ask me, but even here in San Diego, fall and winter seem to call for it all the more. Everyone loves soup this time of year, right? It makes us feel comforted and cozy. But in case you needed them, here are six more reasons to love soup:
1. Soup’s a no-brainer way to lose weight.
Yes! Did you know there are studies showing that simply starting meals with a healthy soup promotes weight loss? I love habits that do the work for me. All you have to do is adopt the habit. Why not start with my White Gazpacho or the Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho in my cookbook?
5 more reasons to love soup
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, September 12th, 2013
I have a sweet tooth, so my favorite part of a meal is dessert. In addition to being sweet and fabulous, though, dessert can be a great strategic player in helping picky eaters becoming more adventurous. And I don’t mean in the old-school “clean your plate so you can eat dessert” sort of way.
Here are five dessert strategies that I use in our household to combat picky eating:
1. Encourage an adventurous palate.
Most kids love dessert. So if you serve a child who loves cookies a new kind of cookie (say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie instead of her normal favorite gingersnap), she will probably dig it. And then you can have a conversation about how fun it was to try something new. (If she doesn’t go for the swap, no big deal, because dessert is an optional course; there’s no risk of you caving in and becoming a short-order cook.)
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, August 29th, 2013
Life seems to get busy for everyone in the fall. I’ve been asked by a number of fans for ways to get dinner on the table quickly. One of the best tools in a busy life is your freezer. Making double of any labor-intensive dish (such as lasagna) and freezing half is a great way to cut down time in the kitchen. Another huge timesaver is partially prepping your meat before it goes into the freezer, making cooking day a much easier affair. A few minutes spent strategically upfront can turn ingredients you buy at the grocery store into menus-waiting-to-happen. Stare at a frozen hunk of ground beef and no ideas jump out at you, but imagine some barbecue meatballs that can be on the table in about a half hour (of passive cooking), and suddenly your mind can fill in the blanks: I’ll put them on a whole-wheat bun and add something crunchy like coleslaw.
My challenge today is to take on the monster ground beef package. I’ll share exactly how I partially prep a value pack of ground beef into six menu ideas in less than 30 minutes (not including shopping). These 30 minutes will save you a few hours up the road. Ready?
Keep reading for recipes
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, August 1st, 2013
Fall is right around the corner and it’s perhaps my favorite season. As a child, I always loved how the air cooled just the tiniest bit when I would open the front door and head out to my first day of school, almost as if nature recognized the rhythms spelled out in my school district’s calendar. (Looking back, I wonder if it was simply chillier at 7am than at 10am?) I knew the tiniest wisp of cooler air meant the holiday season would soon follow, and I have always been someone who enjoys the anticipation of an event as much as the event itself. (I love sleep so much that I actually enjoy being tired, and I have been known to stay up an extra hour just to relish the thought of sleep to come.) I loved entering a new grade, finding out who my new teacher would be and scoping out the classroom on the first day for familiar faces. I welcomed routine and structure — beyond just goofing around with my sister at the local Woolworth’s, playing on the carts and enjoying free pong, much to the chagrin of Jan, the store manager in a mustard-colored smock.
My daughters started school this week: third grade, second grade and two girls in first grade. All four girls are at the same school now, which means we can ride our bikes together. School supplies and fresh fall outfits are bought and tucked away in their closets. I’ve stocked up on lunch-packing supplies (LunchBots for four girls can set you back a bit!). Back to School Night is in two days, and there will be signups, forms to fill out and probably a few more checks to write. But it’s all just part of the routine — the seasonal cycles of growing up.
Keep reading for back-to-school breakfast recipes
Back-to-school ads are already airing and we’ve only just started our family vacation (anyone else?). I’m writing this blog from the balcony of a rental on Balboa Island.
Since we’re on vacation, we are bending the rules. The other day the girls and I all ordered lemonades with our lunch, instead of our normal tap water. (I am not the Ten Dollar Dinners lady for nothing.) Another rule I’m bending: Instead of planning our regular reasonable snack every day about 3pm, the whole family is venturing around the corner to Dad’s Original Frozen Banana shop and indulging in a chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-nut-brickle-laden frozen banana. (I say “bending” the rule and not “breaking” because I often use frozen bananas and cocoa in my smoothies.)