"Many top chefs have discovered some surprisingly tasty ways to keep the pounds at bay. [Their] tantalizing suggestions [are] put forth in Smart Chefs Stay Slim, a new book detailing the eating strategies of today’s culinary superstars." -- OPRAH.COM

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Entries in eating with kids (2)


10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: How Not to Let Kids Upend your Best Eating Intentions

If it were up to my son, we would eat pasta most nights. I love pasta as much as he does -- probably as much as anyone-- but having it multiple times a week doesn't really fit into the way I want to eat anymore. Chefs who are parents have figured out a lot of ways to get the whole family onto the same food page: Serving the food they want to eat themselves, but making everything appealing to their children. Cooking with Muppets also helps, if you can arrange that. Image via Disney.

Iron Chef star Cat Cora is a mom of four young ones. She is a big fan of simply grilled meats, fish and vegetables and found that the act of presenting food on a stick got her kids' interest. "They love it," she told me. "We'll do a salmon skewer and romesco sauce, or lamb with mint-yogurt sauce and pita bread."

Who says kid food has to be bland? Romesco, a blend of nuts, garlic, olive oil and peppers, is an appealing shade of pink and delicious -- it need not be too spicy for young palates. Her family-friendly recipe for lettuce cup halibut gyros appears in Smart Chefs.

And as I encourage myself to eat more vegetables, I try to get my son to do the same. Another chef-mom Andrea Reusing, of Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., tipped me off to this trick: Put the vegetables out first, when they (and you) are hungriest -- during the cooking if necessary. After that, she says, "they can go to town on whatever they want."


Tomorrow: An excerpt from Smart Chefs featuring a Top Chef judge's family Christmas dinner.

Until then, happy holidays to all!



Eating with Kids: "Diner # 1"

A little over a year ago, Anthony Bourdain charged writers who cook (and cooks who write) with thinking about why to cook well. The answer that most pleased him would be published in the paperback edition of his next book. Though it did not win, my entry forced me to think about why I put effort into cooking. It holds true today, and I thought I would share it here.

DINER # 1 

Cook well because your first customer — demanding, critical, often irrational — is also your best customer: He’ll be back tomorrow, the next night and the next

The first customer arrives when you least feel like cooking.

You’re prone, splayed, crying. There’s blood on the table, probably shit too.  

Fortunately, all Diner #1 wants is milk. Milk we have! If things go well the kid latches on, and you’re out of the weeds. The first meal is served before you’ve even located your underwear.  

You can get by this way for months—ample time to get to know Diner #1, reacquaint yourself with both your kitchen and the underwear you liked before your body was a bed & breakfast. But eventually there must be utensils, and breasts can’t abide them.  The first spoon-fed dish my son ate, at four months, required no recipe: Milk mixed with rice cereal.  But I measured, checked temperatures, stirred slowly to the perfect consistency. He might not remember this day, but I would.   As I airplaned the inaugural bite toward him, Julian didn’t wait for the spoon to reach his lips; he grasped with two small fists and yanked it squarely into his mouth.  Houston, the eater has landed.

Have you ever noticed how a baby will put anything—lint, toes, dog toys—into his mouth? This is one reason, the best one as far as I am concerned, to cook well: Because someone is relying on me to grasp the world through his taste buds.

Fast forward: The bouncy chair gives way to the booster seat, mashed avocado gives way to sushi rolls, mac and cheese to linguine vongole—a dish I made dozens of times before he finished kindergarten.  

Feeding my son pushed me to be a better cook than before—better even than when I was far better rested and had the luxury of dawdling in the aisles at Balducci’s comparing sea salts. Everyone benefited: My husband, our friends, me especially. We all ate well.

Fast forward: Stuffed grape leaves. Caesar salad with anchovies. Coq au vin. (The wine cooks off, right? That’s what I told myself.) Was there nothing this kid wouldn’t eat?Your best bet is getting the kid to cook for himself. Or at least make pie.

Yes, it turns out. One night, when he was 5, I was low on groceries and scrounged up a dinner of soba noodles, the purchase of which likely predated Julian’s conception. Frozen corn also figured into it. Possibly Thai fish sauce, too.   Diner #1 was having none of it. I tucked into my bowl, prepared to make the sort of show of yummy noises that the parents of picky eaters put on nightly. But he was right: This was vile. I dumped the whole mess in the trash and ordered Chinese from Sammy’s.  

Fast forward: Homemade caramel ice cream and banana birthday cake. Hand-rolled gnocchi. Live lobsters boiled as he stood on a stool at our stove.

Yet what’s the meal this 8-year-old still talks most about? “Remember, Mom, when you made the gross noodles? Deee-scusting!”  

Another reason to cook well: Diner #1’s reviews are searing, and his is the only name in the reservation book for the next decade or so.