Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Family Meal: Where are the veggies?

It was always challenging to raise vegetarian kids who didn’t eat vegetables. For years, we fell into a pasta trap, making a vat of pasta most nights and letting the kids carbo load.

At a certain point, I’d had enough. I wanted my daughters to eat vegetables. It took some work, but eventually, I was able to get them to eat a more balanced diet, one that included many different vegetables.

I didn’t want to hide the veggies, like The Sneaky Chef Missy Chase Lapine so I came up with a few tips:

1. Drop the pasta. The first thing I did was just stop buying pasta. If I didn’t have it in the house, I couldn’t make it or offer it.

2. Rethink the sauce. Ok, so I do now make pasta once every other month. But I make a tomato sauce that includes an entire package of frozen chopped spinach and the girls are none the wiser. I dub this sauce ‘puttanesca’ and add chopped black olives, capers and hot sauce, along with shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes. So they get plenty of vegetables.

3. Go to the farmer’s market. The unusually colored vegetables, like orange cauliflower and purple carrots, have enticed my kids to try an array of veggies.

4. While I make dinner, I put out carrot sticks, slices of red pepper, jicama, or sugar snap peas. If a child comes by fainting from hunger, I point out the spread, which also includes hummus or another dip. If a kid is truly hungry, she will eat the veggies.

5. One of my kids just won’t eat salad. She hates leafy greens. Since my husband and I love salad, this causes great consternation. But, she loves fresh peas. We used to buy them just for her – snapping them is so time consuming – but the other girls figured they were missing out. So now they all eat fresh peas.

6. Read cookbooks together, and not just ones specifically designed for kids. The photography in Chez Panisse cookbooks makes almost anything look appealing. Except meat, but that’s another story.

7. Bake with veggies. Roasted acorn squash puree enlivens my waffles and muffins. You can even cut down on the sugar in muffin recipes when you add the puree. In a pinch, I have used prepared baby food.

8. Eat at ethnic restaurants. When kids get served food they don’t recognize, they might be more apt to try, not snub it. Since my kids like spicy food, they will try almost anything pungent at a Korean, Indian or Vietnamese restaurant.

9. My husband and I would sometimes treat ourselves to a snack before feeding the kids; samosas, or Spring rolls, saying we just had to eat right away and we couldn’t share. Of course, this made the kids really want to try our vegetable-filled treat and we’d ‘reluctantly’ offer a taste.

10. Finally, don’t stress too much. Soon enough, they go to school, on play dates, or out with their own money and make their own food choices. Model good eating habits and hope some of it rubs off.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

High Line & Haute Cuisine

One of the joys of the High Line extension is The Lot, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, in NYC. This former parking lot, at the new northern terminus of The High Line, is filled food trucks and an outdoor bar, The Lot on Tap.

For those of us with OCD issues, The Lot has well-maintained portable toilets, with running water and soup outside, so you can wash your hands. The water is operated by a foot pedal, so no touching grotty faucets.

You need clean hands to tackle some of the food, which on the day we visited included Taim Mobile. This all vegetarian truck has falafel sandwiches, with fresh and tasty falafel and spicy sauces to perk up your lunch (or dinner - The Lot operates 11am – 10, Sunday – Wednesday; till 11pm other days).

Taim also makes a zesty and refreshing ginger mint lemonade and date smoothies; the kids can drink this while parents have a craft beer on tap.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month with the Family

I don’t think we had National Ice Cream Month when I was a kid, but then, in summer, every day was ice cream day. Now we have to worry about sugar intake, fat content, lactose intolerance and gluten allergies to cones.

So it’s nice to just forget all about that and just revel in frozen treats in July. Loews Hotels offers free ice cream all summer long, from 4-5pm.

All North American Loews Hotels have this Summer of Loews celebration.

In NYC, families can celebrate locally at the new Ample Hills Creamery, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. This ice cream shop makes its own base, using natural, hormone-free milk and eggs. Then the fun really begins.

Parents can have Otis Stout & Pretzels, with chocolate Stout ice cream and chocolate covered pretzels, or salted crack caramel, with salted caramel ice cream and cookies. Both of these offer addictive combos of sweet and salty. There is also a maple bacon, but it doesn’t work with my avowed vegetarianism.

Kids veer towards the baked/unbaked, with cookie dough and cookie bits, or the colorful cotton candy, which amazingly has no artificial tints or flavors.
Ample Hills also serves up scoops at Celebrate Brooklyn!

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
, at Fulton Ferry Pier, is best reached by Water Taxi, or after a walk or bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The small shop, an old fireboat house (with long lines) offers only a few flavors, but each is perfection. The peaches & cream or strawberry will make believers out of those who don't usually like fruit flavored ice cream.

A new nearby park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, has playgrounds, free kayaking and rowing and the ferry to Governors Island.

July 17, The Bell House is hosting an Ice Cream Takedown.

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 Reasons to Visit Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach, Virginia is a laid-back place for a family vacation. The beach area is not far from the historic triangle destinations/southeast/1702.html of Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown.

1. Virginia Beach has 14 miles of free beaches, with different attractions at each. The main resort area has restaurants and nightlife within walking distance of the sand, while of Sandbridge, on the southern shore, is more tranquil. Little Island Park has playgrounds, tennis courts and beach volleyball.

2. Swimmers should head to Chesapeake Beach, with its protected, shallow water. The beaches are great for a family vacation; teens can go to a livelier beach, and families with young kids can go to another. And if you have kids in different ages ranges, you can spend your time exploring them all.

3. Along Atlantic Avenue between 17th and 25th Streets, you can see shows with live music, magicians and jugglers. The free oceanfront entertainment occurs nightly during the summer.

4. Get in the water with a kayak; one rental outfit offers Dolphin Kayak tours where you look for dolphin, loggerhead sea turtles and marine birds.

5. You can bike the flat, quiet roads; bring a bike or rent a beach cruiser, a one-speed bike that usually comes with a front basket for your towel.

6. The free Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum has exhibits on the migratory wildfowl that fly through Eastern Virginia. There are wood carving demonstrations, historic decoys and exhibits on the history of Virginia Beach.

7. If it rains, go to the Virginia Beach Rock Gym, which has a 32–foot climbing wall, boulders and daring edges.

8. Vegetarians who eat fish can dine well in Virginia Beach. The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean provide fresh seafood, including blue crab and rockfish. The Virginia Beach Boardwalk Food Tour offers an inside look at the area.

9. Shop with your kids at The Virginia Beach Farmer's Market has local produce, organic products and a restaurant.

10. The Old Beach Farmers Market has specialty produce like heirloom tomatoes that you can bring home to your friends or cook in your vacation rental.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vegetarian Indian Dining

Eating vegetarian is easy at Indian restaurants, and Tamarind Tribeca elevates the often austere experience of going out for vegetarian or Indian food. This is fine dining, with great cocktails (the signature ginger martini, with Absolut peppar). But still kid-friendly.

The huge, bi-level restaurant is elegant and refined, in an Art Deco building flooded with sunlight during the day. At night, dramatic lighting transforms the space, creating intimate areas.

We started with samosas, of course, my kids’ favorite. These had a twist; a pomegranate sauce that leant a touch of sweetness. The kachori, lentil and green pea pancakes, had dried mango powder on top.

The tandoor baked nan had none of the greasiness you sometimes get. I was able to convince the kids to get the onion version, but not the wild mushroom and truffle oil; I’ll have to save that for another visit, without the family.

The saag paneer was a more refined, less buttery version of the take-out Indian were are accustomed to, and the channa masala had a hint of pomegranate powder in with the ground chickpeas and ginger.

We loved the rich nargisi kofta, dumplings made of lotus root and cheese, in a saffron-cashew sauce, and achi khumb, shiitake mushrooms with pickled vegetables.

Tamarind is about twice as expensive as a neighborhood Indian restaurant, but more than twice as good.