Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Breakfast of Wellness Champions

"We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu.  We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity.  And we can help create a culture - imagine this - where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them."  
                                                -- Michelle Obama

The kids all wanted to know what they were going to make.  I surprised them with the announcement that the menu was all about breakfast.  We had an ambitious list of 3 recipes to create together.  The kids wrote out our class menu on the dry erase board:  kale protein shakes, French toast, and spinach omelets, all under the heading, “Breakfast of Wellness Champions”.

Kids tend to their vertical towers at Florida Veggies and More.

Showing off the French toast!  

One of the lessons kids learn from attending our Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen classes is to use the best ingredients you can afford to buy.  Another lesson they learn is that occasionally it is OK to have a little sweet.  On this particular Saturday, both lessons came together.  The kids saw the ingredients on the counter and their eyes got big:  real maple syrup, fair trade cinnamon, real vanilla, Greek yogurt, and fresh strawberries.  I showed them the loaf of crusty sour dough bread I purchased the day before from La Patisserie, our new local bakery in Vero Beach which creates the most delicious artisan breads, pastries, and desserts.  The kids all wanted a taste of the bread before we created our divine French toast.  I sliced off tiny bits for each to try.  They waited in anticipation for their first taste.

Two of the boys were given the task of slicing the fresh strawberries. After a demonstration, one of the boys questioned my instructions about how to cut off the top of the strawberries.  He asked if he could, instead, just lop it off with one quick slice.  I took a few minutes to explain why I wanted him to cut a very small circle around the stem and only remove the white part of the strawberry under the stem.  “Wasting food is not OK,” I explained.  “Someone worked hard to grow these strawberries.  They contain lots of vitamin C which helps keep you healthy and your immune system strong.  That is why I am asking you to cut them up as I showed you.”  There were no more questions from the strawberry team.  They got to work and did a fabulous job!

“This is a spatula.  Learn to use it correctly so that you don’t throw away part of what you are constructing.” We cracked the eggs into a dish, added cinnamon and a little cream.  The kids all wanted to whisk the ingredients together.  The bread soaked in the cinnamon and egg mixture while the griddle heated to the right temperature.  Each piece cooked, then I constructed the French toast:  a little powdered sugar, vanilla Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, and a small drizzle of real maple syrup.  Their faces were priceless as they savored each bite of breakfast heaven!

Another lesson the kids got in our class that morning was about respect.  This is something I talk about a lot in my healthy cooking classes:  respect for the farmers who grow our foods, respect for portion sizes that help keep us at healthy weights, and respect for the foods that create health, not disease.  

All three recipes at our breakfast class were a huge hit!  In the following days, I got some unexpected feedback which made all the preparation time beforehand and clean up time afterward worthwhile:  while shopping the following week, I saw one of the boys, a 5th grader, with his family.  I asked him which of the three recipes he enjoyed the most, to which he quickly replied, “The kale protein shakes!”  Another day, I received feedback through a coworker who knew the father of another boy from the breakfast class.  Apparently, this little boy, a 4th grader whose mother told me is an extremely picky eater, was so excited about the spinach omelets, that he had announced to this parents that he wanted to make spinach omelets for Thanksgiving dinner!  Getting elementary age boys and girls to love eating kale and spinach – now that is what I call success! 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.