A Welcome By Dor
In all my years of parenting and feeding children, I never did anything as clever as my friend Zita, a Suppers facilitator who took Suppers with her when she moved to Florida.
I hid vegetables in spaghetti sauce; I made sure there was nothing but raw vegetables and fruits around when the kids were “starving”; I bribed; I brainwashed; and I told them they would die of vegetable malnutrition if they didn’t eat their vegetables. But I never served them a stone.
To this day, Zita Serves a Stone is my favorite Suppers story. I identify with the frustration.
I feel the pain of a mother who knocks herself out trying to raise children who have been hijacked by the American junk food culture. I’m warmed by the love and humor in Zita’s solution.
Zita’s Story: Zita Serves a Stone
When I was growing up the relationship between parents and children was very different from what I’m experiencing now with my own children. For one thing, I grew up in Europe in a close-knit family. We respected our parents. We learned from them and knew we needed them. Homework was meant to be done, and we ate the food that was given to us.
That is not how it is for me in America. At a Suppers meeting attended mostly by mothers who are struggling to improve their children’s food choices, I commiserated with them. I shared that I have three beautiful children who have a completely different attitude toward adults.
My nine-year-old tells me that if his homework doesn’t get done, that’s too bad for the teacher; personally, he’s fine with it! His brother claims he was born just to skateboard.
None of them have a taste for the traditional homemade foods that are so familiar and comforting to me. Their palates are American. The older they get, the harder it is to find ways to teach them to appreciate the flavor of real food.
Do you want to hear a story? The other day I made a brown rice cooked cereal for breakfast for my sons. It is steel cut so it is a bit chewy, even after you cook it for an hour. I also made fresh apricot jelly for them as a topping, also for bribing. Then one of my darlings says, “Mommy, it is not possible to eat this, it is like a stone.”
After a brief discussion with him where neither party persuaded the other, I went out to the garden, found a nice piece of stone, washed it and served it on a plate with my fresh apricot jelly on top. All three kids became quiet immediately and looked at me in total shock.
“If it is a stone, eat the real thing.” I said. “I’ll finish your cereal.” He was so surprised that I was not kidding, and finally said he would eat the rice cereal instead. And he did!
Sometimes my children need a jolt. I have to do something crazy and unexpected to get their attention and let them know I mean business. A friend at Suppers said she also had to grab her children’s attention. But who has the patience, energy, time, and creativity to come up with something crazy all the time? I certainly do not. Although I must admit, I can’t wait for one of them to tell me that dinner tastes like cardboard.
Zesty Jam for Zita, By Allie
The other week I did a cooking demonstration for a trained Suppers facilitator who was holding an outdoor family yoga class. There was a young girl there whose focus was pretty difficult to maintain through a couple of the activities I witnessed. Since the demo was outdoors I decided to make a salad – Quinoa Tabbouleh – with fresh tomatoes, scallions, parsley, lemon, oil, and salt. First thing this kid says:
“I don’t LIKE quinoa.” I’m like,
“Well today we’re going to try it in a different way.” Few minutes later,
“I don’t LIKE tomatoes.” I’m like,
“Have you ever tried tomatoes WITH quinoa? Sometimes foods we don’t like end up tasting really good when they’re made a different way or combined with other foods.”
And always I try to sail quickly past the back-and-forth discussion, past the bribing with treats to follow, past long explanations, everything. I just inform the child(ren) that they are going to try it and that’s that – because I know what my secret weapons are:
- I’m not their parent, I’m a new person and most kids aim to please, if only for their own personal attempts to be seen as “good.” This is useless if you are their parent, however, I’ve had the same kids for three years now and they still chow down on some veggies without any battles.
- I know that, pretty much no matter what, any kid in my clutches will eat, or at least try, whatever I want them to because I’m not going to be making it for them. They are. And that’s the difference you can work with.
I don’t have kids and I don’t want ’em. Ever since the invention of the personal screen and fruit roll-ups, kids have become ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I love them – they say amazing things, they make me smile, they present constant learning experiences and challenges for adults, and it’s cool to watch a person figure things out for the first time. But jeez. Kids today require so much more everything because everywhere they go they are everythinged. You can blame whoever you want for that one – commercials, Steve Jobs, white sugar, No Child Left Behind, little league trophies, or parents – and you wouldn’t be wrong but you’d be no closer to the solution.
The little girl in my demo slipped on a pair of gloves that were only a little too big and started to mix the cooked and cooled Quinoa. I quickly showed her how to gently lift and fold salad over with her hands and she got it. Some spilled out of the bowl but whatever. As I added each following ingredient I explained what it was and why we needed it for our salad. I explained how lemon zest adds flavor and nutrition. I showed her how to zest a lemon and she did it – poorly – but she did it and I’m pretty positive that was the first time she ever held a Microplane in her entire short life. She juiced the fruit with my citrus squeezer. She flavor balanced and added some salt. She tasted her way to completion. I was just her measuring cup. And her recipe.
In the end she tried a bite of salad with quinoa and tomato. First she closed her eyes, talking herself into the experience, and then quickly she shoved the spoon in her mouth, chewed carefully, eyes closed, and then put her thumb up. She ate a full 1/2 cup before deciding she still didn’t like tomatoes. I told her to keep trying.
I never really figured this out before having kids cooking in my kitchen. It just happened because at the GSCK things get a little hectic and my time is mostly spent fielding zillions of questions and troubleshooting – there’s no time for Chef Allie to actually cook. So the kids do it all and…well, they own it. They own their work, they’re proud of themselves. They cooked that okra (that they also grew) in some vinegar with some sea salt and now they want to eat it because they made it. I never had to fight about how okra is good and vegetables are good – it’s not really the point anymore.
There is something you should know if you are going to embark on this I’m-not-cooking-you-are thing – kids are TERRIBLE at following recipes. They NEVER read through the procedural steps, they just throw everything in a bowl and then they’re like…”Oh. It says we were supposed to ‘blah blah blah’ now what do we do, Allie! What do we do?!!” It drives me insane. It’s my next problem to solve.
Good thing making jam is so forgiving. Let’s talk about that now.
JAM ON IT
Oh my GOD making jam is SO EASY I can’t believe people actually spend money on jars of store bought jam. Once upon a time I was like, “I’m going to start a jam company!” and then I was like, “I’m going to get into non-profit!” and now I’m like, “Shoot, I could have been rich.” It’s ok because I really love sharing recipes with everybody so I probably would have driven myself out of business anyways.
Step One: Choose your ingredients. You need 5 cups of roughly chopped fruit. If it’s a small strawberry I don’t even bother to cut it, seriously. That’s what potato mashers are for. Usually what I do is take my 4-cup glass Pyrex and just fill it all the way to the top with fruit. Like this:
Today I’m using peaches because it’s May and I will patiently wait for fresh local strawberries, and also stonefruit is pretty low glycemic – my thing is making really low sugar jam.
There are two ways to do this:
- Cook your fruit down over low heat for a long time. The color won’t be as bright and it takes longer and it doesn’t taste as, like, “WOAH” but it works.
- Use Ball’s No-Sugar-Needed Pectin.
It looks like this:
You can find it at most grocery stores but it used to be only at Wegmans. I’ve found that Target has the best price on pectin (and mason jars) unless Shoprite is having a sale. It’s not at Whole Foods but I bet it’s at McCaffrey’s.
Step Two: Get your other ingredients ready. I use 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 Tablespoons of my pectin, and like 3-4 ish Tablespoons of coconut palm sugar.
Do you know how much sugar normally goes into jam? Try like SEVEN TO NINE CUPS OF SUGAR for FOUR CUPS OF FRUIT. That’s what the recipes say anyways. That’s CRAZY.
You do not need that much sugar. Stop it.
This is Coconut Palm Sugar. It’s a sugar that still has some minerals in there.
When a human consumes processed, bleached sugar the biological processing and zooming fast use of the sugar steals minerals from the body.
Sweeteners with minerals still present like Molasses, Coconut Palm, Sucanat, even maple syrup or honey give back some of what they take away.
Honey is tough to use in jam because it’s an invert sugar and invert sugars spread out, they don’t collect and congeal. You can use it but the jam will have a hard time getting jellified.
Step Three: Start with fruit, lemon juice, and pectin. Throw all of those into a stockpot and bring to a rolling boil – it’ll take a bit and you have to keep a pretty close eye on it and stir very frequently. If you are using frozen fruit, let it cook a bit and then use a potato masher to chop it up a bit – it will release some water which you need for the boil.
Step Four: Once you’re at a rolling boil, add the sugar and bring it back to a boil. Boil hard for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in herbs now if you are using them. Use sterile jars if you are going to can or, if you’re me, use a ramekin and throw it in the fridge and say to yourself, “Ned will eat it in less than a week.”
Just wait, I’ll be right.
Allie’s Low-Glycemic Peach Thyme Jam
5 cups peaches, chopped roughly, skin-on
3 Tablespoons Ball’s No-Sugar-Needed Pectin
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup-ish Coconut Palm Sugar or Sucanat
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, minced *optional
1. In a stockpot, over medium high heat, add peaches, pectin, and lemon juice. Stir very frequently until peaches break down a bit. Use a potato masher if necessary.
2. Once mixture begins to bubble, stir constantly and bring fruit to a rolling boil, which is a boil that cannot be stirred down and boils in the middle.
3. Stir in sugar and keep stirring. Bring mixture back to a rolling boil and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in thyme if you are using herbs.
4. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 month or properly can for indefinite shelf storage. (My jam jars still in the cupboard are coming up on a year old and they’re still going strong.)
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading, we love The Purple Apron. And we love Purple Aprons. As always, head to Suppers Website for all of your recipe needs and if you are interested in coming to a meeting! Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page or our Instagram @suppersprograms.
Lastly, our fundraiser is THIS SUNDAY! You can support The Suppers Programs, a non-profit organization, by registering for our event HERE. If you can’t attend you can still make a donation. It would be so wonderful if you could help to support this awesome organization so we can keep making blogs and being awesome.