A Welcome By Dor
Who identifies with this statement: “I told my teenager to eat healthy food and he did it.”
Nobody, right? It’s hard enough when they’re little. It’s tough duty serving up tastes of the same unwanted food that requires the requisite 10 or 15 times before a small child accepts a new food. (Unless, of course, your tech-savvy neophobic 3-year old is surfing the net for evidence-based articles on feeding picky eaters.)
At Suppers, we learn that there is strength in numbers. What one mom can’t do alone, we can accomplish if we make it a team sport. We wouldn’t need to connive, collaborate, and form support groups if we weren’t immersed in a food supply that’s as addictive as street drugs. But we are.
Here’s what one Suppers mom did to fight the good fight: she went Varsity.
Lena & Todd’s Story – Varsity Player
My son plays varsity football at the local high school. He is a husky lad, and it takes a lot of food to fill him up and keep him fueled for all the activity he demands of his body.
I’ve always had kids in sports. Over the years many of us parents have expressed concern about what the boys are eating, and in the past year or two there has been an increased sense of urgency. Changes we tried individually at home to improve the quality of the food were not embraced, to say the least.
So this year we decided to feed the boys as a team before games. I shared information from the Suppers program about how to increase energy and stabilize mood with good nutrition. The other parents were very receptive, and we created a menu for pregame breakfast or dinners that included fruit, whole grains, yogurt, eggs, and lean meats. Together we prepared and served the meals for the players, coaches, cheerleaders, and band members.
What none of us could accomplish individually, we managed to do as a group.
Those hungry kids accepted nourishing meals. If they missed the white flour and sugary foods, they didn’t complain. As the season progressed, the kids realized they had more stamina and energy in the fourth quarter of the game.
There is no doubt in my mind that starting the day with a good breakfast made a difference. I feel very positive about organizing the parents and, as a group, coming up with a formula that worked:
- Make sure there is only healthy food around when they’re hungry.
- Make it delicious
- Couch the discussion in terms of stamina on the field.
The parents won’t need to do any persuading once the kids feel the difference in the fourth quarter.
Stew: It’s What’s For Dinner, said Lena, By Allie
When summer comes, my time is spent attempting to educate local youths on gardening, cooking, nutrition, and more. Each warm and beautiful day we prepare a healthy lunch together with freshly harvested ingredients from our garden, sit down at a big table set by the participants, and enjoy a meal they made almost entirely themselves.
So when it comes to the “I don’t like greens,” or “Ewww what’s that?!” or “I don’t eat salad!” I’ve literally heard them all, a zillion times. My response is always,
“You don’t have to like it. You do have to try it.“
I get to say that at least twice a day for 40 weekdays straight, all summer long. Would my solidarity break if I had to say it twice a day for 365 days straight? Oh, definitely. So Lena’s story is as inspiring to me as it is impressive.
At Suppers, we encourage bio-individuality and emotional, community based support to provide a person with the strength required to address food-driven health challenges. My theory, which is not very different, includes identifying the smoothest path towards empowerment for a child and then gently but firmly nudging them down that path. They think they’re walking alone but that’s because they’re kids and your presence embarrasses them. It’s better when they think those healthy choices were their own idea anyways. Who cares about “I told you so’s” when the 9-year old is happily eating stewed swiss chard and munching on kale chips?
Like Lena addressed in her story, children at a private family dinner table are more “show runners” – more inclined to refuse food, have one of those precious, precious attitudes, and demand unhealthy and processed non-food substances from their exhausted parents.
However, in my experience, children in a larger group — even teenagers and perhaps especially teens — WILL try new foods! They will even encourage each other, comfort each other through the process, and – this is huge – if the healthy food tastes delicious then it doesn’t take much to get them to chow down.
So with that in mind, let’s get to work. Here’s a recipe for revamped Chicken and Sweet Potato Dumplings that is sure to please because of it’s natural fatty, saltiness, but is very simple to prepare and allows for your creativity to make slight variations as well. And just so you know, my students go totally nuts for this one. So yeah. It’s kid tested.
Step One: Rinse chicken parts and pat very dry so that spices will stick. Prepare a spice blend of black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, kosher or sea salt, and Bell’s Seasoning (this is key) in a small bowl. On a chicken safe cutting board, sprinkle spices and rub slightly into chicken. Let chicken marinate a bit and come up towards room temperature.
Step Two: Sear chicken in coconut oil or another high-heat cooking oil (in case you were wondering, avocado has the highest smoke point if you happen to be a gagillionaire and can use avocado oil for cooking). Sear meat 3-4 minutes per side, then add to a stockpot and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.
Hey, do you ever have that experience when you have to literally fight with seared meats that stick to stainless steel cookware? Me too! There are things you can do:
- Don’t take meat straight from a refrigerator and place in a pan. Cold meats stick more than room temperature meats.
- Use the proper amount of oil and heat – not too much, not too little – to create what’s called The Maillard Effect, which causes water vapor to be released from foods, essentially “lifting” that chicken off the pan after just a few minutes.
- Use cast iron or even enameled cast iron as much as possible for browning meat since it has a constant layer of oil and the groves in the pan are ideal for Maillard Effect.
Step Three: Chop all your veggies and stuff. This is stew, don’t go all nuts about getting like a perfect brunoise or whatever. Don’t worry, Thomas Keller is not going to come get you. Now let’s save you some time — rough chop, Chef! Throw those veggies into the simmering chicken & stock.
Step Three: The dumplings. Traditional chicken and dumplings are made with Bisquick, duh. Obviously we are not going to use white flour BUT let’s think about what makes biscuits so yummy! Starch, a mild sweetness (from the milk) and doughy happy happy time. So…..let’s use starchy sweet vegetables to create our perfect super dumpling!
You can make up all sorts of variations on these dumplings too — be creative! Just pick a veggie that can be boiled or roasted, then mashed, and mix it with nut flour, egg, a sticky fiber like flax or chia, and seasonings! Nut allergy? No problem — use chickpea flour instead. Veggies include:
- Cauliflower or Broccoli
- Celeriac or Celery Root
- Butternut, acorn, kabocha squash, etc.
- Get your kid involved by giving the dumplings job to him or her — it’ll take it off your hands and you’re sure to get a lot of different, interesting ingredients in there.
Step Four: While soup is simmering happily, use two Tablespoons to form small dumplings from the bowl. Drop them gently onto (not into) top layer of soup. Continue creating and placing dumplings on soup until all batter is gone. Leave stew simmering uncovered another 5-7 minutes. If dumplings are firm when poked, you’re done.
Chicken and Sweet Potato Dumplings
For the stew:
1 whole chicken, cut into parts (or about 4 lbs. chicken parts), rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons Bell’s Seasoning (or Old Bay)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock or more if necessary
1 large yellow onion (makes about 2 cups chopped)
1 cup chopped carrot (about four small carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (about four stalks)
For the dumplings:
1 sweet potato, roasted, peeled, and mashed
1 medium carrot, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 cup almond flour, chickpea flour, or gluten free flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1. Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with seasonings. Rub dry spices into chicken slightly and make sure each piece is evenly coated. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate and increase in temperature slightly.
2. In a large stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium high heat, melt coconut oil. Sear chicken in batches for 3-4 minutes per side and place in a clean stockpot until all chicken pieces have been seared. Deglaze chicken pan with stock and pour over chicken. Add stock to chicken pan until liquid just covers meat. Bring to a simmer.
3. Chop stew vegetables and add to simmering chicken and stock. Place a lid over stockpot and allow to simmer about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare dumplings by placing all ingredients into a bowl and using a fork to mix thoroughly. When ready to drop, use two Tablespoons to form dumplings (or your hands if you prefer) and drop one at a time, very gently, on top of simmering stew. Avoid allowing dumpling to drop too much below the surface of the liquid -as that will disintegrate the dumpling- what you want is for the stew to “steam” those dumplings. Allow to continue cooking 5-7 minutes or until dumplings feel sort of firm when poked.
*Keep your simmer low at the end – the dumplings don’t always want to stay totally together. Try to keep dumplings away from angry bubble places, off to the side is best. Turn once with a fork if possible!
*Traditionally Chicken and Dumplings is served over wild, long grain rice. If you would like to add this to your recipe, go for it. I don’t do the rice because I like the dumplings so much and having rice too would be too much for me. However, that’s the tradition and if you would like to add a whole grain to this recipe, I won’t stand in your way.
Just don’t cook the rice with the chicken and vegetables because it will blow up to a huge size and won’t be a delicate carpet for your stew.
Thanks for reading! As always, head to our website at at Suppers for more healthy recipes to feed your family with delicious, nourishing meals.