July-August Resolution: Take a Culinary Adventure

Spanish Paella

Have you ever wanted to go on an adventure? It’s easier than you think to explore new and exciting places and you don’t even have to pack a suitcase or get a passport! Your path to new places and new ideas leads you as far as the dinner table for our next Get Real Resolution: Take a Culinary Trip!

Okay, so you think all those foods are scary? What if we told you that many of the most familiar foods you already know and love are “ethnic” foods — foods that are part of a shared culture or national heritage.

Did you know every food is an ethnic food? Even your familiar favorites!

Think about that burger and fries you may have just had in the last week. This seems like “American” food, but French fries or frites originated in Belgium and France! While no one is sure where the hamburger was first created, some stories say Hamburg, Germany and others give credit for the creation to a Danish immigrant.

Pizza is, well, Italian! Along with another favorite from the kids’ menu — spaghetti! But noodles are not just Italian food or even just for mac-and-cheese, either. Different cultures have been eating noodles for at least the 4,000 years. Besides the familiar pastas from Italy and American egg noodles, you can find udon, soba and somen noodles in Japan, ramen in Chinese cultures, spatzle for both Germany and Austrian dishes. Other cultures that include noodles in their cuisines include Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Afghanistan, Tibet, and India.

One of the craziest things you may find while trying a new cuisine isn’t how different it is, but how much the same we are!

Ready for your adventure?

Here are some tips to make the most of your culinary journey.

  • Choose an ethnic cuisine as a family, it can be based on the types of food you all agree on like noodles, or on a country you find interesting.
  • You can make your meal at home, which could include a trip to an Ethnic grocery store. Don’t forget to ask about all the ingredients you find and traditions!
  • If you go out, have everyone in the family order different foods so you can try a lot of dishes to see what you like
  • Don’t be afraid that you won’t like something. Not knowing exactly what is ahead is what makes this an adventure.
  • Take some time to learn about the country or culture behind your meal. Have your parents help you with online research.
  • During summer there are a lot of cultural festivals that provide a fun outing as well as the chance to try new foods. Some events are even multi-cultural ones — you could travel the world’s flavors in a day!

Travel Journal Time

Take a few moments to share what you learned together on your adventure:
1. What does the food you tried tell you about the culture?
2. What foods and flavors did you like best? What did you like least?
3. What ingredients in the dish were familiar to you?
4. What were any new ingredients you tried?
5. Where would you like your culinary travels to take you next?

Here’s our culinary adventure we’ve taken as a family for five years:

A Weekend at the World’s Table

Kansas City’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival Represents Our City at Its Best and Tastiest

By Beth Bader

India DancerAugust’s scorching heat took an extended vacation last year, leaving a perfect eighty degrees and a cool breeze in its place. It was the kind of breeze that makes you close your eyes and bask in its gentle coolness, but made all the better with a deep inhalation of the air that smelled like nothing short of food heaven.

One short stroll around the Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Swope Park and your nose can travel the world from exotic, intoxicating Indian curries to crisp Columbian fried plantains, the honey-soaked cinnamon of Serbian baklava and Croatian povitica. For one magical weekend the whole world — or at least sixty of its cultures — shares a table in Kansas City.

Among the favorite dishes served are those from India’s booth. Jarnail Kandola has been cooking at the festival for thirty years of its thirty-four year history. At one time, he owned Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant, on Wornall Road. These days, he still caters and his experience in professional cooking shows in the dishes he creates each year for the festival. Despite cooking for hundreds at a time, Kandola’s delicate, complex sauces hold and the vegetables in the curries are tender-crisp. Even the samosas and pakoras stay light and not greasy.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 7.58.07 AM Jarnail Kandola at the Festival

Kandola’s kitchen “staff” is an experienced crew as well. It includes close friends and his three sons and nephew who literally grew up helping at the festival every year.

“Washing dishes was the favorite thing to do because you got to ride the golf carts,” laughs Gurbhushan Singh, Kandola’s nephew, recalling his younger days of festival work. He has young kids himself right now, but expects to bring a third generation of the family to work at the festival booth one day.

The opportunity to try other cuisines is one of the benefits of returning to the festival every year, as well. Singh ‘s favorites — besides the mango lassi and chicken curry — include the fresh-squeezed lemonade from Italy, the chicken and beef kebob’s from Vietnam and the Ahi sauce served with the dishes from Columbia.

It’s not a surprise there is great food. Many of the booths have professional chefs and cooks at work, including Spain’s booth where you can find Carmen Cabia Garcia. When she is not creating the rich, chilled almond soup with grapes and olive oil and the spicy potatoes bravas on this August weekend, Carmen is serving her signature paellas and tapas from her food truck, El Tenedor. She started the business in the last two years, but has worked at the festival for nearly five years now.

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Pa

“I started El Tenedor because I wanted to work outside and be on the move, so I guess the festival did help me realize that,” says Carmen. She says she loves the diversity the festival offers and talking to people from all over the world.

Surprisingly, even these experienced chefs admit that cooking for the crowds at the festival is no easy feat even with a few years experience.

“I love being part of the festival, every year it becomes easier and more enjoyable for me,” says Carmen.

Kandola’s youngest son laughs a bit over the sheer effort cooking for hundreds in each day of the three-day event takes. He describes the feeling of “Never again!” exhaustion at the end of the event, but then by the following July, finds himself getting excited for the event all over again.

If cooking on that scale is daunting for a professional, imagine the learning curve for home cooks that staff the booths. Festival-goers can also experience a family’s traditional recipes such as the pollo empanadas from Ecuador’s booth where Jeff Harkness works in a tent behind the booth, painstakingly folding and frying each empanada in the summer heat.

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For Jeff, it’s a labor of love literally. His wife is from Ecuador and he married into the culture and food traditions. Each year, he supports his wife in the monumental effort to help make sure their daughters stay in touch with their heritage.

It’s not uncommon to see a blend of cultures like this even within each booth. While a few may consider this as “unauthentic,” it is perhaps the most authentic reflection of our whole as Americans.

To willingly and so fully embrace another culture as to spend three 18-hour long hot August days over a stove or grill is a commitment to the cause. These hours are all volunteer time even for professional chefs who help with booths. No restaurants are allowed to represent a country. In fact, few booths make a real profit over their expenses and time that includes not just the three-day festival but weeks of preparation and planning beforehand. All do this for the joy of sharing their culture both within the booths and throughout the event.

The unseasonably mild August weather kept attendance at a high. Things are winding down in the gray trailer that houses the festival’s true communal kitchen — four stoves and ovens, three sinks, and hundreds of different dishes from all cuisines with recipes being shared in a multitude of languages. It’s a crazy, wonderful melting pot both on the stoves and in the kitchen.

Long before the festival’s end that year, the wash station was packed as the booths ran out of food and the staff began hours-long clean up and take down of the booths.

Despite the effort ahead, a man from the Moroccan booth was disappointed at running out of food early.

The 60 countries of the Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Kansas City

The 60 countries of the Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Kansas City

“We need the time,” he says. “We need a bit longer to stay with one another’s cultures.”

It’s a sentiment you can sense in the air just as much as the heavenly spices. This sentiment is more than the food, more than the traditional dress, music, crafts and the performances. It’s the heart of the festival itself.

The lead up to the 2013 festival year was marred by several events in the news — most notably the Trayvon Martin trial ending just weeks prior. The headlines felt like a crushing leap backward in overcoming our racial divides.

“The people who come here,” remarked a city park worker as he looked around at our blended mix of community, “they are the best people in Kansas City.” He paused for a moment. “I needed this festival this year. I needed to see this.”

 

The 2014 Ethnic Enrichment Festival will be held August 15-17th at Swope Park. Hours are 6 pm to 10 pm Friday, 12 pm to 10 pm Saturday, and 12 pm to 6 pm on Sunday. Admission is only $3.00 for adults. Kids 12 and under are free. Parking is also free. You can find out more information about the event at http://eeckc.net/?page_id=130.

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Real Food Resolution: March Label Madness!

blueberry label

You’ve heard of “March Madness,” here’s a different kind of madness that happens every day with your favorite foods. We call it “Label Madness!”

This month’s resolution helps you become a supermarket sleuth so you can spot the madness and understand what all those words on a food package really mean. Ready to investigate?

Let’s pick a food that seems pretty healthy and tastes good, too: blueberry yogurt. It’s got blueberries in it — one of the healthiest foods — it should be good for you! Or is it? What’s on the label?

 

 Parents: Get a PDF of this activity for your kids

 

Front of the package

The front of the package is the place where food companies want you to look first. The things written on this part of the label are what food companies want you to think about the food so you will buy it.

You’ll find words like “naturally flavored,” “lower sugar,” and lots of claims about what kind of vitamins and minerals the food has in it.

Mostly, these claims all sound like good things, but read them carefully. For example, terms like “natural” and “naturally” are not always what they sound like.

You would think that in order to make blueberry yogurt, you would just add blueberries, right? Because blueberries are expensive, food companies often use a little bit of real blueberries and add extra flavors to make a food taste a lot more like blueberry and colors to make it look more like blueberry.

The word “natural” is sometimes used when these flavors and colors are not created from chemicals but come from a natural source (which does not have to be a blueberry!). Some foods don’t even have real blueberries in them! Those labels will say things like “blueberry flavor.”

So, how do you find out the truth about what’s in your food?

The Ingredients List

If you want to know what’s in your food, turn the package over and read the ingredient list. Here is where you can see what’s really in the package.

For our yogurt, the ingredients list can look like this: Cultured Lowfat and Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Blueberries, Modified Corn Starch, Blueberry Flavor, Natural Flavors, Kosher Gelatin, Colored with Fruit and Vegetable Juice, Vitamin D3.

Ingredients are listed in order of how much is used in the food. This list tells us that our yogurt contains more sugar than it does blueberries!

For foods like sweetened cereals, companies sometimes use a few different kinds of sugars (maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, fructose to name a few) so that sugar doesn’t show up first in the ingredients list. Some cereals contain more sugar than they do the “whole grains” they are supposed to contain!

The label also tells us that the yogurt has both natural and artificial flavors, not just blueberries. To make the yogurt look more like blueberry, they’ve used food colors.

banana

What is THAT?!

Sometimes foods have ingredients you can’t pronounce like BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE or CARRAGEENAN. What is all that?

If these ingredients don’t sound like food, you are right. These are food additives, things that are often added to food to keep it fresh or to help processed food keep its texture when it sits on the shelf a long time. Artificial colors and sweeteners are other examples of food additives.

The Nutrition Label

The nutrition label is also on the back of the food package. This label helps you understand things like how many calories are in it and how much of some nutrients it contains.

Nutrients are the healthy things foods offer us, like protein or vitamins and minerals. Some foods have added “nutrients” to help it sound healthier.

The nutrition info box also shows a percentage of each nutrient. This tells you how much of a nutrient a food item has compared to how much of that nutrient you should eat every day.

The nutrition label also shows some of the things you should avoid eating too much of, like added sugars, salt and saturated fats. Some yogurts have 26 grams of added sugar in them, that’s over five teaspoons of sugar!

This is an important label, but be careful when you read it. It can be tricky. A food item that looks like you can eat the whole thing as a snack may list its nutrition label as two or three servings. If you eat the whole thing, you have to triple the calories, sugars and fats that you think you are eating! Sneaky, huh?

There are some new ideas for making the nutrition label easy to understand, especially the serving sizes and if there are added sugars. Those rules have not been approved yet, but when they do, the food labels will be easier to understand.

 

Kid-safe Sites to Research Food Labels

Kid’sHealth.org

Food Additives List

How to Read a Food Label

Make Your Own Nutrition Label

Food Labeling Chaos – A Full Guide

Healthy Food Nutrition List

March Get Real Resolution Activity

For Parents

Do you ever dread taking your child to the grocery store? That nag factor that causes so many arguments over food choices can make you crazy. Our March Food Label Madness activity will help you and your child to have conversations about food choices instead of arguments.

Food labels are confusing, even for adults, so this is a great activity to do together. The online resources listed here will give you a great start to tame the food label madness. This skill set is key to helping your child become an informed consumer. It’s also a good time to talk about marketing claims and what they really mean. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

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February Get Real Resolution

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Get a PDF of this activity and content for your family.

For Kids: Before You Start

Most of us are celebrating Valentine’s Day this month with heart-covered cards and boxes of chocolate shaped like hearts. But, did you know February is also Heart Health Month?

Good News! Chocolate Can Be Healthy

The good news is some of that chocolate may be good for your heart! Dark chocolate contains substances, or compounds, known as flavonoids, or flavenols, and antioxidants. These compounds may help protect your heart and your cardiovascular system.

But, Wait a Minute Before You Eat the Box!

Before you dive into that whole box of chocolate, wait! Chocolates like milk chocolate with marshmallows or caramel have too much sugar and bad fats to be healthy.

To find healthy chocolate, look for the labels that say the bar is 85 percent cocoa and stick to a small portion — just one ounce! That’s only about a 1-inch square.

You Can Get the Same Benefits from Fruits and Veggies!

One ounce of dark chocolate isn’t enough to keep your heart healthy. Your body needs a variety of healthy foods every day. You can find flavenoids and fiber and a lot more good stuff in other plant foods besides chocolate.  We’ve listed a few favorites here along with a fun activity to share your heart healthy message with some one you love.

Good Sites to Use for Food Research

World’s Healthiest Foods

Heart.org’s Nutrition Center

Web MD: 25 Heart Healthy Foods

FOR PARENTS

We’d love to see your kids art work! Would you share a photo of their finished cards with our page on Facebook

Heart Health and Your Child

Most of us think about heart issues as a worry for older adults. But a family history of heart disease plus factors like obesity and physical inactivity can put a child at risk for early onset heart disease. Further, findings show that the path to heart disease can begin in childhood.

A study quoted by the American Academy of Pediatricians found signs of arteriosclerosis in 7 percent of children between the ages of 10-15.  For kids aged 15-20 that rate nearly doubled. The link between childhood health and heart disease led physicians to change their recommendation on cholesterol screenings for children.

Prior to 2011, pediatricians only recommended screenings for children with a family history of heart disease. Now, they recommend all children between nine and eleven should be screened.

There’s no time like Heart Health Month, to teach your kids healthy eating and exercise habits to prevent heart disease. We’d be nuts not to.

Have you joined The Cleaner Plate Club and Edible Kansas City for the Get Real Resolution yet? Get monthly activities and fun food adventure ideas for a no-fight, all-fun way to help your whole family enjoy real food.

Next Month: March’s Get Real Resolution explores food label madness. Kids get to explore the aisles of the supermarket and spot the difference between a marketing claim and the truth about the food in the box. Then, they get to be the food marketer and nutritionist to build their own healthy food label for an item from the produce section!

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Real Food Resolution: January

 

The no-fight, all-fun way to help your whole family enjoy real food

Join The Cleaner Plate Club and EdibleKC’s Get Real Resolution

Ready to start The Get Real Resolution?

Okay, done. That’s it! No diets or sacrifices, no pushups or sit ups! Just make a commitment to try the challenges and have fun.

The first activity for your resolution is to sit down at a family dinner with a sheet of paper for each person (who is old enough to write) and answer a few questions to that will help you get the most from your resolution.

Questions for Parents:

  1. What do you hope your family gains by taking this challenge?
  2. What worries you most about the foods your kids will or won’t eat and why?
  3. What’s the biggest issue in our food system?
  4. When you were a kid, did your parents ever make you eat a food you hated? What was the food and what happened? Do you eat that food now?
  5. What is your favorite food memory from when you were a kid?

Questions for Kids:

  1. What’s your favorite food and why?
  2. How do you feel when your mom or dad makes you try something you don’t think you will like?
  3. What does “healthy” food mean to you?
  4. What do your parents “nag” you about most when it comes to food?

When you are done, seal the papers up without reading any of them in an envelope (you’ll need them later) and get ready to get real. Each month will offer fun activities and educational content to support your resolution. Check the site for each month’s challenge ideas and share your stories and photos of how your family is celebrating real food.

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Resolve to Make Real Food Fun for Your Family

The no-fight, all-fun way to help your whole family enjoy real food

Join The Cleaner Plate Club and EdibleKC’s Get Real Resolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join The Cleaner Plate Club and Edible KC for The Get Real Resolution

The no-fight, all-fun way to help your whole family enjoy real food

Before you resolve to get your kids to eat broccoli every day, give up cookies for the next twelve months, rid your family’s diet of all fast food or processed food ever, or look like [insert name of celebrity here who has a personal chef, personal trainer, and a house cleaner, gardener and nanny] in her or his last retouched cover shot of Vanity Fair magazine … wait.

Let’s get real. Try The Get Real Resolution instead.

The Get Real Resolution is way for your family to have fun together while exploring what real food means.

Each month offers one activity or adventure to enjoy that helps your kids understand and enjoy real food. Most of the adventures are away from the family table — the battle ground for most food fights. Many of the activities don’t even involve eating a bite, but instead help your family engage in conversations about “real food” topics such as; nutrition, food label claims and food marketing, local food, food waste and hunger, and animal welfare.

Hands-on food experiences, not more food fights at the table.

No daily dose of dieting required for this challenge. No nagging over nibbling allowed. Kids, big and small, will have a great time with food adventures that help them learn hands-on while they have fun:

  • Crazy Food Day where the kids get to pick the most unusual, crazy fruit or vegetable they can find. Research what the food is and where it comes from. Then, try the new food as a family. Anything from foot-long green beans to fruit with spikes — take a walk on the wild side through the market!
  • Just Label It helps kids experience food marketing claims and how to find the truth on a food label by finding examples of label claims on packaged foods. They get apply what they learned to making their own food label for a fruit or vegetable including the nutrition information and ingredients list.
  • Color Swap challenges kids to learn about heirloom vegetables by finding familiar veggies that come in crazy colors. Kids get to explore the science of phytonutrients and the real diversity of a plain old potato.

The key ingredient to this resolution is fun.

If you want to stick to a resolution, make it fun. Research shows even the least motivated among us perform better on goals when they are fun. In fact, less highly motivated people may actually perform better than over-achievers when fun is involved, according to an intriguing study by researchers Dolores Albarracín and William Hart at the University of Florida.

“It’s not that those with high achievement motivation always perform better,” Albarracín said. “You can also get the low achievement motivation folks to perform better than the highs when you present a task as enjoyable and fun.”

The boost we get from fun to stick to our resolutions is also a key to learning, according to education research. It’s also important that kids get to learn and explore ideas for themselves and not just be told.

“We have to intellectually engage kids,” says Anne Haas Dyson, a professor of curriculum and instruction at Illinois who advocates for playtime as part of the classroom process. “We have to give them a sense of their own agency, their own capacity, and an ability to ask questions and solve problems. So we have to give them more open-ended activities that allow them the space they need to make sense of things.”

Fun also means no nagging for parents! As a mom, I’ve seen my own kid shut down when she hears my nagging. The Get Real Resolution is designed to be nag-free fun where kids can learn for themselves through experiences that foster quality family time and a healthy relationship with food.

We’ll all be in it together.

If peer pressure is your mainstay for willpower, we’ll be here at this site. Or rather, right here on the pages of Edible KC, and online at ediblekc.com and cleanerplateclub.com. We’ll also be on Facebook ready to share successes and experiences as well as a few recipes along the way.

Look for a new activity for your family each month plus the supporting links, resources to help parents succeed. You can download kids’ content for the challenge including fun facts and tips, stories and bonus challenges. No sign ups required, no personal information shared, and no marketing food or otherwise targeted to your kids because they — and you — get enough of that.

Ready to Resolve? Let’s go!

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