Baby Break

January 25, 2011  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

I will be posting a lot less in the coming weeks as my shiny new baby girl is on the way.

Chop Chop Magazine

January 20, 2011  |  All, Food Media, Kids  |  No Comments

December_coverYesterday I received my first issue of ChopChop magazine, and I must say that I am quite impressed with it after trying only one issue. ChopChop is a cooking magazine for families with kids, and it is full of useful information to cook better, eat better, and get kids involved in cooking. The magazine has a great combination of cooking instruction, safety tips, games, articles, gardening ideas, and recipes. There is also a focus on children’s health throughout the magazine, though it achieves this message in a very subtle way. There is no talk of calories or diet; it simply focuses on making healthy food in a fun way.

The founder and president, Sally Sampson, is a prolific cookbook author (20+ cookbooks), and most of the recipes in the magazine are by her. The recipes are appropriately simple and healthy, and branch out into other food cultures. For instance, in this issue there is a Mediterranean-influenced white bean dip, an Italian minestrone soup, and an Asian stir fry. There is even a page dedicated to squash along with a squash chili recipe. Pushing squash onto kids is a very bold move.

ChopChop is not your normal cooking magazine though. It’s a non-profit publication and has virtually no advertising. It is still a good cooking magazine with an excellent niche, but more importantly it is part of a larger food movement responding to childhood obesity.

Sampson became more involved in health causes when her daughter was born with a rare disease, and ChopChop is just one way in which she has tried to ‘give back’. And it really seems like a perfect fit: she’s an accomplished food writer and is also acutely aware of health challenges with children. Making the connection to childhood nutrition wasn’t that far off.

What really makes this magazine unique though is how it deals with food. There is no preaching about processed food, problem eating, or special ‘light’ food products. Those subjects are skipped, and they instead focus on how to have fun cooking and eating as a family. I like that positive message because the last thing we need is a Cooking Light magazine for kids.

On the inside of the magazine cover, the ChopChop philosophy is laid out: “We believe in the simple values of cooking together as family and sharing healthy meals. We believe Americans would be healthier (and happier) if we all spent more together-time in the kitchen and around the dinner table….” It goes on to say that they don’t count calories or demonize foods; they simply believe in consuming healthy, wholesome meals.

That’s a great philosophy, and what’s better is that the magazine puts children front and center. There is a 5-person Kids’ Advisory Board, and the young advisors test out all of the recipes, games, and activities in the publication.

With that said, one thing the magazine doesn’t do very much is cover cooking equipment for kids. This is understandable considering the limitations on advertising and sponsors, and direct product promotion just wouldn’t feel right in ChopChop. Since I love cookware, however, I had to bring it up. Sampson has contributed to Cook’s Illustrated in the past, so maybe an equipment corner for kids will eventually become part of the magazine. I’ll cross my fingers because I still believe it would be useful to highlight kitchen tools that are good for kids.

Despite that one point, I must reiterate how impressed I am with my first issue. It is not a thick magazine (because there is no advertising), but it is full of useful recipes, tips, and information. The cost of a subscription is $14.95 for four issues, and you can subscribe by going to their website at chopchopmag.com. You can also donate a subscription if you want to spread the message to a babysitter or childcare provider.

Below I have added some links to articles that informed this post. Feel free to read more about Sally Sampson and ChopChop.

The Lunch Tray
The Atlantic
The Boston Globe

Chef Uniforms for Kids

January 18, 2011  |  All, Kids, Textiles  |  5 comments

kids-chef-uniformI don’t wear an apron that often in the kitchen, and neither does my daughter, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t benefit from an extra layer of mess protection. So as she starts cooking more, I am wondering what type of cooking apparel I should get for her. There are literally hundreds of types of aprons on the market to choose from. Just do a google image search for ‘kids aprons’ and browse the many options.

Using a regular apron has its advantages. A kid won’t grow out of it as quickly, and it can double up as an art smock for other messy activities. With that said, a lot of kids love to dress up, and the little chef in the family may just want to look like an actual chef. It all depends upon your kid.

I am personally not a big fan of the cutesy patterned apron and hat sets. I’m sure kids would love them, but I like it when companies make real cooking gear for kids – just smaller. After searching the web, here were a few of the chef uniforms for kids that I liked the best.

Chef Works has a range of realistic chef clothes. They have coats, checkered pants, and plain white aprons. All three products will cost about $60, so this option is a bit more expensive.

Similar in cost and style to Chef Works, The Chef’s Emporium has professional looking chef uniforms in small sizes. You can buy an apron, pair of checkered pants, and chef’s coat for about $55.

One of the best deals on complete kids uniforms, however, comes from KNG out of San Francisco. Pants, coat, apron and hat will cost about $31. The sizes start at 6-8 years though, so if you need smaller items you will have to look elsewhere. The Chef’s Emporium starts sizes at 3-5 years.

Chefskin also has very reasonably priced aprons, hats, and coats in a range of colors. Their products also seem to get good marks on Amazon.

The outfit shown above is another option from The Apron Place. The coat is a bit steep in price though and sells for roughly $39. The hat will run you about $12.

For hats, I thought Growing Cooks had a nice selection with reasonable prices. Each cloth hat will cost about $9, and they even have paper collapsable hats for kids that sell for under $2.

If you are having a kids cooking party, Designer Online has a set of six colored aprons and hats that are disposable. The whole set will cost about $27, but please note that the company is out of Australia.

And lastly, I know that I said I wasn’t into cutesy chef clothes, but the Key2Life store at Etsy has some neat patterned aprons and hats for the little ones. I especially like the pink and white polka dot set that I linked to. The little chef model is quite adorable too.

And if you want your baby to look cute/ridiculous, Best in Babies has an infant chefs outfit for $28. It’s cute but a little freaky too.

Most of these sellers also offer embroidery for an added cost if you want to personalize your kid’s cooking outfit. Also, before investing in a more expensive coat, be aware that the size ranges are usually in two-year increments, and some of the coats come with rolled cuffs already. There might be a lot of cloth to roll up if the coat runs large. In other words, you won’t always have a perfectly fit coat like the girl pictured above.

Foodie ABCs

January 11, 2011  |  All, Books, Kids  |  No Comments

my_foodie_abcI bought this board book for my daughter called, My Foodie ABC. She is out of the board-book age, but this one is not your typical baby book. Instead of the usual suspects of apples, bananas, and strawberries, you get a range of foodie terms that are far less known. In fact, some of the terms would likely be unfamilar to parents.

Let’s see – I wonder how many parents could explain the terms: alfajores, opah, and xuxu to their children. Sure, you might know that opah is a fish, but can you describe it? Admittedly, those are some of the difficult words, but the point is that the book exposes kids to new foodie terms and gives them a glimpse into other food cultures.

Another nice feature of the book is that it teaches how to pronounce the words, so you as a parent won’t be left struggling with unknown pronunciation. The illustrations are also fun and will surely appeal to the littlest of kids. With that said, I’d probably hesitate to teach a really young child the word for ‘kobe beef’ before learning the word for ‘cow’. That might cause some confusion.

Here is a list of the food items covered in the book if you are interested: alfajores, bento box, chanterelles, dragon fruit, empanadas, farmers’ market, gourmet, habanero chile, ice cream, jicama, kobe beef, locavore, Meyer lemon, nopales, opah, pomegranate, quinoa, radicchio, saffron, taco truck, udon, vegetarian, weisswurst, xuxu, yucca, and zest.

This is definitely an informative book that is good for parents and kids. So if you are looking to expand the family’s foodie vocab, this book would be a great buy. It costs about $9 on Amazon.

And in the near future, there will even be disposable My Foodie ABC Placemats that will pair activities with letters of the alphabet and foodie facts. The placemats will sell for around $10 are are available for pre-order from Amazon.

One additional note is that the author, Puck, is not Wolfgang Puck. One Amazon reviewer confuses this point. The author has written several children’s books that teach counting, but he is not the world-famous chef.

Fun Plant Markers

December 30, 2010  |  All, Gardening, Kids  |  No Comments

silverware-garden-markers-1209-lOnce your kids start planting again this spring, they may need some help remembering what they planted and where it is. Of course, you can use labelled popsicle sticks or plastic markers, but these labelled vintage spoons from Monkeys Always Look are a great idea. They add a little class to the garden, are durable, and easy for kids to use.

You can search on Etsy to find different sellers of garden markers such as these. I saw a handful of shops marketing them, and you can usually pick the labels you want. A set of four will cost around $20.

Vintage Garden and Butter Milk Hollow are two shops you may want to check out. And Monkeys Always Look also has an Etsy shop in addition to their regular site.

Cookie Stamp

December 29, 2010  |  All, Baking, Kids, Tools & Gadgets  |  No Comments

cookie stamperI just saw this cookie stamp in an old Bon Appetit magazine. Of course, making cookies is fun, but stamping them with the words “Home Made” gives them one last flourish to really make them special. The stamp is made by Suck UK and retails for about $17 in the US.

Even though I love the design and look of this item, I have my doubts. Sure, kids would probably have fun stamping the dough, but I could also imagine a lot of squished cookies. I also wondered how well the message of “Home Made” would stand up to the baking process. I don’t bake that much, but it just seemed that the words wouldn’t appear that well in the cookies I am used to baking.

I found only a couple of reviews of this cookie stamp on the web, with the best one coming from the blog Dear Pigeon. The author actually tried it out on a batch of peanut butter cookies, and it definitely worked. You can check the photos in her blog post. With that said, the author concludes that the stamp would work best with cookies that don’t rise a lot during baking and have some color to them.

Another review on Amazon UK also thought the stamp was a bit too big for standard-sized cookies. The stamp part is made of silicon and measures 3 inches wide, so you can judge how well it would fit your cookie portions.

Here are some sources to buy the stamp in the United States: Spoon Sisters for $17 and Amazon for $21.25 with free shipping.

Doggy Crumb Sweeper

December 27, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Home, Kids  |  23 comments

dog crumb sweeperI have a regular crumber that I use to clean up after a busy cooking session, but the Pico Bello Crumb Sweeper from Koziol is a nice playful take on the standard waiter’s tool.

I think this crumb sweeper would be a fun clean-up tool for the kids, especially if your child likes dogs. So whether it is table crumb duty or sweeping up a spill on the floor, this product might be worth a try to motivate cleaning.

With that said, it is rather expensive at nearly $23, so I would make sure there is a good chance your child would use it before buying it. Also, I have used a crumb sweeper in the past, and the brush tends to get pretty yucky. I would try to avoid sweeping up oil, honey and other sticky substances that might gunk up the brush. Once that happens, the brush will simply spread the oil and stickiness around.

You can purchase this item at Amazon among other places on the web.

Playful Lemon Juicer

December 22, 2010  |  All, Kids, Prep, Tools & Gadgets  |  No Comments

lemon_juicerThis boat-shaped Ahoi Citrus Juicer from Koziol is pretty cool. It comes in four different transparent colors, and I think it would be perfect for kids. The boat’s hold captures all the juice, and the pointed bow and stern act as a spout to easily pour juice without a mess.

I already have a very good citrus juicer that I like, but I think this one would be more fun for the kids. The handled squeezers can require a bit of coordination and strength to extract the juice.

There is a YouTube video of the Ahoi juicer if you want to see it in action. The price is around $12 on Amazon.

Butcher Art

December 21, 2010  |  All, Decor & Design, Kids, art  |  No Comments

pig butcheryVia The Kitchn, I happened upon the Etsy store of Drywell (art by Alyson). The artist creates quirky and fun diagrams of various objects to include cuts of meat for cows, pigs, goats, and lamb. Most adults could benefit from these meat diagrams, but I’m going to purchase one to frame and put in my kid’s room. You never know when that butchering opportunity may come around. And didn’t David Letterman have a skit on his show called, “Know Your Cuts of Meat”? Anyhow, my daughter can choose what to do with her knowledge.

Alyson’s blog, I love Drywell, is very fun to browse through, and her meat sections project is funny and fascinating. She has created a sectional diagram for every day in 2010, and you definitely have to be creative to keep that theme going. Originally, she started off making diagrams of animal cuts in many formats (origami, cookies, watercolor, chalkboard and a lot more), but the subjects have since branched out to numerous food and drink items as well as other random objects. I love making origami, so I think the origami lamb with cuts of meat diagramed is one of my favorites. Check her art out if you have some time. I did (twice).

Anyhow, here are some of my favorite ‘meat sections’. If you double click the images below, they will enlarge. Support Alyson and buy some of her work.

Food Map Container

December 21, 2010  |  All, Garden, Gardening, Green, Kids, Outdoor  |  No Comments

foodmap designI have been wanting to buy one of these mobile garden containers from Food Map Design for some time. The product is a few years old and has long been featured in Dwell Magazine, but the containers are finally coming down in price. And now with the holidays, you can get them for 20% off with free shipping.

The Food Map containers are environmentally friendly and made from all sorts of recycled material, but the design is top notch too. It looks sleek, is practical, works well in small spaces, and manages water efficiently. The growing container has a special rippled bottom that helps water drain evenly but also retains water to maintain soil moisture. You can see the design description here.

There are two versions of the this container for sale. One is the taller adult size, but there is also a shorter one that is great for kids. It stands a little over 23 inches tall, which is a perfect height for children. And that’s what I really like about this planter: kids can take ownership of it. They can plant things at their own height and move it around as they wish. Of course, being movable also lets you manage sunlight better too.

With the 20% discount, the planter will still cost $119, but when you consider that a good quality garden container will cost $50-60, it doesn’t seem that bad. There’s no better time to think about spring planting than in the dark of winter (that’s called optimism up north), and it is always good to plan ahead when getting kids involved with the garden.