I’m all about getting kids to try new foods. I mean every week in both my boys’ cooking clubs, I work hard to not only show the boys how cooking is fun and tasty but also introduce them to new-to-them foods. But learning to eat new foods shouldn’t just be about kids. At our kid-free house, this blog has certainly broadened my palate but I also make an effort every 2 weeks when our organic produce box comes to choose veggies and fruits I might be less familiar with just to challenge myself to cook with them. Which is why when I was offered the chance to take part in Jennifer Tyler Lee’s #52NewFoods Challenge, I couldn’t say no!
Jennifer, the creator of Crunch a Color, was a mum like many others who struggled to get her kids to eat healthy meals. The answer, she discovered, was turning it into a game. “We’ll try one new food each week,” she told her kids. “You pick!” She called it The 52 New Foods Challenge.
In her new book which is a week-by-week guide, Lee offers practical tips to change the way families (with and without kids!) eat. Each week offers a healthy new food (the book is organized according to seasons so it makes it easy to eat seasonal), easy recipes, and a fun activity (optional for adults taking the Challenge 😉 ). There are over 150 simple, healthy recipes and advice from nutrition experts, making The 52 New Foods Challenge both a manual for showing parents how to enjoy mealtimes, plant the seeds of change at their family table, and easily incorporate healthy habits every day of the year, but also providing a sensible eating guide for anyone (i.e. those of us without kids!).
I really like the main messages of the book for readers with kids: 1. Try new foods, 2. Cook together. 3. Let kids lead the way. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my philosophy re: cooking with kids (not just for them) and many of you will know I couldn’t agree more with these ideas.
Throughout the book there are tips relating back to these three principles – giving ideas for how to introduce new foods, what kids can do in the kitchen and how they can, little by little, take more responsibility. It’s a great handbook for those parents who want to get their kids involved in the kitchen but who don’t know how or where to start.
For adult households like mine, the book is a great way to look at all those seasonal items arriving in my organic box and figuring out what to do with them! I try as much as possible to stick to my “seasonal” box meaning only in-season items get delivered so some weeks there might be an abundance of one particular ingredient and I challenge myself to use it in a new and creative way. Sometimes it’s tough but it is an excellent exercise in working with seasonal products and realising just what IS in season. The fact that we can get most any produce year round had made many of us immune to the seasons in the kitchen but the seasonal box really does help there!
For the 52 New Foods Challenge, Jennifer asked a group of Food Revolution Ambassadors to take one of the ingredients in the book and come up with an original recipe. My organic box decided for me – a couple of weeks ago, I had a ton of kale (not my favourite, actually) delivered and wondered how on earth we would eat it all! Of course, there’s kale chips (Jennifer has a fabulous recipe in the book!) but I had my eye on something a little different – a cheesy kale and artichoke dip, made a little healthier by adding less cheese, subbing in some cream cheese and using Greek yoghurt. I know that the cooking club boys love making dips and it’s a great way to sneak in a little extra vegetable action too! And, of course, with dips, you need chips, right?
I chose to make oven baked pita chips because this dip needs a substantial chip to go with it.
- 2 small pita breads
- olive oil, for brushing the pita breads
- 3/4 cup (175g) 0% plain Greek yoghurt
- 1/4 (60g) cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (75g) mayonnaise
- 398mls (400g/ 14oz) artichoke hearts, quartered
- 75g grated cheddar cheese
- 200g kale, washed, leaves removed from the stems
- Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F.
- Slice the pita breads in half, horizontally then cut each round into 8 pieces.
- Place the bread, rough side up on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Brush each slice of pita bread with olive oil. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the kale and place in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam until tender (+/- 10 minutes) then drain. Once the kale is cool enough to handle, squeeze excess water out with your hands then roughly chop again.
- Mix yoghurt, cream cheese and mayonnaise with a whisk in a small bowl until smooth and well-combined.
- Add the artichoke hearts and cheese and stir to combine.
- Stir in the kale and mix to combine thoroughly.
- Pour the mix into a baking dish and bake at 400˚F. At the same time, bake the pita chips – they will take about 5-7 minutes – keep an eye on them as they will burn quickly.
- Bake the dip for approximately 15 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown.
- Serve hot with pita chips.
I loved this as a snack on a chilly afternoon and the substantial pita chips held their own against the chunky dip. Did I notice that it was kale and not spinach? Yes – the texture gave it away (and in fact, next time, I might steam the kale a little more) but I actually enjoyed the crunch factor from the kale. This was not a gloopy, messy dip – it was one that makes you sit up and take notice of it. Even though it uses a lot less cheese than many similar recipes, it was very flavourful and I liked that you could taste all the different components separately – i.e. it wasn’t just a bowl of cheese 😉
I didn’t try this recipe with my students (yet!) but last week, my youngest boys made tomato soup in cooking club. As the soup bubbled away, I taught them to make pita chips – with cookie cutters! the result:
I’m thinking I might have to use this book as inspiration for next term’s cooking club…. 😉
Please note: The product links from Amazon, Amazon.ca and The Book Depository are affiliate links meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Do you live in Toronto? Come out and hear Jennifer speak at the Rotman Big Ideas Speaker Series – Wednesday November 12th. Details here.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the 52 New Foods Challenge cookbook for the purposes of taking part in the #52NewFoods Challenge through Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassador Community. I was asked to create one original recipe for the challenge. I did not receive any further compensation for writing this post nor any other promotion of the book I might be involved with.