I need to share with you one of my recent victories in the battle that is
Motherhood Getting Your Kids To Eat Enough Fruit And Vegetables.
A dear friend of mine is the chef at a high-end local preschool. I was lucky enough to visit there recently and got a good look at what they do. This preschool is amazing, for many reasons ... but most of all for the exceptional quality of the food. No chicken nuggets or yogurt tubes for these little darlings. Instead, they are fed a menu of organic, local and seasonal dishes hand-made by a trained chef. Every dish is made from scratch, including the main dishes, sauces, desserts and snacks. You will not find bottled ketchup or chicken broth from a can anywhere in the place.
The children are fed a 3-course lunch ... they start with a salad, followed by a main and finally a dessert. They all sit around a big table with their teachers and spend about 45 minutes eating. Like civilized humans - not getting up and down from the table - just enjoying their meal, all the while having a nice conversation - it was remarkable! In this day and age of school-aged children being given 15 minutes to inhale their packed lunches, it was an extraordinary thing to see!
The day I visited, the salad was a mix of greens including spinach, with pears and a citrus vinagrette - not what you would typically expect to see such little children enjoying. But they gobbled it up! And some asked for seconds ... of the salad! I asked my chef friend why she thought the kids accepted the salad so well, and she replied that they had just spent 2 hours outside in the cold air and were starving - at that point they would eat anything.
A massive lightbulb went off in my head! My kids (17, 15 & 11 years old) come home from school absolutely famished each day. I can't explain why, because they eat their lunches and don't seem to be nearly as hungry on the weekends ... but alas, they are ready to eat anything they can find at 4 o'clock on weekdays. I've seen my son eat a huge bowl of Greek yogurt while waiting for leftovers to heat in the microwave. I've seen my 11-year old polish off an entire bag of microwave popcorn by herself. I don't know what happens on that bus ride, but after-school is definitely the hungriest time of the day.
And that was the day The After School Salad was born!
At first, my husband was extremely skeptical. I got the "Why do you set yourself up for disappointments like this?" look. Who am I kidding? I was doubtful myself. But I was willing to give it a shot. So, I made a trip to the grocery store and stocked up on a variety of greens, some other vegetable favourites (cucumber, sweet peppers), some cheese (because cheese makes everything better) and some secret weapons (croutons, pecans, etc.). And I tossed together a simple salad of romaine, kale, cucumbers and pecans with a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese. I made a quick dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, basil and a bit of salt.
And it worked.
On day one.
They ate every last leaf.
And have ever since.
Crikey ... who knew?