Monday, September 8, 2008

In the U.K., Annabel Karmel is the go-to guru for health-minded children's meals

Trying to please picky palates
In the U.K., Annabel Karmel is the go-to guru for health-minded children's meals: Not only does she produce her own line of foods, but the mother of three is a columnist, author and TV pundit on the topic of feeding kids well.

Her latest work, "The Fussy Eaters' Recipe Book" (Atria), is focused on picky eaters (meaning most kids), but it doesn't spotlight bland food.

The flavors might be toned down a bit for tender palates, but Karmel's recipes - a tangy tomato dressing, a crisp, cold chicken salad - are colorful, texturally diverse and internationally inspired.

Just don't tell the kids.


Makes about 3/4 cup
If your balsamic vinegar is very sharp, then you might like to add an extra pinch of sugar - it's worth spending a little extra to get a mature balsamic vinegar with more rounded, sweeter flavor.

2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and whiz for 2 minutes, until thoroughly puréed. Strain the dressing. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks, and shake well before serving.


Makes 2-3 servings

1/2 cup jasmine rice
2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1/3 large cucumber, preferably English or hothouse
3 scallions, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup diced cooked chicken
1/4 avocado, sliced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put rice in large pan with 1 1/2 cups cold water and pinch of salt. Bring to boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through; transfer to a bowl.

To make the dressing, gently warm the rice-wine vinegar and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the canola oil and stir into the rice. Leave until room temperature (refrigerate if using for a lunch box).

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Dice the flesh. Stir into the dressed rice with the scallions, bell pepper, chicken and avocado, if using, and season to taste.


Makes 4 servings

3/4 pound macaroni

For the cheese sauce:

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup grated Gruyère
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup shredded sliced ham (optional)

For the topping
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water according to the package directions. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring over low heat for 5-6 minutes. Take off the heat, stir in the Gruyère and Parmesan until melted, then the mascarpone cheese. Drain the pasta, return to the pan, add the cheese sauce, and heat through gently. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and shredded ham, if using. Transfer to a greased, ovenproof dish (approximately 9 by 5 inches wide). Mix together the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Place under a preheated broiler until golden and bubbling.


EDY'S SLOW CHURNED VANILLA WITH NESTLE CRUNCH BAR Frozen treats don't always have to be off-limits for those trying feed their kids in a healthy way, according to "Eat This Not That for Kids." A few tricks, writes Zinczenko, are to look for fruit bars and any pop that ends with a "sicle," as it's generally a "safe indulgence." These Edy's bars also pretty low in calories and fat per bar.The best way to feed your kids is with cooked-from-scratch foods, of course, but then life happens: You work late or little Joe screams for brand names at the store. That's when to pull out "Eat This Not That for Kids" (Rodale), David Zinczenko's new photo-illustrated guide to supermarket aisles and fast-food menus. The editor-in-chief of Men's Health tells you what's not healthy and what is, like these four kid-friendly foods.

KEEBLER LOW FAT CINNAMON GRAHAMS Cookies and milk are the classic childhood snack, but for treats with fewer calories and less saturated fats, look to Nabisco SnackWell's Creme Sandwich Cookies, a roll of Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie dough, Nabisco Sugar Snaps or the winner in the cookie category, graham crackers. Spread them with peanut butter, says Zinczenko, and kids will really feel full.

KRAFT TANGY ITALIAN SPAGHETTI CLASSICS :When stocking the cupboard with after-school snacks for older kids, macaroni and cheese, ramen and SpaghettiOs with meatballs are easy choices. But those are usually studded with fat and sodium. Instead, writes Zinczenko, pick options like SpaghettiOs shapes, Thai Kitchen's curry-flavor instant noodles and this Kraft spaghetti kit.

LIPTON SOUP SECRETS NOODLE SOUP Canned, boxed or bagged, soups are a lightning-fast way to feed a hungry child in mere minutes, but they can be high in sodium and fats. Avoid Campbell's classic Chicken Noodle, says Zinczenko, as it packs a whopping 890 milligrams of sodium per serving. Instead, he says, go for Campbell's Healthy Request version or easily portable packets like Lipton's Soup Secrets.

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