SO, I wanted to take this opportunity to share their wealth of knowledge with all you. So here we are.
Mama, chef, Emmy award winning TV host, New York Times best-time selling author, and of course beauty extraordinaire, (honestly there are not enough words to describe my dear friend – she seriously does it ALL and makes it look effortless, gorgeous and fun), Daphne Oz. I met Daphne a decade ago during an audition for a tv show…the show never aired but our friendship took off ; ) I am beyond excited to kick this series off with her.
As a mom of four, I am so interested to learn how Daphne meal preps and feeds her babes and thought I would pick her brain so we can all get her tips and tricks on how to make things more effortless, easy and just the Daphne way…so here we go.
how to raise confident, adventurous, happy eaters
My grandmother has six children, and her mealtime motto has always been: “Don’t make them resist you more than the food.” And this from a woman who took her entire family vegetarian in the 70s, back when most people thought that meant lentil loaf and getting really creative with your steamer basket. My mother had her four children slurping down “Magic Drink” smoothies on the way to school, jammed full of various nutrient combos, some of which could be masked by the fruit she added…and some of which really could not. And though some meat and fish were eventually reintroduced, and we didn’t always drink all our smoothies, they were undaunted.
As children of this family, we understood from an early age that food had function – it was fuel to help us be our best. And yet, the joy of food could not have been more central: every meal became a celebration filled with boisterous conversation and hands breaking bread and passing around giant wooden bowls of salad, plates of pasta, glorious grain bounties, and homegrown produce treated just right. I spent my happiest afternoons helping to cook these beautiful feasts, learning the ways of our family.
In other words, yes – my mother and grandmother made some important menu decisions they thought were worth the struggle of resistance for the added health value. But they also found ways to make sure that struggle didn’t ruin mealtime altogether or overpower what they were trying to teach which was, ultimately, how to take good care of ourselves.
So, without further ado, some of the best ways I have taken their inspiration and found some success feeding my four littles – I’m sure they have their complaints, but they’re not the ones being interviewed today – in a way that feels as balanced and stress-free as possible, as delicious as expected, and as memory-making as is essential.
1 | Big kids try everything.
This became my mantra when our first, Philomena, turned 3 or 4 and evolved from the easy baby who ate everything to the picky toddler who asserted independence by holding wholly indefensible positions like that she hated ALL FRUIT. I am an adventurous eater by nature, and I want all our kids to be free from any fears around food, so at minimum I insist that they take a taste of everything presented. Beyond that one bite, I’m not going to fight with them. And what I’ve found is that, slowly but surely, through repeated exposure, my kids have developed tastes for foods they thought they didn’t like and, most importantly, the confidence to try new things.
2 | Serve it family style.
One of the biggest changes I made in the past year or so is to start to put whatever is being offered for a meal down on the table as a group portion. I often will put toppings and condiments on the side so we can customize individually as we like, but serving family style and allowing my kids to serve themselves means they get to control the varying portions of each dish. Because they are putting it on their own plate, there’s a feeling of ownership and freedom that removes a lot of the resistance I was coming up against when I was the one saying what they “had” to eat.
3 | Make it pretty.
As often as we can, we sit down to meals with our kids. We ask them to set the table and they especially love when we eat by candlelight (even though it’s still pretty light out at 5:30pm). When mealtime feels like the occasion it is, with a sacred place in the family bonding rituals, their minds are open to trying more of the adult things available on the table. We are still a chicken tenders and french fries (oven baked! from the bag lol) some nights, but we introduce a lot of big flavor, adventurous eater items this way.
4 | Tag, you’re it!
OK, this one requires some trust, patience, and perchance cereal for dinner. But it’s worth it. Inspired by my time as a judge at MasterChef Junior watching 8-year-olds make their own pasta from scratch, we started letting our older kids “make dinner” a couple times a month (we’re on hand to help, of course). Letting them be the creative engine, pushing them to incorporate naturally colorful elements, helping them get inspired by what’s currently available or play the puzzle of “here’s what we have: what am I going to make?” is an incredibly maturing experience that also begets much more appreciative eaters. The more practice, the better the results!
5 | Talk about something else.
Try not to let mealtime conversation become all about what the kids are or aren’t eating. If they get attention for something else, or are lost in an interesting conversation about Harry Potter trivia, chances are they’ll forget to hate everything green on their plate.
6 | “Don’t make them resist you more than the food”.
This has always been my grandmother’s mealtime motto when it comes to feeding kids. Ultimately, taste is preference, and our job as parents is to help our kids develop a flexible framework to make healthy decisions, not to decide what they like or don’t for them. So, relax a little. Let them make their own choices where they can. Celebrate eating well and indulging well. Try not to make it a battle of egos. Help them see how good nourishing food makes them feel. Lead by example. And the rest will sort itself out!
cucumber melon gazpacho
Serving you summertime in a bowl! This cool, creamy soup is the perfect starter, light lunch, or a full meal if you just can’t get enough like me! Cucumber, scallions, and a gentle hit of sweetness from honeydew melon come together in a rich base of smooth, pureed almonds that give this soup so much body. I love adding in a touch of fresh mint and jalapeño to keep each bite exciting.
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 2/12 English cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped, plus ½ cucumber thinly
- sliced into half-moon for garnish
- 5 scallions, cut into 1-icnh pieces, plus 2 thinly sliced for garnish
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cups roughly chopped honeydew melon or yellow bell pepper (for a more savory result)
- Juice from 2 or 3 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
- 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
- ½ jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed for less heat (optional)
- Sea salt, to taste
- 4 radishes, thinly slice, to garnish
- Soak the almonds in 11/4 cups hot water for 1 to 2 hours to soften so they will blend into a creamy milk without being chunky.
- Place the roughly chopped cucumbers, chopped scallions, garlic, almonds and soaking water, melon, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, mint, jalapeno (if using), and salt in the jar of a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth, working in batches as needed. Taste and adjust any seasoning.
- Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight, 8 to 12 hours, to allow the flavors to meld. This gets your gazpacho to the best consistency and flavor-but if you just cannot wait, it will still be delicious right away! If the soup happens to separate at all, just stir to combine again before serving.
- Serve garnished with the cucumber slices, sliced scallions, radishes, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Note: For an ultra-creamy and slightly richer gazpacho, add 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk to the carafe before blending your soaked and drained almonds.
Follow Daphne here: