Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 Boston Dragon Boat Festival

king of all street food sauces

Things we look forward to in the summer: Sun. Surf. Sand. No school (sometimes). Street festivals. Yup. It's the only time of year I'll brave crowds to sample a variety of morsels out of chafing dishes and sterno. My kinship for this type of event started with my family's booth at the Taste of Hartford during the summers of my childhood. It was at this food festival I got to try everything from Jamaican patties, soul food, pub fare to steamers.

dragon parade to kick-off festivities

I was excited to take the boys to the Dragon Boat Festival earlier this month and introduce them to some "street food," culture and competition. Touted as N. America's longest running dragon boat festival, the Boston Dragon Boat Festival featured 50 race teams, performances, martial arts demonstrations and Asian food vendors on the banks of the Charles.

The festival was just the right size in terms of number of attendees and exhibitors. The only thing I wished there was more of were food vendors. There were less than 10 food vendors limited to typical Chinese-American fare, traditional Chinese "snack" food, Korean, Indian and Thai. Here is a sampling of some of the food we tasted:

bah-chang: Asian Tamale


We started out with Zongzi or bah-chang. Kind of like an Asian tamale, bah-chang is a traditional snack served at Dragon Boat Festivals. Bah-chang is a sticky rick dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves filled with pork, shrimp, chicken, chinese sausage, mushroom, egg and peanuts. We also tried the non-meat bah-chang filled with sweet red bean paste. These were pretty good, but did not hold a candle to my grandmother's. I'm dying to try this recipe from Tiny Urban Kitchen as it seems closest to how my grandmother made hers. 

There was also Mandoo, Kimchee Pancakes and teriyaki sticks grilled on site:

makeshift kitchen by Choi's Food

Koren Food Options

Our best bite of the day was from Harvard Square's Cafe of India. We ended up getting a meat/veggie combo of saag paneer, chicken tikka masala and naan. Man was it good!

Too much yummy-ness to choose from!

samosas

Tandori Chicken

The boys ate very well that day. And even seemed to enjoy the entertainment. We couldn't get close enough to the dragon boat races however. Overall, it was a great way to spend a Sunday. Scoping out the next street fair (click here for a listing). St. Anthony's Feast anyone?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sugary Milk Campaign



When I started this blog, nutrition and eating wholesome foods has always been a given, but has never has been my focus for choosing what to write about or where to dine. You probably won't see me blog about deep-fried oreos or review a meal at a national fast-food chain. You also won't find a post about the latest food pyramid (now a plate??) and reading nutrition labels - I'll leave that to the experts like Joy Bauer or Oprah's Dr. Katz. But if you watch this video and you have kids, it's hard to ignore the fact that kids are just getting too much sugar these days.

So when a fellow parent in my son's kindergarten class asked if anyone was interested in tapping into Jamie Oliver's campaign to eliminate sugary flavored milk from our schools, I said "me!" If you aren't familiar with Jamie Oliver's latest campaign:

"It's not just soda that's full of sugar. Kids are getting it from the chocolate and strawberry milk they drink at school too. Flavored milk also has other ingredients you won't find in the plain stuff - colors, flavors, artificial sweeteners - which don't make it more nutritious.
Add your name to support this campaign asking schools to choose plain milk, and make the sweetened varieties an occasional treat." - Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution website
Lead by fellow parent Amy Vachon, a handful of parents and I wanted to go beyond signing an online petition and get our schools to consider eliminating flavored milk - or at the very least encourage kids to choose the white stuff.

Cut to Thursday, June 9th, 2011: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution's National Flavored Milk Day of Action - the first-ever coordinated, grassroots action on this issue. Over 300 individuals from all over the country organized student activities, demonstrations, and conversations with school officials to urge their communities to eliminate flavored milk.

The event was well-organized and gained momentum as the days progressed. The Food Revolution team equipped groups with a 12-page "playbook," fact sheets, templates, calculators, and a Facebook page as a way for groups to connect with each other. They held "office hours" and live chats on the days leading up to the 9th. If only more businesses and organizations were this well-organized!

So what happened at our school? Check it:


Handed out free white milk and wristbands to every student, funded by Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates

Cafeteria was decorated with student-created "milk art"

Created and distributed flyers with milk facts to students

And it worked! Kids were choosing white milk!


Kids wore the wristbands proudly

I realize we have a long way to go in changing policy and eating habits. In fact, we were met with some resistance by several parents who felt "it was their God given right to have freedom of choice."Another argument we heard was if we eliminated flavored milk, then how will kids learn to make healthy choices?

Food services and the Dairy Council fear that by eliminating flavored milk, milk sales would plummet. Maybe. But I was inspired by what I saw that day and don't feel this is totally true. For example, one student asked if she could get chocolate milk for free and we had to explain to her we were only paying for white milk. She explained she didn't like the taste of white milk and was ready to walk away empty handed. Then turned around and grabbed a white milk.

I'd like to think we made a positive impression. Not only with the kids, but the cafeteria staff and school leaders. Change can happen if we're all in it together. 


How do you feel about flavored milk? Should schools eliminate chocolate milk from their menu?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Adventures of a Chicken


Any book that begins with "She longed for adventure" is sure to be a page-turner. And when this opening sentence is referring to a chicken named Louise, how can you *not* want to read on?

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss is a story about a not so chicken chicken who leaves the warmth of her hen house only to find herself caught by pirates, survives a sinking ship, joins the circus, escapes a lion, kidnapped in a bazaar, only to free herself and other chickens from imminent chicken doom. My boys LOVE it. I love it. What's not to love?

Anyway, in the first chapter "Louise at Sea", the hungry pirates all have their own ideas on how they want to cook Louise. "Fried!" shouts one nasty-looking pirate. "Fricasseed!" shouts another. My oldest always giggles at this one.

So it is Louise that I think of every time we make Ming Tsai's Mushroom Chicken Fricassee with Edamame. This is one adventure I'm sure Louise is thankful to skip!



Mushroom Chicken Fricassee with Edamame
From Ming Tsai's Simply Ming One-Pot Meals

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds unskinned bone-in chicken legs with thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
2 cups canned whole roma tomatoes, roughly chopped, with the juice from measuring
1 cup shelled edamame


DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper

2. Heat a large roasting pan or large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sauté, turning once, until brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. Drain the pan of all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and sauté until lightly brown, 2 to 3 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. Add the tarragon, tomatoes with their liquid, and edamame. Mix well and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

4. Top with the chicken, transfer to the oven, and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve.

The Good: GREAT weeknight meal. Easy to prepare with tons of flavors. Edamame gives it an unexpected twist. Boys could not get enough.

The Bad: Boys hated the mushrooms (to be expected). I had to shell the edamame by hand (oof), but you can purchase shelled edamame at most stores.

Grade: Solid A. Get this in the oven, grab a copy of Louise and enjoy (yeah, I'm a sick mama)!

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