Posts Tagged ‘Tofu’

Healthy Kids…Yours, Mine, Ours

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

I’ve been called diminutive, and I guess I am at 5’2”, and kinda thin. So when I walk anywhere with my son who’s 6’4”, 330 lbs, no one believes I’m his mom. In fact, when he was little, people thought I was his nanny – he was so big compared to me even then. His high school football team had a good laugh when I walked onto the field with him during Mom’s Day. His dream was to be an NFL defensive lineman, and although his workout routine still, at 24, equals NFL stats, he changed his direction to pursue another lifelong dream unrelated to sports. Most of his friends are athletes and most of them stayed with us at one point or another. And they all came to know and really appreciate the food he was brought up on – whole grains, fresh veggies, beans, and sugars all as organic as I could find and cooked at home from scratch. Before their next visit, they’d phone in their orders to me or through him. Feeding a football team if you’ve never done it, even for a few days, can be daunting, but surprise of surprise, they finished it all and wanted more.

Doc applauds our lifestyle. My son ate his first beef burger at age 12 or 13, inadvertently, and never really did develop that much of a taste for it. True story: during a football game in high school, he banged bodies with an offensive lineman, also big. What a hit! What a horrible sound! It was a clash of the titans. And they were both carted off to the hospital. The orthopedic surgeon reported to us that the other kid came away with a broken shin bone, I’m sorry to say. However, he was incredulous at my son’s injury, a slight bone bruise. With taped leg and crutches he went back to the sidelines to cheer his team on.

“Whatever you’re feeding him, keep doing it. I’ve never seen bones that size or that dense in a kid before!” Those were his exact words. That was an extraordinary feeling to have our lifestyle applauded, though not the way I would have chosen.

A living answer to questions. He’s still my trophy and my testament to natural foods for kids especially when he visits my cooking classes. People just don’t believe it. True, you’re thinking there must be some big genes somewhere in the family, and yes there are, but it’s not the size, it’s the quality. He’s a walking testimonial to a lifetime of natural foods with a presence that answers their questions: “Will my child get enough calcium?” “Will they grow?” “Won’t they get sick more?” “Can they grow up healthy without all the protein and vitamins from meat and dairy?……… Yes, yes, no, and yes. Absolutely. Here. Look. And in he walks.

I’ve had non natural foods kids raiding my pantry, freezer and refrigerator forever. One 10-year-old made a B-line for seaweed whenever he came. Didn’t bother him at all what it was. He just wanted it. Loved the taste and he said it made him feel good. You can’t argue with that.

Kids know. Like that 10-year-old. They want to be shown, but also to be allowed to experiment. I have another true story here: I was asked to make two dishes for a grand opening for a holistic health center last year in Coronado, CA. One of the dishes was an Asian style tofu appetizer (go to my website: and click on Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around – the very same one). A 13-year-old boy (difficult to please at that age regardless, unless…) came by in the line and wouldn’t try it (tofu, yuk!) until I told him he could spit it out in from of me if he didn’t like it. No pressure. That intrigued him enough to try it. Guaranteed he liked the idea of spitting it out in front of me.

I was distracted by other people asking questions and didn’t see his reaction or his leaving. About ten minutes later, he returned with a few friends. They didn’t say a word, but they did polish off the entire platter and left. Maybe they had a new regard for tofu after that. I like to think so. Kids want to know you care by giving them options, challenging them, and respecting their opinions. And what better place to start than in your own kitchen where your daily soul replenishment for the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and feeling all come together to create the ultimate sense of well being from food. ‘Home [and hearth] is where the heart is.’

Pride of creative ownership.
Make it a game, interesting, fun. Dress it up. Make it all natural and as organic as you can. Make it look like what they’re used to, but the ingredients can either mimic or be completely different. Season it and spice it up with a familiar aroma, appearance, and mouth feel. But whatever it is, it’s got to taste great! Another thing about them which you probably already know, they don’t spare your feelings. They tell you the truth. So ask them what the dish needs and get them involved in the kitchen and the preparation by letting them fix it the way they want. Let them make it their own. For you it’s hands off unless asked. Whatever the mess, whatever their tastes, whatever their additions or deletions it’s theirs’ and not only deserves but requires your respect. My son is getting to be one incredible chef choosing food and spice combinations I would never think of in a million years. He astounds not only me but his friends with his choices and complexities of taste while still sticking to organic whole grains, veggies, even meat, chicken, and wild fish. Allow them the gratification of astounding you. Their tastes are often so different from ours. There’s no age limit or requirement, by the way. So much more fun than going to formerly frozen formula Chili’s or McDonald’s or wherever and their memories are priceless. Oh yeah! And invest in a bread machine. Let them invent variations on their staple. So easy.

Prenatal to post natal to pre-school to post college, they need and want guidance from mom and dad. Their culinary creativity being rewarded early with applause and respect will give them the confidence to continue natural foods in their lives and to teach their friends and their own children. Give them their jump start by changing to whole grains and veggies during pregnancy. When nursing they’re already used to the foods. And when you start introducing solid foods, they intuitively know them already. Even seaweeds. Really. Yup, even seaweeds can be luscious. It all depends on your creativity and that intangible ingredient that makes it all a hit, your LOVE.

My son once observed to us from a boarding school he attended for one year for football before going to college, that he thought he was the only person there who loved his parents. Wow! Now that blew us away. He realized that we always inspired him to achieve and create, to have his own opinions, and respected his choices. Experiment. That was the year he started cooking for himself and starting teaching me. Very gratifying. He’s still teaching me.

Some answers really are that simple. With the meteoric rise of childhood and young adult health diseases: diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, ADHD, and the lists goes on and on…… Diseases once thought to be brought on by age deterioration in adults are now epidemic, even plagues among our children. Drugs are not the answer. One definite answer is natural foods. Too simplistic? Things in life don’t have to be that complicated. You really are what you eat.

We sold our souls and our health. It’s the insidious invasion of the soul snatchers in the guise of the big pharmaceutical companies and the big brand name food manufacturers all in collusion with the advertising companies and the food/chemical lobbyists in Washington D.C. I refer to Dr. David Kessler’s (former FDA commissioner, 1990-1997) new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite”. He writes about just this, not that we didn’t know it already, but a former FDA boss telling us from the ‘inside’ about how our souls and health have been hijacked for profit is pretty frightening along with our disastrous eating habits being engineered by those companies’ food scientists. Very scary, but not irreversible.

Now it’s time to create your own good health! Get your whole family into the kitchen. Have fun creating a lifestyle change that makes you happy and gives you the power of choice. Food becomes an exploration into a culinary world of individual tastes designed by you that changes with your whims by adding a little bit of this or a whole lot of that. And your children? They’ll love it!

Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Tofu RrapOrganic/natural tastes best.

This recipe is Tofu at one of its best. An appetizer/wrap that can also be a main dish. I’ve had kids clean their plates and ask for more – even knowing that it’s tofu.

An all round taste pleaser – light, spicy, savory.

You’ll need:

2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
2 Garlic Cloves or to taste, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, finely minced
1 Small Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 Can Water Chestnuts, water discarded, finely chopped
6 Whole fresh Scallions sliced crosswise into small rounds
1 Pound brick Tofu, soft or firm, crumbled by hand
2 Tablespoons or to taste Organic Soy Sauce or to taste
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce or to taste
2 Tablespoons Mirin Cooking Wine or to taste (found in Japanese/Oriental markets
or section of supermarkets and natural food stores)
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Fresh & crisp Head Lettuce, leaves gently taken off
(Can also use Napa cabbage, leaves cut to scoop size or celery cut
Into 2” long pieces or your choice of veggie scoop)

Large heavy skillet (not nonstick)
Takes about 20 minutes to put together then refrigerate to cool
Ground meat or poultry can be substituted for Tofu. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To prepare:

Heat skillet over medium flame. Add oils, garlic, and ginger and sauté till fragrant about 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper and water chestnuts for another minute. Add crumbled tofu and continue breaking up with spatula mixing continuously until consistency resembles ground beef, about 5 minutes. The tofu/veggie beads will separate as the water evaporates. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Mirin and continue stirring till mixed through. It should be salty, spicy, slightly sweet. Adjust to your taste. Add scallions and cilantro and stir another minute to mix through. Place in a serving bowl and refrigerate till cool. You can serve by putting bowl of tofu mixture in the middle of a platter with lettuce leaves for people to wrap themselves and other raw veggies all around or fill the veggies yourself. Either way this is definitely a fun favorite finger food.

ABOUT: Wellness Chef Helen Sandler
Lecturer, personal chef, teacher, wellness coach, & speaker, Helen promotes a healthier lifestyle through common sense, organic / natural approach to a happier, positive life.

Helen Sandler is used to being an innovator and at the cutting edge of whole foods whole grains awareness. After graduating from SUNY, New York with a teaching degree, she began to follow her real passion for healthy cooking which took her from Los Angeles to Boston to attend the cooking school of the late and great master Japanese natural chef, Aveline Kushi. Later that passion took her to Kyoto, Japan to continue her studies, where she spent four more years learning the art of healthy Japanese cooking (Seishoku).

As Wellnes Chef Helen she is the featured authority at CTNgreen /wellness with articles in the library there and the virtual paperless magazine at CTNGreen Magazine