During this back to school time we have an opportunity to bring ease, joy and connection into our family food. As a family food and garden coach, I teach my clients how to shift from trying to solely get their kids to eat healthy and, instead, invite their kids in to participate with the food which fosters the bigger picture, a positive relationship with food.
I always felt welcome in the kitchen. While my mother passed down a family recipe here and there, the gift that she gave me was that she always made me feel as though I belonged in the kitchen. My passion for food continued with my own children. When it came to raising Jess, Jackie, and Jake, I wanted them each to feel at home in the kitchen in their own way, and the kitchen was our playground.
As my kids entered preschool, I began teaching kids cooking classes, coaching moms and speaking on panels about joyful, healthy eating. I was grateful when my kids invited me in to teach in their entire grades! I wanted to do more in the community, met Andrea Garbarini, and we shared the vision of starting an edible school garden at BRS Elementary School. Together with a dedicated team, we created the first edible school garden in the Pleasantville district. I also found a home at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua, where I continue to partner with Hope Blauner, teaching the early childhood edible school garden.
Inviting our kids in to participate with their food doesn’t have to mean when we’re busy getting dinner on the table. It can be when there’s a natural opening in our week. Tools welcome our kids into the kitchen and say “you belong.” The invitation can be handing them an apron to wear, a grater for cheese, or a spatula while making 3-ingredient, 5-minute quesadillas.
Another way to bring joy and ease into family food is what I like to call ‘parts of a meal.’ By allowing our kids to have their individual food preferences one meal can make everyone happy – there’s something everyone likes to eat. Fajita night can mean rice and beans for one and beans and veggies for another. When we “give up the get” of trying to get our kids to eat healthy, and honor our kids’ own relationship with food, we experience joy in the moment and legacy for the future.
As with anything, know who you are and what’s right for you and your family in this season. Go where it’s easy and keep in mind, changing dinner isn’t the only way to create a positive relationship with food. Each little thing counts – a visit to a farm or farmers market, having our kids toss the salad whether or not they eat it, flipping pancakes or quesadillas, pushing a button on a blender for smoothies. Our kids will remember an invitation into the kitchen and, most importantly, feel at home there.
Find Hillary on Instagram @theediblegardenist and at theediblegardenist.com/
To connect with Hillary for family food and garden coaching and edible school garden workshops, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3-INGREDIENT, 5-MINUTE QUESADILLAS
1 package of corn / flour / almond or other tortillas
1 package or block of Monterey Jack or your favorite cheese
1 can of black beans, rinsed and patted dry
Optional: Be creative with any filling you like! Other filling options include sautéed or grilled veggies or chicken. Serve with salsa or guacamole, if desired.