We’re pleased, nay, proud, to have Jennifer Fontaine with us today as a guest blogger. Jennifer writes the amazing Mommy Hiker blog, with travel tips, recipes, environmental stewardship, and much, much more. Check out Jennifer’s full bio after the post, and enjoy sharing her day out with the family at a local farm.
If you’ve been following Mommy Hiker for a while, you know the importance whole foods play in our daily lives. I am a firm believer that “We are what we eat.” Food is a life source, a healing miracle and a huge part of the beauty of community. That is why I make it a priority to feed my family balanced, nutritious and delicious whole foods.
As my toddler gets older and is able to understand more, I try to impart my knowledge of food and its benefits to her. We get a kick out of hanging out in the kitchen while I’m preparing meals just as my mother and my grandmother and I did when I was growing up. It’s not only an important bonding time for us, but an opportunity to teach her our family traditions and create new ones!
One of the ways we infuse cooking with fun in our house is with music. From the Blues to Salsa and Afro-Cuban, music is big in our house and you can bet that when it’s time to start cooking, the tunes are usually playing. Our little one is a virtual dancing queen, so in between her pirouettes, she helps by doing what most two year olds do best, tasting every ingredient that goes into the meal! One of the rules of my kitchen and why I believe our two year old has such a diverse palette is, if she asks to try it, I never say no! I have even let her try a grain-sized bite of freshly grated ginger, knowing she probably would absolutely hate it, which she did, but she is developing her adventurous taste buds early and eats pretty much everything that grows!
A great way, I have found, to discover different foods with toddlers and foster appreciation for how our food is cultivated is to take them on a trip to the farm to let them discover how differently each fruit or vegetable grows, from tree to bush and deep under the ground. Consequently it encourages a practice of caring for the earth which in turn ignites a desire for nurturing the food which grows from it, in return allowing us to grow! It’s such a beautiful life lesson!
We were introduced to Underwood Family Farms about a year ago by fellow Mommy Hiker Megan and we were hooked immediately! Their gorgeous Pick Your Own farm is open year-round and harvests everything from blueberries to swiss chard and countless heirloom tomato varietals, not to mention other fun stuff for the kiddos like farm animals and tractor rides. But for me, the best part is the ability to connect the kids with the food on their plate to the bounty of Mother Nature.
So off to the Farm we went! Wagon? Check! Walking shoes? Check! Sunscreen? Check!
Spring is in full swing here in Los Angeles, so the picking was ripe. We picked our weight in ruby red grapefruit and strawberries. I was planning on making a roasted chicken with leeks and fennel that evening, so that was on the pick list as well, but to our dismay, neither was ready to harvest. We attacked the leafy greens from every angle, packing bags full of spinach, bok choy, baby swiss chard and one of my favorite herbs, cilantro!
The kids loved being able to discover all of the different greens! The field was their smorgasbord and it was amazing to witness 2 and 4 year olds so excited to taste bok choy and devour spinach leaf by leaf! We managed to get some ladybug watching in as well as mudslinging!
Once the kids were over the sun and bugs of the fields and us adults were finished channeling our inner farmer, we were famished, so the crew found a nice shady spot to lay out a blanket, eat and rest our picking hands. Of course, within 15 minutes, the kids were recharged and off and running again! We spent the rest of the day communing with farm animals, screaming our way through tunnels and sliding down the combine until it was time to gather up our bounty and head home.
Having a place like Underwood so close to home is a treasure I try not to take for granted. After a good family hosing-down, the baby had such a great time helping me wash and put away all of the yummy food we had picked and even more fun gobbling up all of the strawberries.
Without any leeks and fennel to pick at the farm, dinner plans were revamped to include the baby’s newly discovered favorite green, bok choy! Here’s the recipe I used from Epicurious with a few creative cooking liberties taken:
Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
2 cups of sodium free chicken stock
2 cups of beef stock
4 cups of water
6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms (about 10 large), stemmed, caps sliced
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro (de-stemmed)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
3 cups roughly chopped bok choy
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 chopped green onions
In a large pot, bring broth, water, mushrooms and ginger to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Add fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili oil and simmer for 2 minutes.
Add bok choy and simmer until bok choy is tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in rice vinegar.
Ladle soup into bowls.
Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro and devour!
I started The Mommy Hiker Blog in the hopes of inspiring other parents to get outdoors with their kids to explore and discover the wonder and beauty of Mother Nature and in doing so, I have inspired myself.