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Being invited to do a pre-show presentation at the recent Let’s Read. Let’s Move. event on July 9th, I had the opportunity to watch as Olympian, Michelle Kwan read with enthusiasm and entertained about 200 Washington D.C. school children. This popular event is hosted at the U.S. Department of Education and encourages children to read, move and stay active continually throughout the summer to keep their reading skills strong, bodies healthy, and keep curious minds busy and learning. After Michelle read the entertaining story Can I Play Too? By Mo Willems, I had the opportunity to ask her thoughts on reading and of course food.

Let's Read Pic

Michelle shared “In the summertime I moved a lot. I was training 4-5 hours a day. In between I would pick-up a book and read. My take home message to parents is that it’s important to have a healthy and active lifestyle as well as learn how to read and pick up a good book.”

Michelle’s Favorite Snack of Olympians: “Baby carrots, and sugar snap peas.”
Michelle’s Favorite Veggies: “Brussel sprouts and spinach.”
Michelle’s Favorite Indulgence food: “Cheese!”
Michelle’s Favorite Book: Can I Play Too? By Mo Willems

Michelle 2

Michelle added how she loves coming in front of an audience of children and shared, “When talking to little kids and when they see me, they’re seeing real people. And those dreams they have of becoming a firefighter, or a doctor, they’re seeing it’s actually possible, by exercising and working hard to make dreams come true!” Olympian Michelle Kwan sure did!

Michelle 1

posted by Ben in Events and have Comments Off


The Let’s Move! Healthy Lunchtime Challenge was fun and beautifully executed in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, July 9th.  This second annual event was so inspirational it will definitely get you and the kids dreaming up healthy recipes, and working together in the kitchen. I was invited to attend as a media guest to film and get coverage of this yummy White House Official State Dinner.  The First Lady teamed up with Epicurious, The Department of Education and The Department of Agriculture to create this unique competition.

The day began early for the 54 winners children.  As their names and winning recipe were officially announced, they walked slowly through the Booksellers entryway front of the media for pictures and a few quick questions.  Each child had their own story behind their winning recipe. Rose from Menlo Park, California, shared “I came up with my recipe because my brother has food allergies.”  Children were dressed in their summer best and smiling with enthusiasm and excitement as their proud parents escorted them next to the East Room of the White House.

While waiting for the First Lady, the children and their parents were able to visit and introduce themselves to one another and explore the exquisitely decorated East Room.  Executive Director of the Let’s Move! initiative and White House Chef, Sam Kaas, was up close and personal chatting with the kids.  Every attention to detail was given to create a fun dining experience for the kids.  Each table was covered with a crisp green and white striped tablecloth and decorated with a fresh centerpiece of rainbow colored vegetables and flowers. I couldn’t take my eyes off the yellow summer squash, orange bell peppers, green broccoli and red radishes with red roses tucked in between.  Each child sat down in a golden chair in front of their place setting set with official White House China, silverware, and accompanied by a colorful canning jar glass then topped with a straw for that kid friendly touch.  A small acrylic box filled with recipe cards of the winning entries was at the tip of each place setting as a gift for each child to take home.

Wearing a beautiful, stylish, bright summer dress, First Lady Michelle Obama shared a true personal touch with the audience, thanking “all the parents who are here with us today, the parents, the grandparents and I know out there somewhere are teachers and educators who are also inspiring these young people; thank you for bringing your kids here today, thank you for loving them, for supporting them encouraging them.”

“The odds are you know pretty tough to get into one of these seats at this table so you should be very proud of yourself. And that’s why this is truly one of my favorite events that we here in the White House.   I mean we do a lot of cool stuff here. We’ve got singers, stars, world leaders, but this probably throughout the entire White House is one of our favorite events because we get to see how talented, and creative, and brilliant all of you youngsters are.  And we don’t just get to see it, we get to taste it!”  The audience giggled and clapped as she read aloud some of the winning entries including, “Banana’s Black Bean Burritos, Pan Seared Mississippi Catfish on a bed of River Rice, Bring It On Brussels Sprout Wrap and Slam Dunk Veggie Burger.”

All morning we were hopeful, and then amazed when a surprise guest arrived, yes, President Barack Obama.  The room was filled with clapping and astonishment.  President Obama is truly comfortable around families and children.  He smiled, joked, and congratulated the 54 winners seated before them and shared, “We could not be prouder!  I will tell you a story when I was a kid: In my family, when they cooked vegetables they were boiled, soggy, nobody wanted to eat them. Now I like vegetables because they are prepared right.”  Encouraging the children he added “you are going to send an example to kids across the country.  You’re helping to create a strong, healthy nation.  And I am proud of my wife for this initiative.”  Before he left the East Room, President Obama went to each table, bent down to eye level and shook the hands of each one of the winners.  What a day for the children and what a memory for the parents.  It was moving to see tears in the eyes of one parent so overwhelmed and so appreciative.

The audience was then entertained by Rachel Crow, X Factor finalist, who rocked the East Room and even invited the kids up on stage to dance and sing.  As the children left the East Room they could choose a favorite balloon animal to take with them.  And the day would not have been complete without a tour of the White House vegetable gardens.

You can be sure we will be featuring some of these Let’s Move – 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge award winning recipes on our upcoming series, and you can find all of them here:

I will keep you posted for next year’s and you can check here:!

posted by Ben in Events and have Comments Off


First Family PortraitTomorrow First Lady Michelle Obama will be hosting the second Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. One winner from each state will be attending with their parent to a fun-filled day featuring a luncheon of the winning recipes, entertainment by Rachel Crow and a tour of the White House gardens. The First Lady has been successful bringing forth the Let’s Move! initiative which aims to help solve the problem of childhood obesity and she has been instrumental in bringing improvements to school cafeterias, classrooms, and the food industry. Working together and teaching children positive steps and choices at a young age is vital. With the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, The First Lady is focusing on what children can accomplish in their own homes with the help, support, and while working alongside their parents. This competition gets children excited about being in the kitchen and seeing the positive outcomes of working with food. Giving children the time to explore in the kitchen encourages them to set goals of trying new recipes and healthy eating. Cooking in the kitchen also provides additional opportunities for learning and integrates core-curriculum such as: vocabulary development, reading comprehension, problem solving, math estimation, fraction practice, science, and so much more. That is the goal of Hey Kids, Let’s Cook, too! Follow the action on Facebook.
“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”
- First Lady Michelle Obama at the Let’s Move! launch on February 9, 2010

posted by Ben in Annoucements and have Comments Off


Kids_in_a_row_for_Publicity (2) - Around you in the kitchen

There are so many reasons here, but speaking as a mom of 3 daughters, two reasons are
always at the top of my list. First, getting kids involved in the kitchen and teaching them
how to cook is a basic life skill that kids need. Just as important as teaching them how to
read and do math problems, teaching kids how to cook will teach them the skills needed
to help fuel their bodies to promote healthy living throughout life. Another big reason
teaching kids how to cook is to promote family bonding and make memories that last.
Spending time in the kitchen, reading through recipes, measuring, cutting, stirring,
tasting, quickly turns into laughing, giggling, sharing stories from the day, solving
problems and making decisions. And of course, there are always dirty dishes to clean,
and spills to wipe up, but it’s always been worth it to me. One mom I just met said, “I
made pancakes with my son this morning and there was batter everywhere!”

And as long as a responsible adult supervises them, you can get kids started in the
kitchen as young as 3 years old. That’s when I started with my 3 daughters in the kitchen
with the very easiest and safest jobs. Giving kids a safe place to stand or sit in the
kitchen is vital. They just love to watch and emulate mommy and daddy and they will
want to tackle any task you allow them to try. Kids love to mix ingredients together at
this age and get big happy grins just stirring and stirring (as long as the ingredients are
not hot). Offer them kitchen tools that are comfortable to hold like wooden spoons and
rubber spatulas. Kids love to cook all the way through a recipe by the age of 7 or 8, and
they are able especially equipped because they know how to read and follow
instructions. You can give them actual steps to help complete the recipe and will be
ready to use small knives if you guide them through. This age also loves if you ask them
to help plan weekly family menu ideas too. By age 12 – 14 it’s time for their assigned
night to cook for the family during the week. Picking a quick, fast recipe is best so they
can feel successful, and the added responsibility won’t get in the way of homework. You
can foster their love by sharing recipes that are important to you. My daughters love
their great- great-grandmother’s persimmon pudding recipe. It’s great to hand down
these recipes from generation to generation and fun for the kids, too! So have fun in the
kitchen with the kids tonight!

posted by Francisco in Family Life and have Comments Off

Breakfast Fun – Aebleskivers

close up

Don’t wait another minute! Everyone needs to know how to make pancakes from scratch. It’s one of those basic, breakfast recipes you’ve just got to teach the kids early. Here’s a yummy pancake recipe that starts with a basic, whole-wheat pancake recipe, then adds pumpkin and spices to make pumpkin pancakes. It’ll remind you of a fresh pumpkin pie. It’s all in the flip of the wrist, so get busy flipping these pumpkin pancakes and then top them off with apple butter, and serve with a frosty glass of low-fat milk.


And to get even more creative, how about making 3-D pancakes for breakfast with the kids? The kids won’t even have to wear funny looking glasses. Aebleskivers, are originally from Denmark, and are also known as ebelskivers. They are round (about the size of a golf ball) and are cooked in a funny-looking pan. These tasty little snacks have a very similar batter as pancakes and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or even as an appetizer. You can stuff aebleskivers with a wide variety of sweet and savory fillings like; fresh fruit, jams, chocolate, caramel, cheese, veggies, or meat. You just won’t know which aebleskiver is your favorite until you and the kids try making them for yourselves!

Aebleskivers Recipe

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup low-fat milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon salt

1. In a medium size mixing bowl measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a small mixing bowl measure the milk, vanilla, oil, and add the egg.
3. Give a couple of quick stirs with a whisk to break the egg yolk and everything is mixed well together.
4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5. Use the whisk and mix just a few seconds, until all the ingredients are moistened. The batter will be lumpy.
6. The Aebleskiver pan should be lightly greased and hot, then fill each opening ½ full with batter.
7. Cook about 1 minute until lightly browned and turn with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Cook 1 minute on the other side.
8. Serve with homemade strawberry syrup and fresh fruit. Yum!

* For a special treat add a small piece of cheese and ham before turning
over the Aebleskiver.

Want more cooking inspiration? Check out the Hey Kids Let’s Cook Facebook Page.

posted by Francisco in Recipes and have Comments Off

Pumpkin Pancakes


This recipe makes 9 pancakes!

½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup low-fat milk
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
½ cup canned pumpkin


1. Measure the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl: whole-wheat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
2. Add the egg, milk, canola oil into a small mixing bowl.
3. Whisk the ingredients together until blended and add it to the dry ingredients.
4. Add the pumpkin and stir.
5. Lightly grease a large frying pan with canola oil and heat to medium high.
6. Drop in ¼ cup of batter for each pancake.
7. Flip each pancake when you see bubbles rising to the top.
8. Top with apple butter or maple syrup.


posted by Francisco in Recipes and have Comments Off

Two Days Left to Enter!

Hey Kids, Let’s Cook! is joining in the excitement and we’re helping to spread the word on the of the national kids’ cook-off;  Hey Kids, Let’s Get Cooking!  This creative challenge has been brought to the nation’s kids by First Lady Michelle Obama.  Check out the guidelines  then join in the fantastic opportunity for kids ages 8 – 12 to showcase their favorite, healthy creations with food.  Kids simply enter their original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty .  Fifty-six lucky children and their parent/guardian will be flown to Washington, DC where they will have the opportunity to attend the Kids’ State Dinner at the White House.  So get your kids to join in the fun now.  Cooking competitions are fun, mouth-watering, rewarding and a chance for kids to show off their cooking skills to the nation.  Kids love to be creative in the kitchen and this is a perfect time.

Learn new recipe ideas and follow the show @heykidsletscook 


posted by Ben in Events and have Comments Off

Get Creative with Crepes!

With the kids on summer break and extra time in the morning, get them in the
kitchen working and having fun right alongside you. It’s the perfect time to spend
mornings in the kitchen learning new recipes like crepes. Crepes are very thin
pancakes rolled up and stuffed with fresh fruit fillings. Kids will like the sound of
that when you tell them they are making a new version of their favorite pancake
recipe. Crepes originated in France and are most often served for breakfast, and
they are so versatile because they can also be served as hors d’oeuvres filled with
cheese, for dinner overflowing with chicken, vegetables, or seafood or even as a
fancy desert spread with flavored butter cream and a drizzle of sweet syrup.

You and the kids will love this recipe for crepes because they are so fun and easy
to make, and when the crepes are rolled and served, they’ll look like you’ve spent
hours preparing them. You just simply measure all the ingredients into a mixing
bowl, whisk together, and then cook. All that’s needed in the cooking process is
good hand-eye coordination, because you’ll be twirling the frying pan and
pouring in the crepe batter at the same time. And no need to run out and buy a
special crepe pan to make crepes, a medium sized frying pan works great.

Don’t be surprised when you’re first learning to make crepes if your kids say,
“mine isn’t a circle shape mommy” or “mine has a tear.” Crepes do cook quickly
in the pan, so the shapes can vary at first, and they are very tender and can tear
easily while learning to remove them from the pan. Share with the kids that there
are no mistakes in this recipe. Simply roll them up and no one will ever know the

And when the crepes are golden brown it’s time for the fun part, to roll-up with a
tasty filling. The creative and colorful part of this recipe is all the possibilities of
delicious, fresh fruit that kids will find irresistible. Prepare all the fruit first and
have it washed, sliced, and ready to go. Try fresh blueberries, raspberries,
strawberries, blackberries, bananas, peaches, or any combination your kids love.
This is even the perfect opportunity to introduce a new fruit to kids, and ensure
they are getting those necessary fruit servings into their daily diet. And if your
family is in a hurry to eat, you can even stack the crepes with fillings in between
each one and cut it like a pie.

Get creative with the family and have fun making French crepes just like a chef in
a fancy restaurant. We can’t wait to hear what your favorite crepe combination

Looking for a place to start? Try out the recipe below:

1 ½ cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat milk
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted butter
Optional: low-fat ricotta cheese

For a savory filling try: scrambled eggs and ham, or blanched broccoli and grated

For those irresistible fresh fruit fillings you love try: fresh peaches, raspberries,
strawberries or blueberries.

1. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk and vanilla into a large mixing
2. Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl and give them a quick stir, just
breaking up the yolks.
3. Pour into the large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and using a whisk,
whip the batter until smooth.
4. Heat a medium size frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of margarine and heat
until bubbly.
5. Add about 1/3 cup crepe batter, and turn the pan so the batter covers
the entire bottom of the pan.
6. Cook 30 seconds until lightly browned and using a spatula flip to cook
the other side.
7. You can roll, stack, or fold the crepes with fresh fruit. Yum!


Learn about more great crepe fillings on the Hey Kids Let’s Cook Facebook Page.

posted by Francisco in Recipes,Uncategorized and have Comments Off

Are you getting your kids in the kitchen for only one reason…… eat a meal?  What better way to get them connected to the fun, creative, and learning aspects of food than giving them their very own space in the kitchen!  As parents, we give kids their own space for toys and clothing in their bedroom, and many kids have additional space in the family room to store their video games and books.  But just as important and valuable for life-long learning and health is to give kids their very own kitchen space to store their very own kitchen gadgets, utensils, and doodads.  Be careful not to think of it as another “junk drawer”, but a place where kids can begin a collection of tools, then learn how to use them right alongside you in the kitchen. The fun and learning continues as you find new kitchen tools at the grocery store, kitchen store, and even consignment shops or garage sales.  Kids will be excited and the next step will naturally be learning how to prepare and cook food.

posted by Ben in Family Life,Meal ideas and have Comments Off

Family Togetherness – Quirky Questions for the Dinner Table

The meal at the end of the day is a great time for families to re-connect and make family memories that last.  Relaxing around the table, visiting and enjoying a delicious meal is something the generations before us enjoyed and spent an enormous amount of time doing so.  Families today have many conflicting schedules and tasks to be completed that many are unable to connect at the end of the day and have those nightly sit-down meals.  So on those nights when everyone is at the dinner table, take advantage of the togetherness while teaching kids the art of how to have a conversation.

The perfect opportunity to improve social skills

The art of conversation is where everyone gets to chime in and share their story.  In addition, it is the perfect opportunity for children to improve their social skills, practice how to speak in turn and focus on the person that is talking, and even expand their vocabulary.  The skill sets of conversation are often taught in school curriculum and can be a great life lesson for parents to reinforce at home at the dinner table. As parents, we all agree that our children are the light of our lives, but dinner conversations should be about more than just the happenings in our children’s daily experiences.  Kids can learn so much listening to parents sharing the fun and challenging events of their work day, and in return kids can share the fun and challenging events of their school day.

It’s important that kids learns how conversations can be fun.

Asking the questions can be as easy as going around the table and everyone gets to ask someone a question.  Another idea is to have each member of the family put ten questions in a container that will be used as the dinner table each night, or even purchase some fun conversation starter games geared toward kids.  As the weeks go by, you will see the conversations gets longer and more and more fun and quirky.  But no need to purposefully keep the conversation light and humorous at all times.

Every discussion can be positive.

Sometimes the conversation can get serious (about a child’s struggles with classwork or a friendship, or a parent changing jobs), and sometimes sad (about the illness or loss of a loved one).  More important than the nourishing, delicious meal that is served is the conversation that goes round and round the dinner table night after night.  After all, this is just what the dinner table was created for, and what the generations before us knew how to do so well; that having a great meal along with great conversation is the foundation for developing strong family relationships and friendships.

Here are a few quirky questions tonight to keep the conversation fun and non-stop :

  • · What was the funniest thing that happened at school/work today?
  • · What Superhero would you want to be?
  • · If you got to change your first name what would it be and why?
  • · Make a sound that represents a Jungle Animal.
  • · What was the neatest act of kindness you saw today?
  • · What was the most interesting thing you learned in school today?
  • · If you could be any color crayon, what would it be?
  • · If you had to eat one food the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
posted by Ben in Family Life and have Comments Off