Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: May 6, 2011

To wrap up the week, a truly amazing food invention (but, um, WHY?), more from the Bacon Files, and a few delectable kid-and-food tidbits you may have missed this week.

For the Cook Who Has Everything (And I Mean, Really, Everything)

My friend Darcy alerted me to this video for a new Japanese gadget which transfers blobs of gooey foods like ketchup or mayo from one place to another while keeping them perfectly intact.   I have absolutely no idea why anyone would devote R&D dollars to this device nor what its practical applications might be.  I only know that I find the video utterly compelling to watch!   (And be sure to be sure to stick around for the part where the blobs are mushed around with a spoon, yet still successfully transferred.  Crazy.)  [Hat tip: Trend Central]

From the Bacon Files

It wouldn’t be Friday without some bacon.  Check out this hilarious flow chart, sent by my friend Gretchen.  Apparently all roads lead to bacon.

This Week on TLT’s Facebook Page

Finally, if you haven’t yet “liked” TLT on Facebook, here are just a few of the interesting kid-and-food news stories you missed out on this week:

  • A totally cool photo gallery of school lunches around the world, courtesy of a TLT reader.
  • Kids at NYC prep schools getting excellent food and nutrition education to boot, and how I feel about it.
  • The USDA’s plans to audit food service management companies to see if they’re failing to pass on to school districts rebates from big food manufacturers.  Hmm, what will those audits turn up?
  • Eat on how the simple act of cooking and breaking bread together can change the world.
  • A speech from Prince Charles on sustainable food – love that HRH is passionate about this topic!
  • What Mark Bittman thinks about the new guidelines on advertising food to kids (hint:  he and I are in complete agreement)
  • More bad news for Jamie Oliver’s low-rated “Food Revolution” series and the skinny on his relationship with Los Angeles schools.

Now, wouldn’t you rather have all that news — along with every Lunch Tray post and stimulating reader interaction — delivered fresh daily to your Facebook news feed?  Why, of course you would!  Just hit “Like” and it’s done!  (Or become a TLT Tweep here).

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday. . . .




Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: February 18, 2011

On tap for today’s Buffet . . . nothing!

I’m skipping the Buffet today to ask you a question.  It’s not so easy to come up with news items on Fridays that aren’t big enough to merit a real post but also aren’t so trivial that they make your eyes roll.  For that reason, I’m flirting with the idea of ditching the whole tradition of the Lunch Tray Friday Buffet.

But before I do that, I thought I’d get some reader feedback.  Would you mind taking one sec to answer this poll?

I’ll let you know the results next week.  In the meantime, have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: February 11, 2011

A few dribs and drabs to round out the week . . .

An Important Date to Keep in Mind

Some time ago I alerted you to the new, proposed USDA school food regulations promulgated under the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  Plowing through those regulations is daunting, but for those who are willing to take the time, I wanted to let you know that the public comment period closes on April 13th.  And anyone can comment – you don’t have to be somehow professionally involved in school food.  [Thanks to “Wilma,” TLT’s anonymous food services professional, for alerting me to this deadline.]

Treat Yourself  to Dinner and Help Improve School Food in New York City

If you happen to live in the NYC area, between now and February 20th you can eat at one of forty participating restaurants and get a chance to donate to Wellness in the Schools when you pay the check.  Headed up by Bill Telepan, chef of Telepan Restaurant, Wellness in the Schools is a non-profit organization devoted to serving healthy, high-quality food to public school students.  The participating restaurants include some great places like Babbo, Craft, Fatty Cue and more.  Details here.

More Food-Within-a-Food from The Kuff

By now most of you know of my fellow Texas blogger Charles Kuffner who, though he covers politics, never fails to alert me to odd foods out there, and he has a particular fondness for the food-within-a-food genre.  Today, courtesy of Charles, I bring you the turducken of cookies:

a chocolate chip cookie that has a whole Oreo baked inside it! How good does that look (in an Elvis-y sort of way)?   No doubt referring to my beloved Candwich, Charles muses, “Now if only they can figure out how to put that in a can . . . .”

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: January 7, 2011

For the first Friday Buffet in 2011, I’ll leave you with one story to make you fear our species’ demise, and one to give you hope.

One Step Closer to Wall-E

Remember the future humans in the movie Wall-E, so obese they had to move around in electric chairs, and so lazy they consumed all their food through straws?  

Well, here comes PepsiCo’s latest venture: Tropolis, a fruit puree that’s somewhere between drink and snack (it’s called a “snackified” beverage) and which will be marketed to moms and kids.  When I first heard about this product on American Public Media’s Marketplace, here’s what the expert commentator had to say about it:

If you are in this business, you want to get something into a consumer’s hand and get them put it down as fast as possible. And these products, it’s a whole lot easier if you have something that is, say, a combination of drink and a beverage where you don’t have to peel the banana or literally chew the apple. So you get the same kind of satisfaction from getting fruit or a dairy sort of product in a form that’s sort of between a food and a beverage. It’s convenience. The American consumer’s too lazy to chew, so you have find something where they can have their apple or their pear in a semi-liquid form.

Investment tip:  put your money in companies that manufacture electric wheelchairs.

But Maybe There’s Hope . . .

I got a tweet today from Andy Berndt, alerting me to a group called Catalyst.  It’s a statewide organization in Minnesota in which young adults are using hands-on activism and advocacy to fight the tobacco industry and spread the word to their peers about  healthful eating.  Unlike this middle-aged blogger, these kids clearly understand and are making full use of every social networking avenue out there to spread their critical messages, from Facebook to Flickr to Vimeo.  Watch their video and feel a whole lot better about our future:

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: November 19, 2010

Well, the post-Jamie Oliver “Blog of the Month” celebrating is finally winding down now.  The after-after-party just ended, the last celebrity-filled limo has pulled away, and the dozens of empty champagne bottles are being rounded up.

For those of you who were sadly on the B List, here’s a glimpse of what you missed:

OK, so I actually spent the day grocery shopping, folding laundry and running an incredibly exciting errand at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I did have a smile on my face.  :-)

Turning to the Friday Buffet, I was in a bit of a panic this morning, scrambling around for a Thanksgiving-appropriate item with which to send you off.  But then, like mana from heaven, came this from TX political blogger Charles Kuffner:  the Turbaconducken, or a bacon-wrapped turducken.

Keep in mind that Charles is also the source of the Denny’s-grilled-cheese-with-mozzarella-sticks-contained-therein AND the chocolate-and-vanilla-cake-with-apple-and-pumpkin-pies-contained therein.  How he finds time to cover all things Texas politics and keep abreast of the wack-o foods-within-foods genre, I’m not sure, but I’ll gratefully take any tips he wants to send my way.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I’ll be back on Monday as usual, but will stop blogging after Tuesday so I can focus on family, relaxation and, of course, food.

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: November 12, 2010

I’m too time-challenged today to offer a full Buffet, so I’ll just leave you with a dessert (of sorts):

Yes, that would be a savory Thanksgiving Turkey Cake — made up of all the elements of the Thanksgiving meal, including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and all the rest.  To which I can only say, Huh. Hat tip to Stephanie Dubroff-Acosta for sharing the link.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: October 1, 2010

On tap for today’s Buffet, the results of our reader poll; a blog that pulls no punches; and a plea for feedback.

Making Kids’ Food Cute – Results of the TLT Reader Poll

The results are in from my TLT Reader Poll — another shining example of sound survey design (not) — regarding making kids’ food cute (pancake teddy bears, heart-shaped sandwiches, etc.).   Interestingly, TLT readers were perfectly divided between thinking that such efforts were A-OK versus a sign of too much parental involvement in whether kids eat or not.

I think reader Bri summed it up best (at least for me) in her comment:

I’m more in the camp of “if it’s cute for cute’s sake, then fine” — meaning that I’m not above cutting out my kids’ pancakes in heart shapes on Valentine’s Day, or making Christmas-tree shaped sandwiches when my 4 year old is in a festive mood. To me, that’s just part of fun presentation and is the kind of thing that I will reserve for, say, a night when we’re out and the kids are eating with a babysitter, so they have something that makes their evening feel special. But the idea that food NEEDS to be cute for a kid to eat it does make me hesitant. Is cute, or at the very least, nice presentation an integral part of the food experience? It should be. We all eat with our eyes first. But once you start down the slippery slope of cutting out all the veggies to look like the Backyardigans, I wonder if you’ve started to lose some perspective on parental roles.

BTW, for those of you who are in the Pro-Cuteness camp, here’s a feature from Oprah’s website (that I meant to post earlier in the month) on making kids’ lunches fun.

No Holds Barred

Through Dr. Susan Rubin (Better School Food), I discovered a new blog today:  The Wellness Bitch.  Whereas on TLT I try to be as diplomatic as possible — always mindful that not all parents share my views, always conscious of my working relationship with my school district — The Wellness Bitch has no such qualms.  Be prepared for some off-color language and in-your-face ‘tude, but I think you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement with a lot of what she has to say.  Her topics are pretty broad – not just food by any means – but I personally appreciated this post — by a guest blogger — called “Get a Grip, Soccer Mom“.  Thanks again, Susan, for posting to your FB page.

Feedback?  .  . .  Anyone?  . . .  Anyone?

And speaking of FB pages, over on TLT’s FB fan page (and if you’re not yet a fan, ask yourself why you’re cruelly holding out  on me) I solicited feedback and I’ll repeat the request here.  As I was writing this week’s posts on bento (here and here), I was thinking, I’m sure the TLT readership is going to find this stuff too frivolous, as compared to meaty school food reform issues I often cover.  And then I watched Wednesdays site stats climb and climb to a near-record level.  So, either you all are secret bento fans or –more likely — maybe you actually like it when I leaven the reform stuff with the lighter fare?

At any rate, if you have some feedback on what sorts of stuff you’ve particularly liked on TLT, or would like to see more of in the future, would you mind taking a second and either sharing it in a comment below or contacting me directly (using the Contact tab)?

Many thanks, and have a great weekend, everyone.  More Lunch Tray on Monday!

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: September 10, 2010

For today’s Buffet:  litigating lunch; the best of the worst fried food; and a vegetable tries to hide its wholesome nature.

Lawyering Up Over Lunch

My friend Mara pointed me to this blog post about a two parents who so hated packing lunch that they drew up a “contract” to delineate their respective packing duties.  That idea is funny enough, but the husband’s handwritten margin notes on the contract are even better.  You can see the contract here and read the full story here.   (Meanwhile, the dinner blog written by the mom, Dinner: A Love Story, looks quite promising and worthy of a write-up here on The Lunch Tray.  Look for that in a future post.)

Fun with the Fry-O-Lator, Part 2

We’ve been talking a lot about fried food craziness in the past few weeks, so I thought it was worth sharing that the winner of the biggest prize at this year’s Texas State Fair was . . . drumroll, please . . . Texas Fried Frito Pie.  (For the uninitiated, that would be a battered and fried blend of chili, cheese and, yes, Fritos).  You can wash that concoction down with a Fried Beer, which garnered an award for Most Creative.  You really have to love my adopted state of Texas – especially if you’re a cardiologist.

[Hat tip: Wise Eats]

Are Carrots the New Cheetos?

A group of fifty producers of baby carrots are banding together — and spending $25 million — to pitch their nutritious product as . . .  junk food?   You can see the result of their efforts at   Somehow I don’t think today’s kids are going to willingly trade in their Flaming Hot Cheetos for carrots, no matter how cool the packaging (but at least with carrots, the orange doesn’t come off on your fingers.)

Have a great weekend!  More Lunch Tray on Monday. . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: September 3, 2010

For today’s Buffet:  Jaime Oliver’s next challenge; a study confirms what we all know (but it’s still important);  everything you ever wanted to know about produce; and the results of our reader poll are in.

What, They’re Getting Fat From Too Many Wheat Grass Shots?

After recently winning an Emmy, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has been renewed by ABC for six more episodes.  This time around, Oliver will try to overhaul the terrible eating habits of . . . Los Angeles?  Really?  One blogger scratches her head about this odd choice of venue here.  Maybe someone should take Jamie to the Texas State Fair for some fried butter.

And Studies Also Show the Earth Is Round . . .

From the file of Rather Obvious News, this study from the University of Michigan Medical School:  children who consume foods purchased from school vending machines, school stores, snack bars and other sales that compete with the federal school lunch program are “more likely to develop poor diet quality – and that may be associated with being overweight, obese or at risk for chronic health problems such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.”  Actually, I shouldn’t mock this study for stating what seems obvious.  Indeed, we can only hope that such studies will influence policy makers and help get “a la carte” foods out of schools for good.

The New “Five a Day”

I recently learned of a group called Fruits and Veggies – More Matters, which has a web site that’s positively bursting with enthusiasm for — and information about —  fruits and vegetables.  There are recipes, videos, seasonal purchasing guides, nutritional information, educational resources, a link to a produce- and nutrition-related website just for kids and much more.  I dug around and eventually realized that the Centers for Disease Control is behind the group, and that the slogan “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters” replaced the old “Five a Day” campaign several years ago.  I hadn’t been aware that they’d done away with “Five a Day” but, either way, the site is a great resource that’s worth checking out.

TLT Reader Poll: The Results Are In

My very smart, MBA-having friend Donna G. pointed out to me (in a nice way) that my poll on lunch packing routines left a little to be desired in terms of sound survey design.  I’ll admit my questions were a bit of a mish-mash and there were probably too many of them.  But in the end, I can glean that:  (1) more TLT readers pack lunch in the a.m. vs. the p.m.; (2) your kids definitely prefer variety over the same lunch every day; (3)  readers are almost evenly divided on whether they enjoy packing lunch or find it a chore; and (4) none of our kids have access to a microwave at lunch.   I promise future polls will be a little more streamlined, but do people even like the polls?  I really do need a poll on polling.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: August 27, 2010

For today’s Buffet:  big issues contributing to the school lunch mess; twenty kid foods to avoid; delicious-looking school lunch in India (hint: it’s mom-made); and getting a little crazy with the Fry-O-Lator down in Texas.

Weird Policies Impacting School Food

From Two Angry Moms, I learned of this list of “The Five Weirdest Policies That Make School Lunch Unhealthy.”  I have a few quibbles with this post — for example, it says that there are no maximum nutritional requirements for the federal lunch program, only minimums, but in fact meals can’t provide more than 30% of calories from fat and or more than 10% from saturated fat. Overall, though, the post  does touch on some big issues that underlie the problems with school food.  Hopefully some of this mess will be cleaned up by the child nutrition legislation now pending in Congress.

Twenty Worst Foods for Kids

I’m guessing that the average Lunch Tray reader isn’t serving up these on a regular basis, but I still thought I’d share.  At the very least, you can feel virtuous for not feeding this stuff to your kids.  [Hat tip:  Strollerderby]

Can We Please Send an Army of Dabbawallas into American Schools?

Loved this little report on school lunch in India.    [Hat tip: Serious Eats]

If It Can Be Fried, It Will Be Fried

I wrote earlier this week about new levels of gluttony in state fair food, but then I came across this post about the fair in my own adopted state of Texas.  I already knew concession stands at the Texas State Fair are notorious for their willingness to fry anything, but even I was unaware of the possibilities.  Fried salad?  Fried frozen margaritas?  Fried Frito pie?   Of course, I’m not denying the potential deliciousness of any of this stuff — even I (not really a fan of either the donut or the hamburger) could totally see the sick appeal of previously discussed state fair donut burger. [Thanks to Food Revoltionary Stephanie for leading me to the post.]

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday. . .

The Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: August 20, 2010

On tap for today’s Buffet:  a major food recall; an informative food blog;  a disturbing study about pesticides and ADHD; and a sight you’ll never forget (no matter how hard you try.)

No Nibbling on Raw Cookie Dough For a While

Just read last night that 380 million (!) eggs are being recalled for salmonella.  A CNN report here gives the details, lists the brands in question, and tells you which foods may contain raw eggs.

Cutting Through Food Confusion

I recently stumbled on the Fooducate blog written by Hemi Weingarten, a high-tech executive and father of three from the Bay Area.  Weingarten’s great at cutting through the confusion surrounding food and “nutritionism,” giving readers the straight story on a wide variety of food products in posts that are concise and well-researched.   (But I am bummed that I may have to rethink the Kashi cereal I eat every morning.)

Washing Fruits and Vegetables to Prevent ADHD

A recently released study from U.C. Berkeley correlates pregnant mothers’ pesticide exposure with the eventual development of ADHD in children.  The mothers studied were in agricultural communities and likely exposed to far higher levels of pesticides than most people, but the study still urges expectant mothers to wash commercially grown fruits and vegetables before eating them.  More here.

Strawberry Ice Cream?  Think Again.

I’m almost sorry to do this to you, but take a look at this photo from Fooducate– and be horrified.   And then back away slowly from those processed chicken nuggets.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . . .

The Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: August 13, 2010

Today’s Buffet is being served up a little later than usual — the day got away from me!  Here are just a few of the interesting kid/food tidbits that I ran across this week:

A Prescription for Produce?

There was an intriguing article in today’s New York Times about a program in Massachusetts under which doctors can “prescribe” trips to the farmers’ market to parents of obese children.   Fresh, local produce is paid for using coupons that amount to one dollar a day.  The hope is that such families will expand their knowledge and consumption of fruits and vegetables, and it seems well received so far.  But the article does note the obvious:  simply eating more vegetables won’t end childhood obesity without a commensurate reduction in unhealthy foods.

Eating Real in the Bay Area

A friend (hi, Donna!) passed on information that might be of interest to readers in the Bay Area.   On August 27-29th, you can attend the Eat Real Festival in Oakland, an event designed to showcase fresh and local ingredients.  According to their web site, Eat Real “aims to show how easy it can be to support a regional food system by bringing farmers, food producers and eaters together.”  Sounds like a fun – and yummy – activity for the whole family.

A Happy Meal You’d Be (Slightly) Happier to Give Your Kids

San Francisco is proposing legislation that would ban the use of toys in kids’ meals, unless the meal met certain nutritional requirements, such as having fewer than 600-calories (with no one item containing more than 200 calories), limits on  fat and sodium, and the inclusion of fruits and vegetables.  Most McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast food kid meals wouldn’t meet those requirements — but even if they did, isn’t 600 calories still awfully high for a single meal for one child?

Only in America

After little Julie Murphy’s lemonade stand was almost shut down by an overzealous county health inspector, she became a cause celebre for anti-government types; a local radio station and tire store came to her aid, and now she has enough lemonade stand revenue to bankroll a trip to Disneyland.   You can read about it here.

Have a great weekend, everyone.   More Lunch Tray on Monday . . .

Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: July 30, 2010

On tap for this week’s Buffet:  an interesting coda to our discussion of vegetarianism; parents tell their children some whoppers about food; celeb chef recipes for the picky; beefing up safety standards for chicken; and a processed school lunch item to rival the dreaded Uncrustable.

Another Reason to Think Twice About Eating Meat

However you came out on this week’s discussion on going vegetarian, you might find this NPR report, sent to me by Sue, pretty interesting.   Apparently meat consumption leads to greater weight gain, even when we’re talking about white meat like chicken, and even when other factors like total calories consumed, weight, gender, and physical activity were accounted for.   That tofu’s looking a lot more appealing, no?

Food Fibs

The Lunch Tray doesn’t condone dishonesty, of course, but Eatocracy’s list of lies parents have told their children about food did make me laugh.  My favorite: “My parents told me when the ice cream man played his music, it meant he was out.”  Now that’s just devious.

A Celeb Chef Takes on Picky Eaters

Also over on Eatocracy, celebrity NYC chef Marc Murphy offers up some recipes to tempt the picky eater. With the exception of the mac-n-cheese smothered hot dog (are we raising a new generation of Elvises?), these look pretty appealing to both kids and parents, and might be fun to cook together.

Beefing Up Safety Standards for Chicken

You may recall our earlier stomach-churning discussion of lax safety standards for beef served in the public schools (“One Burger Please, Extra Ammonia and Hold the EColi“).   A tweet by Fed Up With Lunch directed me to a group in New Hampshire seeking an improvement in the safety standards for chicken (and fish) as well.  An interesting (and off-putting) fact:  “the poultry sold to school lunch programs are ‘spent hens’ too old to lay eggs. Their meat is tough and stringy, and four times more prone to salmonella than chicken sold at supermarkets.”   Great.  (But I have to say, I love the expression “spent hen,” which is exactly what I feel like at the end of many a day.)

Ay Caramba!

I often take digs at the Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwich — a PBJ that’s so highly processed it contains over fifty ingredients.  But I think I’ve found a new winner in this sick competition:  check out this unbelievable list which, according to the blogger who posted it, is the ingredient listing for a “cheese” quesadilla served in a school lunch program.   Just say: No, gracias!

Have a great weekend, everyone.   More Lunch Tray on Monday!