March 18th, 2009

Sometimes You Just Gotta Let Go (Homemade Nutella)

Eat organic. Limit refined sugar. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. Keep it natural and whole. These are the basic food principals by which I try to eat and feed my family. Michelle, too. If you’ve been reading ChowMama, you probably knew that already. But what you don’t know is that we joke about being exposed by the food-paparazzi while wolfing down drippy double cheeseburgers and mounds of fries at the Five Guys near our office after a particularly stressful meeting. Or while we walk out of the old-school Italian bakery in Michelle’s hood with Atticus and Isaac gleefully chomping on chocolate-dipped cookies (plural).

It’s great when I can get  what I crave made with better (more trustworthy?) ingredients–I’m pretty sure that Five Guys is better for you than McDonalds and the local Italian bakery better than Nabisco–and I make no apologies about seeking healthier options. But I don’t always do it. Either because I don’t have time or, frankly, I don’t feel like it. (And those who watched me chow on Entenmann’s crumb donuts this weekend know I’m serious.) For me, it’s about maintaining perspective–and a sense of humor–about food. It’s fine to break the rules sometimes. It might even be good.

Don’t Be Afraid

I think most parents would agree it’s frighteningly easy to inadvertently pass our food hang-ups to our children. But most of us think about it in terms of “bad” hang-ups. As it turns out, being hung up on healthy eating can also have a detrimental effect on our kids. In a recent NY Times article “What’s Eating Our Kids? Fears About ‘Bad’ Foods,” a slew of experts talk about the relationship between parental vigilance around healthy eating and children’s food anxieties. My takeaway: if we’re uptight about food, our kids are likely to feel uptight about food. And the fact that we’re only uptight about “bad” stuff doesn’t make it any better.

I know this from personal experience, as well. While I credit my mom for instilling my healthy eating sensibilities, she was highly restrictive in a way that made it hard for me to find balance. As much as I have always loved healthy eats, I have also craved “forbidden” foods. It took me a while to figure out that an occasional bowl (or two) of Cocoa Puffs could fit into my diet in a reasonable way. Much longer than it should have.

While Michelle and I tend to stick to recipes that lead even our closest friends to think that we can’t bear the thought of Isaac or Atticus eating anything that has white sugar, we are actually huge proponents of eating everything in moderation. We’re hopeful that providing balance and doing the work to raise children who love and respect real food will create happy, healthy eaters who know how enjoy “sometimes” foods.

So, go ahead. Invite Isaac and Atticus to your place and serve Oreos. We’ll be fine. (Promise.) Or savor this delicious recipe. Nutella is an ALL TIME favorite. And when I get really crazy, I serve it for breakfast. Yup, chocolate to start the day–sometimes you just have to.

Amy Scattergood’s Homemade Nutella (via LA Times)
(can be served to kids 12+ mos)*

2 cups organic, raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder (the higher quality the cocoa, the better the taste)
1 cup organic powdered sugar
1/2 tsp organic vanilla (I use alcohol-free)
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp organic hazelnut oil, more as needed

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins. (I could only remove the skins from 2/3 of the nuts, which worked fine.)

2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, salt, and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved. (I let the processor run longer, more like 2-3 minutes, to achieve the consistency I wanted without having to add more oil.)

4. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.

* There is a lot of disagreement about when it’s safest to introduce tree nuts. Some pediatricians (and we) believe that it is safe to introduce nuts to children without any other food allergies or family history of food allergies at 12 months. Others encourage parents to wait until 36 months. Read more here and speak to your pediatrician about what’s best for your child.

6 Responses

  1. michelle says:

    oh, great. now you’ve outed me! ;-)

  2. Jessica says:

    Well, if you put it on toast then technically it is a breakfast food right?!

  3. stacie says:

    i like the way you think, jessica!

  4. SY says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, my kids love Nutella and banana sandwiches, but I don’t like the yucky stuff in Nutella. We might be able to have this more often now on the weekends.

  5. stacie says:

    It’s REALLY yummy. And, I have to say, I feel good about helping bring Nutella (minus the yucky ingredients in the store bought kind) into your home more. :-)

  6. [...] true in extreme cases–no McDonald’s for Isaac or Atticus–we compromise and splurge just like every busy parent. How do you not (and stay sane)? And, anyway, what message does it [...]

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