What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Like every other mother I know, I’m constantly vowing to do better when it comes to food. It’s bad enough to hit the McDonald’s drive-through when you’re a fancy-free young single lady; once you have kids, it’s a non-stop guilt fest.
Given that my overall approach to both parenting and nutrition is best described as “practical” (i.e., low-effort), I can’t be bothered to whip up a nutritious snack every day. The reckoning came when I realized everything they’d been eating after school was a variation on the same limited theme: Goldfish, Cheez-Its, and—just to mix things up!—crackers with cheese.
I knew a plate of carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes wasn’t going to cut it: If I wanted to tempt the little ones into eating nutritiously at snacktime, I had to offer a dish that would capture their interest. Something that would make them curious.
Something from Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop.
Love her or hate her or love-hate her, you can’t deny that Gwyneth is a role model for healthy living. She does two-hour workouts and goes on detox cleanses and yet she also has two children. She gets it, I thought. If Gwyneth recommends Nori Hand Rolls or Beet and Walnut Dip as kid-friendly snacks, I was willing to give them a try.
Sure, my plan was ambitious. The key, I thought, was to present my new creations with cheerful enthusiasm, glossing over the fact that they were healthy. My hopes were high.
Step One: Shopping
I headed to Whole Foods, feeling virtuous as I stocked up on asparagus, green beans, avocado, alfalfa sprouts and beets. (Alas, I struck out when it came to beetroot, a vegetable I have never seen or knowingly eaten.) The only crisis came as I wandered the Grains aisle. Whole Foods had jasmine rice, saffron, wild rice, forbidden rice… a whole lot of rice. The only kind it didn’t seem to carry was the brown sushi rice required for my nori rolls. I bought a bag of white rice, hoping Gwyneth would forgive me.
My shopping excursion cost $19.50; sheets of dried seaweed don’t come cheap. Although I could buy about 6 bags of goldfish for that amount, I decided to think of it as an investment in my children’s future.
Step Two: Prep
I wasn’t particularly jazzed about cooking rice, green beans, beets and asparagus in the middle of the day, but it was relatively painless. Overall, the recipes required very little cooking skills—a major plus. Other than prepping the veggies, all I had to do was throw ingredients into a food processor in various combinations. My kitchen counter was a mess of bowls, measuring cups and streaks of beet juice that looked disturbingly like blood, but Operation Goop Snacks was a go!
Step Three: Snacktime
My kids were thrilled when they heard they were having a “special” snack, less so when they realized “special” did not mean “covered in Nutella.” My 12-year-old daughter gamely accepted the challenge of putting the nori rolls together, despite her observation that the avocado spread looked gross. Then it was time for the crucial taste test.
My daughter stepped up first and took respectably-sized bite of a nori roll. She shrugged, pulled out the asparagus and green beans, then ate the rest of the roll. Sure, half the nutrition was gone, but the snack had been more-or-less been eaten. Victory!
Next up were my eight-year-old twin boys. Twin #1 nibbled his seaweed-wrapped creation doubtfully and produced an expression that was the definition of “choking it down.” He then pleaded for milk to wash out the taste. He did agree, however, that the alfalfa sprouts looked like grass, and that it was kind of fun to pretend he was eating grass. So a small portion of an actual vegetable was consumed, which I chose to count as another win.
Twin #2 put up the biggest fight. “I hate it,” he said as I put down his sushi surprise. After much haggling, he peeled away the seaweed and took a bite that consisted of four grains of rice, a smidgen of avocado and a lone sprout.
“It tastes worse than it smells,” he declared.
As I feared, the beet and walnut dip was a harder sell. Although Goop suggested packing the dip in a lunchbox with vegetable sticks, I served it with pita chips and a huge smile.
“Isn’t this a fun color?” I asked, pushing the bowl toward them.
“Is that raw meat?” my daughter asked, horrified.
Bites were dutifully taken, but no one asked for seconds. “It tastes better than it looks, but it’s still bad,” was my daughter’s final verdict.
At last, I presented my final offering: “Cookie Dough Bites” made of nuts, oats, honey and chocolate chips. They were devoured in approximately 2 minutes. Of course, this was the one snack that contained no vegetables, but in theory it was healthier than actual cookie dough. Mission accomplished!
Would I ever serve Nori Hand Rolls or Beet and Walnut Dip to my kids again? No. But would I whip some up on the very rare occasions I have people over for dinner and want to impress them with my Domestic Godessness? Absolutely. I ate up all the leftovers for dinner and thought they were delicious.
I was so proud of my accomplishment that I treated myself to some chocolate-covered pretzels later that night. Don’t tell Gwyneth.