Milla’s Salad. (Photo courtesy: Kate Lacroix).

With the arrival of hot summer evenings, it’s time to change up your school year cooking habits…even tacos every Tuesday.

“It’s good to get out of the old pattern of sitting down every night and having the starch and protein and whatever on the plate, especially,” says Kate Lacroix. Active for years in Boulder’s restaurant community, Lacroix is the owner of Stocked, a new business that helps women save money on their family food bills and invest those savings.

Summer is also a golden opportunity to bring your kids into the kitchen.

Food and cooking can teach kids important things but – YAWN – that sounds a lot like school. It works better if you put kids in charge of as much of the process as you can.

Kate Lacroix is also the mother of two generations of girls: Harper, 16, and Milla, 7. Lacroix admits she has learned a lot about parenting and food over the years.

“I did a lot wrong with my first child. I saw dinnertime as a task I needed to accomplish to keep us going. Now, I don’t worry about the messes and spills. What I do now takes twice as much time but the investment is worth it,”
she says.

“I find it’s important to bring your child into the process at every stage. So my daughter Milla helps pick what we plant. She waters the seedlings every day. She sees them grow, we bring them in and they’re in the salad,”
Lacroix says.

Fill Graze Boards with Summer Foods
As a change-of-pace meal, Lacroix suggests assembling what she calls “graze boards” – essentially, charcuterie platters for kids. “You can pick out platters or make small cutting boards, and a ton of stuff – meats, cheeses, veggies, dips, breads. Kids can put together some uncommon combinations, but it’s all good stuff,” Lacroix says.

“Parents are always talking about health and trying to get their kids to eat healthy. With choice it defuses that ‘Eat that bowl of lettuce and you can have dessert’ idea,” she says.

Parents often complain that kids refuse to even try new tastes. “A lot of times kids don’t want to try new vegetables and fruits because they feel the pieces are too thick and big. It’s textural. But, if you cut paper-thin slices of apples, of serve translucent carrot shavings, it gets their palates used to grown up foods,” Lacroix says.

Best of all, you avoid engaging in “vegetable wars,” she says.

How to Make Milla’s Salad
Summers are all about salads but consider personalizing them to get your child excited about greens.

“Listen, there are plenty of foods my kid doesn’t like. But when she tells me she really likes grapefruit and avocados, then I know I can make a butter lettuce salad with grapefruit and avocado and she will eat it. She thinks it’s fun to eat flowers and sunflower seeds are her favorite seed or nut right now,” Lacroix says.

To make her daughter’s favorite salad, Kate Lacroix lets Milla pick the ingredients for Mom to cut up. Milla assembles the salad the way she wants it. “Instead of ‘Eat your vegetables!’ she’s leading the thing and feeling empowered,” she says.

To make Milla’s salad (pictured), start with mixed greens or lettuces. Top them with:
• Orange bell peppers
• Homemade croutons (sliced from an everything bagel toasted in olive oil and dusted with Parmesan)
• Edible flowers
• Plums (sliced very thin)
• Avocado chunks
• Sunflower seeds
• Sliced radish (snuck in by Mom)
• Dress with grapefruit juice vinaigrette: grapefruit juice, extra virgin olive oil, a little Dijon mustard and salt.

Ultimately, you could get takeout or buy ready-to-make fare to just get dinner over with.

“We always tend to think about time-saving and easy-breezy, but you end up realizing that the value is actually in spending that time together, not chasing what’s next, not what you are doing after dinner,” Lacroix says.

For more on Kate Lacroix’s Stocked:

By John Lehndorff, Raised in the Rockies