Zester Daily contributor Sally Sampson is the founder and president of ChopChop Kids, the nonprofit publisher of ChopChop, The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families. ChopChop, named 2013 publication of the year by the James Beard Foundation, is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sampson is the author and coauthor of 23 cookbooks, including "ChopChop: The Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family," "The Olives Table" (with Chef Todd English), "The $50 Dinner Party" and "Souped Up!" Sampson is a member of the board of directors for Action for Healthy Kids, and a food day advisor to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

She is a contributor to the New York Times’ Motherlode Blog with her Picky Eater Project. She has contributed to Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, the Boston Globe and Cooks Illustrated. She previously owned From the Night Kitchen, a cafe in Brookline Village, Massachusetts.

Sampson is a member of the board of directors for Action for Healthy Kids, and a food day advisor to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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7 No-Cook Recipes To Keep You Cool This Summer Image

Summer break gives kids more time to spend in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s just too hot to be near the stove. These seven no-cook recipes require no heat sources, but they still teach some kitchen skills with delicious results.

From gazpacho to watermelon sandwiches, these are recipes that celebrate the flavors of summer. Kids might need some adult help with cutting and blending, but, since there’s no cooking involved, they can do most of the work themselves.

And to make it even cooler? Eat outside, preferably with a nice summer breeze.

More Zester Daily stories on kids and cooking:

» 7 healthy on-the-go snacks kids can help make
» Kids eat smart? There’s a trick to family dinner
» 5 stone fruit dishes kick summer into high gear
» 8 dishes that taste best on a picnic blanket

Main photo: Summer recipes are a good chance for kids to learn some simple cooking techniques and help out in the kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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5 Stone Fruit Dishes Kick Summer Into High Gear Image

It’s stone fruit season! Stone fruit includes peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries, all those summer tree fruits with a pit in the center. These are fruits that can be used in sweet treats, of course, but also in savory meals. Here are five recipes to celebrate stone fruits. Try them all with your family while these fruits are at their peak.

Most store-bought smoothies are high in sugar. But if you make one yourself using real fruit and plain yogurt, it's a super-healthy drink that's also a great snack. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Store-bought smoothies can be high in sugar. Make one yourself, using real fruit and plain yogurt, and create a super-healthy drink. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Keen Peachy Smoothie

Start off your morning with a peach smoothie made from real fruit and yogurt. Use fresh peaches in the summertime, since they’re in season now. During the rest of the year, you can use frozen peaches so you can have a taste of summer all year long.

Chunky stone fruit salsa pairs nicely with flax-seed chips for a healthy treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Chunky stone fruit salsa pairs nicely with flax-seed chips for a healthy treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Stone-Fruit Salsa

You can use any combination of peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots or cherries in this sweet, tangy recipe. This salsa can be used to top yogurt or waffles at breakfast, or for tacos and quesadillas at lunch or dinner. Or, just go classic and scoop it up with a chip. The salsa can also be made a little spicier by adding jalapenos, if you like.

Frozen fruit-salad pops make the most of summer fruits’ colorful sweetness. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Frozen fruit-salad pops make the most of summer fruits’ colorful sweetness. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Frozen Fruit-Salad Pops

These homemade popsicles can be made with any fruit you like, but since stone fruits are in season, it’s a perfect time to use them. Chopped-up fruit frozen in white grape juice makes a sweet treat for hot days. Plus, these pops are so beautiful! (But not too beautiful to eat.)

Stone fruit and biscuits make for a filling, and satisfying, summer treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Stone fruit and biscuits make for a filling, and satisfying, summer treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Peach-Cherry Cobbler

This dessert uses two stone fruits: peaches and cherries. Of course, you can use your favorite stone fruit instead. (Or even strawberries or blueberries — we won’t tell!) A cobbler is kind of like a giant, fruit-filled biscuit, and it makes a perfect treat after a lazy summer day.

A "secret" ingredient in this smoothie: Dates, which are a great natural sweetener because they also add nutrients, including fiber and the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

A “secret” ingredient in this smoothie: Dates, which are a great natural sweetener because they also add nutrients, including fiber and the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Cherry-Berry Smoothie

Here’s a creamy shake made from cherries and dates. Dates aren’t stone fruits — but they do have pits! They’re also super healthy, and sweet, which adds natural sweetener to this smoothie.

More from Zester Daily:

» Shaking the tree
» First summer stone fruit
» Prime time for nectarines
» Go beyond pie and cobbler: 7 ways to use peaches

Main photo: Frozen fruit pops are a perfect outdoor treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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8 Dishes That Taste Best On A Picnic Blanket Image

Summer is on the horizon, so enjoy the short-sleeve weather and spend some time eating outside.

Yes, we’re talking  picnics. We’ve got eight recipes to help you fill your basket: They can be served cold, travel well and taste best eaten on a blanket under a nice shady tree. If spring showers keep you stuck indoors, just spread out a blanket on your family-room floor.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don't like or don't have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don’t like or don’t have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

No more ho-hum! We spice up our chicken salad with tarragon, Dijon mustard, celery and apples. This creamy, crunchy salad can be eaten by itself, used as a sandwich or pita filling, or scooped atop a green salad.

Greek Salad Kabobs

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Of course these kabobs could be made as a simple salad, but eating food off a stick is so much more fun, especially for kids. Layer feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and black olives on a skewer for a snack or picnic appetizer. Each family member can personalize their own by adding whatever salad ingredients they like best. And, if you like, add some bell pepper.

Purple Cabbage Slaw

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This bright purple slaw is super crunchy and tangy. It makes a great addition to sandwiches, tacos or burgers, but it’s just as good when eaten by itself as a side dish. The slaw gets even better the longer it sits, so make some for dinner the night before and plan to bring the leftovers on your picnic.

Lemony Hummus

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Our Lemony Hummus is protein-packed and easy to make. Cut up some raw vegetables for dipping, and you have a great picnic snack. Hummus is super dynamic: It also goes great as a topping to crackers and pitas or on a sandwich.

Rainbow Sandwich

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Here’s a sandwich that challenges everyone in your family to fill their own with as many healthy hues as possible. Pile on the color with everything from red peppers to green pesto to purple cabbage slaw. Then pack them up and take them along for colorful picnicking.

Corny Black Bean Salad

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is perfect for summertime, when corn is in season, but you can also use canned or frozen corn until corn is ready for harvesting. Serve it as a side, or use it as a salsa: just put it in a bowl and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread.

Tasty Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is a zippy Middle Eastern salad made from cracked wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, parley and lemon juice. It’s served cold, which makes it a great food to take along for outdoor eating.

Beet-and-Carrot Slaw Wraps

Beet greens -- the leafy part of the beet plant -- are often discarded, but they're actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Beet greens — the leafy part of the beet plant — are often discarded, but they’re actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

These whole-wheat tortilla wraps are filled with beets, carrots, apples and cheddar. Wraps are perfectly packable and a fun way to roll up a sandwich. Plus, the bright orange and pink colors of this wrap will match the spring flowers you’ll see during your picnic.

More from Zester Daily:

» 7 genius hacks for the perfect picnic
» A picnic in Paris
» British picnics: Romantic, grand or disastrous
» An in-flight picnic

Main photo: To make this sandwich even healthier, substitute lettuce leaves for the bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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Spring Break In Your Kitchen: 7 International Soups To Slurp Image

It’s officially spring and many families will soon be traveling on spring break vacations. Not leaving town? No worries! We have soups from around the world that will help your family explore seven different cultures — all from your kitchen!

Soup has to sit on the stove for a while, so here is a fun activity to do with your family. This Soup Restaurant game is a great way for kids to stretch their imaginations, come up with new ideas, think about recipe writing, and maybe even try out their recipes.

Here’s how to play: Pretend you own a soup restaurant. Make a menu listing the different kinds of soups you have with a description of each soup. You can also make a section with different topping options. Draw pictures of the ingredients in each soup. Come up with fun names for your soups, the toppings, and, of course, the restaurant itself.

More from Zester Daily about kids and cooking:

» Can’t let go of summer? Tomato corn soup can help

» Kids eat smart? There’s a trick to family dinners

» Top chefs go to school

» Mother’s Day tip: Mama mia, please pass the pastina

Main photo: Not leaving town for a spring break vacation? No worries! We have soups from around the world that will help your families explore seven different cultures — all from the comfort of your own kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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7 Healthy On-The-Go Snacks Kids Can Help Make Image

Everyone knows that traveling with kids means traveling with snacks. Snacks can help rescue your children from hunger and the ensuing crankiness. Trust us, those satisfied stomachs make for a much happier trip!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of grabbing something unhealthy, greasy or sugary when you’re on the go, because it’s quick and readily accessible. Skip the chips and plan ahead with grab-and-go snacks the whole family can help make.

These seven tried-and-true favorites make great quick bites your family can take on the long road trip to Grandma’s house, perfect little somethings that kids can eat in the backseat while Dad is driving them to soccer practice, or just-in-case nibbles a child can take to a friend’s house. And because kids will help make these treats, they will be able to brag that their delicious snacks are homemade.

More Zester Daily stories on kids and cooking:

» Surprise! Kids are key to stress-free family dinners

» Mother’s Day tip: Mama mia, please pass the pastina

» What the kids dragged in

» Kids won’t eat vegetables? Start with seed libraries

Main photo: Kids love making smoothies — for breakfast or an afternoon snack — because they’re quick and easy, and can be made in so many delicious options! Smoothies can also be made in advance and carried in a travel-friendly water bottle or insulated drink container. Credit: Copyright 2015 Carl Tremblay

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Don’t Have Time to Cook Dinner? Really? Image

Several weeks ago, I read — and reread — Pete Wells’ column in The New York Times “Cooking with Dexter: Busy Signals.” Wells is the dining editor at The Times, a food writer, an accomplished cook and, more important, committed to cooking and eating with Dexter and Elliot, his two young sons. But, like so many others, he can’t seem to get dinner — or himself — to the family table with any regularity. I increasingly hear this lament, and it saddens me because I believe in the power of eating together and I believe in the power of cooking. And I don’t believe that it has to be complicated.

A baby boomer, I grew up in NYC with two brothers and two working parents. There was no idea that my father’s job as a stockbroker was more important than my mother’s as a magazine writer. They both worked within walking distance of our midtown Manhattan apartment. My mother — not a type-A personality — got home at 5:30 p.m., put down her bag, kicked off her heels and prepared dinner. Sometimes I hung out with her, sometimes I peeled something, but mostly we talked about our days.

Weeknight dinners were simple: broiled pork chops or chicken, steamed green beans or broccoli, and a salad, usually lettuce and sliced cucumbers (OK, she did use bottled salad dressing). Weekends — and dinner parties — were different. Like many women in the ’60s, she cooked through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” My brothers and I thought her weekend fare exotic, experimental and off-limits. In fact, I began learning to cook as an antidote to Hungarian Goulash, Beef Bourguignon and the like. But we were happy for Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Mousse, desserts a rarity on weekdays.

My father arrived home at 6:30 pm. Like a ’60s TV sitcom, we rushed to the door (“Daddy!! Daddy!!”) and then sat down to dinner together. When my parents went out, my brothers and I had frozen TV dinners. I don’t remember thinking they tasted good, but I do remember the excitement of eating something so unusual, so seemingly indulgent. We ate in the kitchen, certainly not in front of the TV, which was off-limits on school nights. On occasion, most often on Sundays, we went to Chinatown Charlie’s, just around the corner, for a big night out.

It’s true there was no email, no Internet, no cellphones; no one thought it was important to be in touch with every single person 24 hours a day. Long-distance phone calls were outrageously expensive. There were only three major television networks. Unlike today, employers actually expected you to go home and be with your family; the idea was that you were married to your family, not your job. And jobs were more plentiful; my parents didn’t have to worry that one false move would lose them theirs. There was, for most people, more separation between their home life and their work life.

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article for the Washington Post in which I duplicated typical fast foods, down to the number of pickles and weight of the “beef.” In every single case my “from scratch” version was less expensive, less time-consuming and, said my teenage testers, more tasty. My conclusion: We’ve been duped into thinking that fast food is an everyday solution.

So here’s the question: Was my mother’s week night “formula” the right one? Pete, like many of us, tried too hard to make interesting and/or complicated meals. My mother, on the other hand, focused on getting simple, real food on the table so we could eat together, which was what mattered the most. She saved her creativity for weekends when she had more time and energy. And wouldn’t we all be better off following her lead?

I would vote with Pete for “a federal law that requires everyone to leave work at 5 p.m.” And like Pete, even I, who love/live to cook, have moments “when cooking feels like drudgery”; it’s brutal to keep coming up with novel ideas for dinner. Maybe the point is just to be together and learn about each other’s days. If you can’t find the time to eat with your family regularly, dedicate one day a week to making it work. If all you can muster up is sandwiches, that’s a noble start. If you can cook something and include your kids, that’s even better. You don’t have to be Betty Crocker, and you don’t have to cook a masterpiece. Just start somewhere.


Sally Sampson is the founder and president of ChopChop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Sally Sampson

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