Like many First Ladies, Michelle Obama chose a mission: working to fight childhood obesity. It's an epidemic that affects up to one-third of all children in the U.S. It's also a personal issue for the First Lady. A number of years ago, her pediatrician asked her to rethink her daughters' diets.
In February 2010, she launched Let's Move!, an initiative to address childhood obesity, encourage healthier lifestyles, and push for better-quality food in schools and neighborhoods. And she cultivates the White House vegetable garden, which provides fresh produce for formal lunches, State Dinners and Obama family meals. Critics complain Obama's anti-obesity campaign represents the long reach of an overbearing government; supporters applaud her for focusing attention on the issue.
NPR's Neal Conan talks with First Lady Michelle Obama about ways to get children to eat healthier, and her new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
Recipe: Chef Sam Kass' Corn Soup With Summer Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
This versatile soup is the essence of summer. Dairy free and nearly fat free, it showcases the pure, sweet taste of summer corn and can be served hot or at room temperature. A garnish of summer vegetables, grilled and cut into bite-size pieces, makes this soup your own unique creation. Try zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms, alone or in combination.
If you leave out the corn kernels and don't thin the soup with the corn stock, this becomes a luxurious sauce for seafood like halibut, tilapia, or shrimp.
-- Chef Sam
4 to 6 ears of fresh corn, shucked and silk removed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Grilled vegetables of your choice: zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms
1. Cut the corn off the cobs and set aside.
2. Place the cobs in a large pot and just barely cover with water. Bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the stock has a rich corn flavor. Strain the stock and set aside.
3. Reserve 3/4 cup of the corn kernels and place the remaining corn in a blender. Blend, starting on low speed and increasing the speed as the corn purees. You can add a little of the corn stock to get the corn started. Blend on high for 45 seconds to a minute.
4. Pour the pureed corn into a medium saucepan through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the bits of skin. Add the thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. You do not want the soup to boil. As the soup heats, the natural starch will begin to thicken the soup. Once the soup has thickened, add the lemon juice and the reserved corn stock little by little until the soup reaches the desired thickness. You should have 4 to 6 cups of soup. Add salt to taste.
5. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke, add the reserved corn kernels and do not stir until the corn has a nice brown color. Stir the corn and then remove it from the heat. Add the seared corn and any other grilled vegetable of your choice on top of the soup and serve.
Recipe: Chef Cris Comerford's Spinach Pie
Serves 6 to 8
Fresh spinach takes a starring role in this satisfying, savory pie. Perfect for a busy family, it can be made in advance and served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Try it for lunch, brunch, or dinner, served with a light green salad and fruit for dessert. I like to put a dollop of Greek yogurt on my portion for extra tartness.
You can use whole or 2% milk instead of half-and-half if you prefer.
-- Chef Cris
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound fresh spinach, well washed and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, drizzle in the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. Add the spinach, a little at a time, and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half. Add the lemon zest and thyme. Add the spinach, the feta cheese, and half the Swiss cheese and mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Pour the mixture carefully into the pie crust and sprinkle the remaining Swiss cheese evenly over the top.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is set. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
From American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. Copyright 2012 by the National Park Foundation. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.
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