Science in the Kitchen with Chef Nicole

Chef Nicole-SEE Science Center-12-18-13093So excited for the launch our SEE SCIENCE center Chef Nicole exhibit! If someone would have said to me five years ago, “you’ll have a museum exhibit some day”I would have laughed! But its true and its here! Thanks to our CAO, Lisa Allen having a random great idea while hanging at the local children’s science museum with her kids and about nine months of designing and creating; we’ll be launching a whole exhibit filled will cool food science facts and fun, interactive stations kiddos can play and learn at.

The SEE Science Center opens their newest exhibit “Science In The Kitchen With Chef Nicole!”  The exhibit was created and donated by Great NH Restaurant’s Corporate Chef, Nicole Barriera, known for her dedication to healthy food and getting children involved in meal preparation at an early age.

blog-SEE-exhibit-Chef-Nicole-1The exhibit features a “kid-sized” kitchen display, where children can get familiar with the in’s and out’s of a real kitchen, and how much fun it is to be involved in the planning and preparation of meals. Children can pretend to be the Chef of the day by donning the Chef Nicole pink chef hats and aprons as they learn and play with mini stoves, sinks and refrigerators. The new exhibit also features plenty of information on the science behind eating healthy and includes facts and tips that will surprise and enlighten even the adult visitors!

If you’re from the area or will be anytime soon, you should check it out. The SEE SCIENCE Center is a cool place for kids and families to hang and learn together…all at a pretty reasonable price ( I think $8) for a ticket for the day.

At any rate, the Chef Nicole exhibit is a reminder for all of us that when you surround yourself with great people who share your vision; whether that vision be personal, professional or anything in between, you can make anything happen.

 

 

Hear what people had to say about the launch!

“This looks awesome, Nicole! I can’t wait to check it out! You are amazing! I’m very proud to call you my friend. xoxo” – Heather Estremera

“Great work Chef!” – Chef Steve

“We had a great time at the grand opening of ‘Science in the Kitchen with ChefNicole at the SEE Science Center!” – Laurence Johnston

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to Professional Chef, Unprofessional Mother.

This  is a fun place for all moms to hang out, share stories, learn and laugh! As busy working moms we have a lot on our plate and ‘the list’ never seems to end….

We all want to do the best we can with our kids, homes and careers but this little dreadful thing called time, seems to keep getting in the way! So how do we manage to do the best we can and truly feel like we’re doing our best?

It seems no matter what you do there is always 35 more things to do, your work is never done…at home or at your job.  However, the biggest struggle for me as a working mom is the after work  ‘jam’ hours as I call them. You know, the time between 6 and 8:30 PM when you try to squeeze in a day full of love, good meal for your family, homework, baths, …I could go on… I found myself feeding my kids things that were quick and easy, but not necessarily great for them. Or spending an hour cooking and by the time we ate dinner they were ready for bed. It didn’t work.

As a professionally trained chef, I began to use what I knew about food and cooking to integrate it into my family’s dinner routine by including my kiddos any way possible! In doing so I have found a slew of great ways my young kids can help me in the kitchen which has turned out to be amazing! I have merged the ‘jam’ time into a wonderful bonding time with my kids that yields a great, fun meal we can feel good about, we’ve spent time together and enjoyed one another, the kids are proud of their accomplishment and I am too. 

 

About Me…

Once upon a time, just like you, I was a single, purse-only toting young lady out to conquer the world! With degree in hand, college behind me, and plenty of time to focus…the world was mine…and I wanted it all!

So, I did what any other motivated and driven twenty-first century woman would do of course!… I got a great job, fell in love, had two kids, bought a house, bought a dog….BAM!

…..Oh my goodness…what on God’s green earth was I thinking? At some point in my ‘want it all, I can do it all’ method of thinking, I hadn’t ever considered the cold hard fact that everything in my life was multiplying …except the amount of hours in each day! Yikes, a ‘minor’ detail you could say that I perhaps should have given a bit more thought to….?

 

…Sound familiar?
Never the less, here we are ladies and we wouldn’t change a thing! (well, nothing except the laws of physics- with a focus on gravity if possible J ).
My purse-only days have escalated into diaper bags, penguin backpacks, and sippy cups hanging from my back pocket. My Saturday late night shindigs are now early morning Saturday ballet classes and my disposable income has shifted to a budget for disposable diapers J.  It is funny how you can be so great at what you do at work and take on any project, then you become a mom and realize “this is actually what I should have focused my college studies on!” But like the rest of us we figure out quickly that there is no book, lesson or teacher that can prepare you for motherhood.  So lets enjoy the ride together!

 

…..you’ve found the right place!
If any of this makes you say…yes!, or laugh…or cry (lol)…then you’ve found the right place! Simply join our conversation for some fun and insight on how we all do it…or don’t do it depending on the day. I believe with so much pressure on women today to truly ‘do it all’, its important that we have a support group to communicate all our tricks (‘cause I know all working moms have plenty of ‘em) , share what makes our days successful, and at the end of the day to just find comfort in the fact that “We hear you sister!”

Spotlight on Nicole Barreira

1/24/2013 8:00:00 AM by HealthyDiningFinder

Hi, Nicole. I am really looking forward to talking with you today about your passion for nutrition and how you share that passion as a chef and as a mom. So first, how did you become so interested in health and nutrition?

It was really my mom who ignited my passion for great food and healthful ingredients. My parents are Italian & Portuguese, and so food has always been a really big part of our lives. All our good times and special occasions revolve around food. When growing up, my mom would spend most of the day planning, shopping, cutting, chopping and preparing our meals. My sisters and I loved to help out whenever we could. My mom always served a lot of vegetables, and so I learned to appreciate the benefits of eating vegetables even when I was young.

Anita: I love that your mom ignited your passion for nutrition. That is really what this blog is all about … to explore how we, as moms, can get our kids excited about eating healthy. I know you have some great tips for us, but before we talk about your strategies with your kids, tell us about how you became a chef.

Nicole: Well, in high school it was very clear to me that I wanted a culinary career. But I was also very academic, so I paired my culinary artistry with a culinary degree from Southern New Hampshire University, along with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management and then received a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership / Marketing.

Anita: Wow! That is quite a foundation of expertise. And so tell us how you have spread your passion for nutrition through your career.

Nicole: I am the corporate chef for Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which includes three concepts, T-Bones, Cactus Jack’s and Copper Door. We have eight locations and a wide variety of menu choices. Our owners are also very health-conscious, and we believe that it is our responsibility to meet our guests’ nutrition needs. We have always been very willing to listen to what our guests want and to prepare meals that please our guests and meet their nutritional needs. I also wanted to make it easy for our guests who prefer lower calorie, lower fat and lower carbohydrate meals, so I developed a selection of menu items called “In the Pink.”

“Involve kids in the preparation of healthful meals, no matter how young. Even if it is just giving an empty bowl and spoon on the floor to ‘play’ with. Always have little snacks with you, like whole grain cereals, fruits, or granola when you head out for the day. It starts with the shopping cart really. If you do not buy a lot of processed foods, you wont reach for them Tuesday night. If you have a lot of strawberries, you’re going to eat a lot of strawberries, etc.”  

Anita: Tell us about the name “In the Pink.”

Nicole: “In the Pink” is a 16th-century term meaning in perfect condition, especially of health. That is why a healthy newborn baby is referred to as “in the pink.” I even wear a bright pink chef’s apron. Soon after we launched my “In the Pink” menu items, we joined the HEALTHY DINING PROGRAM, and most of our “In the Pink” items are featured on HealthyDiningFinder.com.

Anita: I really like your site, ChefNicole.com, which has with lots of great recipes, although not all of them HEALTHY DINING-approved, ha ha!

And you were then invited to become an Inaugural Leader in the Kids LiveWell Program, developed by the National Restaurant Association. Tell us about your Kids LiveWell options.

Nicole: I think it is so important to feed kids high quality, nutritious meals. That is really my passion. We were thrilled to be an Inaugural Leader for Kids LiveWell. We offer three qualifying kids’ options on each restaurant menu, including grilled salmon or BBQ chicken, both served with a half baked potato, steamed broccoli and 1% milk. We also have a Grilled Chicken Salad with lots of crunchy veggies and warm grilled chicken on our garden fresh salad, served with homemade salsa and 1% milk to drink. Kids really like those items, and parents can feel good that their kids are getting a high quality, nutritious meal.

 “No matter if you are a professional chef or a novice cook, feeding the little ones healthful, well balanced meals and snacks can be very trying. I believe, however, that it needs to be viewed as not simply a task, but a matter of your child’s health…because it is. We wouldn’t think of skipping vaccinations or sick check-ups, but the food we feed our kids seems to be a smaller thought.”

Anita: Yum. Yes, my daughter would like any of those. I think it is so exciting to see chefs, like you, considering the healthfulness of your kids’ menus and adding your creativity to find nutritious ingredients that kids like. And with the Kids LiveWell program, it is getting easier and easier to find healthy meals for kids when eating out. Thank you for your leadership in the program!

So, now tell me about your kids. Are they healthy eaters?
Nicole: Yes, they are! Chloe is three and Gabriella is just over one. As you can see by the pictures, my girls already love vegetables and love to help in the kitchen! I think it is really fun to have them help me prepare meals. As a busy, working mom, it can be hard to find the time for snuggling your kids and preparing healthful meals on weeknights, so I combine the two! It is our special time together.

Anita: Those pictures are adorable! So do they eat every type of vegetable?

Nicole: No, In fact, one day they will try something new and like it and the next day they hate it. But that is OK. I just continue to introduce new foods and reintroduce foods that they didn’t like at one time. I think it is really important to keep trying new types of foods and reintroducing things they think they don’t like, prepared other ways.

“I will feel like I was a successful parent if my kids grow up to instill healthy eating habits into their day to day lives and then carry that on to their kids.”

Anita: Yes, that is what Elizabeth Pivonka also emphasized. She is the President of Produce for Better Health and is working hard to help Americans eat more fruits and vegetables. She said it is really important to keep trying new fruits and vegetables with kids because their taste buds mature over time. She also emphasized that parents need to purposefully forget that their kids don’t like something, so that they don’t reinforce that dislike to the child. I thought that was great advice.

Nicole: I agree! Even textures that were once not appealing can be fine two or three months later! I also talk at their level about nutrition. For example, I will say, “Eat this. It is made with olive oil, so it will give you long, beautiful princess hair.” Or “Eat this chicken and you will have strong muscles so you can play outside.” I think it is really important to educate kids about WHY they should eat healthy not just tell them to do it. I won’t always be able to control what they eat, so I want to instill the knowledge and dedication they need to want to eat healthy. I will feel like I was a successful parent if my kids grow up to instill healthy eating to their kids.

Anita: Yes, that is really important! And I think you will find you were very successful, Nicole. Thanks so much for all you are doing in your work and as a mom to contribute to a healthier America!

 

Loving Your Young Hearts

Nicole Barreira
Corporate Chef for Great New Hampshire Restaurants
2/13/2013 12:12:28 PM by HealthyDiningFinder
I think it is so important to teach my kids about a heart healthy diet because to me it is part of the fundamental knowledge we all need in order to be as successful as possible in life. Much like we teach our kids the importance of brushing their teeth and how to make wise choices so they can be safe; our kids need to know how to take care of their bodies and make wise choices for their health (in an age appropriate way of course!)

For holidays and special occasions, instead of cookie decorating or bringing a plate of cookies to friends or parties, I like to make a Chocolate Covered Fruit tray. I use fruits like strawberries, blueberries and apples and then dip a small part of the fruit in chocolate, so each treat has far fewer calories and less sugar than most holiday treats. I use a nice dark chocolate and milk chocolate blend. Sometimes I roll the chocolate covered fruits (while still tacky) in crushed candy, coconut, crushed pretzels, holiday themed sprinkles, or toffee bits. Although still a sweet treat; these gems are certainly much healthier because the fruit provides great nutrients and fiber.