Written by Lenora Dannelke

One of life’s toughest questions—what’s for dinner?—looms on a daily basis. This perennial quandary becomes complicated even further when there are young children in the mix. Preparing a separate meal from your household’s “kids’ menu” requires extra time and energy, from planning and shopping to cooking and clean up. As the leader in nutritional health, St. Luke’s University Health Network has developed an appetizing solution for streamlining suppertime for both youngsters and adults.

St. Luke’s “Cooking for Baby & Me” is a cooking show series that presents a plethora of chef-developed recipes that offer dual takes on a featured ingredient, one designed especially for the youngest palates and the other suitable for the more mature tastes of other family members. For example, broccoli—a vegetable that can sometimes be a tough sell for kids—gets approachable appeal with a children’s recipe for Broccoli, Cheddar, and Turkey Bacon Corn Muffins, while the family gets upgraded repast with Pan Charred Broccoli with Crab Gremolata.

Each pair of recipes is filmed at the Morris Black Kitchen studio of PBS39 in Bethlehem. One episode, several minutes in length, is aired every weekday at noon, then others are shown intermittently throughout the balance of the broadcast schedule. The series is also shown in St. Luke’s University Health Network hospitals and physician’s offices.

Falling under the umbrella of St. Luke’s Baby & Me Support Center in Bethlehem, which provides a sweeping range of new mother services and programs that stretch from pregnancy through parenthood, Cooking for Baby & Me underscores St. Luke’s dedication to the overarching philosophy that everyone matters—and taking a holistic approach to the health and well-being of the extended family is beneficial to all. The dishes are all pediatrician approved and vetted by a registered dietitian since proper nutrition is a foundation of healthy living. The very inspiration for the show sprang from consumer interest, when focus groups with new mothers indicated a strong desire to learn about healthier approaches to cooking.

The Chef’s Kitchen—the longest-running cooking show production company in the country—was tapped to create the show. The Philadelphia-based firm boasts an impressive repertoire of leading chefs, and St. Luke’s requested Philly and Lehigh Valley participants to keep the focus regional. Primary participants include Chef Anthony Bonett of Moshulu, Chef Patrick Feury of Nectar, Chef Jonathan Cartwright of Musette, and Chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete in Bethlehem—and all have been enthusiastic about the project and its goals.

The chefs are assigned a primary ingredient for recipe development. A range of styles cover comfort foods to more sophisticated preparations for adventurous tastes. Friendly fare, based on bananas, includes Three Ingredient Banana Pancakes (kids) and Healthy French Toast with Bananas Foster (family), and bell pepper-based Roasted Red Bell Hummus (kids) and Ham and Roasted Red Pepper Hash (family). Carrots star in Carrot Mac ’n’ Cheese (kids) and the family gets a gently upgraded Ginger and Carrot Bisque with Crispy Goat Cheese. These recipes also serve to introduce your family—maybe even yourself—to new tastes, textures, and ingredients that turn out to be utterly delicious. Tastes develop and expand through experience, and that can happen at any age. Mushrooms, for example, may not seem terribly appealing to a child until they’re turned into a dippable form of Mushroom Chips served with Mushroom Puree and Ricotta. Meanwhile, the rest of the family can tuck into Salmon with Mushroom Sauce and Pickled Mushrooms.

As the father of two young children, Chef Chizmar notes that “Cooking for Baby & Me” hits home for him. This busy chef understands the challenges of finding time to cook for his kids and make sure their nutritional needs are being met. And he also wants to make food that they really love. “So it’s kind of cool to be able to do that on a program and actually show people how to do it,” Chizmar says. “It helps manage time since you’re utilizing both recipes and can get stuff done for the family and everybody else at the same time.” Many of the show dishes are actual family preparations that he spins from what is on-hand in the kitchen or comes from the garden. “That makes it fun.” Learning to be adaptable—to think like a chef—is another skill that can be acquired from this series.

A St. Luke’s doctor is included in each episode along with the guest chef. Physicians include Jennifer Janco, MD, Chief of Pediatrics, Jami Avellini, MD, obstetrics/gynecology, and Karen Taverna-Miller, MD, obstetrics/gynecology—and they all work their film appearances between seeing patients. Seeing these medical professionals in a relaxed, homey kitchen environment makes them relatable.

The recipes for all the dishes on the show can be found at chefskitchen.tv. Browse by featured ingredient or search for a favorite vegetable, fruit, grain, or by protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, or different types of seafood. A nutritional profile appears on the opening page of each key ingredient, along with the suggested age for introductory consumption, along with a proviso to “always check with your pediatrician before introducing new foods.”

With this arsenal of tasty information at your disposal, it’s time to start cooking.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, CHEF ACTION!

Fans of the program St. Luke’s “Cooking for Baby & Me” can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the many dedicated professionals that work to create this tightly paced program that is both aspirational and inspirational to parents of young children—or any adult who appreciates a well-prepared dish. (Spoiler alert: It takes well over the airing time, say 4 minutes or so, to produce a segment of the show.)

The producers of the series film three child-and-adult paired dishes from three chefs in a single day, and an intimate-sized audience of about 20 guests is invited to watch what transpires. Samples, naturally, are distributed among attendees. Audience members are welcome to come or go during the breaks of the filming trio, but once cameras are rolling for individual segments you are dedicated to staying in your seat. (Hint: This is not the right venue to introduce your baby to the magic of television. However, it’s a great temporary getaway for new parents, if that can be arranged.)

Those interested in attending may register below.

As seen in the Summer/Fall 2019 Issue

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