Chef/mom urges restaurants to offer healthier kids meals

  • Cutest cookies: Indiana Reed of Grayslake

    Cutest cookies: Indiana Reed of Grayslake

  • Chef Sarah Stegner

    Chef Sarah Stegner

  • Most elegant: Nancy Rex of Naperville.

    Most elegant: Nancy Rex of Naperville.

  • Most original: Kathi Frelk of Lake Barrington.

    Most original: Kathi Frelk of Lake Barrington.

  • Blowfish hangover cure

    Blowfish hangover cure

Updated 12/15/2011 2:50 PM

Sarah Stegner knows there's nothing wrong with her 7-year-old daughter eating a hamburger or slice of cheese pizza every once in a while, but for families with young kids who dine out often, those calorie-laden kid menu favorites can be in the dinner rotation far too often.

So Stegner, chef/owner at Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook (and its sister Prairie Fire in Chicago), is sounding the call to offer smaller portions and healthier options to children.


"As a chef, you're a leader in the food community," Stegner says, urging fellow chefs to join the battle against childhood obesity.

Stegner's effort started when she was approached by a parent from Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood at the Green City Market. Stegner, parent Diane Schmidt and holistic nutritionist Carol Wagner developed guidelines and earlier this month launched Healthy Fare for Kids in the trendsetting neighborhood. Restaurants like Franks 'n Dawgs, Mon Ami Gabi and North Pond have signed on to provide healthy meals that focus on whole grains, feature seasonal foods and are cooked with methods low in fat.

"If you get it in front of them they will eat carrots and cheese; even if they don't eat it, it's in front of them," she said. At Prairie Grass Cafe she offers a vegetable tray with carrots and edamame instead of bread. A small filet of Tallgrass beef, fillet of whitefish and seasonal vegetables are on her kids menu.

Stegner hopes to take the Healthy Fare for Kids initiative nationwide, asking 10 chefs to ask 10 chefs to ask 10 chefs to support the effort. An informational program on the project is planned for the National Restaurant Show in Chicago in May 2012.

"Every restaurant will have their own way of doing it," Stegner says.

Restaurants and diners wanting to support the program can email A website,, that will list participating restaurants, is forthcoming.

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Getting jolly, responsibly: Between office parties, neighborhood open houses and family get-togethers, there are plenty of opportunities for spirited celebration. To make sure your guests don't get too jolly on Champagne Punch and Mistletoe Martinis, the Distilled Spirits Council offers some tips for responsible holiday entertaining:

• Designate a bartender who can serve your guests and keep an eye on how much everyone is drinking. The Federal Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as up to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink per day for women.

• Provide food to complement your cocktails. Consider food pairings to enhance the flavor of your chosen cocktails: fresh seafood and breads accentuate vodka cocktails, spiced and smoked meats and cheeses complement bourbon and Scotch whiskies, and fruit enhances rum and tequila flavors.

• Make available non-alcohol beverages. Create a festive non-alcohol punch for those guests who choose not to drink alcohol. For Herbal Cooler Punch: blend 2 cups brewed peppermint tea, 2 cups brewed Red Zinger tea and 2 cups cranberry juice in a pitcher. Mix and serve over ice with lemon wedge.


For additional tips and recipes, head to The Distilled Council website at

The morning after: When your best efforts to curb your alcohol intake fail (you didn't plan on your co-worker buying that last round of beers) you don't have to wake up in the morning with that dreaded "one-too-many." Not if you have Blowfish on hand.

When a strong cup of coffee or fried eggs smothered in horseradish don't cut it, Blowfish may be the answer. It's a new over-the-counter remedy that treats the symptoms of a hangover with an effervescent tablet. Simply dissolve two tablets -- a combination of aspirin, caffeine, and antacid -- in water and drink it in the morning after that big night out to get rid of the headache, upset stomach and altogether "gross" feeling that can linger throughout the day.

Right now it's only available online (with free shipping) at so order now for New Year's Eve. A 12-tablet box costs $11.99 and can cure six average hangovers. Look for it in stores nationwide after the first of the year.

Santa's one lucky dude: if he gets to eat cookies like the ones submitted for our Daily Herald/GFS Marketplace Cookie Decorating Contest. Myself and Mike Gehring, manager of the new GFS Marketplace in Schaumburg, reviewed the entries and selected the winners of the GFS Marketplace Holiday Cookie Dough.

Cutest cookies (pictured): Indiana Reed of Grayslake.

Most original: Kathi Frelk of Lake Barrington.

Most Elegant: Nancy Rex of Naperville. You can view the winning cookies online at or on my Facebook page.

Thanks to all who entered.

Recipe correction: An ingredient was missing from the Angel Crisps recipe that appeared in the Dec. 7 edition. 1 egg should be added to the batter after the shortening. The corrected recipe is at Click "recent recipes."

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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