Shelley LindgrenHealthy Family Food ResolutionsPhotography by Lauri Levenfeld
|I am Shelley Lindgren-wife, mother of 2, restaurateur, Italian wine expert, educator, business partner (co-owner of A16, SPQR, and A16 Rockridge), and author of two books (“A16: Food & Wine” – a cookbook and wine guide celebrating the traditions of Southern Italy, and the “SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine” book released late 2012). We started A16 over 10 years, SPQR 7 years ago, A16 Rockridge 1 year ago. I met my business partner Victoria at a dinner party and we immediately hit it off over a mutual love of Italy. My husband Greg and I always wanted to open a wine bar that offered pizza in the city. When Victoria mentioned the need for a great Neapolitan pizza restaurant in San Francisco, it started us down the path to A16 and everything evolved from there. Once the idea was in motion, we took a research trip to Southern Italy to discover the cuisine, wine and culture. We traveled across Campania visiting farms and wineries along the main roads, or autostradas mostly along the A16 which is how we came up with our name. We opened A16 in February 2004, followed by SPQR in 2007, and later introduced A16 to the East Bay in June 2013.||All three restaurants give me an opportunity to develop my passion for wine and share my experiences with staff and guests. We take a research trip each year back to Italy and I try to take along staff when I can and encourage them to pursue sommelier certification. We feel education is so important! I would say it is important to not only love but, to believe in, the business you are developing and beginning. Just like having children you have to nurture it and put all your love and energy into making it everything you dream it to be. For me, restaurant food and wine is a lifestyle. I feel very rich with all the beautiful products we get to work with and wonderful people we have been able to meet and take care of over the past decade at our restaurants. In general, Italians have the quality of life down. They do not need a lot of things to be happy. Happiness is what you eat, drink and how you engage with people that creates tradition, harmony and a great, hospitable lifestyle. Learning these secrets is invaluable in how to enjoy life. Our fast world needs to take a few minutes, sit and have an espresso/tea, say hello to people and see the beauty in our world. I have to remind myself about this often…|
Being parents of two boys (Asher-5 and Phineas-7), as well as, working in the restaurant/ bar business and living in a city- we have a family recipe for a busy, active lifestyle. Busy doesn’t always mean productive and actually requires a lot of time management trying to balance all of our responsibilities and time for the family too. In many ways we live a rich, full lifestyle surrounded by wonderful people and beautiful food & wine. The restaurant lifestyle can be a very welcoming place for children to grow and learn about food, manners and service. On the other hand, boundaries have to be created and learning to be disciplined as a family can have challenges too. Reasoning with hungry, tired boys isn’t always a great option. How to make sure I have them set up for success to make good, healthy decisions is part of the 2015 plan.
My Tips for 2015 Healthy Family Living
1. Family time in the kitchen- Most of my home time is spent in the kitchen. I’m one of those people that operates better when the family is all fed and I also likes to bake, it’s when I do my best thinking. The boys ask to help often and sometimes I ask if they would like to help me. In 2015, I would like to incorporate them more into the cooking process. My older son will now grab cherry tomatoes or berries, wash them, etc.. without me having to ask him. This is a welcome addition to his understanding on food. Preparing healthy food is excellent family time and fun teamwork. If I am having an ‘on’ week, I’ll be able to map out the week of dinners and leave instructions for dinner for my husband Greg to make with the boys.
2. Getting to bed at a reasonable hour- We fail miserably when it comes to bedtime for the boys. Many nights, we are not home until 7pm. Some nights we have sitters and, most nights, it’s either Greg or myself with them, rarely the four of us. As you can imagine, the babysitters win in the ability to create a bedtime ritual and the boys are peacefully sleeping when we get home from our work. If it’s Greg or I, the boys will often sleep in our bed, turn on the TV, etc.. We like this time to relax together and laugh together, but we really need to be more consistent. Our schedules are crazy, and so, getting enough sleep makes every member of the family more alert and ready to take on the new day. Setting a routine at bedtime and going to bed earlier is a great way to encourage your body to rest.
3. Learning how to really relax – There is so much media stimulation in all of our lives that it is difficult to pry any of us away from a computer screen, television, xbox360, iPhone, iPad, etc.. Although this can feel like downtime, it’s not truly relaxed time. It is important to learn at a young age how to deal with stress, which can lead to health issues. Parents can show children how to deal with difficult situations and encourage the family to take time to relax by doing enjoyable activities like writing in a journal, talking with friends or reading a book. Phineas, over the past 6 months, has become an excellent reader. He loves it and will spend hours on a book suddenly. He has become a great role model for this little brother. We are trying to encourage this as much as we can in 2015.
4. Eating healthy snacks – The boys are at an age where they will open the refrigerator and pick out something they like-usually it’s healthy, but not always (depends on what is actually in the refrigerator). Eating fruits and vegetables for snacks is much better for your body and brain even though wanting chips or cookies comes to mind. Washing and slicing vegetables and fruits as soon as you get home from the store is a great way to make them more convenient snacks. This way all you have to do is reach into the refrigerator and pull out a bag of carrot sticks or apple slices becoming as convenient as a bag of chips. As a parent, I often won’t eat the healthy snacks I make for the kids because I want them to have it, but in essence, these options are great snacks for the entire family. This is something we can all do better in the planning process. I love pickles so, I’ve been buying vegetables and pouring different vinegars over them for snacks for me…
5. Planning more outside activities – As the mom, I tend to be the planner, organizer of the family. We have a dog (George), thank goodness. He gets us all outside everyday but, usually me. We love to take George to the beach, only a 5-minute drive. You don’t need a dog to be reminded that it is easy to walk in the park, go on a hike, head to the beach in the morning, afternoon or evening and a great time to spend as a family. Even if I have to drag the kids to the beach, I usually have to coerce them to leave with some kind of an excuse. We’re used to cooler beach days in Northern California and it’s wonderful.
All in all, we have fun together. It’s incredible to see the family dynamics shift as the boys gain confidence in their decision making and ideas for what is a great family activity. Looking back on last year, I see their learning and growth has come a long way. Looking into the this year, I know I have some travel for work coming up and I am already figuring out where and how to squeeze in the family time.
I recently bought some peel-away chalkboard decals and put them in our kitchen. Even the nights I don’t work, I try to make a list of what’s for dinner. It takes some stress out of the “what are we going to eat tonight?” scenario which will happen often. And I try to offer complete proteins. By learning how to plan weekly meals and eating meals at home, you can control your portions and avoid eating hidden calories. In addition, family meals eaten at home tend to be less expensive and higher in nutrients.
My Tips for Shopping and Planning a Week of Dinners.
1. Buy a variety of grains and rice to offer with meals…kids burn a lot of energy and need to refuel. Grains such as quinoa, lentils, etc.. can help restore some of this energy. Getting kids to eat isn’t easy but, it can be fun and just keep sticking to it. They will adjust to the family.
2. Some proteins like a whole chicken, for instance can be cooked and set aside for use in another meal. If you’re like us, you eat way too much chicken but, it’s good protein and everyone enjoys it. Learning portion control for kids and adults is important as well. Our 5 year old doesn’t eat as much as 7 year old. One likes salty and chocolate, the other would rather have berries and no sugar. There has to be some middle ground too.
3. Try incorporating new flavors and ingredients to understand foods of the world such as buying soba noodles, ponzu sauce, soy, ginger and seaweed (nori) and make an easy broth, add some chicken and carrots, and it’s an easy meal.
4. My kids are used to eating pizza at A16 and fresh pastas, etc., but, I always have Annie’s Mac & Cheese and an Amy’s pizza in the freezer, plus tuna salad and frozen fish sticks for those rushed nights when time falls short. These are the nights having some hummus and veggies ready to go or tangerines and apples to help balance some fresh flavors into the frozen mayhem. It’s not the ideal dinner, but it happens.
5. The menu planning really helps figure out a way to keep those frozen food nights to a minimum and to be able to open the refrigerator and have some quick meals ready to go.
6. One of my cooking school classmates has a blog called OFOM (one family one meal). It’s really inspiring to see how she manages some dietary restrictions yet still manages to have the family eat together. Not an easy feat.
Recipes from A16 Food & Wine
Braised Salmon with Basil, Almonds and Lemon:
2.5 pounds salmon (or arctic char or trout) -cut into portions or cook whole at home
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole natural almonds lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
About 30 minutes before serving, remove the fish from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400f.
In a food processor, or in a mortar and pestle, pulse or crush the basil until it forms a coarse paste. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, or drizzle in the olive oil as you crush with a mortar and pestle. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed (remember fish is salted).
Place the salmon in a baking pan and coat with the basil mixture. Add enough water (about 1/2 cup) to come halfway up the sides of the fish. Transfer the pan to the oven and braise the fish for about 10 minutes (for portioned fish) and 15- 230 minutes for a whole side.
To serve, if using a whole side, remove it from the pan and skin and portion it. Or with a slotted spatula, transfer the portions to a warmed platter. Taste the braising liquid and drizzle a few spoonfuls over the fish if desired. Sprinkle the almonds over the top, and finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm with lemon wedges or squeeze lemon over before serving.
Any variety of grains, rice, lentils, beans are a great accompaniment to this dish. And adding herbs and spices is always a great way to be creative with flavors as well..and healthy!
I usually also have a small salad of greens mixed with a blend of squeezed lemon and olive oil. There’s really no need to buy salad dressing because it’s so easy to create a light dressing where the beautiful lettuces are the star of the salad and accentuated with some light flavors. You can add shallots, mustard, ginger, etc.. to the lemon and olive oil to create new takes on the salad, but my family loves their leaves…
If you want to make a vegetable to add to this dish or another dish on the weekly menu, this is a great way for kids to eat chard. Kale is so popular these days and can easily be swapped in. This dish isn’t the least in calories, but loaded with calcium.
Chard Gratinata with Bread Crumbs and Grana:
2 pounds chard (3 bunches)
4 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 red onion (finely diced)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grana padano pr parmegiano reggiano
Remove the center ribs of the chard with scissors or a knife. Cut the ribs into 1/2″ wide pieces and set aside. Stack 3-5 leaves, roll them up lengthwise and cut into 1″ ribbons. Repeat with remaining leaves. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rib pieces and blanch for 10 minutes. Working in batches, add the leaves and blanch for 5 minutes, or until tender and transfer to a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 400*F….
…To make the bescimella, melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a couple of pinches of salt and sweat the onion, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the flour and nutmeg for form a roux and cook the roux stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 4 minutes, or until it is a light blond. Remove from heat and let it cool for 1 minute.
Add 1/4 cup milk, whisking constantly to try to create a smooth paste. Return the pot to medium heat and continue to add the milk in 1/4 cup increments, whisking steadily until all the milk is incorporated. Gradually bring to a boil while stirring steadily. Lower the heat to a simmer, add a bay leaf, and cook, stirring steadily, for about 6 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and loses the gritty texture of flour on the tongue when tasted.
Lightly coat a small baking pan (about 8 inches square) with olive oil, and then coat with 1/4 cup bread crumbs. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, grans and 1 TBSP water.
Remove the bay leaf from the besciamella, add the sauce to the chard and stir to incorporate. Spoon the sauced chard into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top.
Bake the gratin for 20-30 minutes. Remove and serve…
A staple for A16 since we opened almost 11 years ago… (sometimes we order this and drizzle our house made calabrian chili oil into it for a quick bite)
Braised Cannellini Beans with Garlic, Marjoram and Oregano:
2 cups dried Cannellini beans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Rinse beans well in a colander, picking out any broken beans or pebbles. Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plenty of cool water, and let soak for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Drain the beans, transfer to a 3-quart pot, add water to cover 1-2 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Adjust the heat to a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, skimming as needed, for 2 hours or until tender (add more water if needed as they cook). Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and let the beans stand in their cooking liquid for 30 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and oregano to cook for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic begins to soften. Stir in the beans, and the 3/4 cup cooking liquid, and simmer, stirring gently, for about 4 minutes, or until the beans achieve a creamy consistency. The beans should not be as thick as mashed potatoes but, should hold their shape if spooned onto a piece of bread. If they are too thick, add some water and continue to cook. Stir in the marjoram, taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed. (the beans can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to one week. Reheat gently before serving.)
To serve, pour the beans into a serving bowl or individual bowls or on a plate with dinner Top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil to finish. (For gluten free…easy to leave off the bread crumbs…)