Around the World in 80 Plates: Maple Syrup of the American Northeast

Long before colonists landed their boats from Europe, the Indigenous Peoples of the First Nations harvested the sap from the maple trees of what is now Canada and the New England region of the United States. Maple syrup is like the tomato, squash, and corn plants; native to the North American continent and if not for the Indigenous Peoples of the First Nations caring for the trees and sharing what they knew, we might never have known about it today!

The tradition was passed from generation to generation among the indigenous people, and as the maple moon rose each Spring, the harvest of Maple tree sap began, and the method of gathering, boiling, sharing syrup was shared with early European settlers, and it is still harvested in much the same way.

In Anishinaabe (ann-ish-abby) oral history, maple sap comes with a lesson from Nanabozho (the Original Man)1. Robin Wall Kimmerer, member of the Potawatomi Nation, writes about Nanabozho’s teachings in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass.1 According to the book, people became obsessed with the sweet and plentiful syrup and forgot to care for the rest of the land and in response, Nanabozho dilutes the syrup with water.

“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility [ . . . ] we participate in its transformation. It is our work, and our gratitude, that distills the sweetness,” Wall Kimmerer writes.1

In the spring, taps and buckets are carefully put on the maple tree so that some of the sap rising from the roots of the tree can be collected. Harvesters have to be very careful to only take a little from the tree so that it can still get enough sap to grow! Then the watery sap is taken to a sugar shack and boiled to concentrate the sugar and flavor. It goes from 5% sugar to 66%!

Although the sap is collected in the spring, the rich taste of maple syrup is enjoyed all year long, and especially in the fall with toasted nuts, roasted squash and brussels sprouts, and in holiday desserts.

An easy way to add maple syrup to your day without getting too much sweetness in is to make a crunchy granola to add to your breakfast or after school snack! Try this yummy fall recipe today.



Nutrition Tip of the Week: Celebrate National Pepperoni Pizza Day!

Theme nights are a fun way to get the whole family involved in making a meal and today is National Pepperoni Pizza Day! What a day to celebrate!

Pizza is one of those easy-to-make meals we often forget can bring the whole family together in the kitchen. Get started with this easy Create A Pizza handout, and whatever veggies and meat you’d like to pile up on your pizza.

Consider making many small pizzas for each family member to create their own special dinner, or build one big one when everyone agrees how to top it!

Eat in Season: Pick a Pear

Pears are an easy to find fall fruit and they taste great! They are packed with vitamins and flavor, plus fiber to keep your insides going strong.

Pears can be eaten fresh, canned, as juice, and dried. Ripe pears can be eaten alone, or sliced into things meals like oatmeal, in a ham and cheese sandwich, or even over a serving of cottage cheese for a tasty afternoon snack. They are also great in tasty fall desserts with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, or served over ice cream! Next time you are at the store, look for pears in the fruit section.

Let’s cook with pears! These easy to do baked pears are yummy for family mealtime dessert.

Around the World in 80 Plates: Vietnam

Captain Create is in southeast Asia in the small coastal country of Vietnam! A land of lush green jungles, terraced rice paddies, beautiful coastlines, and fresh delicious food, Vietnam has a lot of offer to travelers and curious cooks alike!

The tropical climate allows them to grow lots of fruit and vegetables, but many farmers grow rice, which is eaten at nearly every meal. The steep hills and terraced rice fields make it difficult to use machines; Most farmers still use water buffalo to plow and help them harvest their crops!

Soccer (called Bóng đá, or football ) is their favorite sport and they play it all over the country, but they also swim in both the ocean and race in swimming pools, as well as do yoga, martial arts, running, dancing, and walking to school, work, and through markets to buy food.

One of the most famous foods found in the markets in Vietnam is the Bahn Mi sandwich. What is a Banh Mi? It’s a Vietnamese sandwich made with grilled pork, or sometimes chicken, and commonly served by street vendors in markets all across Vietnam. They use French bread for this sandwich because they learned to bake baguettes when the French Government occupied Vietnam in the late 1800’s, and it was so good that they just kept baking it, even after the French rule ended.

Bánh Mì literally means “bread” in Vietnamese. Pork is commonly used in the filling and it’s called “Thịt Nuong” in Vietnamese, which just means “grilled pork.” So, if you have a Vietnamese-style grilled pork sandwich, it’s called Banh Mi Thịt Nuong.

Let’s try one! Gathering the ingredients before you start is the most important part. That way you can make the pickles and marinate the meat, then cook and build your sandwich.


  • French baguettes (you can make your own, or buy one at the bakery section of the store)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Marinated Pork (or chicken)
  • Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon
  • Cilantro leaves

Happy Labor Day // Welcome to Family Mealtime Month!

Happy Labor Day! Did you know that September is Family Mealtime Month? Be sure to have a family meal together this Labor Day, and see what your family has to say about their day!

One of the greatest benefits of family mealtime is that those children who grow up participating in regular family mealtime are more likely to show positive behaviors like sharing, fairness, and respect as they grow into adulthood. Guess what; family mealtime can be ANY MEAL! If you’re all together at breakfast, but dinner is a rush because of practice, homework, or parents’ work schedules, make breakfast your family mealtime! You also don’t need to have a picture perfect table setting and fancy meal for family mealtime to be meaningful; picnics, backyard BBQ’s, and themed dinner and a movie nights are all ways to enjoy one another’s company.

Research shows that family members gathered around the table, talking about their day and enjoying a healthy meal, provide the following benefits to children and teens:

  • A feeling of unity and sense of identity
  • Safety and security
  • Adult role models
  • Memories for a lifetime

So what are you waiting for?  Commit today to have at least one family mealtime this week.  I’ll make it easy and even tell you what to cook!  Try homemade Sloppy Joes.

Around the World in 80 Plates: Egypt

Captain Create is in Egypt today and what an interesting country to visit! The Ancient Egyptians created what we usually think of first: those very famous pyramids, hieroglyphics, and the Sphinx.

But Egypt is not all sand and pyramids! Cities are busy, students are studying and playing sports, people work all kinds of jobs from farming and fishing to lawyers, computer programmers, and designers. All these Egyptians need to eat so that they have the energy they need to play soccer, run races, and do their homework or work.

The food you find in Egypt today is a mixture of Middle Eastern, Arabic, African, and Asian foods. Meat is usually lamb or chicken that is grilled, roasted. or minced. Nearly every meal includes rice, and sides made with vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, and okra are used in everyday dishes. Kebabs are also very popular, and an easy way for a traveler to taste a lot of new flavors in a quick trip to a market.

Lots of different salads are served as appetizers which include ingredients like tomato, onion, mint, cilantro, and peppers, and there are traditional dips that you can find everywhere. You probably already know and love the chickpea dip hummus, but there is another very famous middle eastern dip that is served with pita, crackers and vegetables; baba ganoush!

It is a pretty easy dip to make, and is fun for the whole family because there is a lot of smashing, stirring, and sprinkling involved. Either roast the eggplants in the oven or cook them on the grill, let them rest a bit, and smash away! Serve this tasty dip mid-afternoon as a snack while you prepare a chicken kebab dinner from Candi over at Create Better Health Utah with your family.

Nutrition Tip of the Week: Eat an Eggplant!

The end of the summer growing season means that our gardens, and farmer’s markets are full of fun and colorful veggies like the eggplant!

Eggplants grow all over the world with a lot of different names, and historians all seem to agree that they don’t know who grew it first. There are records of them in ancient China, India, North Africa, and the Middle East. They grow in a few different colors and sizes, and the first ones shared with Europeans from Asia were small and white, like chicken eggs, so they called them eggplants in English, although in Australia and the UK they call them aubergines. There are big purple eggplants, long thin eggplants with speckles, and the tiny white ones. The Eggplant is part of the nightshade plant family, and is technically a berry, but we eat it like a vegetable. They are low-carb, low-fat, and are good at taking on the flavor of the things you cook it with, like spices or meat.

Eggplants are part of a lot of different cultures so you can find a lot of recipes that use eggplant. They can be grilled, roasted, fried, stuffed, baked, or pureed. Famous recipes that use eggplant are the French countryside dish Ratatouille, or the Persian recipe for the roasted eggplant dip Baba Ganoush. An easy recipe to make if you’ve never tried one before is Eggplant Rollatini. Its like a cheesy lasagna, dinner but more fun to make! Try it out with your family and let Captain Create know how it goes.

Around the World in 80 Plates: Kyrgyzstan

Captain Create has taken a balloon ride to find wild apples in Kyrgyzstan! The country is located high in the mountains of central Asia and used to be a crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road, which connected Asia and Europe to trade goods like spices, foods, porcelain, and most famously, Chinese silk that Europeans liked to use for fancy royal clothing and gowns. As goods like apples moved out from Kyrgyzstan they were planted all over, and are historically significant in cultures from ancient Rome, and China, up to modern day. After all, they still say “an apple a day keeps a doctor away”. There’s no proof, but why risk it? Eat apples!

Apples are originally from the mountains around Kyrgyzstan, where they grew wild for thousands of years. People found them, ate them and decided they were pretty good. They were carefully tended, replanted, and were traded as food, seeds, and even small trees along the silk road.

Kyrgyz people are historically nomadic, which means they move around with their families and animals (mostly sheep and horses) instead of living in a town all year. Stone tools found in the Tian Shan mountains show that early humans lived there as many as 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. The first written records of a civilization in the area appear in Chinese history beginning about 2000 BC. The country is an independent democracy now, but throughout history it was ruled by the Turks, then the Mongols and Genghis Khan, then Russia and the Soviet Union. Apples have been growing there the whole time!

How many apples are there?

Because apples grow by bees moving pollen from tree to tree, there are well over 7,500 known grown kinds of apples. The colors in the skin of apples can be different in each variety and each color has a different combination of vitamins for your body to use. They are easy snacks to pack in your backpack for school, or in your bag to take to work. Apples can be eaten fresh, smashed into juice, or cooked in all sorts of things, from pork roast to applesauce to cakes!

Let’s try a cake… This recipe comes from a woman from Kyrgyzstan, and is an easy dessert to make. Top it with light whipped cream or ice cream to add some dairy to your dessert.

Nutrition Tip of the Week: Peachy Summer Days

It is finally peach season! We’ve been waiting for it since last year, and we’ve got recipes ready!

Peaches are part of the stone fruit family and are full of vitamins, minerals, and flavor. You can find peaches growing on trees at farms, in people’s yards, and for sale and farmer’s markets and in grocery stores. Going to a pick-your-own orchard is a fun way to spend time outside with your family and get to enjoy fresh fruit at the peak of its season.

There are two basic types of peaches; clingstone and freestone. It is just like it sounds: some peaches are hard to remove the stone because the fruit “clings” to it, while others, the stone is just in the middle and falls out when the peach is split.

Peaches are grown worldwide now, but archaeologists think that they are originally from China. Ancient peach pits have been found throughout the world, including Japan, India, Greece, Spain, and even the American Southwest. Most likely, trading fruit and seeds along the Silk Road, then across the Atlantic Ocean with the Spanish Conquerors to the Americas, spread peaches across the globe. Most of the peaches grown in the USA are from European peach trees. The Navajo Nation has a very different peach tree that has adapted to growing in the desert. Peaches are everywhere!

What is your favorite way to eat a peach?

Do you pick them off the tree and take a bite? Do you sprinkle cinnamon on slices? Peaches are great any time of day, whether you eat them in oatmeal for breakfast, with cottage cheese for a snack, or in cobbler or crisp for dessert. Peaches are also great to grill and put with roasted pork or on a crunchy salad with toasted nuts. There are no wrong ways to eat a peach; Try them today while they are in season!

Captain Create has a simple peach crisp recipe you can make with your family (take them to the farmers market to find locally grown peaches!) or try out a recipe from Candi over at the Create Better Health Blog.

Summer means Tomato Season!

Tomatoes are a late summer food and can be any size, shape and color, even though we think of red round tomatoes first. Tomatoes originated in Central and South America. The seeds were spread by travelers and explorers and now grow all over the world. There are over 10,000 different kinds of tomato, and quite a few probably haven’t been documented yet! Different colors in the tomato means that there are also different vitamins for your body to use.

Tomatoes are in-season from July through mid-September, and can be found in gardens and at farmers markets all over Utah. Family trips to the farmers market are a great way to find new and interesting foods to eat, and you get to meet the farmers too! Find a Utah farmer’s market here: (

How do you like to eat a garden tomato?

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