Sally Sampson is the founder and president of ChopChop Magazine, a quarterly food magazine and website for kids aged 5-12 and their families. Sally is also a James Beard Award-nominated author/co-author of 21 cookbooks and a frequent magazine contributor.
1. What lead you to start ChopChop?
I've been writing cookbooks for 20 years and while I love it, wanted to use my skills to do something more meaningful. I felt that I could help tackle obesity by helping doctors "prescribe" cooking during well child visits.
2. When did you first get interested in cooking? How did you end up pursuing a career in the food industry?
I became a vegetarian when I was 14 in the days when vegetarianism in teens was really rare. My mother, who was a great cook, said she wasn't going to be a two-meal, short order cook and that I should learn to cook.
3. In one issue, you mention you have one child who likes to cook and one who doesn't. How do you get the non-cook involved in helping out with meal preparation?
Well, here's the funny thing. When I wrote that, my 18 year old daughter was the one who didn't like the cook and my 17 year old son did. Guess what? My daughter now likes to cook and, in fact, is wowing her friends at college and my son, I'm sorry to admit, seems to only eat packaged food or food that I put in front of him: even making a sandwich seems to be too much work for him. Now you can imagine this drives me crazy but I've decided not to battle it, in the knowledge that he is 17 and will come back into the fold when he's older.
4. Parents/caretakers are always looking for advice on how to deal with picky eaters. What are some tips you would give them?
I think that parents – to a large degree- create picky eaters. Just because your child turns their nose up at something doesn't mean you shouldn't keep offering it. I am not a believer in making kids- or anyone- eat food they don't like but I do think you should not assume it's a meaningful response: kids change their minds on a daily basis. I don't think that parents should feed their kids food that they don't find healthful. I also think you can inspire a picky eater by having them get involved in cooking.
5. At what age do you think it's OK to get a child involved in meal preparation?
It depends on the child but early, early, early. Little ones can dump ingredients into bowls, count out ingredients, stir, just about anything that doesn't involve knives or heat. They can also help clean up: most kids love to use a sponge!
6. Along the same line as the question above, what are some of the best first meals to get kids cooking?
If it's a first meal, I'd do the same for all these ages. I'd probably start with things like humus, smoothies, sandwiches: foods that are not time consuming and offer immediate gratification. Also, and I know this won't be popular, I wouldn't start with dessert. You can get anyone to make cookies.
7. What was your favorite issue of ChopChop to do thus far?
Oh, come on: that's like asking me which of my children I love more. Seriously though, I think it gets better with every issue.
8. How do you come up with recipes for the magazine?
I come to this as the author of 21 cookbooks so that's the easiest part. We come up with themes, and then the recipes and content follows from there.
9. Can you recommend any good cookbooks for kids?
I'm a big fan of Mollie Katzen's books: Pretend Soup, Honest Pretzels and Salad People- – because her recipes are simple and yummy and her books aren't filled with sugary, buttery, salty foods. Full disclosure: she is on ChopChop's Advisory Board.
10. Can you give us your favorite recipe for a healthy and delicious after-school snack?
I love bean dips because they are delicious, healthy, easy for a kid of any age to navigate and they encourage vegetable eating without having to nag.
White Bean Dip
Serve this delicious treat with carrots, celery, cherry tomato halves or any other vegetable you like. You can also substitute black, garbanzo or kidney beans and you can add any of the following to make it fancier: fresh basil, parsley, cilantro or chives; chopped or pureed green or black olives; chili peppers; chopped shallots or even swirl in pesto or olive paste.
Strainer or colander
Food processor (if you have one) or fork or potato masher
Spatula or large spoon
1 16-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed with cold water
1- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Wash your hands with soap and water, then gather all your kitchen gear and ingredients and put them on a clean counter.
1. With the help of your adult, carefully put the steel blade in the food processor. (If you don't have one, mash everything up with a fork or potato masher.) Add the white beans, garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt and turn the food processor on. Process until smooth. If you are adding anything extra, add it now.
2. Spoon into a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to 2 days.
Bonus question: Any additional comments you'd like to add or any questions we haven't covered that you'd like to answer, feel free!
What is the goal of ChopChop? To make cooking cool!