Oh Rats! A Fun Foodie Movie – (with Organic Ratatouille Pasta Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

I rarely get to the movies, and when I do it’s now to take my almost 4 year old. His first trip to the cinema was to see Cars. He loved it as did my husband and I. Since we saw Cars, last year, I’ve been secretly waiting to see the next Pixar movie …”Ratatouille“.

I do not like rats. I don’t really like anything that scurries. That even includes squirrels. But a rat with taste, who wants to be a chef and lives in Paris? I thought it was a clever premise and wanted to give an animated rodent a chance. Although I didn’t want my son to like him too much and ask me for a pet rat.

As the movie’s opening became closer I read articles about the painstaking process of getting food to look appetizing in animation. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines our obsession (especially the Bay Area’s) with food and years of training the Pixar team went through. Not computer or graphics training, but culinary training. And not just by anyone – but Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry. To me this sounded like a great job perk. The team also traveled to France to see how a true Michelin star restaurant kitchen was set up. I really wanted to see the movie now.

I was so eager to see the movie, we went the first week it opened. My son hadn’t even heard of it, but when I said we could go to the “big movie theater”, he was ready. But it wasn’t just families with children in the audience. There was a large contingency of adults without children. And while these people may have been Pixar fans, I think they were mostly foodies. Even the teaser before the movie included a new movie entitled “No Reservations” (remake of Germany’s “Mostly Martha”) which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as chefs.

As far as I was concerned, all the animation and food training paid off. I loved the movie. I even loved Remy the rat. Any rodent who decides to walk upright because he doesn’t want his paws to get dirty so he can taste good food, is o.k. with me. The story was sometimes above my son’s head. But it was his second trip ever to the “really big screen” and he enjoyed it. Actually, he liked Collette, the motorcycle riding woman chef (played by Janeane Garofalo).

I wonder how many of us who were in the theater are now recipe testing ratatouille dishes that can compare to the way Thomas Keller created it to be animated for the movie. Those lovely, steaming stacks of well placed vegetables… I’m just afraid it won’t live up to the beauty and perfection of computer animation. Please share if you’ve discovered the great noveau ratatouille recipe. In the meantime, here’s a ratatouille pasta recipe from my book:

Organic Ratatouille Pasta

Traditional ratatouille is a French recipe of stewed eggplant and tomatoes. This version adds a few other vegetables and serves as a chunky sauce for kids’ favorite pasta.

1/2 medium organic eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 2 cups

1 medium organic zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 1 cup

1 cup (6 ounces) sliced organic mushrooms

1 medium organic red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound favorite pasta shape (penne, wagon wheels, rotelle)

Sauce:

½ cup Pomi chopped tomatoes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil. Toss vegetables, oil, salt and pepper in prepared baking pan, so vegetables are coated by oil. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender.

Combine sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vegetables and sauce to pasta and toss to combine.

*Ratatouille Pizza. What do children like better than pasta?…Pizza! This sauce works great on top of pizza too.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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You Be The Judge – (with Organic Trail Mix Treat Recipe for Kids)

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From Lisa Barnes

I am a mother and a children’s cookbook author. The latter does not always make me very popular at my son’s preschool functions, play dates at the park or birthday parties. There’s always a “look” when the children’s food comes out, then a barrage of excuses, explanations and apologies from other parents. Let me just say, I am not judging your child’s food or your cooking and eating habits. Really, I’m trying not to look. Although my son likes to point certain things out with questions like “Why is he eating that?” “Is that junk mom?” “Why don’t we have ____?”

At my son’s preschool open house, I overheard one mom ask another if she knew about my book. She said no and inquired about it. After that I got lots of comments and laughter about how I shouldn’t come to their houses because I wouldn’t approve of the food in the fridge.

And it’s not the majority of parents that laugh or make comments. I talk to plenty of moms and dads who are like minded in their desire to instill healthy eating habits for their children and choose organic foods. We often swap stories, recipes and advice. Some even come up to me to show off their child’s lunch bag or snack.

It’s not about approval. Of course I would like every child to be offered fresh, healthy organic foods. I think good food is every one’s right and parents have an obligation to teach their children about food (where it comes from, how it grows, how it’s made). But I would never offer unsolicited advice or recipes, nor do I have the time to inventory what’s in every child’s lunch at the park.

So if you see me during lunch or snack time, please smile and say hello – there’s no need to hide the lunch box. In case you ask for a healthy snack item, here’s an idea for a quick and easy treat.

Trail Mix Treat, from The Petit Appetit Cookbook

Trail mix is a great choice for on-the-go snacks, and packing in school lunch boxes. This is so easy – just choose your child’s favorites (cereal, dried fruits, seeds and nuts) and the entire mix will be eaten. If your child is allergic to nuts or attends a “nut free” school, feel free to substitute or double up on another favorite.

1 cup toasted O’s or favorite cereal

½ cup organic raisins

½ cup dried organic cranberries

½ cup chopped, organic raw almonds

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Yield 2 ½ cups.
(Always watch children when eating nuts and raisins, as they are potential choking hazards.)
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Amazon.co.uk
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