I had the good fortune a few weeks back to meet Sally Sampson, a woman I’ve admired for some time. Sally has worked for years as a cookbook writer, and as such, brought a number of my favorite cookbooks to market. Some of my most worn volumes were written by Sally, including Todd English’s The Olives Table, The Olives Dessert Table, and the first book of his I ever owned, The Figs Table. Sally is also the author of my most used cookbook (if its physical disrepair is any indication), the terrific Party Nuts!, from which we’ve pulled many recipes for the nut mixes we give friends and family in our annual holiday gift baskets.
A couple of years ago, and after having written 20+ cookbooks, Sally switched gears and founded ChopChop Magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to educating kids about cooking and nutrition, and encouraging these kids and their parents to get in the kitchen and cook together……Halleluja! She has pulled together an impressive Advisory Board to help guide her efforts, one that includes some of the top medical, nutritional, academic, cooking, and corporate business minds in the country. Yeah, this woman means business.
So how are things going so far at ChopChop?
With only two issues published, more than 350,000 copies of ChopChop had been distributed to over 1000 pediatricians, as well as numerous children’s hospitals, youth-based community organizations, schools, after school programs, farmers markets, and grocery stores across the country. I bought my first copy (issue #2) at my local Whole Foods. Their third issue, which was published in November, not only included 12 great recipes, but also some fun games, a bunch of features on exercise and nutrition, and an interview with MICHELLE OBAMA.
I’d say they’re off to a rather snappy start, wouldn’t you?
As you might imagine, I was very excited to buy my first issue of ChopChop, and even more thrilled to actually meet Sally. We are clearly two people singing from the same hymnal (as the saying goes), as our philosophies about teaching kids the value of good nutrition along with some complimentary kitchen skills are right in sync. That said, I must say that the thing that impresses me the most about ChopChop is how it packs a ton of age appropriate detail regarding nutritional facts and cooking instruction, while still making the experience of reading each issue VERY entertaining for kids (and somewhat older folks, like me).
Whereas we at “Oui, Chef” share some great family friendly recipes and the occasional story of hi-jinx in the kitchen, Sally and her team hook their 5-12 year old target market with simple and delicious recipes that are explained in very easy to follow, step-by-step instructions, always indicating where an adult should be present to help. We target parents, give them family friendly recipes and encourage them to get their kids involved in the kitchen, a top-down approach you might say. Sally and her gang take a different tack and encourage a bottom-up information flow by delivering a magazine geared towards kids, and asking THEM to get their parents involved in cooking with them. If my experience with one of my own kids is any indication, I think Sally and her team have a winning formula in this regard.
Just the other day, Muppet and I cooked two recipes from the November issue, one of which we’re sharing with you today. Inspired by a white chocolate-banana bread pudding dessert that appeared in her “The Olives Dessert Table” cookbook, Sally crafted this recipe for Cocoa Banana Bread, which we made with some REALLY ripe bananas we had stuffed in our freezer, and some deep-dark Valrhona cocoa powder from the pantry. The recipe is scaled to make 4 mini, or 1 full sized loaf; we split the difference by making 2 medium sized ones, one with nuts (yes, that would be mine), and one without them for the nut averse Muppet. The results…..an almost black loaf (see photo below), rich with a perfect balance of chocolate and banana flavor, and perfectly moist as any banana bread worth the name should be.
Please take the time to check out what is going on at ChopChop, and do yourself a favor by buying an issue if you happen to see one at your local market. Better yet, why not do as I have and subscribe to ChopChop, at $14.95 for 4 issues, its a steal. Your kids will find more than enough recipes and articles to love in just 1 issue to more than justify the annual cost of a subscription…..that I guarantee.
I’m really excited to see what’s next for Sally and ChopChop Magazine, you’ll be sure to be hearing more about them here very soon!
Cheers – Steve
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teapoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 over-ripe bananas
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (if you are not allergic to nuts)
- With the help of your adult, turn on the oven and set it to 350 ℉.
- Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
- Put the bananas and sugar in a bowl and mash mash mash until the mixture is completely combined and there are no big chunks of banana. If you have a mixer, add them to the mixer and with the help of your adult, turn it on and whip for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix well.
- Add the flour mixture, a little at a time and mix, by hand, with a spatula or large spoon until well combined. If you dump the flour in too quickly it will poof out of the mixer!
- Add the nuts, if no one is allergic to them.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pans, and with the help of your adult, put them in the oven.
- bake until firm in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with a bit of crumb on it, 35-40 minutes. (Time is one hour if you use a standard loaf pan.)