June 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by Lauren Piro
If you’re a fan of Top Chef, you probably already have a soft spot for chef Carla Hall and her impressive cooked-with-love cuisine (and, of course, her trademark catchphrase “hootie hoo!”). Now, taking cues from Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the new USDA MyPlate guidelines for healthy eating, Carla is spreading the word about how important nutritious meals and fun exercise are for our kids.
“It’s all about food, yes, but you need to move. You need to get up and do something. Back in the day, we used to play. So now I think the challenge right is to go out and get everyone dancing. Especially the kids,” says Carla.
Carla’s teaming up with Fuel Up to Play 60, which brings youth wellness programs to schools (now 70,000 nation-wide!) Student ambassador Nikki, who also joined us with Carla in the LHJ offices last week, loves the changes it’s inspired in her school. “We started a walking club, and give out raffle tickets if we catch you eating a healthy food at lunch. We’ve done a taste test of different exotic fruits, parfaits, and string cheese. Kids like the new foods, and it spreads around the cafeteria, with kids wanting to bring the healthier choices for lunch,” she says.
Carla, always an advocate for cooking with whole foods, loves to hear this. “I’m all about inspiring people to cook at home, and we don’t have to dummy down kids food. Kids will eat lots of different foods if they have the chance to try it.”
One of Carla’s favorite recipes is her granola, a tasty and nourishing mix of almonds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and dried fruit, which she hopes to sell through Alchemy by Carla Hall, of which she is the executive chef and owner. (But you can make your own now– click “Read More” below for the recipe!) “I like making granola, because I can control how much sugar is in it. And you can use it as a breakfast or a snack, or even as a topping on dessert,” she says.
Not enough reasons to love Carla? We asked her our Ladies’ We Love questions for more:
What makes me a lady:
I’m a southern lady, and I love earrings. I’ll even notice some nice earrings in a scary movie. My husband will say, “Oh, you’re such a girl.”
Favorite guilty pleasure:
A sundae with pistachio, sour cherry ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and toasted almonds.
Three things on my life list:
I want to spend a New Year’s Eve in Sydney, Australia. I want to go to Nepal and have a meditation session. And I want to have a dining experience at Alinea, Grant Achatz’s restaurant in Chicago.
If I could have a super power it would be:
I think I would fly. I just don’t walk fast enough!
Ladies I admire:
Julia Child. The Big O – Oprah, I have to say. And my grandmother.
Carla Hall’s Fruit and Nut Granola
Makes 31⁄2 cups
3 cups old-fashioned oats
3⁄4 cup slivered almonds
1⁄2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoon canola oil, safflower oil or rice bran oil
1⁄2 cup Grade A dark amber maple syrup OR dark agave OR fruit syrup (such as blueberry or raspberry) OR a combination of the above
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 cup mixed dried fruit (cherries, apricots, golden raisins, and/or plums)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and the dried fruit. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, oil and the maple syrup.
Drizzle the syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 -45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the mixture browns evenly. (The browner the granola gets–without burning–the crunchier the granola will be.)
Place on a wire rack to cool. Break up any large clumps while the mixture is still warm. Granola will crisp as it cools. Once cooled (totally), store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks.
NOTE: Any nuts may be substituted or omitted.
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