The statistics are sobering: 1 out of 400 children under 18 in the U.S. has diabetes, and nearly 1 in 3 is obese. Anyone who knows me at all knows that this issue hits home; as a mom who’s struggled with body issues and the effects of emotional eating, I’ve tried to raise my kids with a healthier attitude about food. It’s not easy, what with the lure of easy drive-thru meals and celebrity endorsements for food and beverages that are anything but good for us.

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Which is why, when The Mission List sent information about #bigpicnic and a new cookbook aimed at getting kids in the kitchen to cool real food, I asked to take part. My daughter is no stranger to the kitchen, but what she’s learned from me (so far, anyway) are the basics like scrambled eggs, pancakes, pasta with basic sauce and the like. Of course, she’s becoming an expert on cupcakes. But as she’s getting older it’s time to let her loose a bit and allow her some creative license while she cooks.

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The ChopChop cookbook is perfect for that. First she had to study, and that took a few days (but only b/c she reads cookbooks like they’re novels; the instructions are very easy to read and to follow). She flagged the book pages that looked most tasty and then finally decided on the Impressive Fruit Tart. By following the directions she was able to make a flaky crust and sweet but not too sweet peach filling. Even better? The little happy dance around the kitchen as she sang ‘I did it! I made a fruit tart! I did it! I’m awesome!’ I seriously wish I would have shot video.

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Besides the easy instructions that were crystal clear to her, she learned that we can use fruit from the freezer instead of fresh, and we had a discussion about why the butter had to be cold and why the water needed ice instead of just being cool. She did all the cooking, but I helped with the reasons why whenever she had a question. And the look on her face when it came out of the oven, and when she tasted her very first fruit tart, told me that this is something she’ll never forget.

I’m sharing this today because today is The Big Picnic Day. With the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, The White House “Let’s Move” Campaign, the New Balance Foundation, Partnership for a Healthier America and chef/authors Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan and Mollie Katzen, we are celebrating the simple joys of food prepared and eaten together.

Better yet, I am blessed to share the wealth! ChopChop has given me a ChopChop cookbook and a one- year magazine subscription to give one lucky reader. Info on entering is below. I’d encourage anyone with children or grandchildren to grab the book; it’s accessible to all ages, easy to read and positive about food. There are no “bad” food lectures or demonizing of any particular food group. Just a bright, vivid invitation to focus on what matters and share it with those you love.

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Disclosure: I’m sharing this post as part of a program with The Mission List. I received a ChopChop cookbook + magazine subscription for culinary inspiration; all opinions are my own.

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