Sunday, July 31, 2011

Portion Control - That Means Share With Mommy

Cupcakes are a rare treat for us.  I usually get Lorelei a mini cake but yesterday they were sold out, so I got a big one for us to share... or so I thought.

Mmmm.  Frosting.

Please baby?  Share with Mommy?


Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm not afraid to be "The Bad Guy" - Rant! Rant! Rant!


Please note: I am not saying any of the following to spur debate, but if you have something to say I welcome it.  I may be an anomaly, but it is my firm belief that I SHOULDN'T BE!

Deep breath... GO!

How on earth are kids going to learn to eat foods that are good for them if parents don't enforce the fact that YOU MUST EAT THESE THINGS TO BE HEALTHY?!

All too often I see parents turn on a heel and leave my restaurant after they see that there are no familiar foods that they know their kids will eat.  Truth be told, there are things on our menu that may turn some people off like duck or rabbit, but we have chicken and beef too.  We have so many things that LOTS of other kids eat all the time that it's terribly frustrating for me and our entire staff to see 1) parents allowing their children to dictate where they are going to eat and B) that parents are so unwilling to "be the bad guy" and "force" their kids to eat food other that noodles with butter and cheese.

Come on people!   

Variety is The Spice of Life!!!  

Kids should experience the pleasure of delicately wilted spinach with fresh, fresh fish.  Their mouths should be tickled with delight when they taste Crème Brulée for the first time.  Sweet corn in the summer, stewed vegetables in the winter, fresh toasted pumpkin guts (seeds) for an after school snack in the fall.  Tart, tender, tasty raspberries in their morning yogurt in the spring.

God forbid we tell our kids to sit at the table and eat the food we've prepared for them.  Help Us if our kids get mad at us for making sure that they are well nourished.  And yes, you bet your butt I've sent my 2.5 year old on time out for claiming that she didn't like and wouldn't eat food that she hadn't yet tasted.  Guess what, when she was done with her rant, she came back and liked it.

Go figure.

Feed your kids real food.  They'll like it.  I swear.

Mom's Tip
Introduce foods to your kids that you may not like.  I recently bought a cantaloupe and Lorelei loved it!  I had to get rid of it because the smell makes me sick, but now I know that if I can get my hands on some (in small portions) she'll love it and I'll be happy to know that she's happy.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Well, Crap!!

In the wake of my rant-of-a post last weekend, I realized that I had never read the ingredients on my "new Go To protein", those Trader Joe's Turkey Meat Balls.  You see, I got them by mistake in the first place.  I had been using their Party Meat Balls, tiny beef meat balls, but a couple of months ago I couldn't find them in the freezer section.  I asked a TJ's staffer to help me and what I got was turkey!

Anyhoo, I read the ingredients.  Bummer dude.  Truth be told it's not all that bad, but there are certainly things in there that I just don't see as being necessary;

- Textured Soy Protein
- Corn Syrup Solids
- and Mechanically Separated Turkey Meat (which really just grates against my Recovered Vegetarian sensibilities).

I guess I have to learn how to make my own meat balls.  Actually, this sounds like a great opportunity to have some friends over and have a meat ball rolling party.  We can make a ton of 'em and freeze them up for later use... sand soy and corn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tartines - A little Too Easy For How Good They Are

Tartines are one of those simple things I was introduced to when I lived in France.  A slice of fresh, hearty bread is topped with meat and cheese and put in the oven until the cheese is melted and golden.  Often served with a small green salad, this makes an easy and very tasty lunch or dinner.

This was dinner last night.  

Jambon, which is French style white ham, and Gruyère on a slice of sour bread.  This is a classic combination of flavors; the ham is sweet, the cheese is sharp and the bread is warm and crisp.  YUM!!!

Preheat your oven to 400º
Lay out a slice of bread
Pile on two or three thin slices of ham
Top with cheese
and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Et voilà! 

As for the green beans, these were pre-trimmed harricots verts (string beans) from Trader Joe's that I boiled for three to four minutes then quickly sauteed in olive oil along with slivered almonds.  The almonds get nice and toasty and really compliment the beans.  Try it!  It's gooood.

Mom's Tip
I am terrible at cleaning up my mess after I cook a meal so I have learned some dirty-dish-saving tricks that make a dent in the growing pile in the sink.  This is a time-saving tip too.

For the green beans, I boiled just enough water to cover them in the pan that I was going to use for sautéeing.  When the beans were cooked I drained the water, added a drizzle of olive oil and crumpled in some slivered almonds.  Let it all cook over Med High heat for a couple of minutes and served. 


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Definitions - ... And now I'm a snob

snob  (snb)
1. One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.
2. One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

It all started with a simple Facebook post,

"I don't get it. Why am I considered a food snob if I won't feed my kid crap?"

And then, dear readers, the Fit hit the Shan!!  I got words of encouragement from some and confirmation that I am indeed a snob from others.  In an attempt to keep this blog PG rated... WTF?

I was told to look in a mirror.  And so I did.  I looked at why people would think that I am a snob and realized that they need to look more closely at me.  They need to understand a few things about me before they make such a blanket, and offensive, statement.  Now my language may be faulty when I try to discuss my perspective, but a lot can get lost in translation with snippets of thoughts posted on a social networking site.

Let's first define what I mean when I use the word CRAP in regard to food.  The dictionary defines it as:

crap 1  (krp) 
1. Cheap or shoddy material.
2. Something that is of extremely poor quality.
(and of course excrement, etc.)

For me, I use the word crap in regard to processed foods, fast foods, and cola.  To tell you the truth, I don't eat any of those things because I've never really liked them.  Because of this it's really easy for me to keep it out of my daughter's diet.  It's a matter of taste, not snobbery.

You see, I've always had issues, of sorts, with food.  I ate my last McDonald's hamburger in 1984.  I just didn't like it.  At the age of fourteen I realized that, when I was having chicken for dinner, I was actually eating a chicken.  That really turned me off of meat.  Three years later I became a hardcore vegetarian; no animal stock in my soup, no fish, and at one point no cheese that had rennet in it.  (Me!  No cheese!!)  This lasted for six years, even while I was working in restaurants.  Of course I eat meat now, but I still have my aversions which end up translating themselves into choices that aren't the above mentioned crap.

The thing that is interesting to me is that my restaurant industry counterparts are not quick to call me names.  They, like I, have made a living preparing and serving food and are perhaps better able to understand my perspective.  I've been working in restaurants for twenty-two years, so I have had the sheer delight of being exposed to wonderful ingredients, intense flavor combinations, and some of the best cookery in the world.  It's because of this that I have distinct preferences to this kind of food.  I've taught myself how to replicate much of what I've eaten, I like to cook at home, and I like to share it with my friends and family.

Here's another thing that irks me: So what if I prefer Brie over Cheddar.  So what if I drink wine and don't like beer.  So what if I choose not to eat a hamburger that I don't like and maybe even wrinkle my nose at when one is offered to me.  Why on earth is that snobbish or 'fancy schmancy'?  Everyone has their own taste.  This is mine.
Looking back at the definition of snob: "One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors".  If we are shifting this to Food Snobbism, is it implied that I feel above anyone who eats what I don't like?  NO!  A resounding and definite NO!  I do not feel above anyone or judge them for eating what I don't like (i.e. crap).  Who am I to judge?

As for the other part of the definition: (one who) imitates, admires, or seeks association with people regarded as social superiors.  In this case, you bet your ass I do.  I want to support my local farmers, I want my daughter to eat fresh green beans and strawberries that she picked from our potted garden, I want to join Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and educate kids and parents about healthy choices, I want people like Jeremy Seifert to succeed in his Kickstarter project that intends to change American policy on identifying GMO's on food labels allowing people to choose for themselves if they want to eat it or not.
From this standpoint, if you want to call me a snob, please do.  I will follow the lead of people who are doing good work for the betterment of our kids, our land, our overall health.  Yes, I'll own it.
I am a snob!!

But don't tell me I judge people for what they are eating.  

Another truth, I suppose.  I do get frustrated when I see little kids who are terribly overweight sucking on a straw that's extended from a cup larger than their heads.  I see too often parents who want to eat in my restaurant but let their ten-year-old tell them that they can't eat there because there's no fries or burgers on the menu.  I do get a little angry that parents assume that their kids won't eat vegetables and will only feed them noodles or nuggets of some sort.

That's why I started this blog!!  I want to share with like-minded parents that it's pretty damned easy to feed their kids real food, on a budget, and in little time.  I'm not preaching from a pulpit or shouting from a soap box.  I understand that having and expressing strong opinions about anything will certainly spur people of opposite or differing points of view to speak up, and I appreciate the conversation.  However, if you don't like what I'm saying, please turn the channel. 
I'm not trying to judge or tell anyone that they are doing wrong.  What I am trying to do is impress upon people that there are other ways to feed our kids.  Convenience is... well... convenient, but the wake of convenience has ripped a giant hole in our society.  If we eat our dinners in the car, or while we are walking, or in front of the T.V., we don't talk to one another.  Our relationships dwindle, or worse, never get a chance to develop.  And, if we eat processed foods we are relinquishing control of what we consume.
I am no saint.  I am not skinny.  If something tastes good I'm likely to eat too much of it, much like most people.  I don't exercise enough and I turn on the T.V. sometimes to keep the peace.  But!!  I'm trying my best to teach my daughter about making good choices for herself and that includes exposing her to what I call 'real food', meaning fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, fresh fish, etc.   I have made a good mark in her two-and-a-half years, I'm happy to say.  She prefers yogurt and blueberries over a hamburger and fries, she picks the broccoli out of any dish and eats it before anything else, and loves things like mussels and fish

Let's look at it this way; what did kids eat before the 1950's, when convenience foods were born?  

The answer?  Fruits, vegetables, and home made meals.  Did they have to sit at the table and finish something they didn't like because it was 'good for them' or 'the only dinner they would get'?  You bet!  Let me tell you, a great way to get your kid to eat something is to actually let them get hungry.  

What did babies eat?

Table food mashed up.  REAL FOOD!!

But this is for another blog post.

Yes I feel separate from people who drink cola and eat fast food, but I'm certain that they feel the same about me, but it's because our tastes are different.  It's that simple.  I could give a rat's patoot what people eat.  But what I do care about is that our children are exposed to all foods.  If they want to stash sugar in the trunk of their car for easy access and avoid all vegetables when they are adults, they can. (I actually know a grown man who does this by the way.  Guess what, he's got diet-related health issues.)  But with the childhood obesity rate that it is and with the enormously steep uphill battle that needs to be fought in order to get American food culture back on track, I am ready to be called names.  I really, really don't like it, but I will take it like a trooper knowing that I am fighting a good fight.  

I'm choked up writing this because I have enough of a battle just being a single mom, but this really means a lot to me.  I know that I'm not alone, though, and that feeds my fire.  Between Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama, The American Restaurant Association, and so many others, I know that I'm in good company... up here on my snobbish pedestal.

Won't you join me?

One last thing.  If I had an affinity for Mexican food as opposed to French food would I still be thought of as a snob?

Mom's Tip
If you are interested in learning more about the organizations or organizations that I have mentioned, please see the links below.

Jeremy Seifert's Kickstarter project

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Kids LiveWell program
(I've got some arguments with this one, but it's a step in the right direction)

Obama Foodorama
The digital archive of record about Obama Administration food and nutrition initiatives.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chicken and Rice - What to do with the Leftovers

My friend Heidi and I have a standing weekly date to have dinner at one of our houses.  With her kids and mine we are five (sometimes six) people all together.  Last night it was my turn to host.  I didn't have a lot in the house, but I did have a ton of chicken stock that needed to be used up, a chicken breast, and some veggies.  So we decided on chicken soup.
She stopped at the store on her way home to pick up mir pois (the classic trio of onion, carrots and celery) and a baguette and I got the pot boiling ready to receive it all.  When I started to put the soup together, I felt a bit like Remy in Ratatouille running around the kitchen throwing in this and that and by God, it was really good!

8 cups (two boxes) chicken stock
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 large garlic clove
2 cups collard greens, chopped
1 chicken breast, boned, skinned and cubed
1 sprig rosemary (~ 1 tbsp)
5 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
Leftover Chicken and Rice
Salt & Pepper

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add all of the veggies (except the greens), herbs, and chicken and let it cook for a while.  While that's happening, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sautée pan and fry up those greens a bit to start them cooking*.  After the chicken is well cooked, dump in the leftovers and the greens, let it all heat up a bit and serve.


*This was a last minute stroke of genius, if I may say so myself.  I had forgotten that I had them in the fridge and knew that they wouldn't cook enough in time to get dinner on the table, so I started the cooking process in a Med-High sautée pan.  The results were great!  Really flavorful and the kids downed it!  Another great and easy way to get healthy foods into your child's diet.  Yay!

Mom's Tip
Soups are a really easy and tasty way to get your kiddos to eat vegetables.  They are in small bites, they are soft and sweet, and they are swimming in all of their vitamins and minerals.

Tasty ways to spruce up soup?
- Garlic bread for dipping
- Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
- Dabs of hot sauce
You name it!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Easy, One Pot Dinner - Chicken and Rice

Sometimes when I walk into my kitchen and see that I've actually kept it clean for a day or two I am reluctant to dive into a big cooking session for the sheer fact of not wanting to create work for myself.  On these occasions, I go for a One Pot dinner.  Last night it was Chicken and Rice.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot
1/2 fennel bulb
1 cup of brown rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 chicken breast (boned, skinned, and chopped into small cubes)
Salt and Pepper
Butter (optional)

Start by sautéeing over Meduim High heat a chopped shallot and some fennel in a sauce pan.  Let it cook while you're measuring out the rice then add it to the pan to sautée along with the veggies.  Add a pinch of salt and stir frequently for about five minutes.  The rice will toast and pop and get really nutty.  Yum!!  Then add the chicken stock and chopped chicken breast.  When it comes to a boil, cover it up and lower the heat to medium.  Set your timer for 20 minutes then clean your house, bathe the kid, finally change out of your work clothes... or stand and watch it.  How you spend this time is totally up to you.

After twenty minutes or so, take the lid off of the pot.  There will still be a fair amount of liquid.  That's ok.  Give it a good stir, taste it to check for seasoning and texture, add salt and pepper of needed or a dollop of butter to make it a little rich... and serve.

Oh yeah!!  I had some leftover zucchini.  I stirred that in at the last minute.

Mom's Tip
This is an extremely versatile dish. 
- You can use any veggies; if they're raw, sautée them like I did the shallot and fennel.  If they're cooked, add them at the end like I did the zucchini.
- You can sub out water or beef or veggie stock for the cooking liquid.
- Chicken isn't the only protein you can cook in the rice.  Add thinly sliced beef or sausage, or don't add meat at all.
- Give it a zing!  A squeeze of lemon at the end will add a nice lite note, deglaze the pot with wine before adding the cooking liquid,  garnish it with hot sauce.

Also, for this recipe I used one one of my standby Trader Joe's buys, Brown Rice Medley.  I like its texture and flavor, and so does Lorelei, major plus. 



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lessons in Counting - Sugar Snap Peas

Lorelei and I had a lovely day yesterday.  We woke up to blue skies, showered the Ballard Seafood Fest with bubbles blown from our new bubble gun, shared some Salmon Benedict (actually, she let me have a few bites), had a long nap, and ran some errands.

It was a lovely day, indeed at the end of which I really did not want to cook.  So we had cheese and crackers, sugar snap peas and Trader Joe's Turkey Meat Balls (my new Go To protein when I don't want to cook) for dinner.  It was a simple dinner but one that turned into a great little lesson in counting.

Lorelei likes sugar snap peas, but sometimes she husk is a little much for her, so we opened up the pods to pick out the peas.

This time around, though, was a little different than times before.  She started to pluck each pea and count them as she placed them in my hand.

"Waaaannn.  Toooooo.  Feeeee.  Fooooor." 

She would then promptly and swiftly slurp them out of my hand. 


Mom's Tip
Dinner doesn't have to be a production every night.  Keep some items in your freezer, larder and fridge that can be put together for an easy meal, and give yourself a break if you really don't feel like cooking.  Spend that time with your kids, your friends, your family, or just on your own (if you can).


Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Cheesy Results - Foibled Again

So I'm thinking that while Lorelei is still quite young home cheese making will not be my next hobby.  Well, maybe not.  It's not that it didn't turn out, because technically it did, but I've been so busy that I just couldn't get around to unsheathing my fromage suspendu, so they were just too dry to enjoy.

This whole thing started when I let some yogurt that I had attempted to make sit too long.  I didn't want to waste the milk so I thought I would make some cheese.  (Why not?!  Right!)

Here's what it looked like when I first hung it.
I first hung it in glasses to allow any liquid to fall.  I then hung it between two glasses so that air could circulate around it and dry faster. 

Here's what it looked like five days later.

(Please forgive the quality of the 'after' shots.  They were taken at 6:00am, pre-coffee)

The flavor was good, but it was too tangy for my taste.  I spoke to one of my regulars at the restaurant who is a cheese maker for Beecher's and he said that the only thing I did wrong is not add any salt.  If I had the acidity would have been balanced out and it would have been a success.

Next time.

Mom's Tip
This was a fun experiment for Lorelei too.  I showed her what we were doing from beginning to end.  She even helped me unwrap the results... and agreed that they were in fact not a resounding success.


Monday, July 4, 2011

I Love my Drawers - Experiments in the Kitchen

I recently picked up Mireille Guiliano's follow-up book to her now (maybe) infamous book French Women Don't Get Fat, French Women For All Seasons.  It reminded me that making yogurt was really pretty easy, so easy that I decided to make a batch for myself last week.  I started it Wednesday with 2% milk and some yogurt from Trader Joe's that I really like.  No biggie...

or so I thought.

My dear friend, fellow foodie, and single mom of kids who know the seasons for tomatoes, said to me in the wake of my "I'm not an anomaly" blog post A Call to the Table, "Are you kidding?!  Who makes their own yogurt?!"

Me, I guess.  The problem is, however, I'm still me... I let the yogurt go a couple of days too long.  Damn!!  Usually I'm game to give it a try, but Lorelei and I have had a bout with a horrible tummy bug the last couple of days that has laid us out, so I wanted to play it safe.

Buuut, not wanting to waste the product, I decided to see if I could make some cheese. 

Yes.  I said make cheese.  Why not?!  The milk didn't smell sour.  It tasted sweet. 

So, I strained the yogurt and I'm now letting it sit for a day or two with the intent of eating it on my morning toast.  We'll see how it goes.  If it goes well, I'll tell you.  If not, I'll share the abridged 'Chronicles of The Food-Minded Mama's bouts with gastro-intestinal disease'.  Gorey details omitted of course... this is still a food blog after all.

Here's what it looks like so far.  I started the yogurt in some left over Bonne Manan jelly jars (by the way the best damn jelly EVER!).  I poured the creamy, goopy goodness into a strainer and let it set for a while (maybe an hour).

Then, (and here's why I love my drawers) I put the strained cream into some cheese cloth (Lord knows what project this was from, and from how many years ago), and suspended it in a glass. 

It totally looks like I'm making cheese right?  Well, so far it tastes like goat cheese.  I'm thinking it'll be something like it.  My co-worker mentioned something today about Greek yogurt cheese.  Maybe I've stumbled into that.  Who knows.

Well, Happy 4th everyone!   I'll keep you posted... hopefully not from a hospital bed.  Ha!