Monday, August 29, 2011

I Don't Have Money, But I've Got a Voice - Helping Out a Fellow Mama

Bloggers without Borders is a wonderful non-profit organization that has sprung up out of the bloggosphere to help people in need.  Their inspiration is a mom and fellow food blogger Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen who suddenly found herself a widow and a single mom of two girls.  I may not have any money, but I've got a voice, so I hope that by sharing this with my friends and readers that I can help in some small way.  

Please read on and donate of you can.


Bloggers Without Borders  is a newly established non-profit organization helping connect bloggers to one another, and helping them to assist others in need. Bloggers have long been using their platforms for good, raising money and awareness for causes close to their hearts. They have rallied behind people who have lost their homes or their loved ones, reached out to people who are struggling with illness or experiencing a personal tragedy. Help can be as simple as sending flowers or a check, but bloggers support people in the community and beyond when they need it the most. read more...


Donate to Bloggers Without Borders

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Exposé - The Other Side of Food

Fair warning
If you're not a parent or already know the truth, 
this post may not be for you.  

The truth about potty training.

Ok.  Seriously people.  WHY did no one tell me the truth about potty training before I was elbow-deep in it!!!  I didn't know that potty training meant that I would have poop on my hands on a daily basis and poop-covered clothes handed to me in plastic bags from my daycare provider.  I had some idea that I would need to stock up on clothes for 'those occasional accidents', but seriously?!  Lorelei's drawers and my laundry machine are brimming with clothes in various states of soiled.

Pee on the carpet.

Pee in the bed.

Pee in the car seat.

Pee pee PEE!!!

Then there's the training of the parent, AKA ME!!  Timing.  Planning ahead.  Does that place even have a bathroom?  Would I want to use that bathroom?
"Do you have to pee pee?"
"Did you poop?"
"Do you have to poop?"
"You just pooped!!  Why did you say that you didn't have to?!  Awe SHIT!"

Lorelei, "Shit!"
Me, "What about your shirt?"

I'm taking bets on how many gray hairs I'll sprout in through this process.  Any takers?  


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is Taxing 'Bad Food' Really the Answer - I think Not

In his July 23rd New York Times op-ed piece, Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables, Mark Bittman asked, "What will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits?"  He goes on to present a well-thought-out idea, as the title suggests: to tax "bad food" (in my vernacular, "crap") and  make "good food" more available.  I understand where he's coming from and appreciate his opinion, except for one fatal error: people's taste for the food they know and like will not change no matter how much it costs.  Taxation of any foodstuffs will in no way alter what people want to put in their mouths or change their eating or buying habits.  I'm not here to argue the fact that healthy options need to be made more available—they do—but taxation of "offending foods" won't teach people how to cook kale or know what to do with the new healthy ingredients with which they may be unfamiliar.  

I see Mr. Bittman's point when he talks about taxation of "offending foods" making a difference in the cost of health care while we are cleaning up the mess that's been created by the convenience food epidemic.  However, we really need to focus our attention starting from a cultural standpoint.  Americans have been acculturated to accept fast food and not as at least equal to that which was prepared at home.  We need to turn back those wheels.  as a community we need to understand and accept ideas about food which have been lost at the bottom of a bag of chips. 

If we truly want to change American food culture we must address it directly, meaning that we need to change how the collective “We” perceive food and where it belongs in our lives.  When I look at the food cultures of France and Germany (I'll use these examples because that's what I know best) there are certain innate rules about eating (such as where, when, what, and how much), which are inarguable and basic qualities that foods must possess.  There’s also a reverence for the act of cooking and eating that we in the U.S. have lost over the past sixty years.  They seem to be closer to their food sources and seem to want to know where their food comes from more than we in the U.S. do.  They tend to eat seasonally, and won't accept food that tastes like cardboard.

Furthermore, there are no taboo ingredients in the cuisines of these cultures, just taboo eating habits.  People often make comments like, "How do the French stay so skinny when they eat all of that cream and butter?!"  It's because they have small amounts of it within a balanced diet.  They understand that if you eat the real thing, you'll be more satisfied than if you eat a poor substitute.  People take their time to eat and actually (GASP) sit down to eat; they rarely drink out of paper cups, and They realize that if you take your time to eat, your body can properly digest.  (The chemicals that tell our brains that we are full take time to kick in.)  Eat too fast and you'll just keep eating.  (The added benefit of slowing down being we give ourselves time to breathe and relax, lowering stress levels.)

Other innate rules that dominate their food cultures:

- Make feeding yourself and your family The priority, instead of all of the activities that occupy our time;
- When we sit together for a meal our families, friendships, and ultimately our communities, are strengthened.

These are fundamental ideas which, if we can acculturate ourselves to them, will be the basis of true cultural change.

After reading all of this you may be asking, "Well then smarty pants?  What do you suggest?"  I'm glad you asked.  Thank you.

Where do we start with this?  In our churches, community centers, schools, and other community gathering places.

How do we do it?  Education.  Education.  Education.  If government wants to get involved, let's have basic nutrition be a part of science classes starting in junior high, and a full nutrition class be required by at least grade ten. (I hate to say it but there will be dropouts, and they need to learn this too).  In my experience, I was always more interested in learning about things that directly affected my body than about plants.  Nutrition is rather basic science.  Let's make this part of our basic curriculum.

We can also start cooking classes and shopping lessons designed to fit within the communities where they will be taught.  We should have more programs like Common Threads that "teach low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals...".  

What is the first step?  People, like myself, need to start in their own community.  Follow the lead of the folks at Common Threads, or become a part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  Let's work together to figure out what's needed in our own communities and fill in the blanks.  Let's work with local chefs, farmers, and teachers, and start showing people how easy it is to make a simple meal and how it can be cheaper and more satisfying than any McDinner they can buy.

PLEASE NOTE:  I think it's very important not to demonize the foods that people like.  We will lose their attention and the battle will not have even begun before it's over.  What we need to do is to move those foods out of the forefront of our collective diets and make them a Sunday treat, or a Friday night movie night dinner.  Yes, we should give people the information about WHAT they are eating, but ultimately they have to choose for themselves what they want to consume.  No one can decide for them.

We need to learn moderation.  Doughnuts are only offensive to our Greater National Health if they are a staple in our diets and not consumed as an occasional treat as they should be.  Butter and cream aren't bad for you if you only eat them in small quantities; i.e., Fettucini Alfredo isn't meant to be served in a three-pound portion.

This is just the beginning of a very long, challenging, and precarious road.  I see so many good things happening on a community level, such as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Common Threads.  I just hope to be one more voice, one more source of information and inspiration.  I’m not a doctor nor am I a politician, but I am a mom who cares about our kids and our community.

Mr. Bittman, keep fighting the good fight.  I appreciate what you do, but on this one… I wholeheartedly disagree.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It Tasted Better When I Was Drunk

Ok, ok, I wasn't drunk, but I had had a couple of glasses of wine with my friend Bonnie when I made that amazing chicken salad.  Don't get me wrong, it made for a good sandwich the next day but it had somehow lost its luster.

Chances are what really happened is that the chicken had absorbed some of the mayo overnight, making it rather dry, and the zing off the freshly-cut shallots had mellowed a bit.

So, I'll stand by my recipe, but let's maybe bump up the mayo a bit and (perhaps) refer to an actual recipe from America's Test Kitchen or Betty Crocker or something. 

Oh yeah... and don't forget the Pinot Grigio


Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicken Salad - Another Way to Use Up a Roasted Chicken

It's summertime and I'm just not in the mood for soup (even though it's barely 70º outside).  So last night, when I was faced with a lot of leftover roasted chicken, I decided to make chicken salad.

I've never really been a fan of this dish until I had it at Place Pigalle, a restaurant in the Pike Place Market.  Their version has truffle oil and apples in the mix.  Oooh boy it's good!  So I thought I would take a stab at it.  Turns out, I know how to make a pretty damned good chicken salad.  Even Lorelei said, "Num Mom!  I like it!"

So here it is.*

1/2 a roasted chicken, chopped up into small pieces.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 shallot, finely dices
1 tsp white balsamic vinaigre (or just white vinaigre)
a squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

That's it folks.  No shiny pictures this time, just a simple meal.

* Please refer to the follow up post regarding this recipe.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

...And This is Why We're Having Tuna For Lunch.

Our mornings are pretty much the same from day to day.  We get up and go straight to the kitchen for breakfast and our morning visit.  Lorelei usually makes it there before me and greets our kitty with a warm, "Good morning Bumper!"  She opens the crate, lets the kitty outside, and we go on with our breakfast preparations.

This morning, though, I made it to the kitchen and the cat first letting her out before Lorelei got the chance to say her morning hellos.

Little did I know what was to come next.

For the first twenty minutes of our day Lorelei cried inconsolably.  When she saw that Bumper was already out of her crate there was nothing that I could do or say to convince her that the kitty was just in the garden next door.  She was on the floor screaming, at the kitchen table sobbing, in the backyard whaling at the top of her lungs under the neighbor's bedroom window at 7 o'clock in the morning.

I tried to calm her.  I tried to call the cat.

"Pssss Pssss Pssss.  Kitty!!"

But that damn cat wouldn't come and Lorelei just kept on.  Then it came to me.  I grabbed a can of tuna and a can opener, went outside and tapped on the can,

tap tap tap  "Bumper kitty!"
tap tap tap  "C'meeeere!"
Pop!  crank crank crank

I knew it.  The bushed rustled and out comes our orange, aging kitty hobbling as quickly as she could toward her favorite treat.  When Lorelei saw her she screamed, "Bumper!  You're ok!!"

The tears stopped.  She turned to me and said,

"Mom? I see SpongeBob Patrick?"

And so we had tuna for lunch.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Like'a da Meatballs'a - A Basic Recipe with Two Preparations

A couple of weeks ago I realized that my 'go to' frozen meat balls from Trader Joe's had things in them that I don't want to eat and don't want to feed my daughter.

"Well Crap!" I thought to myself.

So I decided to make my own and freeze 'em up for the same uses; One of them being popping them in a 350º oven for 30 minutes and packing them in my daughter's lunch.

Since then I've made a couple of batches with success, but this is the first time I remembered to take pictures (duh.  Not like I'm doing a food blog or anything.)

Anyhoo, here you go.

The (working) Recipe.
Look for updates in coming weeks

3/4 lb Ground Beef
1/4 lb Ground Pork or Lamb
2 tbsp Chopped Parsley
1 tbsp Chopped Oregano
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 large Shallot, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1 Egg Yolk
1/3 cup Grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1/3 cup Bread Crumbs (I used ground Croccatini crackers)

Put all of the ingredients in a large bowl and blend them well with your hands. 

To test for seasoning, make a test patty by frying up a little bit in a Medium-high pan.
Make a test patty to check for seasoning.
If you feel that you want more salt or garlic, or anything really, this is your time.  When all is well, start rolling.  I use a 1oz. ice cream scoop to assure that the meat balls are the same size and will cook evenly.  After you scoop the mixture onto the tray, roll the balls in your hands to firm them up.

Use a 1oz. cookie scoop to measure out your meat balls.

Lorelei and I had friends over the night I made this batch.  I didn't really have time to cook the meatballs in sauce (instructions below), so I put them on a sheet tray and baked them in a 450º oven for about 10 minutes, then reduced the the heat to 350º for another 5 or 10 minutes.  I made three balls per kid and it was just right.

Baked Meatballs

I had a fare amount of the mixture left, so I scooped more onto a sheet tray and put them in the freezer for another day.  I'm happy to say that this turned out exactly as I had hoped. 

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday) I took a hand full of frozen meatballs and browned them up on a saucepan with about 2 tbsp. of olive oil.  (Medium-high heat for 7 minutes or so)  Then I dumped a jar of marinara sauce over the top of it and let it simmer with a lid on it for a couple of hours.  We even went for a walk while it was simmering away.

When we got back from our walk I boiled some spaghetti and served up the meatballs and sauce.

Not soon enough for some people...
CHEEEEZE or "Please Mama, can I eat my dinner now?"

I'm always so pleased when Lorelei enjoys a meal that I have made for her. 

Mom's Tip

1) I keep the frozen meatballs in dated freezer bags.  I would recommend using them within a month or so.  
2) When baking meatballs from frozen, preheat the oven to 350º and bake for 35 minutes.  


Monday, August 8, 2011

"Want something healthy? You have to ask for it."

In response to McDonald's announcement on July 26th, 2011. that they are  “... (Committed) to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices” for family and kids, Marion Nestle wrote a great article "Happy Meals Healthier, Not Healthy"  which, in my humble opinion, illustrates the reality of the situation.

Here it is...

I'd really like to know what you think about this one.

Mom's Tip
Cook your own dinner.  It will ALWAYS be better for you and your kids than anything you get from a fast food joint.



I'm sure a lot of people think that I'm full of it when I say my daughter eats greens.  They can't seem to imagine that a two-year old would enjoy sauteed kale, or chard.  Well, here you go!


We had dinner at Lecosho last week.  Their happy hour has things like sausage and lentils, rillettes, and sauteed greens.  Lorelei was lapping up the jus from the bottom of the bowl and gladly took little fork fulls of the stuff.

This goes to show ya that if you feed your kids food, they'll eat it.

Mom's Tip
If you're introducing something new, be sure to have something familiar along side of it, that way you can alternate the two giving you a greater chance to get at least three bites into your monkey.  Why three bites?  The first bite they are skeptical.  The second bite they're wondering why you're feeding them this stuff.  Third bite, they decide whether they like it or not. 


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Me Against Three

Lorelei had her first sleep-over at our house the other night.  (Actually, I took care of my friend's two kids for the night.)  It was a crazy day of switching cars, making sure I had all three car seats that I would need to cart everyone to and from their respective daycares, it was a busy day at work and my kitchen was a wreck.  (Yes.  Three car seats.  Yes.  Three kids five and under.  Yes.  I am nuts.)

There was no way in Hell I was going to cook.

So, being the lucky gal that I am who works so close the the Pike Place Market, I stopped and got a smoked trout, some fresh cherry tomatoes and asparagus, some crackers and headed off to gather my little ducklings.

I blanched the asparagus in the one clean pot I had, 
crumbled some feta cheese then topped it with fresh basil, 
broke apart the fish with my fingers, 
rinsed the tomatoes, 
cut up a lemon, 
put out some Neufchatel cheese, 
drizzle of olive oil, 
salt & pepper, 

One genius thing I did and will totally do again was serve the crackers whole.  They were La Panzanella Croccantini which, as you can see by the picture, the are giant.  So each kid got ONE CRACKER... that was bigger than their head.  Ha!  It was awesome.

"WOW!  These are HUGE!"  (Crunch, crunch, crunch)
 Ok, two, two genius things... Not only did we squeeze lemon over our smoked trout, we squeezed the tomatoes over it too.  It was great seeing all three kids chomping on tomatoes and squeezing the guts out onto their giant crackers.

Alright, alright... Three!  Three genius things.  (Man!  I'm good)  Each kiddo was given a butter knife and a ramekin of Neufchatel cheese.  This way they could spread their own cheese and construct their own perfect bites.

I think it will take me a few days to get over our sleep-over, and I expect that I won't be so brave as to take on three at once in the near future, but I will certainly serve this dinner again.

Mom's Tip
It's really easy to have fresh basil on hand this time of year.  I bought a potted basil plant at Trader Jeo's for $2.99.  It makes so many dishes pop with freshness.  Try it!!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Training Wheels - Bitter, Sour, Salty, Sweet

Watching my daughter lap up plain yogurt always impresses me.  She loves the stuff.  Sometimes I stud it with berries or drizzle some honey over the top for fun, but all in all she loves plain, sometimes pretty sour yogurt.

That got me to thinking about my friend Lluvia, who loves cabbage, uses lime on just about everything, and practically drinks (no, she actually drinks) the juice that seeps out of a salad she makes of cucumber, grapefruit, lime juice and Tapatillo sauce... yes, chili sauce.  These flavors are so foreign to me.  Bitter, sour components have never been something I can tolerate too well, but then I never really ate them when I was a kid.  She did.

So when I think about how I'm raising and feeding my daughter, I realize that I would like for her to experience all of these flavors and maybe, just maybe, be more open to them, unlike her mama.  I liken it to a twenty-one year old taking their first sip of Cognac.  At first it's robust odor of alcohol and hot sensation that sweeps down the back of the throat can be a real turn off.  But with exposure and education, the subtleties of the drink become familiar and welcome. 

Let's see what happens with cabbage.  What better place to start?  ;-)

Mom's Tip
I've said it before and I'll say it again, give your kids food.  Don't assume that they won't like it, and please, PLEASE, let them decide if they like it or not.  If you wrinkle your nose they'll be skeptical and their opinion may be biased. 

And another thing...
Here's a fun article about Bitter, Sour, Salty, Sweet


Monday, August 1, 2011

A Stroke of Sweet, Sweet Genius

Regarding the Frothy Warm Milk I posted yesterday...

DUDE!!  If you add 1 tbsp of Bonne Maman's Confiture de Châtaignes... the stuff I used in my rockin' banana bread...

 Heaven.  Pure, sweet, spicy heaven.

No Sugar but Spice - A tasty Way to Treat Yourself

We don't have dessert very often in our house, well at least what might be considered a 'traditional' dessert.  We still like to have something yummy after dinner, though, and last night was no exception.  Lorelei had hoped that we had cookies, but she was very happy with the alternative that I brewed up for her.

Warm and Frothy Spiced Milk
(per person)
3/4 cup Milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Cinnamon

Slowly warm your milk and spices over medium heat, stirring frequently with a whisk.  When the milk starts to steam, give it a good beating then pour it into a coffee cup and serve.

Mom's Tip
I keep whole nutmeg in my pantry.  Freshly grated, it's warm and spicy notes are far superior to that which you will find in a jar.  I use it in sweet and savory applications, most notably in my Bolognese sauce.