Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Real Food Tastes Like

People said it would happen. I didn't believe them. They were right... About what you ask? That someday I would be able to taste the difference between "real"/whole foods and processed/artificial foods.

I thought that food was food. It either tastes good or it doesn't. I didn't get what it was to taste the "artificial." It's been almost a year since we significantly reduced our use of processed foods in exchange for whole/unprocessed foods. We did it out of necessity for my son's health/allergies but we have all benefited from the transition.

Today (and a few other times lately), in a hurry, I made a fast food choice to get by on for lunch. It tasted off, flavorless, with a residual flavor on the tongue afterwards. I missed the satisfied feeling when I was done. The difference is hard to explain, but "something" is missing and "something else" is in it's place that isn't quite right.

In that same way, I want to help kids learn early on about what real food tastes like. Join me over at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution to speak up for students.

"The USDA is taking comments from the public on the new, healthier school meal guideline, and Jamie is speaking out in support of them. Will you join us and submit a comment to help get healthier school food standards put in place across the nation?" -- add your voice here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Alive...

...but barely. It's been a VERY long week. I've been finishing up a freelance project the last could of weeks and almost every spare moment has gone to that, work, and keeping kiddos fed and in bed. I'm happy with how the project is turning out, but I feel like I've just missed a couple weeks of life.

We had our first snow day of the year today. Unfortunately, that no longer means sleeping in. That means arranging childcare. I was blessed by a friend that had my boys come for an extended play date this morning until our babysitter could get here. I switched childcare at lunch time and tried to come up with something quick to eat. We were out of most everything quick.

So what's a girl to do? Improvise. My boys love pizza. Not uncommon. I had some of my loaded tomato sauce left over from dinner earlier in the week and some cheese. So I took the rolling pin to bread and flattened it for pizza crust and wa-la... you have pizza. I took some bread and cut it into strips, sprayed them with cooking spray, sprinkled them with garlic salt, and popped them into 425 oven for 6 or 7 minutes and we had breadsticks.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Batch Cooking

My new role as full-time working mom has really gone very well so far. I have an amazing husband, adaptable kids, and a great babysitter that are really all making this adventure work. The main kink in our life has been eating. I've been working on planning and utilizing the crock pot, but there is only so far that will take you. Allergen-free cooking and crockpots are a bit of a tough match (on a budget). I need to do some more experimenting in that area.

Until I get some experiments going, I'm relying on weekend batch cooking. I've been devoting part of each weekend to cook a whole bunch of a couple of things to freeze for the weeks to come. Hopefully the results of that in a few weeks will be a better stocked freezer.

Last weekend I made a couple of soups. This weekend waffles, chicken stock, and spaghetti sauce were on the to do list. The best part of the last two items is once you get them going you can forget about them for an couple of hours.

Next weekend I think I'll get some meat pre-cooked/shredded/browned, freeze pancakes, and try freezing pre-cooked rice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Unused Celery

There are just certain habits you pick up from tradition, from the modeling of whoever taught you how to cook. You do those things simply because that's the way things "aught" to be.  I have them and so you do. However, it's difficult to pinpoint them because they come so naturally.

I worked at a greenhouse a couple of summers ago and LOVED the herb selection there. As the season moved on the selection diminished and most the usual suspects were sold out (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, etc). One that there was plenty left of was Celery Leaf. I watered them but didn't pay much attention.

One day a customer questioned me about the taste and use of the herb. I claimed ignorance, but offer to taste the herb and give my opinion. To my surprise, it had a pleasant taste, that of celery. Imagine that.  I would come to realize later that it was the same taste as that leafy top of the celery that I had been chopping off and throwing in the compost.

I started to imagine what I would use it for. Soups was as far as I made it. I had heard of people using the leaves of celery in that. Life moved on and I really had not thought much of celery leaf until this weekend when I was trimming up celery and preparing to dump those greens down the disposal (man I miss my compost pile). It seemed like such a waste.

Upon remembering my adventure at the greenhouse I decided to take a walk on the wild side and use those greens. I chopped them up and added them along with the lettuce of my salad and I LOVED IT. It's a mild taste (using from the celery heart) but added a light taste. Much of the small diced leaves fell to the bottom of the plate along with actual celery heart, chopped carrots, and pine nuts - all coated in a light layer of Caesar dressing. It tasted wonderful. Next time I might skip the lettuce all together and just go toppings only. I'm kind of crazy with salads that way.

Yes, I know I need to get out more often.

Now I'm on a quest to discover other traditions that have made me miss out on good stuff. Do you have one?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ooooooo, another yummy smoothie favorite. It added a bit of tropical hope to the long, cold days of winter. The flavors just invoke thoughts of warms and sun. It's been a LONG and COLD winter so I'll take any piece of warm happiness that I can get.

2 c Frozen Strawberries
1 Mango
1/2-1 c Orange Juice (or Apple Juice)
1-2 T Strawberry Jam (to taste if strawberries are a bit tart)
Protein Powder (optional)

Throw it all in the blender and let it rip. Love this for a snack.Maybe I should get some of those little umbrellas for my smoothies and have a little tropical party? Nah, last time we had the umbrellas my boys used them as spears against each other.

What's your favorite smoothie combination?