Archive for September, 2010

September 29, 2010

Midweek Musings

Time to take a deep breath, and assess whether menu planning has helped us move smoothly through this very full week, and helped us reduce waste by eating all the yummy fresh produce before it turns into yucky not-so-fresh produce.

And, the answer is “yes”!

It’s Wednesday, and we have followed the plan pretty closely so far, and there have been no complaints about dinner so far this week – that, in and of itself, is a victory I’d love to repeat every week.

On Sunday, I made chicken noodle soup with the carcas from the roasted chicken we’d had earlier the prior week; used some farmer’s market potatos, and celery and garlic from our CSA.

On Monday, we made a variant on a vegetable and chickpea curry from Cooking Light – did it on the stove, rather than in the slow cooker.  It was good – and was a great way to use many many vegetables that needed cooking – onions, sweet potatoes, red peppers, hot peppers, green beans – but will need additional tweaking to make it a regular in our house.  It does reheat very well for lunch.

On Tuesday, the man of the house prepared Italian sausage and fusilli for the kids before the first back-to-school night, and used the tomatos to make his favorite tomato-cucumber-feta salad (an all garden/CSA/market salad).

And tonight, we made a squash, tomato, and provolone (instead of feta) bake; accompanied by some baked chicken breasts.  Easy to prepare before the second back-to-school night.  Even better, as I was walking out the door, the Picky Eater cried out, “Mom, can I make some brownies for dessert?”.   I was more than happy to respond in the affirmative.

The short ribs are defrosted for tomorrow’s meal, and I am feeling ready for the remainder of the week.  Emotional benefits of meal planning have definitely been realized.

And on another note, I really enjoyed Bittman’s description of his week in the Times this morning – online versions of “Eating Solo” are available.  Mr. Bittman certainly eats  his quota of fruits and veggies!

September 26, 2010

Weekly Eats…

As I looked at our calendar for the week, and my quite well-stocked kitchen (with vegetables to-be-consumed from our last CSA pickup, after a farmer’s market visit yesterday, and a run to the grocery store today), I realized that this is a week where a menu plan is going to be a must for sanity (two back-to-school nights, plus a full evening schedule of music lessons and scouts….).  I’ve copied the recipes into a single Word document, double-checked my cabinets and fridge.  Let the week begin!

So, here’s what we’re looking at for dinner (breakfast will be cereal and/or waffles and/or hardboiled eggs with fruit; lunch will be sandwiches and/or leftovers, veggies, and fruit).

Sunday:  Homemade chicken noodle soup, with green salad; chocolate chip cookies for dessert!

Meatless Monday: Vegetable and Chickpea Curry; Basmati Rice

Tuesday: Fresh Tomato, Sausage, and Parmesan Pasta (an opportunity to use the unbelievably good Italian sausage from our local butcher); salad

Wednesday: Summer Squash and Feta Bake; Leftovers

Thursday: Curried Beef Short Ribs served with Israeli couscous; tomato & cucumber & feta salad

Friday: Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin; Sauteed Swiss Chard

Saturday: Green Lentil Soup with Noodles and Mint; homemade bread

And maybe I can even convince the man of the house to make the first apple pie of the season…

September 24, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the CSA

So, we are done with our CSA for the season.  And I am sad.  The man of the house professes to not be quite so sad. The kids have not expressed a preference either way.  The time is ripe for a bit of stepping back and reflecting. 

The Good

1. We learned to love squash.  Or rather, the boys and I loved to love squash.  Summer squash in green salads, baked squash with fresh feta, grilled eggplant and zucchini, zucchini bread, baba ganoush …our repetoire has definitely expanded and the boys lick their lips when any and all of these food items are placed on the table.

2. We had fresh vegetables in the middle of the week.  Our CSA pick up was on Tuesday, which is the perfect pick-up day for us because our farmer’s market is on Saturday, and we always need veggies by mid-week.

3. Salsa kits were da bomb.

4. Refrigerator pickling is easy and a great way to prepare beets and salad turnips!

5. We had tomatoes even when our plants went belly up.

6. I loved our weekly newsletters with recipes!

The Bad

1. We couldn’t possibly eat all the Swiss chard grown this summer, although we did enjoy it in a couple of dishes.  A bit too bitter for us for weekly consumption.

2. It took us too many weeks to figure out what to with the bounty of squash we were blessed with.

3. Planning is important with a CSA, and my skills in that area are mixed (see #1 below).

The Ugly

1. Greens need to be cooked in the first two-three days.  After that, you don’t want to see them.

2. The Picky Eater continues to be vegetable challenged.  The CSA is not a magic bullet.

All told, I’m ready to do this adventure all over again in summer 2011….

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September 20, 2010

Frontier Culture Museum – Farming in the Valley of Virginia

Over summer vacation (which seems like a million years ago after two weeks of school), we took the kids to the Frontier Culture Museum.  Located in Staunton, Virginia, it is definitely worth a visit.  A living museum, it tells the story of immigrants to Colonial America from England, Ireland, Germany, and West Africa. Many of these families worked on farms or as craftsman, and the museum has recreated farms from the  countries’ homelands, and illustrated how these different farming and cultural heritages intertwined in America. 

The farms are worked throughout the year, and so we got to learn all about colonial farming techniques, how they differed by country of origin, and how they blended in the Valley of Virginia.  It’s really neat – and we all had a great time. Dad learned about different gardening techniques; the twins learned about making homemade cheese, grinding oats for porridge, that pigs are smelly and that chickens come in many different shapes and sizes; and the eldest was excited to learn about the tradition of primogeniture in 17th century England (from which our ancestors were escaping!)….

For your viewing pleasure, food and farming-related images are below.  P.S.  The West African farm wasn’t open yet when we were there, so no pictures from that venue.

We began on a 17th century English farm,

where we learned how to make cheese,

using a cheese press,

After a quick visit to the shared garden (between the English and the Irish, I believe) – note the raised beds for those of you interested in square foot gardening,

we meandered over to the Irish farm,

where there were pigs,

and chickens,

eggs from his harem,

and The Picky Eater learned how to grind her own oats (maybe for granola bars?!?).

Next up, the German farm,

where there are funny-looking chickens,

a fig tree,

and a garden with the necessary ingredients for sauerkraut,

Then we wandered over to the American side of the living museum, where we witnessed how these different heritages influenced farming, gardening, and eating in their new homeland – the Valley of Virginia.

The garden,

A teenager who doesn’t quite understand the work entailed in using a scythe on a farm,

For those of you looking for a fun place to take the family – this one should be on your list!

September 15, 2010

The Penultimate Week of Our CSA

We didn’t sign up for the Fall CSA share, and so this is our next-to-last week of produce pick-up.  I’m already getting unhappy just thinking about it.  How am I going to be challenged to prepare new vegetables?  What will replace the anticipation of not knowing exactly what is going to be in my bag each week? What am I going to do without a bunch of swiss chard in the fridge (well – I know my husband is looking forward to that change)? Well, my shopping will change at the farmer’s market – I’ll need to visit more stalls – and I will need to actively seek out new ingredients to add to our plates – really not a problem – it’s just a different way to shop!

So, what came in our penultimate bag?  A rainbow.

  • Green beans
  • Mustard greens
  • Leeks
  • Tomatos, red and yellow, big and small
  • Mini eggplants
  • Green peppers
  • Butternut squash

The green beans are gone already, sauteed with mushrooms in small bit of sesame oil, lemon juice, and water.

Tomatos were added to a tomato salad – and those that remain will be added to other salads and/or sauces this week.

Mustard greens will be sauteed for a side dish – probably tomorrow night.

Still thinking about the others…especially the butternut squash…an entirely new food item to prepare.  Time to consult some cookbooks and the resource-rich web.

Here’s hoping there’s a rainbow on your plate tonight!

September 14, 2010

Rice pudding

…is the easiest dessert ever.  And in our house we always have left over rice.  I’m trying to work on my goal of reducing food waste in our house, and while I think I’m making progress, sometimes I don’t think I’m doing such a great job.  But, while looking through what was in the fridge that needed consuming, I realized that I had quite a bit of rice that was on that list.  So, on my long and winding way to a zero waste household, here’s what I did:

1. Poured 3 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of raisins, 2 tablespoons vanilla, 2 tablespoons sugar into a pot on the stove. 

2. Turned the burner on to medium-high.

3. Added all the leftover rice from my fridge to the pot.

4. Stirred until all the clumps of rice relaxed.

5. Lowered the heat to a very low simmmer, and covered the pot.

6. Let it cook while we made dinner, stirring occasionally, adding cinnamon when the milk was nearly all absorbed.

Voila!  Dessert on a weeknight (and enough left over for one breakfast – mine, I’m hoping!).

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September 10, 2010

Fruits and Veggies Rule, Except If You’re American

Okay, well in our house they rule, but apparently that is untrue in most American households. If you haven’t read the NPR story, and the associated comments (especially fascinating if you like NPR on Facebook), and you care about eating healthy, feeding a family, and think that budget is a reason why folks don’t eat fruits and veggies…read it.

The goal, set 10 years ago, was to have Americans eat two fruits a day, and three vegetables a day. Apparently, most Americans can’t/don’t do that.  And Tennessee is the best in the country, where 1/3rd of adults meet that goal…and DC has declined significantly since these goals were set.

Here is my response on the FB comment list:

“so these comments made me so hungry for more veggies that I had to go and prepare a yellow squash, tomato, and cheese casserole for me, my husband, and my three teenagers. A variant on this particular dish was served to four teenagers who …devoured it and wanted more.
I post this comment as part of a two-working parent home, with three kids, and many child-aged friends, who offers fruits and/or vegetables at every meal. It can be expensive, and it does require time and energy to make sure that it happens, but the cost of adding fruits and veggies to the diet can be managed. But you need to care. It is hard to care if you are worried about the rent and work and all the many other things that people who are struggling are focused on. But teaching my children about how to eat healthy meals, and about what only eating junk food can do to your body and health, and making sure that I am alive to shepard them into and through adulthood is part of my responsibility as a parent. It’s hard, but we all need to work together to make it an attainable goal for EVERYONE.”
Okay – so maybe too preachy – but I do have a blog focused exactly on this issue!
Now it’s your turn:
September 6, 2010

Thrive! An Exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden

In May, one of my fellow bloggers, The Dirty Radish, mentioned that the U.S. Botanic Garden had a new exhibit about gardening.  Now that it’s September, and many of the tourists are gone, the Family Foodie decided to give the exhibit a visit.  Disclaimer here: we love the Botanic Garden, and typically visit it multiple times (especially when it is cold).  But this exhibit is great, because it’s all outside, and it provided us with plenty of inspiration about what we could do in our yard.  This post is mostly about pics.  If you live in the DC area, and haven’t yet been, I highly recommend it!

Featured gardens are:

Medicinal Garden – cinnamon and foxglove are two of the plants featured here, who have roles in medicine.

World Flavors – we learned what goes into za’tar – one of our most favorite spices.

Living Walls — these were extremely cool.  If you need to garden vertically, these walls are for you.

Cutting Garden – not much happening here on a September morning – some purple flowers designed for dried arrangements

Kitchen Garden – Lots of wonderful vegetables here, but I was particularly taken by the yellow-striped eggplant, and the various shades of purple plants planted here!

Beverage Garden

Townhouse Garden – there was a little blueberry plant in the townhouse gardens – the kids think we should grow some in our backyard…

If you’re in the DC area, give it a visit – beautiful to see, and good gardening ideas to boot.

September 3, 2010

Neophobia – really!?!

So, I read this wonderful blog earlier this evening, included on CheapHealthyGood’s Top Ten Links for the Week, from The Ethicurean, called Neophobia 101.  Really, it’s about picky eaters (who are apparently afraid of that which is new – if my Latin serves), and a mom and her 4-year-old.   I just laughed out loud and had to share it with my husband – given the challenges we confront on a daily basis – and our lovely daughter is close to 12.  See the post, for example, on what our daughter chose to make when sent to the kitchen to prepare her own dinner.  Although she has become better with age, she often chooses to eat only on the white to yellow color spectrum.  The only place where you can be guaranteed color in her diet is with fruit.  I know that some of this is a function of her more sensitive taste buds, but it is one of the most difficult parenting challenges we face.  And her brothers are nothing like her. But she’s healthy, and keeps on growing, so I try to remember the positive, and keep on presenting her with multiple options — and realizing that sometimes not telling her what’s in dinner is the best path (shh…we had spinach-feta pierogies tonight and she had everything she was originally served and then went back for seconds and thirds….).

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