Posts Tagged ‘food’


So, Mary is sick and Wesley was exhausted, so the kids went to bed at 6:30. After I put them to bed, I came downstairs and started making dinner for the adults (braised leeks from Smitten Kitchen).

I was busily braising my leeks–which smell more or less like heaven must smell–and I heard Wesley coming down the stairs. He trotted into the kitchen, fixed me with an accusatory look, and said, “Are you COOKING while I’m in bed?”

I said, “Yes, I am. Are you hungry?”

He said, “No, but I still might WANT some of that.” ┬áHe stood up on tiptoe to try to see what it was, and then said, “You’re not supposed to cook unless I am here to eat it.” And then he turned around and stalked back upstairs to his bed.


fruits and vegetables

Conor and I were reading that kids Wesley’s age should eat at least 4 half-cup servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Mary should eat six servings. I should eat eight. EIGHT!

Anyway, I’ve always thought that we were fairly healthful eaters most of the time. In particular, I try not to feed my kids junk. But I made a chart for each kid (and one for me) and we’re keeping track of the fruits and vegetables.

After about four days of this, I have reached a conclusion: that is a fuck of a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Seriously, it’s crazy. I had no idea how short we were falling. Partly because Wesley is a carbohydrate fiend, and I always focused on getting him to eat SOMETHING else (protein or whatever), I didn’t realize how few fruits and vegetables he was eating. And I hadn’t realized that I was getting so few, either, especially on teaching days when I’m not at home for a leisurely breakfast and lunch. ┬áMary eats a fair number of vegetables and fruits, but she just doesn’t EAT that much. If she gets six servings of fruits and vegetables, that’s a huge percentage of what she eats in a day…which, I suppose, is the idea.

They’ve accepted the challenge, though, and they’re doing very well with it. Wesley is a bit limited on what vegetables he likes, but he’s tried a few new things and I think he’s going to branch out if we stick with it. Mary likes coloring in her chart with the colors of the foods she’s eaten.

But still. That’s a LOT of fruits and vegetables.

chicken and dumplings

I made chicken and dumplings for dinner tonight. You know, from scratch, all very delicious.

Mary, however, initially wasn’t impressed.

Mary: [poking a dumpling] What IS it?

Me: It’s a dumpling!

Mary: No, it isn’t.

Me: It is. Seriously.

Mary: Dumplings have things in the middle!

Me: Not always.

Mary: They do! They have–like–meat. And green onions. And there’s a sauce to dip them in and they’re all noodly outside.

Me: That’s one kind of dumpling. This is another kind.

Mary: [tasting it] Well, I don’t get it. This is just…the outside part. Lots and lots of the outside part.

Me: Well, you tasted it; you don’t have to eat anymore now.

Mary: Actually, can I have a lot of them? [holds out plate]

tomato heaven

So, between our garden tomatoes and the fantastic deal on canning tomatoes at the local farm market, we had a lot of them to can. I decided to make one batch of spaghetti sauce, because I made some a couple of summers ago and it was fantastic. It’s a ton of work for a small amount of product, but I think it’s worth it. Mary agreed to help.

We got our tomatoes ready for peeling and coring, then Mary helped me by handing them to me so that I could drop them in the boiling water and then into the ice water. She was fascinated.

We got everything into the pot…then we waited. For a long time. Our house got very steamy. And the stove got very dirty from spattered tomato sauce.

Mary volunteered to taste it for me.



Here’s the recipe I used, in case you’re curious–it’s a combination of a bunch of different recipes. It’s very meat-heavy, though. If you like it more tomatoey, I’d cut the meat in half.

Spaghetti Sauce

1/4 cup chopped bacon.

4-5 onions, chopped.

2 pounds ground beef.

5 cloves garlic.

8 pounds peeled, cored, chopped Roma tomatoes. (This is the weight after they’re prepared; it was about 12-13 pounds to buy. I’d probably aim for 9-10 pounds if I were using regular tomatoes, because they’re more juice and less flesh.)

1/2 bottle of wine (I used red).

Leaves from three stems of basil.

Cook the bacon and onions until the onions start to soften. Add the beef and garlic and cook until browned. Drain off any grease. Add the tomatoes, wine, and basil. Cook until sauce reduces to about 1/3 its original volume (usually a couple of hours). This freezes well.

strawberry picking!

On Saturday, we took the kids to a local farm to pick strawberries.

Conor showed Mary how to find ones that were red all the way to the end.

She was delighted to find them.

I think Wesley was irritated when I asked him to stop and let me take a photo.

…because then he wandered off.

She found one!


Taking a rest after we finished up:

Showing off their beautiful berries:

The farm also had a sand pile with lots of toys!

When we got home, I made a rhubarb-strawberry custard pie–the kids approved.

And then a batch of jam–six half-pints plus a bit left over is just about enough to get us through the winter (or perhaps I should say, to get Mary through occasional PB&J phases for her school lunches):

favorite cookbooks

Apropos of nothing, I thought you might enjoy a list of my favorite cookbooks. An online friend asked for suggestions and I started thinking about it–I realized that some of these cookbooks are incredibly useful texts that I reach for every week. I figured it would make a good post for my PCOS blog, but then I thought, well, who isn’t interested in cookbooks? So here you are. Any one of these would make a great bridal shower gift or gift for a person getting their first home of their own.

My absolute favorites:

Julia Child, The Way to Cook. This is an incredible cookbook, with reliable, understandable recipes for all kinds of things. Even though Mastering the Art of French Cooking is more famous–and perhaps for good reason; I love it too–this is the one I use more often. It is also the one that Child herself considered her magnum opus. If you do not know how to cook, and you read this book from cover to cover, you will know how.

The Moosewood Collective, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I like many of the Moosewood cookbooks, but this one I have used most. The salads are great, and the Risotto with Green Beans and Pesto is amazing. It was the first risotto I ever made and the techniques are described clearly and simply.

Mark Bittman, Food Matters. I could really list his collected works, because I also really like How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and The Best Recipes in the World, but this is the one I use weekly. It has fewer recipes; the bulk of the book is about how to eat in a way that is ecologically sound and good for you. But it’s worth the price just to get the instructions for cooking whole grains and the frittata recipe (which uses only two eggs and a slew of vegetables, and which has become my breakfast staple.)

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This was a gift from my sister (thanks, Lissa!) and has gotten constant use since I got it. This is partly because Wesley absorbs bread effortlessly, which makes it all the more important that we eat healthful bread. This is whole-grain and, since I’ve made it myself, I know it’s not loaded with any sugar or anything weird. It’s also incredibly cheap to make and takes little time. I can’t even tell you how easy this is. And you will love the results–really, some of the things I’ve made from this book are so good, I can hardly believe they came out of my kitchen, with my crummy oven with no temperature control.

Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. This is a more traditional bread book, which means that the recipes require more work (kneading, whatnot), but it has a wide array of things, including a yummy muffin recipe, good banana bread (or so I’m told–I personally do not eat bananas), very good hamburger buns, etc. If you have a mixer that will knead for you, it’s not too onerous to make the regular yeast breads here, and there are excellent instructions for how to read the dough so that you get good results.

Decadent Treats and Outrageously Unhealthy Party Foods:
Alice Medrich, Bittersweet. This is an entire book about chocolate. It contains stories, personal reflections, and information about chocolate, as well as recipes. I recommend the truffles. But I recommend them for GIVING AWAY, because they are incredible and addictive.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t been reading her blog all along, I would never have read this cookbook, because it’s so popular that I wouldn’t have thought I could like it. But I do. And it has all kinds of indulgent, wonderful recipes for special occasions. The cinnamon rolls, by the way, are fabulous gifts for Christmas.

Finally, it would be remiss to suggest that most of my cooking comes from these books, since I get so many of my recipes from the internet. So, my favorite cooking sites:

Smitten Kitchen. The 44-Clove Garlic Soup alone is reason enough for this blog’s existence–but I have never had a failure with her recipes, and I’ve made a bunch.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by Ree Drummond. Many of the recipes here are a little….excessive, shall we say?, but I love to read it and I have gotten some wonderful recipes. My very favorite actually is pretty healthful, which is unusual for Ree’s food: the Asian Noodle Salad, which I’ve made for a number of parties. It’s “licious,” as Wesley would say. Some of the recipes from the site appear in the cookbook, but of course the site has more. (There are also a few in the book that aren’t on the web site–savvy marketing and all that.)

Steamy Kitchen, by Jaden Hair. I like her Chinese recipes best and plan to cook a lot more of them someday when I replace my stove and can actually heat up a wok.

dinner is served

I just made black bean soup–with tomatoes and jalapenos I canned myself, plus black beans I cooked in the crock pot (I’m still not over learning to cook dry beans). I feel so domestic and accomplished.

I’m not going to be learning to make sausage, though.