Monday, April 28, 2008

My yummy lunch

My lunch today was soooo good I just had to share a photo with you. I made french toast out of leftover multigrain french bread that I sliced and left out over night to get good and stale. I had plenty of *real* maple syrup (not HFCS with brown color added). I also had leftover egg/milk mixture to soak the bread in and a bunch of strawberries that I really wanted to eat. I think because strawberries are in season now (at least in California), they have gotten cheaper in the past few weeks. I bought a four pound box from Costco for around five bucks. Since we bought the enormous box of strawberries, we've had strawberry shortcake, strawberry french toast, strawberry frappuccinos, and strawberry ice cream with strawberries on top. Yum!

As requested by my loyal reader Laura, I've also posted an "after" photo of Callie. Remember, she cut her bangs off a week or two ago so I had to take her in to see her stylist who "finished" Callie's cut. Her haircut reminds me a little bit of a monk, but as it grows out I'm sure it will improve. It takes all of my self control not to have the stylist cut the rest of it off, too. I do love how Callie looks with a pixie cut, but I'd like to let it grow a bit and see what happens. She is, after all, three years old and will be three and a half when she starts preschool next year. I can't force her, by giving her a baby haircut, to remain a baby forever.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Super double messy

Tonight Scott and I put the girls to bed early and sat down to a lovely dinner of spinach lasagna and fresh, local (!) asparagus. As I was grabbing some dessert for us, Scott decided to have one more small serving of lasagna. Apparently he thought his serving would be so small that it didn't merit the extra chore of carrying his plate with him from the table to the counter to collect his second serving. Instead, he attempted to balance the piece of lasagna on the spatula and ferry it across the kitchen to his plate. Unpredictably (at least, to him), the lasagna was a bit slippery on the bottom and began to slide off of the spatula. He attempted to rescue it with his fingers.

Here's a little known fact about my husband: he has extremely sensitive skin, especially on his hands (which is, he claims, what made him a good wide receiver). Water that seems lukewarm to me scalds him. Although the lasagna had been out of the oven for at least half an hour, the second his fingers sprang to its rescue he started shouting out in pain and the lasagna fell to its death on our floor, somehow also splattering itself on our wall. This, though, is one of the joys of having a dog as part of our family. I called Libbie over and within a few short minutes, the floor was nearly spotless. Here she is cleaning up after my super double sensitive husband. A note on "super double" -- it is the girls' new favorite adverb (adverbs modify adjectives as well as verbs, so I think "super double" is an adverb even though it doesn't end in -ly like we usually expect -- leave a comment if you're a grammar sleuth), and I like to interject it wherever I have an opportunity. Callie's most creative use of "super double" recently? "My new haircut is super double cool."

Check out the lasagna splattered on my formerly clean wall. Nasty, isn't it? Dropping it on the floor made Scott (predictably) pretty angry. As I joked with him about it while he was trying to eat his second, second piece, he got even more angry and called my iPod boyfriend, Michael Bublé, a really nasty word that I will refrain from repeating. Ouch. After that, Libbie and I cleaned up the rest of the lasagna in silence (although I had to work hard not to laugh out loud at my overreacting husband).

Once the wall was clean, I made myself scarce so that he could concentrate on watching four Bengals news conferences. They did, after all, draft some new players today. What could be more exciting in the life of a Bengal fan than, once again, having a chance to look forward to a new season of football? Next season always seems like it will be better than the one that just ended. That's what happens when you're a fan of a team that is perennially disappointing. Sorry I have to end on that's my recompense for Scott super double slandering my iPod boyfriend.

An environmental argument for local food

Putting pollution on grocery bills.

The article linked above was in the IHT this morning. It's pretty European-centered and doesn't talk specifically about the local food movement, but it is clear from the article how eating in-season, locally grown food can benefit the environment.

For more on eating locally and in-season, go here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The world is (not) your ashtray.

Here's something that really gets my blood boiling. I get really mad (and aggressive) when I am driving behind someone who tosses a finished cigarette out the window of their car. It happened twice today. The first person was someone I wouldn't have suspected: a mom driving a minivan with kids in it. WHAT? I thought people (especially moms) knew better than to smoke with kids in their car, even if they don't know better than to litter. I blasted her with my really lame horn the second I saw the butt fly out the window. Unfortunately, my horn is so lame that she probably didn't even hear it, especially not if the kids in her car are as loud as the kids in mine. It might be time to get a Dixie horn just to whale on cigarette-butt-throwers.

The second litterbug was less of a surprise. An old (like, mid-eighties) Honda civic, speeding and tailgating people, with California plates. Anytime a Coloradan sees a car with California plates, it produces feelings of anxiety. Then to see that the person is a crummy, disrespectful driver AND a litterbug...well, that only justifies those feelings. Not to say that I have lived here long enough to qualify as a Coloradan or that I wasn't born and raised in California. I've only been here for four years, about a fifth of the time that I considered myself a Californian. But, I feel like a Coloradan, for whatever that's worth. And I feel qualified to critique rude drivers, especially if they're not "one of us." And, even more so when they're litterbugs who might start a grass fire.

So, what's the solution? How about this? USE YOUR ASHTRAY! And then throw the nasty butts in your garbage can when you get home. Rocket science.

Great tomato soup.

Scott had to (or is it got to?) go out to dinner tonight with some people from work, so I got to make whatever I wanted for dinner. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is what I settled on. When I feel like tomato soup, I usually just grab a can of it at the grocery store. We didn't have any around so I decided to make it from scratch. The only recipe I have for tomato soup is pretty labor intensive, although it tastes amazing. I thought I should be able to find a simple recipe. I mean, really, it's tomatoes and cream, right? How hard could it be?

The recipe below took only 25 minutes to make from start to finish and tasted great! I used a 28-oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes. Next time I would use half and half or cream instead of milk, but I didn't have anything creamier than 1% milk on hand tonight. Brynn ate every drop. Callie dipped her sandwich in it but didn't want any more once her sandwich was gone. I thought it was a great quick tomato soup.

Cream of Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons flour
2 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, juices reserved
2 cups reduced-sodium canned chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup light cream or milk
Salt and pepper

In a large nonreactive saucepan (I had to use a stockpot because my biggest saucepan wasn't big enough -- figured that out halfway through cooking), melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes without allowing to color. Add tomatoes with their juices, broth, tomato paste, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer stirring frequently, 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf. (Or hide it in your husband's bowl...just to irk him. That's what I usually do.)

In a food processor or blender, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return to pan and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes, and serve.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My first trip to the supermarket.

I stopped into Safeway today for what I believe was my first visit there since December. Remember, our buying habits have changed dramatically since then. The purpose of my trip today was simple: a bag of lettuce, a loaf of french bread (a big treat for us since it's made with refined white flour), and money to pay the babysitter. When I walked in, though, the Special K caught my eye. It was on sale for $3/box and I immediately (and fondly) remembered eating almost a whole box while I was sick in Mexico. It sounded good, so I picked it up and looked at the ingredients. It's much easier to read ingredients (especially chemical derivatives) in English than in Spanish. I looked at the Special K with strawberries first. Sugar was ingredient number two and HFCS (that's high fructose corn syrup to those who haven't been studying food politics) was high on the list, too. So, I looked at the regular Special K. It also had sugar and HFCS high on the list. Don't the commercials say that Special K is supposed to be GOOD for you? Aren't you supposed to lose weight if you eat it for every other meal? At what cost, I guess is the question. Who wants to trade weight loss for cancer or some other disease of Western Civilization? I put the boxes down, disappointed. I guess I really can't eat any industrialized food. I mean, if Special K is bad, what's not? Grape Nuts? I haven't looked at that label, yet.

As I collected the items on my list, I noticed the bright colors and cartoon characters that seemed to be jumping out at me from the end of every aisle. I was...overwhelmed. It's not like I live in the forest and rarely venture out. I mean, I do shop. Sometimes even at Target where there's plenty of HFCS and cartoon characters to be found. I shop at Costco every few weeks, and I just don't feel as overwhelmed there. Costco doesn't have so much crap (nutritionally speaking) on the ends of their aisles. Sure, they have jumbo bags of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips ("NO, Hillary. Don't buy them!" I tell myself. Control your environment!) and two pound bags of Starbucks coffee beans and six packs of all-natural spaghetti sauce on the aisle ends. These things, though, don't come packaged in a way that is meant to attract the eyes of the preschoolers and elementary school kids shopping with mom.

I am sure it's the colors and characters posted at the end of every Safeway aisle that get me. I don't venture into the aisles of many stores (I shop the perimeter, even at Whole Foods), so I should be able to avoid the marketing. Today I didn't even have my kids with me, but I felt accosted by the packaging. I was ready to tell my invisible kids, "No, you can't have that. It has HFCS in it. No, you can't have that either. It comes from unhappy cows. No, that has too much sugar in it. That's made almost totally of genetically modified corn and soybeans. Forget it." Being in that environment, as silly as it sounds, stresses me out. It made me feel like I might hyperventilate. Give me my little natural food co-op or the Whole Foods produce, bulk, and dairy aisles any day. That's really all I need. At least when I'm there, once in a while I can say "yes" to my kids.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My new blog.

I'm starting another blog. It will be number three for me (this one, the new one, and my class blog that I don't update unless I absolutely have to). The new one will follow me through the garden this summer, as I put a full effort into growing as much as I can in the small area available in our little fenced side yard. This will be the first summer I've actually amended the soil properly, had enough irrigation, and planned what seeds to buy ahead of time. Of course, being the person I am, there will also be plenty of flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I do have a few packs of seeds that I have no place to plant (squash and melon take up more room than I have, but I bought the seeds anyway). More on that in the new blog later. Come follow along!
Rocky Mountain Veggies

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Am I an elitist?

Apparently, some people believe that those who want Americans to pay a little more for higher quality food (thus lowering our health care costs and the cost of environmental damages caused by conventional agriculture) are elitists. Well, if that's what it means to be an elitist, sign me up. I'm sure I can be elite with the best of them. Funny, because I always associate the term "elite" with women who get regular manicures, pedicures, and massages, who spend hundreds of dollars a month getting their hair dyed and styled, who drive a Mercedes S class, and who have an au pair and housekeeper in their house every day. It didn't occur to me that someone who sports either boots with cow poop stains or worn out flip flops nearly every day of the year could be an elitist. How about a mom who wears a baseball cap every third day, and buys her kids' clothes on ebay? Could I really fall into the category of the elite?

This article in the New York Times says that, because of my beliefs about food, some people think I do. So be it. But, here's my question, if I'm the definition of an elitist, what does that make the cover-girl moms who drive a Mercedes S class and have au pairs and housekeepers?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Monster Cookies, part II.

One of the most common keywords that leads to hits on our blog is "Whole Foods monster cookies." Having noticed it coming up on our analytics several times over the past two months or so, I thought I'd better refine my Monster Cookie recipe to try to get it as close as possible to the real thing, lest I disappoint potential readers. So, today while in the middle of my second trip to Whole Foods (sad, but true and not uncommon for me to be there twice in one day), I stopped in front of the bakery display and wrote down the ingredients of the Monster Cookies. Oddly enough, there is actually no flour in them which was a pretty big part of the last version I made. So, I experimented with the recipe today and I think I actually got pretty darn close. I added a bit of salt (there was none in the WF ingredients list) and tried to figure out the ratios of all the ingredients. I just baked two and a half dozen and they're pretty darn yummy. Here's the recipe I used:

1/2 C unsalted butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
3/4 C peanut butter (the real stuff, not with added oil or sugar)
3 1/2 C old fashioned oats
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 C chocolate chips (I prefer dark)
1/3 C walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Mix in peanut butter. Add oats, salt, and baking powder, 1/2 cup at a time. Incorporate chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop large spoonfuls onto baking sheet (I used a silicone liner...not sure if a bare baking sheet would need to be greased first). Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I did the first sheet in my small oven, but the bottoms of the cookies got a little crispy, so I did the second and third in the big oven on convection and they cooked perfectly. I also added dried cranberries to the third sheet and they came out fine. Probably 2/3 of a cup or so added to the whole recipe would be enough.

I just realized that the Whole Foods ingredients list has baking soda, not baking powder. Apparently I screwed that up but they came out right none the less. I'll have to check that ingredient next time I'm at WF and see whether I wrote it down wrong or if it's really suppose to be baking soda. I always thought that baking was an impossible science, but it must not be as difficult as I previously thought...