Sunday, January 27, 2008

My goal is to update this blog at least once a week -- but between work, the novel, following the girls around while they sell Girl Scout cookies (what a brutally cold week it was to be trudging door-to-door), and then a little trip over the weekend to visit out-of-town friends, this week got away from me. But I have been taking pictures (mostly of food), which I intend to get off the camera and processed tomorrow. And hey! My last post was last Sunday, so really, I'm not that far off...

A quick double recommendation before I head to bed: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan. Pollan has a nice writing style; he clearly has an agenda -- most of what our culture eats is not good for us or the environment -- but he doesn't come across as preachy or holier-than-thou. Rather, both books read as a real journey as he explores and learns about the history of Western food production and its current status, the growing organic and alternate-food movement, "nutritionism," and how and what to eat ("Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.").

I'm really into cooking and baking from scratch, vegetable gardening, and using high quality, organic ingredients, but -- and I'm sorry, this probably sounds pretentious but I'm tired and can't think of a better way to put it -- reading these books has even me taking a closer look at what we eat and where it comes from.

Anyway, they're good, thought-provoking reads. If you're into this sort of thing, they'll be right up your alley. If you're not, well, at the very least I think they'll have you looking at what you're eating a bit differently. Check 'em out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Breakfast, and other things

This is one of my favorite breakfasts: an egg over hard, a slice of toast, and cheese. Yum.

One organic brown egg, courtesy of a cage-free hen.

Homemade bread, hormone-free cheese, and the aforementioned egg.
Much better than a McMuffin.

# # #

John in Tennessee would like to know where I live and what books I'm currently reading. Well, I live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, and it's currently wicked cold: -14°F the last time I checked. The cold is partially why I'm doing all these food pictures (it's a lot easier on the fingers and toes to stay inside and take pictures of food than go tromping around outside); the other reason is that at the moment everything's covered in snow and frozen and there's just not much outside that's interesting.

Currently, I'm reading Ahab's Wife by Sena Naslund and a biography of Elizabeth I, and rereading G.R.R. Martin's series, A Song of Ice and Fire.

C.R. in California wonders if I'm illustrating a cookbook, what with all these food shots I'm posting. Great idea! And if I ever had the opportunity to do something like that, I'd be thrilled. But no, as I said above, it's just weather related. =)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Girl Scout cookie sales starts today...

Image taken without permission from

...and E. and M. are Girl Scouts, Brownies level! Our Brownies troop will be selling cookies through February 3rd. Cookies are $3.50 per box, and there are eight varieties to choose from. If you'd like to support the Girl Scouts by buying some cookies, leave a comment below or shoot me an email. (And as M. says, if you don't want to buy cookies for yourself, you can always get them to give as gifts.)

Tagalongs. Lemon cremes. Thin mints. Mmm.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dinner, and lunch for third graders

Here's the follow-up to yesterday's post.
Oh, it was good.

Beef stew

And fresh-baked bread.
With butter.
(We'll have none of that margarine nonsense here.)

# # #

Switching gears (or meals) now...I have to post about the girls' lunches today, because for a long time my girls have tried to be picky eaters and what we packed for lunch this morning delighted me to no end. Now, I say "have tried to be picky eaters" because I'm a mean mother and do not pander to my children's dietary whims. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a believer in the clean plate club. Forcing someone to eat all of something she doesn't like -- or forcing someone to continue eating after she's full -- is messed up and a recipe (har har, pardon the pun) for future eating issues. But I won't cook a separate meal for them, I won't let them make and eat PB&J instead of what Pete and I are eating, and I insist that they at least try the "ewww" item(s) -- and really try, as in, three good-sized bites. I also make the "ewww" item(s) again -- and again, and again, and again, because tastes do change over time. I've also read that it can sometimes take at least 10 tries for a food to "take" with children. I have no idea whether that's true or not, but the girls are happily eating things now that they turned their little noses up at not so long ago. Take our dinner last night. For several years, the girls hated that beef stew. Now, they love it. In fact, when they walked in the door after school yesterday, they both exclaimed in unison, "Ooooh, something smells really good!"

It's the same thing with their lunches. Every since kindergarten, we've been packing lunches. (We don't do the school lunch the school serves, except as an occasional treat, as it's not very healthy stuff.) For a long time, there wasn't a lot of variety: organic PB&J on a homemade whole grain bread, carrots, some kind of fruit, milk. Deviations from that resulted in essentially untouched lunches and two hungry kids. But slowly, bit by bit, the lunches have been evolving...and now they're eating -- and liking! -- things that they wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole a few years ago.

Today, they're having:

- nuts (E. had cashews, M. had almonds) with dried blueberries and cranberries
- baby spinach with their favorite dressing (a cranberry, walnut, and gorgonzola combo)
- carrots
- and milk (not pictured).

Isn't that pretty little lunch!

We're not out of the woods yet, of course. They still turn up their noses at an awful lot of things, and anything new is regarded with deep suspicion. But it's lots better than it used to be, and that makes me happy.

And maybe someday we'll be able to go to the Indian -- or Mexican, or Thai -- restaurant without complaint and groans of, "This stinks." I can hope, anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hey, good-looking, wha'chya got cooking?

I've got the day off today and had a hankering for beef stew. Guess what we're having for dinner tonight?

Potatoes and onions and carrots, oh my.
And some celery too.

Mince some carrot, onion, celery, and garlic (that last one's my personal addition to this recipe; love garlic, love it!) and sauté in olive oil.

Vegetarians and vegans, avert your eyes:
Here there be meat.

This is not a product endorsement, it's an organic endorsement. Because really, if you can afford to, why not?

Add thyme, sea salt, pepper, and one bay leaf.

Why yes, we do compost.

I've also got artisan bread baking (I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day as a Christmas present to myself, and I can't say enough good things about it). The house smells wonderful.

I'll put up the post-cooking and baking/ready for eating pictures in another entry.

And hello to John!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned; it has been 51 days since my last post

I like sushi. A lot. Raw fish, rice, a little wasabi, a bit of soy sauce...yum. Well, I may never eat sushi again, for alas, my little raw fish habit almost did me in in December. That's right, I et bad sushi. Food poisoning, such fun! Had some complications, recovery was long and arduous, and then, just as things were starting to get better, I was attacked by an evil virus and ended up with gastroenteritis. Ouch. Things were so bad that Pete ended up cooking the big Christmas Day dinner (and he did such a fabulous, wonderful job that, in the spirit of no good deed goes unpunished, I hereby declare that from now on he can cook all the holiday and family-get-together meals) while I lay around moaning and of no use to anyone.

If you're looking to drop a quick 20 - 30 pounds, I highly recommend food poisoning followed by a virus. It's one hell of a weight loss program, let me tell you. And if you time it just right, well! For the first time in years, I did not gain weight over the holidays, no no. Instead, I'm down 2 sizes, maybe 3. Merry Christmas to me! Ho ho ho! I wonder if I could somehow market this...

I am still not quite 100% yet -- all joking aside, this has really been quite awful, and my poor spouse gets tons of kudos for taking care of me and the kids and everything else -- but I am TONS better now and beginning to take an interest again in things like my really messy house with its mountains of laundry (eek), the dust-covered camera, and the poor, temporarily abandoned novel. (I've discovered that it's hard to concentrate on made-up people and their problems when you're puking your guts out and wishing for death.)

We did not get Christmas cards out this year. Thank you, everyone who sent us cards, and please don't take us off your lists; I promise that we'll reciprocate next year!

And now, laundry calls -- as does the neglected novel and camera. I don't do New Year's resolutions, but I will try to be better about updating this blog a little more regularly. I've got some gardening ideas percolating...I'm going to try my hand at winter sowing my seeds this year...Pete and I will be going for a bike ride in May, so I should probably start doing some biking once I can walk more than a mile or two without feeling like I'm going to pass out...I was going to run a Frigid 5K this Sunday the 13th, but that's obviously not going to happen, so I'll start looking for road races in February instead and work on getting myself back to where I was before all this nastiness hit...And I want to start talking about some other things, like frugal living, cooking and baking from scratch (I bought Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day before I got sick, and while I haven't played around with the recipes as much as I'd have liked, what I have made has been quite good and very easy), books, politics and this year's election (although maybe I shouldn't go there)...

It's really nice to be feeling more like myself again. :-)