Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Swiss Chard and the OTT girls

Many would have you believe that if you cook new foods with your kids, then your kids are more likely to try new foods. Tonight I tested that theory using some Swiss Chard I picked up from the local organic farmer's market.

Lilly was drawn to the red and yellow stems of the Swiss Chard and was thrilled to be in charge of pulling all the leaves off so that we could make a recipe for sweet and sour swiss chard from the cookbook Simply In Season.

I was hoping that since it had some raisins and sugar in the preparation that it would be a big hit. Hmm. I should have known better. Lord knows, proclaiming it to be "rainbow spinach" simply served to make Lilly suspicious. To her credit, she was willing to try the swiss chard after I plucked out a piece of the red stem from her plate to prove that this green clump was actually the pretty plant she had handled a few minutes before dinner.
She tasted it.
Then explained to me that Swiss Chard is "very, very YUCKY."
Claire communicated the same message in her own special way - she threw it on the floor.
The truth is hard. And very very messy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Baby steps toward a tasty life

Alice Waters came to my office last week. Well, not my individual office but to the CDC campus to give a talk on food and health. Alice Waters is the famed chef/owner of Chez Panisse and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project and huge figure in the movement to support local, organic and sustainable agriculture. Brian and I went to her restaurant many years ago as part of our San Francisco vacation. We both still remember that meal. It was beautiful, simple and soul nourishing.

Alice talked about food as spiritual nourishment and how America's obsession with speed has left our children at once malnourished and obese. She said so many wise things during her talk but this concept of the connection between eating good food and having a good life really struck a cord with me. Most of my best memories in life bloom around my grandmother's kitchen table and making slow foods like chicken and dumplings at her side.

When my grandmother was dying a couple of years ago she repeatedly told me how blessed she was and how GOOD her life had been. Her conviction about this gave me a lot to think about during her long journey toward death. She didn't graduate from high school (she finished 11th grade and then married my grandfather), nor did she have a prestigious job (she was a secretary for a life insurance agent).

She did have a basic kitchen and cooked with basic tools (no Cuisnart or Viking stove). Despite these factors, that our consumerist society would look upon mostly with disappointment, she was confident that she had been given the BEST life. She KNEW it.

Her life was Simple, Slow and Satisfying and SO much of it was about Food.

My mind wandered back and forth between Alice Water's talk and my grandmother's kitchen that day as I weighed the lessons that both women preached. Rushing around to catch the prizes of our world (a flashy home, a fancy job and expensive foods) leaves Brian and I pretty empty handed most of the time but when I take the time to cook good food our circumstances always seem a little bit brighter and our struggles with two small children, demanding careers and a lack of space seem a little less extreme when the meal is done.

So in homage to these two important figures in my journey for a tasty life I went to the morningside farmer's market and met some farmers, and bought their vegetables and carted it home to make some food that was spiritually nourishing.

Here are some pictures of the vegetables I bought and the girls checking them out. The recipes I used to cook the vegetables will be posted soon. :) Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Roasted Butternut Squash? I don't like Roasted Butternut Squash."

Well, it has been another long week of crazy CDC escapades but somewhere in the mix I decided I needed to roast a butternut squash. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it but I figured I would roast it first and figure out dinner next. It turned out to be a perfect little strategy and I discovered that Claire is pretty much willing to shove anything in her mouth and she may outpace Lilly for adventurous eater of the year. Perhaps in a related twist of fate she has all of a sudden sprouted a huge Santa Clause belly just in time for the Holiday season. But I digress (as usual).

So I roasted up this hefty squash and then rummaged the freezer looking for some of the goodies I had picked up that morning from an adventure to Trader Joe's. On that adventure Lilly, Claire and I purchased a frozen bag of gnocchi with gorgonzola. The super exciting thing is that the ingredients list was all real food and contained no bizarro chemicals. EXCELLENT.

But get this - dinner was whipped (or should I say sauteed) in a flash. I coaxed the gnocchi out of it frozen state with a skillet and olive oil and then tossed in the roasted butternut squash and SHAZAM! A speedy dinner that was organic, clean and TASTY.

You will see from the pics that Claire had chipmunk cheeks full of squash and Lilly saw her plate and said "Roasted butternut squash? I don't LIKE roasted butternut squash!!"

(Of course I forced her to take one bite and before she was allowed to gourge herself on slice after slice of sourdough bread and butter).

After tasting said one bite she said, "Hmm. Not bad, huh?"

And now she LIKES butternut squash.
Hooray for mommy!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mommy, can we make a star pie?

Lilly and I have been cooking like crazy this weekend. It began on Thursday night, when Brian was driving back from back and forth across the state of Alabama for work (Atlanta to Birmingham to Tuscaloosa to Huntsville back to Birmingham and returning home to Atlanta all in the same day). I was checking out various mommy blogs aimed at cooking with kiddos and saw a pie decorated with stars. Right about that moment Lilly's ability to leave me in peace for no more than 3 minutes kicked in and she was pearing over my shoulder to see if what I was doing was of more interest than what she was doing. She saw the pie. "Can we make a star pie?," she said. Um. Sure.

Her and I both know I am a sucker for a "let's cook together" type of request. Despite it being 8pm on a school night, we made a pie using outdated pie crust I found crammed in the back of the fridge and a can of Oregon cherries I had in the pantry. Of course I couldn't just dump the can of cherries into the pie crust and be done with it, I had to make a real pie filling with corn starch and sugar and then we had to find a tiny cookie cutter shaped like a star to do the pie crust top. As you can see from the picture, the pie looked pretty tasty and Lilly was pleased as - well, pie. :)

We cooked the rest of the weekend together: bannana muffins on Saturday and home-made granola on Sunday. (More later on why I should leave granola to the professionals at Bare Naked).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sharing a room

Who ever is out there pimping the idea that kids sharing a room is a fabulous thing needs to be forced to live in my house (note very little house) for a week.

Kids sharing a room blows. It sucks for them and it sucks for me. The only thing getting me through right now is the delusion that the children are bonding because they are forced to share sleeping space. But that seems as believable as the science claiming breast-feeding doesn't give you saggy breasts. Um. Yeah. I just happened to teleport back from a weekend in Uganda doing a National Geographic photo shoot and accidentally came back with floppy boobs and a habit of leaving my left breast out for a snacking one year old.

But I digress.

So my 1 year old (Claire) goes to bed at 7pm and everything runs perfectly until the 3.5 year old (Lilly) is ready to go to bed at 8:30pm. For two weeks running, Lilly marches into her room, lies in wait until my husband and I have just calmed ourselves from the cacophany of the day and BOOM she walks over to her sleeping sister's crib and yanks out her pacifier, or pulls off her slippers or does God only knows what else that results in her sweet slumbering sister to start screaming her head off.

Now before you inhale to gather the air to make the words that informs my husband and I that we just have to get Lilly to stop waking up Claire let me just say to you - No shit sherlock!

We know this and it isn't going so well. We have attempted a variety of strategies and we have wittled our options down to beating the kid or making her sleep on the deck. She is not deterred by time-out, my harsh whispers within an inch of her nose, the loss of television priviledges and dearly loved items.

Simply put she doesn't give a damn what we do because she LIKES to harass her sister and she likes to create a commotion and she especially likes to make it impossible for her to fall asleep.

I am humiliated to admit that the clever little clam is having her way with us but it is the noisy, smirky truth.

I am at a loss.

Well not exactly - I am advocating that we hang her out the window by her toes and force her to hear us sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a song she detests) but my husband is plainly ignoring me as he disagrees that this is ethical or will work.

His answer is yanking her out of their bedroom and putting her in bed with us.

Lord have mercy.