Tuesday, April 24, 2012

HTCE : Bolognese


My boys love pasta and I am often on a search for great pasta recipes. I wanted to sneak in some meat and veggies and decided to try the Bolognese recipe from How to Cook Everything. It was a recipe that calls for a little planning and an open afternoon. A rainy afternoon was the perfect block of time to watch the sauce and let it simmer on the stove while the boys played with legos and watched some vintage Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The recipe was straight forward. I was worried that the texture would be enough to alert the boys that something was different but it wasn't. I served three little boys three big bowls of pasta bolognese and they ate up every single last bite. They needed an extra long bath to clean their saucy faces and hands and our dinner napkins had to soak in hot water to ensure the stains would come out.

The next time I prepare this sauce, which may be monthly if not weekly, I think that I am going to double it and keep a batch in the freezer to save us on those nights that little league runs late.

I followed the recipe as written. Find the recipe at How To Cook Everything  by Mark Bittman.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD | Baking with Julia : Lemon Loaf Cake


 I missed out on baking with the TWD group for the last two months. Life got a bit busy and well things just happen.

Today,  I looked on the calendar, I realized I could fire up the oven and squeeze in a recipe and blog post. I must start with the fact that lemons are my least favorite dessert flavor. I avoid lemon meringue, key lime pies, lemon sorbet and even lemon flavored life savers. Seriously, me and lemon no-go but my husband LOVES lemons in anything. So when I saw that today's recipe was the Lemon Loaf Cake, I thought that my sweet Mr. Erick would enjoy coming home to a freshly baked treat. I even made a quick run to the store for some Meyer Lemons.

The recipe was a breeze to make. It came together quickly and called for such simple ingredients that I was beginning to feel a bit more open minded about my whole lemon issue. Look at it, picture perfect and very inviting. The first taste was...not so bad. The lemon taste was just enough and the texture was amazing but I am partial to pound cakes so all in all, I liked it. My husband thought it needed a stronger lemon flavor.

Will I make it again, YES! I do think that I will make a quick loaf when we have overnight guests or family breakfast at my sons' school.

I followed the recipe as written. In the mood for some sunny and cheery Lemon Loaf Cake? Find the recipe at Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Truc at Treats or Michelle at Ladystiles, the TWD hosts.

umm...well...things got busy.

i just came to accept that i have not kept up with my tuesdays with dorie group. gulp. things got busy and before i knew it, i found i was too tired and not to inclined in consuming extra calories from the baking with julia cookbook. but i am back and now i have a ton of catching up to do. so come back around in the next week or so to see just how much work i procrastinated myself into.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Food Code.

It started five months ago with the discovery of Dinner A Love Story and has culminated in rethinking how our family ate and how we didn't. I took inventory of the pantry (more on that later) and decided to get serious about making some changes. Our pantry was in decent shape but it could still use some tweaking. I went back and forth between fad and extreme diets and knew that if this was going to be a successful and meaningful change that wasn't the route. I chose the route of quality, moderation and reality.

Quality. Make sure that we eat the best quality food either organic or local and most things from scratch. The boys adapted easily to this. Out went the Quaker Oats granola bars they loved and in came the home made granola bars using whole, organic ingredients. As the main grocery shopper and the head chef, I have complete control over the quality of food in our home.  I monitor the grocery list a bit more closely and pay just a bit more for organic apples and strawberries. Has our grocery bill increased? Yes, probably by about $25-45 depending on the weekly menu but I would say about 90% of what we have in the refrigerator and pantry is organic or local. We joined a CSA to provide our family with organic and local produce, meat and eggs. Our first delivery will be in 6 weeks and am excited about trying different veggies and learning to cook new meals with them.

Moderation. This is the most challenging for me because when something is delicious it is hard to stop eating. I worked on my mindset and focused more on being comfortable with having another bite but not another serving. The boys have not had much of an issue with this either. Our general family rule has always been healthy before junky so they know to have an apple, banana or glass of milk before they indulge in a cookie. And honestly, the rare time they do ask for a second cookie, we let them have one. I don't want them to feel deprived and they have gotten to the point that they know a third or fourth cookie, as tasty as it sounds, isn't the best choice for their growing bodies.

Reality. Life will sometimes make things more challenging and when that is the case, I don't sweat it. We have pizza night at our favorite local pizza restaurant when we've had a tiresome day and can't seem to get dinner on the table. I have Annie's organic granola bars stashed away in my car to feed my little boys when hunger strikes. I don't stress out over the candy in party bags or the birthday cupcakes served with juice. If we've done our smart eating most of the time then the 10% that we don't follow it is fine.

Where has this gotten us? I sit with the boys for dinner most nights.  Our "selective" eater is slowly making headway on trying new things--he recently gobbled up some fish I made. Our weekly menus are varied enough so they aren't boring.  This was never about weight loss or food deprivation but more of an acknowledgment that we have choices and freedom in how we eat and we are going to exercise them. More than that, I want my sons to grow up with a sense of real and wholesome food. I want them to know what rising bread smells like and have it become second nature to them to reach for a pan as easily as it is to call for chinese food to be delivered.

Once the guidelines were set I turned to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Cookbook. My weekly menu planning is made easier with the book. I open it up, pick out pasta, meat, poultry, fish and bean recipes and that's that. The grocery list and menu get written on our blackboard and we are ready for the week. I throw in a dessert to keep things fun, a couple of favorite family recipes and leave a bit of room for eating out.

 I feel like I have finally cracked the code to feeding my family. I don't want to sound preachy. I know that every parent does their best to feed their children so this isn't a wagging finger about the dangers of McDonalds and Hamburger Helper. This is, simply, an outline of what helped us. I searched the internet for so long trying to resolve the dinner dilemma and always felt like I was behind. We weren't too far off in the food department but it was often cyclical and that was the big problem. I would go through cooking binges and then not be motivated to make anything more than some scrambled eggs or the same meals from week to week. Once I was able to think of our food priorities and come up with a simple system it worked.

Tell me, how do you get dinner on the table for your family?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Going Green: Resusable Shopping Bags

We've been green for a while now but one of my resolutions this year was to go even greener by attempting to get to a zero waste life. I don't think we will get there (zero waste) but I know that the steps we take to try will have an impact. First thing first. I decided to become militant about reusable shopping bags. We have the larger shopping bags from Whole Foods but half the time they were left at home or in the car. The bigger challenge is actually remembering to use the bags and we gave it a disciplined and strong go for two months before it became second nature to us. I wanted to reduce even more waste and ordered some of these to use for our fruits and vegetables.
They have been great and have sped up my shopping since I no longer have to hunt down the plastic bag dispensers. The boys even fight to take the bags into the store. The moment that I knew I could write about this being a success was when my husband used them on his grocery run.