Monday, December 6, 2010

Jamie Oliver award-winning TED talk

Oliver speaks passionately (he's a bit scary, really) about the profound, terminal disconnect between Americans and the food we eat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hollandaise Sauce FAIL

I was attempting Alton Brown's recipe, but I failed to comprehend that the egg mixture needed to stay in the bowl, placed inside the pot of hot water. Instead, I poured the eggs into the hot water...resulting in a lumpy, not very delicious mess. Out of sheer stubbornness, I put some of it on my asparagus, anyway (which also wasn't quite right; I'm thinking it would've payed off to steam/boil them in water before trying to sauté them in a pan; they were too crunchy). The whole experience made me mad.

Food, in general, has made me mad for the past few days, since I decided to get serious about losing (at least some of) the 30 pounds I gained since Escher was born. When I told my friend "Dr. Steve" about my resolution, he suggested I cut carbs for two weeks, to "kick-start" my body. I was very reluctant-- I've never been one to mess with my diet. But Steve convinced me.

The first couple days were alright. I'm now on day four, and I feel like shit. I'm discovering that everything I like to eat has carbs in it. And if it doesn't have carbs, it needs to be near carbs.

Last night (night of the ill-fated hollandaise sauce) was the worst. I started making a Thai curry I always enjoy, thinking I would just eat it without the rice, which is depressing enough as it is. And then I realized, 20 minutes in, that I needed to add a bunch of brown sugar (a.k.a. carbs). I chucked the curry and started some alfredo sauce. I figured I would serve it to the kids on pasta, and myself on chicken. By the time I finished, I was so hungry and angry, and my kitchen was such a mess, that I actually threw a fork against the wall.

Oh, and fettuccini alfredo without the fettuccini? Not so awesome.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I'm not a big fan of cooking shows. It's like watching someone clean their house; even if they do it really well, I'm just not that interested. But there's one exception: British author and TV personality, Nigella Lawson.
I discovered Nigella on the Style Network, back when I could afford cable -- before I became a 30-year-old college student -- and was charmed immediately by her polished easiness, and her accent.
London 1984 w/ my Mom, brother & cousin
(Biographical reason why I keep mentioning English accents: I was born in London, and my mother's a Brit. Although I've spent most of my life in the US, I feel warm and fuzzy every time I hear a posh accent.)

I've rediscovered Nigella, recently, since I began this blog. The more I watch, the more I appreciate what she does. As she instructs her viewers, she transmits a sense of pleasure and comfortability, with food, managing to be both aspirational and accessible. She shows you, in a very sisterly way, how easy it really is to prepare elegant food. At the same time, she makes the simplest, everyday food seem exotic and indulgent.

I also love that she films much of her show in her own home, sometimes in her robe, with her own children and friends often milling about, in the background. I've tried a few of her dishes, with my own children milling about, and I can attest to their ease and deliciousness.

Last night, I pigged out royally on her Caramel Croissant Pudding (although I used bread instead of croissants, since unlike Nigella Lawson, I don't have croissants laying around my apartment all the time). Here's the video I learned from:

This morning, I made Nigella's Mexican Scrambled Eggs. I liked them so much, I made them again for a big after-school snack. Jonas helped me, rolling and snipping the tortillas, and sautéing the veggies. What's more, he gobbled them up, and asked for a second helping.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Well-Seasoned Blogs -- Delicious!

Sometimes, in order to avoid cooking, I like to read about other people's cooking. Here are a few blogs I enjoy:

The Feminist Kitchen
An easygoing look at the complicated relationship between feminism and food, from the perspective of someone who loves both.

The Saucy Apron
A punchy voice, and laid back attitude toward mothering and cooking. I was immediately sold when I read a recipe described as "piss easy."

The Naptime Chef
Fitting food preparation into busy family life. Includes weekly "Tales From the Trenches" guest posts from other mothers & foodies.

Devil & Egg
A disarming combination of family narrative and recipes that look like I might actually be able to pull them, in the real world.

Cooking During Stolen Moments
A mother of five who found a way to transform mealtime mayhem into an enjoyable experience, by spreading the work throughout her day.

My Daddy Cooks
Charming video blog of a dad cooking with his toddler. If nothing else, their English accents will get you into the kitchen.

$5 Dinners
Delivers exactly what its title suggests-- simple recipes for under five dollars. And as if that wasn't enough, print weekly menus with shopping lists.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Microwaves are Radical

My friend Holly and I were talking, recently, about the growing pressure (from our peers, but also as part of a broader cultural trend) to feed our children nothing but organic, unprocessed, locally-grown, restaurant-quality meals, preferably made from scratch, in order to qualify as competent mothers.

We weren't debating the health benefits of good nutrition, or even rejecting the pursuit of it (in fact, Holly is a fantastic cook). We were renouncing the collective lie that sending one's child to school with goldfish crackers in his lunch basically means you don't love him.

"It's anti-feminist," Holly said. "TV dinners liberated women from the kitchen."

Those words have been on my mind ever since. I never thought of the home-cooking trend as anti-feminist, since the pressure to participate generally comes from other women, and not from men. It's puzzling, for sure, considering we fought like hell to unshackle ourselves from the stove. But, despite having made incredible advances in the workforce, we haven't entirely shaken June Cleaver. Instead we've spawned the all-powerful, all-knowing Supermom -- a domestic goddess with a corner office.

As much as I still want to make friends with my stove, and increase my kids' intake of real, healthy, homemade food, I appreciate Holly's reminder that the Supermom is not always our champion; she can also be our warden.

Maybe there's no way around cutting culinary corners, if I want to finish school and get a career off the ground without going batshit crazy, or developing a crystal meth habit. Maybe there are times when participating in society is worth a relatively minor sacrifice to my children's nutrition. Maybe it's possible for kids raised on dino-nuggets and tater tots to survive childhood and turn out okay. Maybe I can unapologetically welcome my good friend Hamburger Helper as a team player, instead of hiding him in the cupboard, behind the brown rice and kombucha (okay, I don't ever have kombucha; totally gross).

Tonight, when my boys got home from my ex's house, it was so nice to see them; I didn't feel like disappearing into the kitchen. Instead, I put a frozen pizza in the oven, unfolded the sofa bed, and piled on all our pillows and blankets. We ate pizza and Rice Krispies Treats, read books, watched Karate Kid, and fell asleep in a heap. And I don't feel guilty. Not one bit.

"When you conjure images of a feminist revolution, you might think of a burning bra or a burqa. I think of a microwave: a lowly 800-watt appliance that brought freedom to millions." -Colleen Hodgetts for (source)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Everyone's a Critic

These guys are my taste-testers. They're a tough crowd to please, capable of instantly squelching my precarious enthusiasm for trying new things. More often than not, when I spend hours slaving away in the kitchen, they take one look at their dinner and whine "That smells," or "It's disgusting," or "It tastes bad," push their plates away, and slump down in their chairs.

But then, every once in a while, they surprise me. For example, Jonas (who is adamant that mild salsa is "too spicy" for him) gobbled up the Thai curry I made last night, quite happily. And Escher shocked my entire family when he inhaled several adult-sized portions of pad thai at Erawan.

Six-and-a-half years old.
Eats every meal like it's his last.
Favorite foods: KFC, pizza, pancakes.
Least favorite foods: Cooked spinach (raw is OK), anything Mama cooks.

Three years old.
Eats like a bird.
Favorite foods: Pizza, boiled eggs, pad thai.
Least favorite foods: Everything else, especially when preceded by the words "Eat your ___."

CSA Share

I thought I would share an example of what comes in my CSA share from Grindstone Farm.
Photo from mid-September
The highlight of this lot, for me, was the lemon basil. Best invention ever. I had never heard of it, prior to it showing up in my share. It smells incredible, and makes things taste like they were cooked by someone who knows how to cook. I sauteed mine with scallops in butter, and added a little salt and garlic powder. I think I groaned audibly while eating.

The tomatillos make a fantastic salsa verde, as proven by my friend Tyra, who shared this recipe. Unfortunately, my tomatillos never had a chance to make it into salsa verde, and wound up rotting and getting thrown away. I did use an earlier round to make fried green "tomatoes," because I thought they were tomatoes.
The carrots, apples, and cherry tomatoes were eaten raw. I gave those weird, flying saucer-looking white things to a friend, along with several bags full of assorted squashes that had collected, because my kitchen counter was beginning to look like a pumpkin stand. Some of the cilantro made it into chicken tostata, and everything else perished.