Tag Archives: Food Friday

A Friday night in my house

Sometimes Fridays can be exciting, but on my most recent Friday (after my first full week on the new job!) I made the following:

  • Snack bars, this recipe.
  • Gelatin with fruit juice.
  • Beans that I had soaked while I was at work (I also chopped veggies for the chili that would cook the next day in the crock pot while we celebrated my grandmother’s 80th birthday!)

None of it was too complicated (beans simmered for 2 hours while I did other stuff), which is why I was able to get it all done.

And luckily there was some really lively, beautiful music on the radio to keep me going.

But I was ready to collapse afterward. And I did.

I write this not to brag (or #humblebrag) about being a whiz in the kitchen or having the energy of a four-year-old, but because I’ve previously promised to be open about the work it takes to eat & provide real, nutritious food. Especially, how to do it while working full-time outside the home.

Sometimes it means spending your Friday night in the kitchen rather than on the couch watching another episode of Battlestar Galactica. Ok, ok… Something more glamorous? … Substitute couch for going out to the movies or hitting the latest & greatest pub….

But I realize cooking on a Friday night is actually just my cup of tea. My new job is mentally & socially exhausting (how many meetings & conference calls today?!). Being an introvert, I have barely any words or thoughts left to share once I get home. So, an evening spent mostly alone in the kitchen (after T has gone to bed) is a good way to decompress, quietly & meditatively. It was a good way to close out the week & I’m already thinking if there are any kitchen projects I can tackle tonight…

But are snack bars & jello really “real & nutritious food”? Are they worth sacrificing a perfectly good Friday evening? As I also said previously (in the same post linked above), I am trying really hard to not be dogmatic about food.

So while these snacks are certainly homemade, yes, I can’t say that they’re as good as an apple or avocado. As far as snack foods, I think they’re pretty darn alright. And it’s all part of my plan to be prepared … for when T gets hungry on the road this weekend, for my late-night sugar cravings, for my mid-afternoon energy dip at work, for whatever. I’d rather fetch one of my homemade snack bars or gelatin cups than buy something less nutritious on the fly.

One Friday night = snacks for 2 weeks!

And it’s all way cheaper than a Lara bar from Whole Foods.

Speaking of, if you’ve ever been to Whole Foods, read Kelly MacLean’s hilarious take on “surviving” a trip there.

I shop at Whole Foods way too often & realize it’s just not a sustainable choice for my family. (Thankfully, my neighborhood will soon host a member-owned coop, which will be awesome & something I can totally get behind!) If I didn’t have T’s school tuition & law school loans & big city rent… well, then, maybe I could shop at Whole Foods with consumerist abandon.

But MacLean’s piece, while funny, makes this important point:

I skip [the gluten-free] aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don’t meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem. You know you’ve really made it in this world when you get Candida.

Of course, it’s not entirely true. I know some decidedly-not-rich folks with celiac. But the point is well-taken. Some self-imposed restrictions are mere luxury.

And consider this thoughtful piece from chicken tender, which raises the issue of socioeconomics & real food in a touching & real way.

For example, she points out that while many of us uphold an ideal of food production & procurement, we simply can’t always attain that ideal for economic & logistical reasons. Of course, even Chandelle at chicken tender is luckier than most by virtue of the fact that she has ready access to local food producers. For those of us in urban areas, access is not so easy & it’s even more costly.

I’m still working out this balance of ideals & realities for my own family. As we work through this budget thing, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of thoughts, frustrations & ideas to bounce off of you all.

In the mean time, what’s your favorite Friday night activity (or chore) & how to you think about your food budget?

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Filed under Food, Living, Mothering, Parenting

The dangers of blogging about food

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I learned a new word yesterday.

Orthorexia.

An ironically unhealthy obsession with healthy or “clean” foods.

When I was a vegetarian, I was a fastidious vegetarian. For over 20 years. It’s how I learned to be an astute reader of labels. It was my first (& failed) attempt at healthy eating.

But looking back, my vegetarianism was also an attempt to exert control in any situation involving food. I was dramatic. I was dogmatic. I was, in a word, annoying & likely insufferable. (My only redeeming quality was a lack of preachiness.)

Orthorexia.

That word hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew what it meant before reading the definition.

Sometimes I think I would have discovered healthy eating years, if not decades, sooner, had the Internet been around when I was still a teenager, eating no meat but not quite sure what to eat in its stead.

But today, I simply think I know too much. Too many diets, philosophies & factions. Too many sources, recipes, opinions & anecdotes. Too much. Yet not enough.

Thankfully, I don’t think I have orthorexia, just orthorexic tendencies. Even toward the end of my vegetarianism, I was less dogmatic as I began to listen more to my body. I ate fish when I felt I needed to. I let myself enjoy it. When I quit vegetarianism, I vowed to leave the dogma behind for good.

… But then I read about “Traditional Food” & “WAPF” & “Paleo” & “GAPS” & “SCD” & etc.

I mentally globbed on to one & then the next & then the next. Luckily, I haven’t had the time, money, or energy to commit to any of these in reality.

I say “luckily” because yesterday I was introduced to the blog Chicken Tender & I read a lovely post there about moderation:

Eating sausage that is not from a local, pasture-based farm, hoping to do better next month: moderate.

Eating sausage three times a day with no intention of diversifying my diet: immoderate.

Not eating sausage, or much of anything else, because I can’t find the perfect source for it: extreme.

I’ve taken a hard look at my own motivations & thoughts about food since I read that piece. I am suddenly grateful to not believe in gurus & to not feel aligned (in life & on this blog) with a single diet or “food belief system.” Passionate about certain aspects of food? You betcha. But “unaffiliated” with any single way of eating.

But those tendencies are there & they’re strong. (Particularly when you’re doctor has recently put you on an elimination diet & food is all you can think about… dreaming of a day when you might actually figure out what to put & what not to put into this body…)

And herein lies the danger (for me, at least) of food blogs. They make it seem so simple. So easy. So straight forward. So right.

If so-&-so writes a Traditional Foods/WAPF blog, then that’s it. If so-&-so writes a Paleo/Primal blog, then that’s it. These are presented as complete systems of eating &, gee, they do it so well, &, oh my gosh, every damned meal at so-&-so’s house must be awesome & follow rules X, Y, & Z!

But figuring out what or how to eat in today’s world is anything but straight forward. And it’s a shame that more of these blogs don’t engage in a more active engagement in the gray areas. (Is that much butter really good for me? … Won’t eating that much meat kill me, my family & the planet? … Isn’t it a good idea to cook at least some of my food?… Will I drop dead if I eat raw nuts or if my butter isn’t from pastured cows or if my chicken previously ate some corn?!)

Plus, many food bloggers are doing the blogging (& cooking & image management thing) full time or for profit. This doesn’t cancel out good intentions. But it should make the rest of us stop & question a blogger’s motivations & sincerity & credibility. Any blog written by a full-time blogger should feature a prominent warning: Check your reality at the “about” page because you will never accomplish this, at least not on a daily basis!

And yet I care about food. I’m learning that putting some things into my body feels better than other things. Blogs written by folks who dedicate they’re days to food can be great resources. But the sheen of perfection & “rightness” (& sometimes righteousness) is unmistakable.

So I’m trying really hard not to measure myself against so-&-so’s perfect food blog. And I’m trying not to get hung up on “pure” or “clean” foods. And I’m trying to accept that the human body can adapt or cope with a few (or maybe even a lot) of indiscretions.

Which isn’t to say that I won’t still seek out direct-from-the-farmer meats & eggs. Or that I won’t buy certain things organic (Dirty Dozen list) or only in season (tomatoes). But if I want an apple out of season, I’ll buy one. If I don’t feel like operating the salad spinner, I’ll buy packaged greens. If we’re out of eggs, I’ll buy them from the grocery store.

And I won’t feel bad… I think.

And, I vow as a sometimes-blogger, sometimes blogging about food that I will do my due diligence to not make it seem easy (it’s usually not) or “right” (because who can really know).

Real food is a topic near & dear to my heart. I’m committed to cooking wholesome & whole foods. I’m committed to local foods. Blah, blah, blah. But perfection & dogma are hereby banished.

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Filed under Blogging, Food, Living, Working

Save Fast Food!

I recently read David Freedman’s article in The Atlantic, How Junk Food Can End Obesity.

I had a roller coaster of reactions while I read the novel article, but finally settled on confused.

… So … summary might be difficult. But I’ll give it the old college try: For those of you who haven’t read it, Mr. Freedman argues that “wholesome food” advocates (though I’m pretty sure most “real food” advocates stick with the “real food” label, Mr. Freedman chooses the term “wholesome food”… Not sure if he’s making a distinction or simply refusing to buy the real food movement’s cooptation of the word “real.” He never bothers to explain the origin of his term. In any case, his disdain for the movement is clear… He alternately (& derisively) calls real food advocates “Pollanites” after the real foodies dear leader, Michael Pollan. … Since Mr. Freedman doesn’t bother to draw out the distinction, if there is one, I’m sticking with the term I see most often, “real food advocates.”) …

Ok, so on that sure footing, back to my “summary”… Didn’t I warn you? …

Mr. Freedman wants to eradicate obesity. This is his sole focus regarding food. At least for purposes of The Atlantic article, he doesn’t care about malnutrition or the family farm. (More on the nutrition bit later…)

According to Mr. Freedman, real food advocates are a serious threat in the fight against obesity. Considering that even real food advocates recognize that we are (collectively) a mere drop in the bucket in terms of overall food consumption, I find this argument very hard to take seriously. Discrete groups with little buying power & little political clout are not usually fingered as the culprits in our obesity epidemic, but let’s roll with it.

So for Mr. Freedman, not only will many of the foods real food advocates eat make you fat (never mind the faulty nutritional science there… we’re rolling with it… right?!), but their disdain for and avoidance of processed food (& particularly fast food) reduces the incentives for Big Food (i.e. the major food processors & fast food companies) to develop food engineered to contain less fat & sugar. Not to mention the structural problems with getting real, unprocessed food to the masses.

So… I despite this less than glowing introduction, I was actually excited about this article. Once I got past his tirade & tangent regarding the fact that Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s sell processed junk (never mind that Trader Joe’s sells processed food almost exclusively & is not a health food store) & he started talking about class, I thought “This should shake things up a bit!”

You see, I am no defender of Michael Pollan (apparently, Mr. Freedman’s primary target). Though I agree with much of what he writes in Food Rules & The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I have also been a skeptic ever since I read the New York Times Magazine’s coverage of Mr. Pollan’s “The 36-Hour Dinner Party,” which I thought was the height of foodie elitism. Ick. Still, I think Mr. Pollan is mostly right in his analysis of our current food system (that it’s essentially broken, in large part due to Big Food).

As for Mark Bittman (another target), I think Mr. Freedman unfairly paints him as an elitist, simply the same as Pollan. But Mr. Bittman’s editorials strike me as less elitist & as stridently aware of the class problems inherent in the obesity epidemic. He advocates for practical solutions to our nation’s food problems & really cares about the next generation. He’s advocated for the Mediterranean diet, which is simple & can be very affordable. He’s practical. So what if he has chastised Americans to turn off their TVs to cook—He’s mostly right (though, yes, as Mr. Freedman points out, TV’s not the problem for those trying to juggle 3 part-time jobs).

Individual jabs aside, the article points to everything that makes me uncomfortable with the real food movement: from promoting farmers’ markets without talking about cost—particularly in urban locations—to side-stepping serious discussions about the time required to prepare 3 square meals a day from scratch to ignoring the centuries of sexism that have defined roles in the kitchen until recently…. So the real food movement is far from perfect… But, come on! Our hearts are in the right place. And there are lots of us strategizing & thinking about how real food can work for real people (regardless of class, race, or sex… Ron Finley pops into my mind, but also the countless unnamed advocates making farmers markets accessible to families on food assistance & bringing fresh food into public schools…).

But what I’m really troubled by in Mr. Freedman’s article is that he ultimately promotes a two-tiered food system in which some of us have access to the best, most nutritious food, & the rest get the processed, less-nutritious stuff. Mr. Freedman is also pretty quick to lump the poor (who have real access problems) & the middle classes, who have the money (& sometimes the education) to make better choices & who shop at grocery stores that have large produce sections but still hawk a ton of crap. In other words, obesity is not solely an access problem: It’s a problem that disproportionately affects the poor but is present across all classes.  Certainly obesity is not, as Mr. Freedman suggests, a bodega vs. Whole Foods problem & I think the biggest issues (& possibly the best solutions) actually reside in the middle classes.

Taking up the problematic two-tiered food system… If Mr. Freedman sincerely wants to accuse the “Pollanites” of moral vapidity, he is must also recognize his own (albeit less obvious) cultural biases. See, Mr. Freedman almost entirely strips the poor (& middle classes) of agency. According to Mr. Freedman, since the dawn of fast food, these (literally) poor folks have been mere victims; first, of biological urges &, then, marketing ploys. The implication is that those of us with enough will power & sense to turn our noses at a fast food meal (or at least to downsize or order the grilled cod as opposed to the super-sized burger-fries-soda) … in other words “elites” … have something that the “lower” rungs of society lack. Of course the lower classes lack money, power & (often) education. But they certainly do not by definition lack common sense, will power, or the innate ability to listen to their own bodies.

To highlight the ethical problem inherent in Mr. Freedman’s approach, let’s compare how I try to feed my four-year-old to how Mr. Freedman thinks McDonald’s should feed the non-elite masses. I have been known to hide some vegetables or real protein in a bowl of mac & cheese. T doesn’t yet understand the principles of nutrition & so I sneak in good stuff when he chooses not-so-good stuff. But in the spirit of openness & trust & honesty, I don’t “hide” the nutritious stuff too often out of a fear that T wouldn’t develop a taste for the healthier stuff. As a recently re-trained eater of real foods, I understand (as I suspect Mr. Freedman does) that it’s as much about developing a taste for real food as it is about knowing how to procure that food. But Mr. Freedman essentially advocates the hide-pureed-veggies-in-your-child’s-food technique as a way to fight obesity: Clearly, the poor can’t self-regulate, so Big Food should try to fake them out by passing off less obesity-inducing foods as regular ol’ processed junk. So, for instance, McDonald’s should sneak more whole grains & leaner meats into its menu items without letting anyone onto the ruse. … At least a ban on fois gras or big sodas is transparent. And it polices both the “helpless” public & the major offenders (Big Food). But no, it’s better if those who eat fast-food are none the wiser, after all, we can’t expect them to police themselves!

Now standing on a rather shaky moral premise himself, Mr. Freedman’s entire argument falls apart in my view. Stripped of all agency, how are the obese poor to find their way out of their unfortunate predicament? The government? The committed, albeit naive, “wholesome foodies”? No. The medical establishment? No. The only ones who can possibly help are the very ones who got us into this mess in the first place. That’s right, Mr. Freedman asks us to turn over this helpless flock to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because, damn, if they can’t help themselves, we (as a society) have no choice but to throw up our hands & hope that Big Food will (albeit slowly) doctor the food supply to help those who (apparently) cannot help themselves. And those “wholesome foodies”? They better step out of the way & stop advocating that we all consume more real food!

Even assuming that fewer calories & less fat are coming soon to a fast food joint near you (& really, who expects that to happen in the next decade?!), Mr. Freedman doesn’t touch upon the problem of over eating, which according to him got us into this mess (i.e. the urge to eat a lot is a biological defense against lean times, & it was the surfeit of cheap processed & fast foods has played into this urge). Sure, he offers up some vague food-science-y talk about satiety. But humans are notorious over-eaters, as Mr. Freedman himself admits. He never spells out how this new magically-engineered food is really going to help over-eaters to stop over eating. Perhaps that’s because (based on human nature & the business model of Big Food), Mr. Freedman simply can’t explain this piece of the obesity puzzle.

It is unfortunately easy for us humans to teach ourselves to eat even after we reach the magic tipping point of “satiety. So if the fast food “scientists” tell me that their new line of incrementally-healthier foods is going to fill me up faster, I will laugh mightily. Because unless the food is filled with some unknowable compound that will physically make it impossible to eat more, I’m convinced that the most doctored food out there cannot prevent over eating. And, besides, wouldn’t eating less be bad for the bottom line?! Why would we trust that anyone in Big Food would take such a risk?

Give me a break.

And let’s not forget that Mr. Freedman lumps the obese poor and the obese middle classes in the same group. So while you might have a steady paycheck (heck, you might not even be on SNAP!) & access to affordable whole foods, you are still a helpless slave to Big Food. Mr. Freedman never explains how or why these two groups are indistinguishable. I’m not going to get into this vastly layered problem … except to say that the poor & the middle classes face vastly different problems when it comes to food. Anyone who has the money to eat out semi-regularly at Olive Garden or Chili’s has the economic power to choose a mostly whole foods diet.

Ok, so even assuming that the fast food industry & the big food processors are able to solve the obesity epidemic … Then what? Well… under Mr. Freedman’s plan, we will have constructed a two-tiered food system in which Mr. Freedman & I will be able to feed ourselves & our families whole, nutrient-dense foods while the poor will continue to eat highly processed food, which, though low-fat, will still lack all the complex goodness of real foods. Because no one can argue with a straight face that processed food calories are as nutritious as whole food calories. And Mr. Freedman has not provided an exit strategy for his plan (you know, after Big Food single-handedly trims the American waistline…). So we will likely simply have another problem on our hands: inadequate nutrition & a continued battle with chronic illnesses. (More likely we already have that problem, but I reluctantly recognize that Mr. Freedman’s #1 concern is obesity.) The problems that go along with inadequate nutrition (including the lower performance in school) will further entrench class disparities. Yep, just the world I want to be living in.

Because, you see, I refuse to return to eating fast food or processed foods. If I read Mr. Freedman’s proposal correctly, that’s precisely what he says I should do. (At least, I think that’s what he’s saying… The whole “so what?” of the article is a bit confusing…). But I won’t give up eating real food. And I suspect the rest of my fellow real food advocates won’t either. We know that in an ideal world we’d all have access to real foods & there is not a meal goes by that I am not grateful to have access to that food right now.

I took away from Melanie Warner’s excellent new book, Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, that most food scientists would agree that eating the real thing is better than the highly-processed alternatives… in terms of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber… all the good things in real food that we don’t even yet completely understand.

So, say what you will about the real food advocates being naïve, most of us have a future vision that is deeply imbedded in equality. Unfortunately, Mr. Freedman’s vision is limited by his focus on obesity & processed foods. I don’t have THE answer to the obesity problem, but I do know that it is a multi-headed beast that requires the kind of big imagination that is unfortunately lacking in this recent Atlantic article.

Should fast food be healthier? Absolutely! But it should be more nutritious in addition to being less obesogenic. And if Big Food doesn’t think such food will sell, well the problem is as much about profits as it is about convincing people to alter their taste preferences (preferences created by Big Food) & Mr. Freedman doesn’t work out the problem of where the concern over profits takes over the concern over health.

Healthier fast food options should be but one of the weapons in the war against obesity. To suggest that Big Food will fail to roll out healthier food because a small (but growing) minority has a preference for real food is deceitful on the part of Big Food & disingenuous on the part of Mr. Freedman and The Atlantic. The real fear Big Food has is that as the real food movement grows, people (from the elites to the middle classes to the poor) are re-tuning their taste buds & discovering that junk tastes like junk. So Big Food should be scared: Hopefully one day (probably in the distant future) we won’t even want their food anymore. I trust we can work out the logistics on the journey.

In the mean time, I don’t think Mr. Freedman is as at odds with the “wholesome food” advocates as this sensationalist article would make out. Big Food doesn’t need help from real food advocates, and it’s unfortunate that The Atlantic published what amounts to a call for everyone to eat more crap.

There are so many things wrong with this article. Another bugaboo… Mr. Freedman’s obsession with obesity per se. Obesity itself is not a problem. We all come in different shapes & sizes. But it’s the chronic health issues that  seem to afflict a disproportionate percentage of obese people that are the real problem. Nevermind all the other bad sometimes-diet-induced stuff that can strike fat & thin alike: inflammatory diseases, cancer, etc. Mr. Freedman isn’t bothering with any of it.

Well, all that said: If Big Food really did manage to create a meal or two that was truly as good as the real thing… I’d probably buy into it. We could use some convenience around here.

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Filed under Food, Parenting, Simplicity

Le restaurant francais

T is a burger joint kind of kid. So he was less than thrilled to learn that we were going out to a French bistro for dinner with a dear friend.

Admittedly, I was nervous. No kids’ menu (& definitely no mac & cheese). No TV to distract him (& we don’t have any kid apps on any handheld devices). Yelp even tried to warn me: Not a kid-friendly place. It’s French!

Were we jerks for dragging our child (albeit early) to a nice, kinda romantic, French restaurant? I agreed to this supposedly kid-unfriendly-plan for a few reasons.

First, our friend picked it & he’s leaving the country soon… Shouldn’t he get to pick? This is his pick! We’re not going to send him away full of mediocre American fare!

Second, I secretly had faith that T would hold his own. He’s been into table conversation lately & hanging with the grown ups (though two weeks ago he was also a wild banshee at our corner (wait for it…) burger joint). He’s fairly adventurous when it comes down to it & I don’t think a croque monsieur (basically a grilled ham & cheese sandwich) is really all that adventurous. And of course, there’d be French fries!

Plus, we will in all likelihood not be eating out much in the near future (more on this culinary challenge another day…), so going out with a bang was really an irresistible draw for me. I adore French food & the liver dish on the menu sounded divine.

So how’d we fare (& more importantly, how did the other diners fare)? I would love to say that T unfolded the white cloth napkin & placed it on his lap without prompting. Or that he ordered his croque monsieur with a French accent. Or that he sat sweetly at the table & used only his “inside” voice.

Not quite…

And I didn’t have high hopes going in. I met up with our little party at a bookstore where, within five minutes, T almost ruined (& purchased) a pop-up book & started hitting me for … I forget why. Yeah, high hopes…

But the boy is full of surprises & we all enjoyed a sophisticated & leisurely meal. Maybe if I had read Bringing Up Bébé or French Kids Eat Everything or some other obnoxious book by an American mother about why French parents are so much better than us American parenting hacks, today’s events would not have been so earth-shattering, but I didn’t, so there you have it. (I don’t usually brag on this blog & ya’ll know I’m more than willing to share my parenting struggles & failures, so today I’m letting myself brag.)

We sat outside (thankfully, because not only were we not inside the fancy French restaurant but the outdoor tables were covered in paper, a convenient drawing surface). T tried escargots (snails: didn’t like it) & lapin (rabbit: liked it well enough, especially with noodles). He ordered the ham & cheese sandwich & was only slightly disappointed to find the cheese melted on the outside of the sandwich. But he devoured most of it (along with his frites) & when he was done he asked the busboy (& I quote) “Sir, can I please have a box for my sam-ich.”

Of course, he also yelled “Bye, guy!” loudly & obnoxiously to our waiter at one point. And he squirmed & ran around a bit as he waited for our shared bowl of sorbet (the kid tried freaking escargots; of course he gets dessert!).

But seriously, I don’t think he even scared the pregnant lady, who was having a romantic dinner with her partner. (But, lady, don’t get your hopes up: This meal was 4+ years in the making & our success rate is exactly 1:1,550.)

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Filed under Food, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity

Lightning quick steel-cut oats

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I’ve already shared with you my recipe for a relatively quick, wholesome oatmeal breakfast. But because I have a penchant for figuring out the least processed food, I’ve become a big fan of steel-cut oats. (Note: There is in fact little nutritional difference between steel-cut oats & rolled oats, so if you prefer rolled oats, this recipe works measure-for-measure with rolled oats as well.)

The problem is that steel-cut oats take forever to cook. Who has an hour+ to cook breakfast during the week?!

But there is a solution to this problem: Soaking.

By properly preparing your grains, you actually come out ahead, both in time saved & nutrition.

It takes about 3 minutes of prep the night before & in the morning you can have breakfast in little more time than it takes to prepare instant oatmeal from a packet. Seriously!

There is also a nutritional advantage to soaking your grains. Apparently, oats are a big source of phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient & will block the absorption of other good stuff in your oatmeal. This is something I’m still researching & learning about, so instead of botching a fuller explanation, I’ll point you to a few sources who appear to know a lot more about the advantages of soaking grains than I do: The Weston A. Price Foundation & The Nourishing Home. Regardless of the science behind soaking, I’m convinced by the serious convenience factor.

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Lightning Quick Steel-cut Oatmeal, adapted from Nourishing Traditions

For soaking:
• 1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
• 1 1/2 c. filtered water
• 1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or yogurt or whey)
• 1 Tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds
• 1 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
• 1 Tbsp. shredded coconut, unsweetened

For cooking & dressing:
• 1 1/2 c. filtered water
• 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
• 1 Tbsp. hemp seed
• cinnamon, to taste
• ground ginger, to taste
• dash of ground nutmeg
• 1/4 c. raisins
• yogurt or kefir
• molasses
• fresh or frozen fruit (bananas, berries, etc.)

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Soaking
• Warm the water in a glass container or bowl until it’s warm but not hot. I do this in the microwave, but a tea kettle could work just as well.
• Add in the apple cider vinegar or yogurt/kefir/whey. Mix well. This is the acidic medium that will help take care of the phytic acid.
• Mix in the oatmeal, coconut, pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds.
• Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or cloth napkin. Place the bowl in a warm spot, if you can (e.g. on the stove if you’ve just finished making dinner or on top of the fridge if you’re tall enough).
• Let the whole thing soak overnight, at least 8 hours if you can manage. I usually throw this together after dinner dishes are clean or while dinner is cooking, if I think of it.

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Cooking
• Bring water to a boil.
• While you’re waiting for the water to boil, drain & rinse oatmeal mixture that’s been soaking. Rinsing reduces any sour taste, if that’s important to you.
• Add the oatmeal mixture to the boiling water. Reduce heat, cover & (this is the best part) cook for 5 minutes. (Yes, you read that correctly… five minutes & your steel-cut oatmeal is done!)
• Remove from heat & add the spices, flax & hemp seeds, & raisins.
• Serve it up with yogurt/kefir (protein), molasses (sweetener & iron), & fruit. Or with whatever you want (maple syrup is, of course, a big hit).

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Filed under Food, Parenting, Simplicity

Rabbits already

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Spring has barely sprung in my corner of the midwest, but the rabbits are already digging holes in our yard, preparing (I suspect) to expand their brood. Funny thing about gardening… Rabbits ain’t so cute anymore. Nor are squirrels or cats or mice (or rats… this is urban gardening, after all…).

So T & I dug the nesting material out if one particularly deep hole & I put him to work flooding & filling it. This may sound cruel but if we don’t nip it in the bud, we’ll come out to play in the backyard one afternoon & encounter a very scared mama rabbit who has just had a bunch of babies & then in an hour there will just be a hole full of dead baby rabbits (yes, that’s what happened past year). I’d wager that for the preschool set flooding & filling empty holes is much more fun than burying baby rabbits!

My garden is not in such great shape that it needs protecting, but I’m trying. We came out of a cold snap, which has stunted even my kale & chard (the supposedly hearty greens!) not to mention my motivation. There aren’t enough hours in the day, especially when you factor in the random (& somewhat terrifying) midnight wakings of a four-yoear-old.

We’ve got a big expansion underway & I just need to finish it so the rest of the seeds & seedling can get in the ground. It’s time! … Actually, it’s past time, but if I work hard this weekend, we’ll be canning tomato sauce in a few months!

Happy Food Friday & here’s to making some gardening magic! Anyone else have gardening plans this weekend?

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New pan

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Happy Friday!

Woke up extra early this morning to break in our new cast iron pan. Bacon seemed like a relatively safe bet since I didn’t take the time to season the pan myself & indeed it was delicious. The rest of the morning was crazy rushed (probably because I’m not a great multi-tasker) but worth it.

I also read to T from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma which is so, so compelling (Why I was reading it to him? He woke up really early (during my coffee & quiet time) & so we shared that time together). T was actually interested (it was a chapter on processed foods & cereal in particular).

T observed that’s not at all what we eat (saying our food comes from the grocery store & not a factory… which is partly accurate…) & that opened a conversation about food & poverty. We recently donated some healthy but non-perishable food to the food pantry, so it’s a concrete concept for him. It was a great way to talk about the problem of cheap, processed foods.

Over breakfast we also talked about food co-ops & why they’re way better than Whole Foods. (One may be opening close to us & I’m ridiculously excited.)

That’s our Food Friday so far & that’s a lot for one morning!

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Filed under Food, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity