»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
There's...just...so...much...to...do....
Nov 23rd, 2012 by Nancy

wreath

I hope you managed to push away from your Thanksgiving table in a pleasantly overfed state, and that you shared that table with loved ones old and new.  It’s a crazy time of year, and every minute of respite is that much more appreciated.

Now that today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, has become the de facto opening bell for the Holiday Rush, I’ve come to appreciate yesterday, and it’s message of “take time to drop everything, recognize and gratefully acknowledge the blessings in your life, and share a long, relaxing meal with friends and family” even more.

It’s especially ironic since Thankgsiving in my household, which we have shared with another couple families for 10+ years now, involves cooking not one but two 15+ pound turkeys, as well as stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce (thank you Mama Stamberg), eight loaves of french bread, and at least two pies, all from scratch, for a gathering of 20+ people, most of whom are under 15 years of age.  It’s not, but anyone’s measure, a peaceful, restful day (or week, for that matter).  But it is a tradition, and one of the few to which my family holds firmly.

Now that Thanksgiving 2012 is under our belts, so to speak, I’m ready to face the next month with a little more energy.

Don’t look now, but it’s time for...

BlackFridaySmallBusinessSaturdayFinishtheThanksgivingDishesSunday
CyberMondayMobileTuesdayHideStuffWednesdayChoirConcertThursdayHolidayPartyFriday
ShopMoreSaturdayEndofSoccerSeasonPizzaPartySundayFinishtheReportatWorkMonday
FluShotTuesdayHaircutsforEveryoneWednesdayGetthatFunnySoundintheCarLookedAtThursday
AnotherHolidayPartyFridayBakeCookiesAndGetTreeSaturday
HolidayBazaaratChurchandDecorateTreeSundaySweartoEatNothingButSaladUntilChristmasMonday
BandConcertTuesdayNoPleaseNotaColdThisYearWednesdayDrugstoreRunThursday
NoPleaseNotAnotherHolidayPartyFridayCan’tBreatheWhileLyingDownSaturday
ReturnStuffandShopSomeMoreSunday
WhoeverDecidedToPutEmployeeEvaluationsThisTimeofYearShouldBeFiredMonday
MoreShoppingTuesdayTryandRememberWhereHiddenStuffIsWednesday
ChristmasisSeriouslyInFiveDays?ThursdayKidsOutofSchoolNowWhatDoIDoFriday
NoThankYouIDon’tWantToGoToaCookieExchangeTomorrowMomSaturday
FindHiddenStuffbutMisplaceWrappingPaperSunday
BuyWrappingPaperandStayUpAllNightMonday
…And then it’s Christmas.

Feeling the stress? Don’t worry, We like to make things easy around here – after all, that’s what brought Lunchsense into being in the first place – so don’t let the frantic rush of the holiday season get to you.  Sit back, relax, help yourself to your favorite beverage, and get a great new lunchbox for everyone on your list. It’s absolutely clever, immensely practical, looks great on anyone, and best of all it’s just a few clicks away.

Good news: All U.S. orders get FREE SHIPPING November 23-26.

Even after the weekend has come and gone, however, do note that all U.S. orders over $80 get free shipping all the time, and everyone who signs up for the mailing list get an additional 10% off, not to mention yet more great deals just for them.  Other sweet deals will come ’round over the next month, so check in again.

And don’t forget to share a long, relaxing meal with friends and family, at every opportunity!

LunchSense10-30-09-047295

Foodie Tuesday: Lavender Tuiles
Feb 10th, 2012 by Nancy

7-LavenderTuiles_400

I know, it’s not Tuesday, it’s Friday.  ‘Sorry ’bout that, I got busy.

As promised, here’s my favorite cookie from the Advent Cookie Calendar I wrote about last week.

Tuiles (’tweeluhs’, French for ’tile’) are thin, crisp wafer cookies.  Popular and versatile, this version is a complete sensory experience: delicate and curved like a roof tile, pale in the center and flecked with brown and green, then golden around the perimeter; scented like a garden in summer; crisp and crumbly at first bite and tenderly chewy  towards the center, with a heavenly, buttery, herbal flavor.

Thankfully, they are not only easy to create, they convert to gluten-free with ease.  Here’s the recipe:

Lavender Tuiles, as offered by Saveur.com

3/4 C sugar

1/4 t salt (Saveur specifies kosher; I used table salt)

4 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 C dried lavender (I used fresh, and about half that much, and straight out of the garden, and I chopped it finely. It worked well.)

4 T unsalted butter, melted

3 T flour (converted: I used a gluten-free flour mix, and added 1/4 t xanthan gum.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl whisk together sugar, salt and egg whites until smooth. Add lavender, butter and flour and mix until evenly combined.  If using GF flour, allow the batter to rest a few minutes to allow the xanthan gum to absorb some of the moisture and do its stretchy thing.

Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto a silicon mat-lined baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon spread batter into very thin 4″ rounds.  Bake until golden brown at the edges, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, and using an offset spatula or butter knife, gently lift the hot cookies off the baking sheet and drape them over a rolling pin or other curved surface and allow them to cool there.

A few more tips of my own:

- I don’t have a silicone baking mat, so I used parchment paper which worked reasonably well – I had to peel the cookies off very carefully, but they didn’t disintegrate (which is noteworthy for GF cookies).

- It’s slow going, but I suggest cooking only one tray of cookies at a time unless you have an abundance of surfaces onto which you can drape cooling cookies. The upside to this batter is that without a leavening agent it will hold well for quite awhile.

- I hear tell you can also drape the cookies into muffin tins and create bowls that would be heavenly filled with custard, fruit, whipped cream, or other filling.

- They’re wonderful in a lunchbox!

Give them a try, and let me know how they turn out for you!

Foodie Tuesday: 24 Days, 24 Cookie recipes
Jan 31st, 2012 by Nancy

1, 2, 3...23, 24 different Christmas cookies

I was looking for something different for the Christmas season last year.

Inspiration struck in the form of the Cookie Advent Calendar provided to me by Saveur magazine. Yes, it really was just that: 24 days and 24 cookie recipes.  And we made every single recipe.*

As if baking a new batch of cookies every day for 3 1/2 weeks (or just HAVING that many cookies in harm’s way) wasn’t foolish enough, I also converted them to gluten-free versions (my husband is gluten intolerant).  If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, no, I don’t have too much time on my hands.  I DO have a splendid assistant in the person of my 13 year old daughter-with-aspirations-to-be-a-chef, so between the two of us:

  • she filled in on the days I was just tapped out;
  • I admit that we both bailed out on a couple of days, which we made up on the weekend;
  • we often cut recipes in half or even in thirds, with the goal being no more than 24 cookies in a day (or no more than two trays, so we could get them all in and out of the oven in one pass).

And the effort, while significant, was manageable.

Without a doubt best part – really truly even better than eating them – was the immense pleasure I found in knowing that at some point in the day, every day, we’d be dropping everything…and baking cookies.

Another treat:  Each recipe would be posted at midnight, but as the mag is in Eastern Standard Time my girl and I would check every evening at 9 pm here on the West Coast and find our next day’s offering ready and waiting.

All the cookies were good, but there was indeed a range of results that traveled from, “hmm, tasty sand, that one,” to “wow! oh wow! greatgreatgreat!”  Many (though not all) were of a European lineage, and they were the most interesting.  We all agreed that traditionally American cookies, while good, are by comparison pretty bland, generally being dominated by one flavor: peanut butter, or cinnamon, or chocolate, for example.

The down sides:

We did our best to be true to the original recipe (gluten-free conversions notwithstanding), but at times the ingredients were challenging.  Among other things I now have all but a few ounces of a rather expensive, very strong, very weird liqeuer which as far as I can tell will only go for future batches of those specific cookies they’re used in…which is, thankfully, a pretty darn good cookie.  If you’re in the Eugene area and want to give them a try, call me.  I’ll share.  I also bailed out when the recipe called for a cookie mold that I could only find on eBay for $40.  THAT crossed deep into “well this is just silly” territory.

There were too dang many versions of shortbread cookies.  How may riffs on a theme can there be for butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla? Quite a few, we found.  On that note, and on the upside…

Converting all the recipes to gluten free might be considered ‘above and beyond the call’ but it wasn’t impossible, and I’d been on the hunt for a really great shortbread cookie that worked in GF flour.  I’m pleased to report that I found one!  Mention in the comments if you’d like to know how I converted it. It turned out crisp, tasty, and didn’t spread a whit, which had been the recurring issue with all the other GF cookie-cutter cookies I’d tried.

After the best part, above, the next best part was that we always had something to bring to friends’ houses all month long: “What’s that you say? Laura’s having a few people over tonight? Hey, we’ll bring cookies!!”  In fact, I think that’s where most of them went, in the final tally.

The last best part: We still have a freezer full of cookies.  Only a few remain of each of maybe half the cookie recipes, but it’s enough to know that a sweet treat – not much, but just enough – is only a few steps away.

Stay tuned: Next Tuesday I’ll post the hands-down favorite cookie of the whole season.

*Disclaimer: Okay, fine.  There were actually 25 recipes.  We didn’t make the last one.  It was yet another shortbread cookie, and we didn’t have the right ingredients, and it was CHRISTMAS DAY, for cryin’ out loud.  We all agreed that all the Advent Calendars we knew had 24 days, not 25, so we called it a wrap at 9:15pm on Christmas Eve.  Mea culpa.

Foodie Tuesday: Turkey stock
Jan 24th, 2012 by Nancy

Turkey soup made from homemade stock.  Mm good.Some days I just can’t do much.

‘Worked all weekend at the Good Earth Show (it was wonderful!) but I’m still trying to get my energy back.

Could it be that my achy, snuffly, feverish daughter has passed her bug over to me? ‘Hope not…time will tell.  In the meantime, I need to power down, take it easy, recoup for a few days. But I’ve got the van to unload, inventory to check in, receipts to tally…and a turkey carcass in my fridge to deal with.

The turkey will be the easy part.  While I tackle the rest of the post-show chores, I’ll make stock.

If you haven’t tried it before, I’d like to nudge you – gently – to try making your own stock.  Really, it’s about as difficult as sorting, washing, drying and folding a load of laundry – you’ve pulled that off a few times, yes? – and the results are so very worth it.  It’s the gastronomic equivalent of throwing a blanket over your shoulders, and given the season and our precarious health conditions this week it’s exactly what we all need.

You may ask, “what are you doing with a turkey in the fridge in January?” A fair question.  Turkey is a cheap, healthy protein source, and if you have a large enough freezer I highly recommend buying a couple turkeys in November and cooking them up over the winter.

TURKEY STOCK

When you cook a turkey, toss the parts that you might not use – neck and giblets – in a container, and freeze them.  When you have finished enjoying all the cooked parts of the bird, throw all the remaining stuff – bones, skin, whatever – in the container as well.  NOTE WELL that you have raw and cooked pieces in this container.  They will all eventually be cooked together, but until they land in the stockpot treat them as raw meat.

I usually wait to make stock until I have at least five or six pounds of parts and pieces.  A single big turkey will provide this; if you’d like to make chicken stock this recipe will work nicely, but you may have to collect two or three chickens’ worth of goods to have enough to go to the trouble of making stock.  However, if you don’t have a really big stock pot, this will all work fine with just a couple pounds of bird.

1. Weigh the frozen turkey pieces to the nearest pound or so, and put them (still frozen is fine) into the biggest pot in the house. Place the pot on the stove now; once everything is in the pot it will be pretty heavy!

2. For every POUND of parts and pieces, add:

  • 1/2 a carrot, broken in half (no need to peel it)
  • 1/2 a celery stalk, broken in half (leaves are fine, in fact preferred; old-ish stalks are fine, and stock is a great way to make use of the inner parts of the celery bunch)
  • 1/2 an onion, cut in half again
  • a peeled garlic clove (no need to cut it)
  • 2-3 whole peppercorns
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 t oregano & thyme, dried (double or triple that if using fresh)
  • 1 quart of water

3. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, partially cover the pot with a lid, and leave it alone for an hour or two. If you are nosy you can give it a stir occasionally.  Your house will smell heavenly.

4. If you wish to add parsley or basil, they are wonderful in stock but only need to be added in the last half hour or so.

5. I usually leave mine to simmer for about 3 hours, but there’s no rocket science to stock.  The only guideline I’d offer is that it will need at least an hour.

6. When you think you’re ready to deal with the next step (after 1 to 3 hours of simmering), turn off the heat.  Set a colander over the next-largest pot in the house, and place it next to the stockpot.  Start moving everything solid – meat, bones, vegetables – with tongs or a large slotted spoon into the colander and let drain for a minute.  The stuff in the colander, once it’s drained, can be pitched – I double bag these leftovers before they go in the garbage.  It will be hot, messy work, but will make the stock pot a little easier to handle.  Keep doing this until you have removed and drained a significant portion of the solids.

7. Now you’re ready to salt the stock.  Starting by adding about a 1/2 t salt for every quart of water, stir, and taste the results.  Keep going until you’re satisfied, but don’t overdo it – it’s easier to under-salt now and add more when you’re ready to use the stock.

8. Finally, drain the rest of the stock through the colander to remove the last of the solids, working in batches if necessary.

What you will now have is pot full of liquid gold.  Divide it into freezer containers, label it, and stash it in the freezer, where it will last for at least 6 months.  That which you refrigerate should be used within a week.   I freeze pints and quarts, mostly, though some recommend freezing small quantities in ice cube trays to have them handy to chuck into sauces as needed.  I’ve just never had occasion to use less than a half a cup at a time, and even then I don’t mind having extra stock in the fridge for a couple days.  It makes a perfect rainy-day, low-energy light snack on days…just like today.

Win A Month of Free Lunch!
Jan 18th, 2012 by Nancy

‘Ever get the feeling like the dinner-making well has run dry?

I’ve been trying to nudge that afternoon routine out of a rut lately.  As the primary cook in the household I try, with all good intentions…

  • to serve not one but two vegetables at dinner, and
  • to offer meat not as the main course all the time but occasionally as only a side dish, and
  • to have at least two meat-free dinners a week, and
  • to add more flavor and texture, and especially to make enough for a couple lunches (but not so much that it goes to waste), AND…

it’s all just tapped me out.

FOTT_croppedDid I forget to mention that my husband is gluten intolerant too, so I get to do all the above AND convert dishes as necessary to make them wheat, oats, barley and rye-free?

This is where the menu planning service Food on the Table has been a godsend.  With some initial setup I can peruse a database of recipes and create menus for the upcoming days.  Since Food on the Table uploads the circulars from my local grocery stores I can hone in on recipes that will use sale items.  I can also enter my own recipes and family favorites – useful, that.  Then Food on the Table generates a shopping list from my selections.

In my case I use the service less for every last detail of a meal and a shopping trip, and more for inspiration and organization.  It’s become my palette for thinking through dinners for the week: I see what’s on sale, I recall what I have in the fridge to use up, I hone in on a cuisine category (vegetarian, pasta, etc. – they even let me indicate a gluten free dietary restriction), and without fail, something – and often something I’d never thought of trying – surfaces as the next couple days’ worth of dinner.  What’s more, I can throw the leftovers in the lunchboxes the next day!

If inspiration is that missing piece to your meal planning efforts, I have great news: If you buy a lunchbox this weekend either at the website or at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show, you will automatically be entered in a drawing to win A MONTH OF LUNCH.  Here’s what you’d get:

  • A $75 Gift Certificate to the grocery store of your choice – That’s $3.75 a day for weekday lunches, which would be an epic meal if it’s brought from home, and
  • A free one-month subscription to Food on the Table to help you plan those great dinners that will turn into epic lunches.  So far I haven’t found a meal planning service that offers a lunch menu, but many of our lunches are really just dinner leftovers.  Better yet, they pack up in the food containers right after dinner and get popped into the lunchbox in the morning!

The fine print: Contest runs from noon Friday January 20, 2012, and concludes midnight Sunday, January 22, 2012.  To be entered in the drawing you must purchase a small, medium, or large complete lunchbox set while the contest is underway from the booth at the Good Earth Show or on the website.  One entry per complete lunchbox set purchased. Winner will be drawn and contacted Monday, January 23, 2012.

By “month” we mean “a month of weekdays”, since most packed lunches are carried on weekdays, not weekends.  Thus $75 / $3.75 a lunch = 20 lunches, or 4 weeks of 5 days each.

You may get gift certificates to more than one store, as long as the total of all gift certificates is no more than $75. Gift certificates will be mailed to the contest winner, and winner will be notified via email good_earth_logoabout how to sign up for the Food on the Table subscription.

Did I mention?  Lunchsense will be staking out a booth (#1112) at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show this weekend, so if you are in the Eugene area please stop by and say hello!  It’s a fun show and a wonderful bunch of exhibitors and presenters, so you’ll be certain to find a new idea or two.

By request: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
Nov 14th, 2011 by Nancy

I’ve been following along with the Food Studies posts at Grist lately, and the most recent post “What’s Up with Gluten?” landed near and dear to my heart.  Finally!  Some sane, sensible, science-based words about gluten!  Thanks, Mitchell Mattes.   I commented, then mentioned I had a knack for gluten-free pizza crust (my husband was diagnosed celiac about 12 years ago), and a couple people requested it.  This seemed like a better place to post it than Grist.

It is, actually, a recipe from “Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat” by Bette Hagman.  Her book was a lifesaver for me back in the dark ages of food allergies.  Fast forward to the present, and I’m overwhelmed (and delighted) by all the food producers that include allergen information on their labels.  ‘Makes my life much easier.

Anyway, back to the recipe: I’ve made this many, many times and have found a few shortcuts that make assembly easier, as well as additions that (I think) improve the outcome a bit.  Besides all that, today’s The Big Game, which is all the excuse I need to make a pizza.

YEAST-RISING THICK PIZZA CRUST adapted from The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, by Bette Hagman, copyright 1990.

This makes dough for two 12-14″ pizzas.  The dough freezes nicely, so you can make one pizza now and sleep well knowing you have the makings for another one later.

1. Begin by preparing two pans for pizza.  I use the underside of my lasagne pan (or cookie sheets).  Why the underside? you ask – In truth, I don’t know why I started doing that.  Maybe the heat reaches the pizza better; maybe it’s just because it’s easier to serve pizza off a flat surface.  In any event,

pan and oilI generously coat the the pans with olive oil (tip: if your pans are non-stick, you’ll find the oil doesn’t distribute well; in that case use vegetable shortening), then dust them lightly with cornmeal to give the pizzas that “tavern pizza” finish.cornmeal for panoiling pan

Don’t worry that your pans are rectangles and you think your pizza should be round; go ahead and make a “racetrack” shaped pizza.

11-12 dry ingredients2. Throw in a large bowl (a stand mixer if you have one is perfect for this):

2 C rice flour

2 C tapioca flour

2/3 C dry milk powder

3 1/2 t xanthan gum (Essential.  Found at many grocery stores these days; try the baking aisle or the health foods aisle)

1 t salt

2 T dry yeast granules I recommend, if you haven’t baked in awhile and you have some dusty old packets of yeast in the back of your cabinet, pitch those and by a jar of the granules.  Fresh yeast does make a difference.

water, shortening and egg whites

1 T sugar

Mix with the bread hook or cookie paddle a few times to combine the dry ingredients.

3. Separate 4 eggs; we’ll use the whites in the pizza. Save the yolks for another day -

you were looking for an excuse to make custard, yes? Or maybe lemon curd?

4. Combine:

pizza dough is like really sticky frosting1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine – 125° to 135°)

3 T shortening

Water at that temperature will allow the shortening to melt.

5. Add the water and the egg whites to the dry ingredients (turn the mixer on low if you are using one), and blend at high speed for 4 minutes.

Don’t worry that the water is too hot for the yeast – the act of adding it to the mixed dry ingredients cools it rapidly.  As long as you are using fresh yeast don’t worry, either, about proofing the yeast (softening it in warm water+a little sugar before use).  This method described above has worked every time for me. Note that the xanthan gum provides the stretch that the gluten-free flours lack, and it needs time to soften and develop in the dough.  Finally, you won’t need to let this rise; it will do so while you spread the crust and dress it.

After the mixing, you will have a dough that’s much wetter and stickier than traditional wheat dough.  Don’t worry, that’s normal for gluten-free goods.

Divide the goo onto the two prepared pans, then liberally coat your hands in olive oil and gently press and prod the doughs into flat, roundish crusts that are about 1/4″ thick, leaving somewhat thicker edges to hold in sauce and toppings.  Re-oil your hands as necessary to minimize sticking; the finished crusts will be shiny but not drippy with oil.   I find that the dough is prone to tearing, so be gentle and patient; I also find that the heel of my hands works better than my fingers for spreading crusts.  Note that you won’t get a perfect circle and it won’t look “justlike a wheat crust” but it will be fine, and it WILL taste great.11-12 pizza in process 3pizza in process 1pizza in process 2

DRESSING THE PIZZA

Have on hand:

11-12 cheese added

11-12 sauce added

Tomato sauce for pizza (about one cup) I use a good quality spaghetti sauce, and it works just fine.  If you use that and happen to have a little tomato paste on hand, add it to the sauce to thicken it a bit; if not, that’s fine too.  Be careful if the spaghetti sauce is “chunky”, as the pieces, when you try and spread them on the dough, can tear it.  Be careful, and take your time.

Shredded mozzarella I use about a pound per pizza.  It looks like too much; it isn’t.

Shredded fresh parmesan If you don’t have fresh parmesan, you can omit this, but I highly recommend it.

Toppings as you see fit.

The most common difference between homemade pizza and good restaurant pizza is that homemade pizzas tend to have too much sauce and not enough cheese.   Once the crust is spread, apply a modest layer of sauce, then ample shredded mozzarella to within an inch or two of the edge.  Add toppings, then finish off the whole affair with a dusting of grated fresh parmesan (about a half cup per pizza).

Apply another coat of olive oil to the outer edge if it looks dry, then

11-12 pizza ready to bake

Salt and pepper the whole thing, especially the outer edge – I know, I know, you’re thinking doesn’t the cheese have finished pizzaenough salt already? Ignore your concerns.  The results are great.  I haven’t tried any seasoned salts, but I bet they’d work well too.

6. Bake the whole affair at 400° for 20 – 25 minutes.  Check the pizzas at about 15 – 20 minutes, and rotate the pans if they aren’t browning evenly.

Enjoy!

If you’d like to make one pizza now and another later, you can freeze the dough as soon as it’s mixed; OR you can spread the dough, place the cookie sheet in the freezer and harden up the raw, spread crust, then wrap and store it for future thawing, dressing and baking; OR you can “blind bake” the undressed crust  for 15 minutes and freeze it for later use.  I’ve done all three with good results.

I’ve also mixed the dough and divided it into 8 “mini pizzas”, then blind baked them for future use.  It’s more work but a real treat to pull one out for a quick dinner.

slice showing crustLet me know how they turned out!

crust underside - browned, crunchy+chewy

The absolutely true story of a nine year old and his lunch
Sep 21st, 2011 by Nancy

iStock_000013297428SmallI scored big on the lunch-making front today.

I was prepping bits and pieces of lunch for my nine year old as I passed through the kitchen – mixing leftover turkey soup from last night with the last half cup of noodles from a few days back, getting it started in the microwave, locating the wide mouth thermos in the cabinet, that sort of thing.  I checked with Evan about the rest of the lunch as we passed in the hall:

“Do you want watermelon?”

“Nah.  Do we have any peaches?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll check.  Plums…and yes! A peach.”

“Yay! I’ll have peach. And carrots too.”

In the medium (and large) lunchbox, the thermos fits nicely to one side, which leaves room for three side-dish-sized containers, or two containers and a drink.  I don’t put the ice pack in the lunchbox when I use the thermos – they sort of compete with each other, leaving us with cool-ish soup and warm-ish milk by lunchtime – so I don’t pack milk on thermos days either, and I let Evan either buy milk at school or carry water.

I chopped up a carrot (Insider’s tip: the most nutritional value is in the peel, so cut the carrot into many thin slivers and they won’t notice you didn’t peel it)(better yet, for boys chop them into arrowheads – they love that) and put it and half a peach into two little containers. I popped these into the lunchbox next to the thermos, and tossed in one of the unmatched spoons from the silverware drawer that I really hope he loses at school someday.

Evan noticed the empty spot and said, “hey, there’s room for one more thing.”

I never pack a treat in my kids’ lunches.  Have you ever emptied out a lunchbox at the end of the day to find that your child didn’t eat anything…except the cookie?  And you wondered why that kid was cranky and whiny after school?  Our house rule is this: eat your lunch, and you can have a treat when you get home.

So I was surprised and a little horrified to hear these words coming out of my mouth: “How ’bout a cookie?”

I guess I figured that homemade turkey soup, a peach and carrots was certainly a good enough meal to justify a cookie, but I was breaking my own house rule which every parent knows is a sure-fire way to lose all pretense of authority forever and ever.  I waited for Evan’s response.

“Okay!”

No surprise there.  But then the kicker:

“Oh, but wait, there’s no water.”

Trying really hard to mask my shock, I said as casually as I could muster, “You want water instead of a cookie???”

MAMA’S BIG WIN FOR THE DAY: “Yeah, water.”

And he trotted out the door to get his bike out of the garage.

HALLELUJAH! AND AMEN!

Foodie Tuesday: Food Appreciation Day
Jul 26th, 2011 by Nancy

This came across my screen from EcoSalon, and it compelled me to echo Anna Brones’ sentiments about the the simple pleasures in simple fare.  I realized, however, that I could never write as well as she does, or travel to Sweden for inspiration, so it seems best to just pass along her words.  Here you go:

FOODIE UNDERGROUND: APPRECIATING SIMPLE FOOD stockholm-salad

by Anna Brones, July 20, 2011

I’ve been traveling for a few weeks, and in doing so have failed to keep up with the latest and greatest in food news that seems to inundate the blogosphere on a daily basis. But a girl needs a break every now and then, and so the computer has been off, and the brain partially so as well. Fortunately, we all need sustenance, and although I haven’t been keeping up to date on what’s new in food, I have been eating a lot of it.

This is relaxing eating. Summer enjoyment. Sitting down with friends and family and enjoying everything from basic open faced sandwiches to fancier fried chantrelles. Not fretting over what to throw in the stir fry for dinner because I’m exhausted after work. No, this is food for the sake of food.

Sometimes I will ask for a recipe and jot it down in my red Moleskine, sometimes I just sit and enjoy, not thinking about what went into making what I am eating, and sometimes I get riled up and launch into a diatribe on the failings of the American and global food system – trust me, it’s part of the dinner table charm.

I’ve also been scouring every daily newspaper that sits next to my cup of tea and skim through the food section where there’s always a new recipe. Really they just make me want to throw dinner parties. And then in the evening I feel a pang of jealousy as I watch trailers for the new television series by one of my favorite Swedish food personalities, Tina, thinking to myself, “I want a cooking show too.”

What I’ve come to realize is that even taking a break, I still can’t get away from food. None of us can. No matter where we are or who we’re with, we have to eat. You may be a freak about it as I am – every meal I eat I make a mental list of how easy it would be to make at home and how I could even tweak it – but when it comes down to it, food culture permeates all of our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, we often don’t take the time to enjoy it.

I read an article during one of my famed tea and morning newspaper sessions about the author of the new cookbook Mat Under Bar Himel (Food Under an Open Sky). Beyond the poetic name that seems to sing summer and vacation ( it’s on the shopping list for before I head home), the author Michael Krantz points out that eating outside is a way to better appreciate our food and our friends. “When you eat outside you’re forced to talk to each other in a different way. When you’re inside, there are a lot of other distractions,” he said to Dagens Nyheter.

Combine that idea with the fact that we know that eating is better for us when we’re in positive social settings, and it’s no wonder that summer fare tastes and feels so wonderful.

I won’t even attempt to make any arguments about how Swedes are more conscious about what they eat than Americans – they are also facing a staggering obesity epidemic, fast food burger chains are on the rise, and a trip to the grocery store tells you there are plenty of refrigerators stocked with prepared foods ready to be thrown into the microwave.

And yet, there’s a consciousness about food that hangs in the air, not what it is or where it comes from, but that it’s important to eat, three times a day, every day, and that sometimes, it’s worth investing a little time in making something good. Even those who don’t like to cook peruse cookbooks to put together respectable dinner parties. Food has a certain level of importance and deserves our attention. Which is why the Swedish refrigerator and pantry tends to be stocked with the essentials: hardtack, dense bread, yogurt, meat, cheese, butter, vegetables and most likely a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or table. Basic but essential.

And when it comes to eating that essential food, time is valued. Breakfast, even as small as coffee and a macka (open faced sandwich), is a must, lunch breaks are lunch breaks, to be had in the break room instead of in front of the computer, and on weekends, dinners often get a little glorified, if nothing else, to celebrate the days off.

There is nothing extraordinary or trendy about this approach to food, on the contrary, it’s very simple. This is what makes it so that food and the enjoyment of food plays an integral role in everyday life, instead of being a mere after thought. Which means there’s thought put into which sandwiches you make to take on your afternoon outing, and an insistence on finding a good spot to sit down with your coffee thermos and enjoy the sun. The time to eat, even when you’re not eating anything fancy, is not to be taken lightly.

So forget complex recipes, forget the latest gluten-free baked goods, just take some time to eat good, simple food with friends, maybe even throw in a bottle of wine for good measure, and give honor to the sustenance that your body needs.

Because if we all have to eat, every single day, why not make it an enjoyable routine?

Images: Anna Brones

Nancy here again…

EcoSalon points out that this is the latest installment of a weekly column, Foodie Underground, that I highly recommend.

Here’s hoping that this summer we all have the opportunity to share, with friends and family, food under an open sky.

Foodie Tuesday: Weird but good - Kale chips
May 9th, 2011 by Nancy

That's Gabriel Gil, the local (and state) Iron Chef winner 2010, on the right

Last summer my family attended a local festival where the Iron Chef of Oregon regional cook off was underway.  My daughter looked on the chefs on the stage like they were rock stars!   As we were standing around watching the cleanup (my daughter thinks watching other people clean up from cooking is interesting, but doing it is not) one of the chefs offered us kale chips left behind from her plated masterpiece.  They sounded weird and looked the part as well, but were light, crispy, and absolutely delicious.


I found the recipe today at whatscookingwithkids.com from their Earth Day post, and it is slightly more difficult than ripping open a bag of junky chips.  Even that low level of difficulty is entirely offset by the lack of guilt borne of eating kale, rather than chips, by the handful.

A little more researched uncovered many recipes for these, and they’re all the same.  So are most of the comments, all variations on this – “Wow. Really. These are GREAT.”

Assuming they aren’t all gone, they pack up and travel well for lunch to boot.

Here is the recipe:


One bunch of kale, any kind

Olive oil

Salt (I used sea salt, but anything works)


Wash, if needed, and dry the kale. Note that it’s helpful for leaves be dry, as they may otherwise steam and not get crispy.

Hold each leaf by its thick stem. Pinch the base of the leaf with the fingers of the other hand and slide them up the stem. This will separate the leaves from the stem. Place the leaves in a large bowl, tearing the larger pieces into bite sized chunks as you go.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss them with clean hands until the pieces are coated.  Don’t over-salt like I did – use it only to enhance, not dominate.

Place the leaves in a single layer on a parchment- or silicone mat-covered baking sheet. Yes you may crowd them (they shrink with cooking) but no you may not overlap them much (they’ll stick together, then steam and not get crispy).

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.  They will look mostly flat and limp, but they will be light, crispy wonders.

Kale+recipes+healthy

Great photo of kale chips thanks to natalieskillercuisine.com

The weirdness continues: Kids LOVE these. They will eat more kale in one sitting than I’ve probably eaten in my lifetime, then ask for more.

Variations on a theme: Try them with cracked pepper; Seasoned salt of any kind (again only to enhance); Add a little apple cider or balsamic vinegar with the oil; How about minced garlic and/or red pepper? Try grated parmesan with the finished goods.  As with most good recipes, this one is infinitely versatile to suit your own tastes – let me know what you try!

Oh! gotta go – the oven timer’s going off…for my third sheet of chips today….

Foodie Tuesday: what to do with all the hardboiled eggs
Apr 26th, 2011 by Nancy

egg salad samI’ve got a fridge full of them,’you?

Today’s Foodie Tuesday entry offers up a quick and simple, kind, easy twist on the soggy mush of bad-egg-salad-on-soggy-white-bread: a sliced hard boiled egg with provolone, a tomato slice, sprouts, and herbed mayo on a lightly toasted English muffin. It’s brought to you by kokomama and inspired by a breakfast she noshed when working at a cafe in college.

Substitution ideas abound: no provolone in the fridge? Try havarti; tomatoes are all gone? Soak and mince sundried tomatoes, or use the marinated-in-a-jar kind. No sprouts? Any greens would probably work well, and I think I might make use of the dandelion greens in my back yard.

Note to all you Lunchsense users: this shows off several features of your lunchbox, one obvious and one not so much.  The obvious one is that the ice pack will keep this egg and mayo-laden treat fresh and cool for hours; the lesser-known (but no less valuable) feature is that since the food containers hold a sandwich in the same orientation as when it’s sitting on a plate, the sandwich guts don’t slide out from between the bread slices on your way to work.  Lunch looks just as good when you open up the containers as when you made the lunch.

Next up: a healthy, refreshing sandwich that makes use of all the leftover jelly beans.
Ha, I wish.
»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa