Thursday, December 01, 2005

Salt....so simple yet so important...

The only reason I can get away with writing this post is that my mother has no idea I have a blog. Thank God.

Growing up, my mom taught cooking classes. One of her golden rules was never to cook with salt, only to add it in at the end to taste in order to reduce sodium content. This is/was/will never be a good idea. However, she is still cooking for the natural foods market I work for and I occasionally pick a dish of hers from our hot case and I instantly know: not an pinch of salt was added to this food at any point in its preparation. Yuck, yuck and more yuck.

So, of course, I am of a very different school of thought. My friend taught me the amazing guilty pleasure of salting pizza, salting salsa and the wonderful invention of salt cellars. Get this, mom, tiny beautiful bowls of salt lying all over your kitchen. I adore kosher salt because of it's lovely feel in your fingers and it's flakiness. Sea salt is so good I could eat it by the pinch and I've recently found a mineral sea salt called "Real Salt" that is lovely as well but tastes a bit like dirt, but in a good way. One true sin...not using salt but using iodized salt. Ick.

One of my favorite Martha shows (yes, I adore Martha) is the one where she puts out all the different salts and talks about how differently they all taste. What an epiphany for me! It is still difficult for me to salt as I cook, I can almost hear my mother's voice BUT I ignore it.

Besides, what is the point of eating healthy delicious perfectly prepared vegetables if they don't taste good? And no one can convince me that roasted asparagus does not taste better if you liberally salt it before you roast it.

So, here I go to look for more pretty salt bowls, and some different salts. Hopefully in Paris this winter I'll be able to bring back some lovely salt.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


On my recent trip to San Fran to see my dear friend, Kara, we decided to recreate one of our favorite meals eaten out in San Fran. Zuni has many loyal followers, I'm sure, so it won't be a surprise that Zuni is way at the top of our list of favorites. Simply it's connection to the amazing Alice Waters, qualifies it for stardom, in my humble opinion.The only meal I've eaten at Zuni is the Roast Chicken for Two with Warm Bread Salad. We also added the Polenta with Mascarpone. And I should probably admit that we had oysters before and the cheese plate and the caramel pot du creme after. (geez, that's a lot of food, huh?)So it was amazingly easy to recreate the roast chix when we bought a whole roast free range organic chix at Whole Foods. Combined with some lovely Acme Bread from the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building, we used the recipe from the Zuni Cookbook to make the Bread Salad dressing. We served ours with a green salad, also bought at the Farmer's Market.The polenta is by far the most complicated part of this lovely meal, but sooooo worth it. Kara fixed it so I can't take any credit. I know the recipe is in the Zuni Cookbook and I know it involves time, time and more time. But the mascarpone on top, yummy.We ate our lovely Zuni meal with a sparkling wine. Go figure!All this to say...it's not so hard to recreate your favorite restaurant meals -- I mean, I would hesitate to encourage anyone to recreate Applebee's but, hey, if that's what you're in the mood for, why not fix it at home and have complete control over the quality and quantity of your ingredients?It's a challenge!!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Shortcuts I Live By...

Sometimes I take for granted the things I've learned from my mom, from my friends, from my extensive watching of Food Network. So I thought I'd share a few of these tips (at the suggestion of my brilliant, beautiful friend, Kara).

  • Are you scared of chicken unless it's a boneless, skinless breast? (I am. I admit it). So here's my shortcut (learned from Kara): buy organic chicken already roasted. I can buy mine at the Natural Foods Market I work for, Georgetown Market, Kara buys whole rotisserie organic birds at her Whole Foods in downtown San Fran. I'm pretty sure, if you do some research, you'll find some in your area. This pre-cooked chicken can be shredded off the bone and kept in a neat storage container and used for chix salad sandwiches, chicken and pasta, chicken soft tacos, chicken enchiladas, etc. etc. without having to cook the chicken.
  • Keep cut up veggies in your fridge. It reduces waste (because I feel guilty if I let them go bad) and it makes them easier to use. Plus they're always there if there's nothing else in the house to snack on.
  • If you have to buy frozen meals to fall back on for those crazy nights, buy all natural, organic ones. They're more expensive, so you'll buy less of them.
  • Learn how to cook fish and chicken in a packet of foil or parchment paper. It's an incredibly easy technique that is so impressive and is relatively foolproof. My fave chix dish is so simple, it's just boneless skinless breast, white wine (good enough to drink), olive oil, salt and pepper, mushrooms, leeks or onions, fresh herbs and lemon. I like to add thin slices of Yukon Gold potatoes, too. You just combine everything in a foil or parchment packet and cook it on 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Try it, I promise, once you get the hang of it, you'll be improvising all over the place.

Okay, that's enough for now. More tips to come!!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The ideal snack (aka my lunch)...



Today I decided to care about my lunch. And since I'm feeling so blah, I decided that I'd fix something I love.

You know how a taste, a smell has the ability to transport you somewhere else?

Well the first time I ever had gorgonzola and honey was at Zuni Cafe in San Fran. It was our last course, and it was (literally) heavenly.

So here's the plate...

Stella gorgonzola with Marshall's East Bay Wildflower honey, Breton whole wheat crackers, organic Granny Smith slices, organic strawberries.

The only thing that could have improved this heavenly lunch would have been a fab sparkling wine...Chandon would be nice.

Today...

I've just been doing a lot of thinking lately about how to balance life, you know? Sometimes it seems like it's so difficult to do it all right, but not "too" right. Sometimes I do a really fab job making healthy food for my family, sometimes I'm a really good friend to my friends, to the environment, to myself. Most of the time I am marginal at best at all of these things.

With all of the research I do about how to live healthfully, most of the time it's about the health of my body, not the health of my soul. I wonder why I tend to think that "body" health is more important????

The book, "The Schwarzbein Principle" talks about making an effort to take care of the emotional self, too. At the risk of sounding like a 14 year old, "Duh!!" How can we not think about how our minds impact our bodies...about how stress impacts our adrenal system, for example.

A friend asked me the other day about how to support herself during her pregnancy so she wouldn't have thyroid issues after having the baby. That's a tough question! What part of our lives isn't connected to our hormones, to our adrenal system? The really tough question...once it's broken, how do we fix it?

I guess I'm in a rut lately. When do I take care of myself? I take care of my kids, I try to take care of my job, I try to take care of my friends, and I do a lousy job taking care of my husband...and then there's me. Wow. And I expect my body to work perfectly?

I guess the challenges of having a part-time husband are taking their toll, too. Where's the guide book? The secrets?

I always hesitate to talk about my emotional self. I feel uncomfortable doing it. In fact, this whole post is awkward. Yet, how can I ignore an entire portion of my being?

Maybe today I'll try to take a moment for myself. I'll try to stay away from e-bay, from my message boards, from my e-mail, from my research, from my kids, from my husband on the phone, from swim lessons, and friends I should call. Maybe I'll just listen to some music I really love and be quiet.

I'll tell you how it goes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Kids and Vegetables....growing them up right

At the risk of being incredibly politically incorrect, I'm going to get up on my soapbox. So here goes...

I have 3 little boys, ages 6 down to 1. So I'm in a lot of places where other little kids are. Lately, I have been shocked at the number of overweight children. Yes, the news talks about it all of the time, but to actually see it with your own eyes is a bit different. On my son's t-ball team there are 3 incredibly overweight children. 3 out of 10??? Those are some crazy statistics.

So I am left to ponder...can Mickey D's really be held responsible for fat kids?? Of course not. Can parents? Of course. But lets dig deeper into the issue....what about schools?? You know, the places where most kids spend the majority of their lives? What exactly are school lunches? Are they whole grains? Are they fresh fruits and veggies grown in an environmentally responsible way? Are they pesticide/antibiotic/growth hormone free? Do they have quality sources of protein?

The answer to all of these questions....ABSOLUTELY NOT. And now I'm yelling.

pause...deep breath.

Growing up, I was the kid with the rice cakes, slathered with almond butter, carrot sticks and raisins in my lunch box. No milk money for me, no disgusting school salisbury steak. I must admit, I hated being that kid. I threw away those quality lunches some of the time because they were so incredibly embarrassing. I longed for Twinkies and PB&J on white bread.

Now I face the dilemna my mom surely had...How to pack a lunch for my soon to be kindergartener without ostracizing him. Hmmmm.

But back to veggies...people (correct that...other moms) are always asking me: How do you get your kids to eat such weird stuff? (Usually they're talking about asparagus or artichokes). And I say -- Uh, they don't have a choice?? So I admit it, I'm the mean mom on the block. And I might be kind of obsessive about my kids getting at the very least, five fruits and veggies a day. But frankly, it makes me sleep better. So there.

Sustainable agriculture...to me it means teaching my kids where their food comes from. It means really helping them to learn how animals are grown for food, where different vegetables and fruits are grown, and elaborate on the journey they take to get to our fridge. Because that's how I think we can change our "childhood obesity" epidemic.

Food is how we fuel our bodies...our bodies hold our souls so really we feed our very deepest being when we eat. My soul does not want to be fed Mickey D's. It's that simple.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Summer seasonal eating...

Early summer (May or June)
What to eat/natural abundance:
Summer berries, cherries, early summer squash, shelling peas, roastingchicken, lettuces, plums, salmon

Summer has arrived (June or July)
What to eat/natural abundance:
Honey, sweet corn, tomatoes, fresh lavender, green beans, apricots,salmon, buffalo, beef, homemade ice cream

Height of summer (July or August)
What to eat/natural abundance:
Basil and other fresh herbs, eggplant, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, peaches and nectarines galore, salmon, cucumbers, melons, grapes

Foodsheds and Farmers...

Continuing with my San Fran theme....I read an article from the San Fran Chronicle about a challenge to only eat food within your foodshed. Basically, that means, only eat food that was grown within 100 miles of where you live.

Wow. That is some serious challenge.

However, it got me thinking. I mean really thinking about the way we view our food. For awhile I was really congratulating myself on eating organic. I thought I was so neat, so environmentally conscious, such a "hip" mom. This was certainly a wake-up call.

Sustainable agriculture is different than organic. It used to be that when I bought organic, I could almost always tell you what farm it was from. Now, organic foods come from all over and from really big, really commercial farms. Which, of course, makes it more affordable...more mainstream.

But in order to really "sustain" small farmers and our earth...it makes so much more sense to buy from local farmers and to eat "in season." It's the way we were meant to eat. I want to give small farmers my money, I really do. I don't want to support the Walmarts and the Starbucks of the organic world. I want to support the guys like my stepdad who struggle to make ends meet because he's busy growing the crops that feed the cattle that he refuses to give antibiotics or grown hormones to. The guys who can't afford to certify themselves organic, but they know their cows and feed them everyday.

So after reading this I've decided that I will go to the Trader's Point Farmer's Market every Friday until it closes for the season. I will teach my kids about where their food comes from. I will make every effort to eat within my foodshed and within the season.

Why? Because I think it's best for my body, for my kids bodies and for the earth I live on. Because it makes sense to support local farmers.

Dare I challenge you to do the same?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

San Fran and it's motivation...

I usually visit San Fran a couple of times a year. Each time, I am amazed at the difference between the people here in the Midwest and the people in that city. I am awed by the restaurants, the farmers markets, and the appreciation the San Frans have for the fresh, the home-grown, the beautiful.

Every time I come back, I am motivated to only buy organic, to fix every meal my family eats from scratch, and to spend more money on what goes into our mouths and less on "stuff."

And every single time, a couple of months out from my last visit, I find myself stuck in the same old rut....wondering how I ended up back in the land of tacos and casseroles.

That's when I need to go back to San Fran...to regain my motivation.

Everyone should go to San Fran. Just once. Or, maybe, like me -- a couple of times a year.