Thursday, July 22, 2010

Try It...You Might Like it!

Kid: I don't like cauliflower
Me: You know my dinner rule. You don't have to like it, but you have to try it.
Kid: [groans]
Me: Just eat it
Kid: But I hate cauliflower!
Me: How could you know this if you've never actually put the cauliflower in your mouth and chewed it?
Kid: But I have tried it before. Remember?
Me: Wha--? When?
Kid: ...'member that one time at Grandma's house?
Me: No...and since I don't "member" you have to eat it anyway.
Kid: It's not my fault if you forgot!
Me: Ok. New rule: If I can't recall that you've tried it before, you have to eat it again. Would you like some ketchup with that?

My daughter, bless her heart, is an adult now but we both have many fond memories of our battles at the dinner table. Did I mention that I won this one?

Photo courtesy of

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thinking Out of the Bento Box

A Happy Mom = A Happy Family. 
A Hungry Mom + Busy Day - Food = Miserable Mom...and well you can see where this is going. There's nothing that fouls my mood up faster that being hungry and/or unable to obtain nourishment--quickly and I need something that's actually good for me. Daily, often routine tasks seems so much more difficult to accomplish when I'm starving to death. Did you ever notice that people are unbelievably annoying just before you eat (a late) lunch? Well, I discovered a very cute solution.

Having an affinity for all things Asian, I recently splurged and bought a lovely, lacquered bento box online. Love, love, LOVE IT! A bento box is a Japanese lunch box that is compartmentalized and designed to store a variety of foods in one handy-dandy adorable container. Bento boxes are traditionally packed with rice, vegetables and some type of meat or fish but I don't want to limit myself to the standard Asian fare (although it's my favorite). I like taking leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day, so it fits the bill. These boxes are great idea for kids, too. If school-age children help pack their own with good food choices that an adult provides they are more likely to actually eat the stuff and preschoolers can be suckers for a "gimmick". Case in point: My toddler won't touch his egg foo young unless I feed it to him with my chopsticks...interesting.

I'm due back in the office soon, as my maternity leave will be coming to an end (sigh...) and I want to do my best to eat healthy when away from home. I plan to pack (besides leftovers) fresh, raw veggies, fruit, nuts, hummus, cheese, crackers and whatever I will need to get through a 10-hour work day. I'm a busy mom who doesn't need to put any extra strain on her system by eating take-out every day, which can be tempting when you have a whole hour for lunch, lots of restaurants to choose from and boy, do I like take-out! With a belly full of orange chicken or "super nachos" I can achieve nirvana and I am often at my most spiritual while slurping down an extra-large Coke with lots of ice on the way back to my desk. Unfortunately, these kinds of food come back, bite me on the butt and stay there...on my butt.

You've got your work cut out for you, my adorable new bento box. It's time for me to get creative with my lunch so I don't get hungry, bored and run to the nearest taco shop. I'm gonna pack that little sucker so full...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Smarter Larder

larder [ˈlɑːdə]n a room or cupboard, used as a store for food

I love to cook for my family and cannot survive without a well-stocked pantry....well, OK- so I won't shrivel up and die if I run out of tomato paste, but you know what I mean. Lets just say if, for example, one day our refrigerator broke down and everything in it spoiled. What would I do after the initial shock subsided? I could just order a pizza or get Chinese food to go (a great excuse to pig out) but what if takeout was not an option? Since I'm in charge of the kitchen I try to prepare healthy meals whenever possible, using fresh ingredients and avoiding processed foods with preservatives, blah, blah, blah... Sometimes, however I find myself in a real bind or in a hurry to put something on the table. I have found that, with some careful planning, you can squirrel away and stock convenience products that are actually good for you and have a decent shelf life. A few of my favorite places to shop include a couple of nearby natural foods stores and our local farmer's market. We are a busy family with perpetually hungry little monkeys so we do most of our hunting and gathering at a local chain grocer, but hubby and I do our best to choose wisely. Read those labels!

Aside from all the obvious basics like flour, sugar and spices, here is a list of staples I just can't would rather not live without:

Baking mixes (like cornbread or brownie mix)
Beans(the magical fruit)
Bread crumbs, plain
Bottled sauces and vinegars
Fruit, canned (low sugar)
Canned fish
Chicken/Beef/Vegetable Broth
Cream soups
Dried fruit and nuts
Fruit juice
Granola or cereal bars
Instant oatmeal
Instant Potatoes (definitely not like "the real thing", but pretty good)
Nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.)
Oils (olive, canola, peanut)
Other condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.)
Powdered milk
Condensed Milk
Preserves (naturally sweetened fruit spread)
Pickles, olives, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts and other "goodies"
Pasta sauce (tomato-based or Alfredo)
Soups and stews (in cans or dried)
Soy sauce (a must-have)
Taco shells
Tomatoes, canned (diced, pureed, sauce, and paste)
Tortilla chips
Vegetable shortening
Whole grain, instant rice and rice pilaf mixes
Whole grain pastas
Whole grain crackers

Oh, and CHOCOLATE, of course:
Powdered cocoa
Unsweetened baking chocolate
"Melting" chocolate (preferably 70% cacao)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate syrup

I think that pretty much covers the chocolate department.

As always, I try to avoid buying or storing damaged cans/packaging and check the expiration dates. With the above ingredients I can whip up a great casserole, pasta dish, appetizer, desserts, you name it. One of my favorite treats is a mixture of dried cranberries, dried blueberries, raisins and nuts mixed with melted chocolate and dropped by teaspoon...or tablespoon onto wax paper. I chill them until set. Mmmmm...a delicious treat to impress a guest or to hide for yourself. More Recipes For Busy Moms coming soon!

Lastly: Customize you own list of foods you'd like to store depending on you and your family's preferences, take advantage of sale prices and buy in bulk when it makes sense to. Squirrel away! You'll be glad you did.

Dug: 'Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, "I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead." Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.'
-From Disney-Pixar's "UP" 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Ode To Chocolate

I reach for you in times of need
Bittersweet, beloved Chocolate
The velvety depths of my cocoa greed
Exceed the size of my wallet
In 70% Cacao bars
So good I must have two
Floating in my chocolate cloud
I dream of Milky Way and Mars
Tipping my cocoa mug to you
My shrieking kids seem half as loud.