When I had my daughter, a few people asked me if I planned to raise her a vegetarian like myself. I hadn’t given it much thought. I’ve been a veg for almost 20 years. I eat dairy, so I’m not vegan, but I’m not that into being a veg that I know if I am lacto-ovo or whatever. Lacto-ovo sounds like a fertility term anyhow. I stopped eating red meat as a mis-guided teenager, thinking I needed to lose weight. I never developed a taste for it again. Later I cut out chicken. Over the years, hearing about slaughterhouses and just thinking of what meat actually IS … its firmed my beliefs. However, I have never been one to impose my views on others. I have dated and even married a meat eater. If I see meat touch my food, I’ll probably pass, but if I don’t see it, I’m good to go ( even though I know it probably has touched a dead animal). My attitude about my daughter eating meat has been a lot like my thoughts on religion- I’ll let her decide when she’s older.
Well, its pretty clear she’s a meat lover. Any kind- from the best- london broil or filet mignon to the most offensive not-really-sure-whats-in-it kind i.e bologna. Now I have to be honest with myself. For as much as I want to let her make her own choices, I am not thrilled that now she’d prefer to have a hamburger over a (delicious, really!) veggie burger at a BBQ. I don’t know where the hamburger came from- I mean I do know but not sure how it was treated or what hormones are in it. To avoid looking like the stereotypical crazy vegetarian mother ” No , Windsong, drop that burger!! Eat your alfalfa sprout patty ” , I had to have a conversation with her about where meat comes from- the PG version. She’s only 6. OK, maybe PG-13 version without scaring her. I told her she can make her own choices , but I prefer she eat a veggie burger and this is why. And I will be standing over her guiding those choices with disapproving looks. Just kidding. But we are in the midst of BBQ season around here and I don’t think my thoughtful discussion on meat, hormones and animal cruelty are going to carry any weight once she sees a burger. It is really hard to let these kids do what they want and have their own opinions and stuff. Just yesterday she asked me why she can’t wear a zucchini. Pretty sure she meant bikini. Either way, that discussion is for another blog.
I have made these sweet potato fries number of times. Easy enough. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them in the oven. Despite following the directions, and using the same oven each time- they always come out in various stages of charred. Sometimes they are good. Sometimes they are barely edible. This was my latest go:
In case you don’t know much about sweet potatoes, they are supposed to be orange.
And I wonder why M is a picky eater.
My girl turns four on Saturday – not sure how that is possible, but the calendar says so. Tomorrow is her little birthday party celebration at school- which I don’t think amounts to much more than bringing in a snack. As the teachers silently curse me for bringing in tiny cupcakes frosted by a almost four year old and her mother, I will swear to them how Monkey had to have them. The truth is, she’d eat a sock if it had frosting on it. For some reason, I have in my head that I must make all cakes for any birthday celebration. Not sure why. While I had perfectly delicious cakes growing up, I don’t remember being super-impressed if my mom made them herself or if she got them at a bakery.
I really love making her cakes, but it causes me so much anxiety, mostly because I want it to be perfect. I started planning her party in November, and throw myself in headfirst after Christmas. I think its my subconscious way to get through January, having that to focus on. I search the internet for inspiration, googling the years theme ( My Little Pony). I eliminate cakes that are insane to even think about: Little-Pony-Cake.jpg, then I hone in on a doable one: a cake with her pony figures around the plate. I’ll be sure to post that one. But for her school shin-dig, I’ll just do rainbow cupcakes.
About 15 times while making these , I thought about chucking it all and purchasing the ones they sell at BJs, all frosted and boxed up, ready to go. I have had some tussles with frosting in the past , so not really wanting to make my own buttercream frosting (saving that for her actual birthday. wait till you see what I am attempting), I bought the Better Crocker Whipped stuff. It was actually pretty easy for both M . and myself to frost these fingernail -sized cakes.
About halfway though I got the grand idea to jazz things up with food coloring. Why not make all the colors of the rainbow ? Um, because apparently I need to go back to Kindergarten to learn which colors make other colors. Because I couldn’t find red, I set out to make a deep funky pink/purple. Didn’t really work, and put orange in it didn’t help either. Especially when green and blue were already on my palate. So Monkey looked at me and said” Grey is not in the rainbow, Mommy”
doesn’t every kid love a mauve cupcake ?
Can I ask you how people cooked before the advent of Google ? I just don’t have that innate cooking knowledge to turn down the oven 25 degrees and cut the time in half for these guys. I had to google it because in classic Jessica form, I threw out the directions that came with the cupcake pan. I think they came out OK, don’t you ?
Her birthday is the 6th, but since she was born at 1:15am, the 5th is the day I do all my ‘ what was I doing four years ago”-ing. I am so incredibly proud of the great little girl she’s turning out to be.
When I got married 5 years ago, I registered for a bunch of stuff. My sister in law and I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and I let her tell me the things I would need in my kitchen. At the time I was working two jobs and going to school, and H worked unconventional hours. So rarely did we sit down together, and even more rare was a time when we cooked. So when I got one of these:
I really didn’t know what to do with it. My experience with vegetable preparation had not yet evolved to where it is today ( Steamfresh). So it sat in my cabinet, weathered two moves where H. , King of ‘Come on, are you ever really going to use this?”, dangled it over the garbage can, asking if we really needed it. I knew the day would come. And it did. One day on Facebook, I posted ” I have zucchini, grape tomatoes and chicken- what can I make for dinner?” . Emily C. , a friend from grade school, told me to julienne the zukes, saute w/ a little garlic, throw the tomatoes in and voila, a nice little dish . She also told me to do something with the chicken,but this post is not about chicken. You guys can do whatever you want with the chicken. The point is: Who knew Emily C, resident troublemaker of the 4th grade would inspire me in the kitchen 25 years later? Facebook. Its awesome.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit I had to google ” julienne”. It was there I learned that I actually had a julienne cutting. thing. ( is that what its called?) I am further embrrrassed to admit I spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the thing to work. I actually called my mother and asked her how in the hell I was supposed to use the thing, it didn’t seem to be cutting.
This would probably be a side dish for most. I add veggie meatballs to bulk it up. You can also add spaghetti. Or meat-ful balls. I used to do Weight Watchers and have a tendency to mentally do points when I eat. This is a good, filling , 6 points-ish meal.
I am a reformed Garlic Over-Indulger. I shudder when I think of all the garlic salt I used to put on stuff. I always wondered why the next day at kickboxing class, no one would stand near me. It must’ve been oozing out of my pores. I mean, how gross must I have smelled ? I have learned less is more, especially with garlic. I put a little garlic and olive oil in the pan, let it brown a little- then throw in the zukes and a few cherry tomatoes. I am not a huge tomato fan… just a few’ll do for me, but you go on and add as many as you’d like.
The tomatoes burst w/ tomatoey goodness, giving the zucchini just the right amount of delicious flavor.
Meanwhile I heat up the veggie balls. In my former life, I was sorta anti-microwave. I trained in holisitic and eastern medicine . Many of the people I met there did not even own a microwave. I used to not really use it at all. But then convenience won, and I find myself using it all the time lately.
Saute the zukes and tomatoes until the zucchini looks soft and stringy- about 4 or 5 minutes, maybe ?
Put into bowl, dish, whathaveyou, and top with parmesan cheese.
If you make this, do me a favor and let me know what you think . Because a guest ask me for the recipe this past Christmas Eve, I have it blown up in my mind like its A Very Special Episode of Jessica in the Kitchen. I don’t know if she was just being nice- after all- she never actually followed up on it- but I’ll take it.
My life has gotten much easier since I decided to start planning our meals. At the root of my problem is there are three of us: a carnivore, a vegetarian and a picky preschooler. Further complicating things is because there are only three of us, we have to really really like something to want to eat it thee days in a row. I hate wasting food. It drives me nuts. I often make half of a recipe and we still end up with leftovers. By the way , halving a recipe taps into my dismal math skills. Whats half of a quart ? Should I cut the time in half too? Will Hunting, I am not.
I have a few things in my arsenal that we will all eat: eggplant parmesean, veggies and rice( I make chicken for Monkey & Husband, tofu for myself- easy to switch out) and most kind of pasta/italian dish. Many days the crockpot will do double time- one meat-ful, one meatless or w/ meat substitute. Ironically, my life would be easier if I had more offspring to whom to subject my cooking .
Back in the fall, I really started planning out my meals, mostly to save money. I was making so many stupid little trips to the grocery store . I don’t always follow it religiously, and sometimes I scrap a whole day and just make breakfast for dinner. I have one rule though. I do not cook on Saturday. I don’t care if we get take-out or BBQ, as long as I am not the one planning and cleaning up, I am good.
Last night , we went to Olive Garden. I know people love that place, but I just don’t get it at all. My other visits had been unimpressive , but we attempted to eat there b/c we had a coupon (can you say OLD?) and a gift certificate ( can you say CHEAP ?). Well, it was a freakin’ HOUR wait! For Olive Garden! That was not going to work with a hungry 3 year old and 40 year old ( my husband ! Not me!!), so we went home, intending to pick up Chinese food.
We passed a greek place in town and decided to stop there instead. Have you ever been to a place that looks like nothing much on the outside and ends up being awesome on the inside? It was such a cute , neighborhood place, family owned and the food was so fresh! Literally fresh food, not ‘fresh’ as in ‘great’ . That I even had to explain that shows how old I am , that I remember when fresh was used to mean ‘dope’ or ‘phat’. Oh my. I’m going to stop now before the AARP tracks me down. Ever since we moved here I have been looking for a good falafel place and there one was, right around the corner from me. Monkey actually asked for grilled chicken, I love when that happens! Even cooler , its BYOW. Love that even more. I think that will be our neighborhhod place.
Whats your neighborhood place like? Is it the food or the atmosphere, or both? Is it technically not in your neighborhood- if so how far do you travel ?
I am intimidated by big fat recipes. I have good intentions when I purchase the ingredients, I really do plan to make these things. What usually happens is when it comes time to prepare something new , I abort the mission and make something I am familiar with. At some point I open the fridge and I have all these unused ingredients staring at me, mocking me :
” You can’t even make a grilled vegetable sandwich?!- HA!” mocks the garlic and cheese spread
” C’mon , its easy to prepare me” taunts the yellow squash
The grapes just sit there in a bowl, just about the cross the threshold from grape to Raisin-in-training.
These innocent ingredients are about to die. I must use them in some sort of dish…like pizza?
Pizza is easy. I can do pizza. Thanks to Trader Joes, all I really have to do is throw everything on some class of prepared bread tablet *, put them in the oven and look at the clock( rooster timer, remember?). I’ve done it before, its a crowd pleaser. Monkey ( my daughter) likes to help, so its a frequent go -to.
So if its so easy, why did I need tweezers for tonight’s dinner ? I’m pretty sure I am the only person in the planet who has had the following happen:
You know those ” don’t eat me” packets that come in shoe boxes? Im not really sure why they are there- but there was one in my pizza dough package, and as I was putting my pizza to bake , it fell into the oven. Right between the hinge on the door to the oven sat that little white packet of who knows what. Mind you , my oven is at 425 degrees. What does Mystery packet do if its heated ? will it explode? Will it catch fire ? My man-hands are too sausage-like to get it out without burning myself, and since my kitchen is bare-boned, I have no tongs. So I had to get tweezers. Thankfully, the white packet did not burn or blow up my house. And the pizza came out awesome.
Can you tell there are three people here w/ different tastes? Cheese and olives for the husband, Monkey gets cheese and sauce, and I get spinach & yellow squash- both about to go bad in my fridge. It came out great and I decided I’m going to institute Homemade Pizza Fridays.
* I should have taken a picture of the crust I used. It was from Trader Joes of course, as was the pizza sauce, cheese and squash. The crust was a basil and sea salt flatbread and sooo delicious. I do not get paid by Trader Joes to mention their awesome, wallet- friendly fare. I just love their stuff.
My Mother in law is a traditional Italian woman. Preparing full meals at 2am just because you ask is no problem for her. She will make you a meat loaf as a side dish to a five course meal. She gives my 3 year old adult sized portions. She loves to feed people… and she is a very good cook. My husband will tell you she is the best there is.
So how he is attracted to someone like me who can not cook is a mystery. It wasn’t a surprise either- we had been friends for many years before we got involved, so he knew what he was getting into. My husband has a lot of great qualities- a wonderful father, smart and makes me laugh like no one else. He is an honest, caring man who, despite the slop I put in front of him, has never ever said how bad something I’ve made him is. With his words. The amount of hot sauce on his plate, presumably to mask the taste of the lemon chicken I’ve defiled speaks volumes. I can always tell how much he liked or didn’t like something by how much hot sauce he uses. The Lemon Chicken ( made without actual lemons, I swear to you I thought lemon juice would suffice) was about half a bottle. I mean how HUNGRY must the poor man have been to taste my faux-lemon chicken, realize it was sucky, and then drown the taste in hot sauce… and continue eating it. When I asked him how it was he said it was a ‘little dry’. With a straight face. What a guy, right?
The other day I sent him to work with a Jessica Chicken Stir Fry ™ I made. He texted me a few hours later and wrote ” The chicken is g- damn delicious “.
That is the very first time he enjoyed a meal so much he called texted me to tell me how much he enjoyed it ! Although I do have to wonder if soy sauce is the new hot sauce…