Monday, July 30, 2007

Red Cabbage Slaw

The weather has been a bit off this year. First, there was the frost in April that killed all the fruit for summer and fall and anything in the ground for early spring. Then, summer just kind of stalled for a long season of lettuce and asparagus. No complaints there. But the delayed heat of summer that is just now producing tomatoes and corn and melon, also allowed for a late entry in our CSA bag: one more head of red cabbage. I thought I was done creating cabbage recipes until fall. Knife in hand, I took one more whack at cabbage for the summer.

Red Cabbage Slaw with Dried Fruit and Savory Praline
Looking for this recipe? It will be included in an upcoming book!

It gets better the next day, I think. I had a huge plate of this for dinner. Red cabbage is a great source of anti-oxidants and fiber. Hmm. Fiber. Uh oh. I do have to sit in a small room with research participants tomorrow. For an hour at a time. Cabbage.

Oh well, they get paid a hundred bucks and hour. Call it hazard pay. The salad was darn good.

Wow. Where was I?

I took a couple days off posting to read a book, and my mind stayed on hiatus. I needed it. It seems as if my household has gotten struck by the Terrible Twos. While the first year of sleep deprivation is pure survival mode, the Terrible Twos are a different kind of mental torture that I had yet to experience. Wow.

For those of you unfamiliar with said Terrible Twos, it works like this; have LONG day at office and go to get child. Experience full-on tantrum trying to leave classroom. Check board and explain to child there is no reward today for good behavior (no good behavior) and be treated to another tantrum. Carry screaming child to the car. Experience another tantrum trying to get into the car and car seat. Drive home with every nerve jangled from the sheer volume of noise inside vehicle. Prepare dinner and be treated to another tantrum trying to get child to stay seated to eat. Another tantrum to get upstairs to take bath. Give up, put screaming child into tub standing and wash child down like that. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Take screaming child to bed and struggle for another two hours trying to get child to calm down and sleep. Fall asleep yourself without even brushing teeth or getting undressed.

Repeat same experience daily through the entire weekend to the point where you are sure if you even breathe wrong, it will result in another tantrum. It's stunning. Most of all you wonder where your sweet, loving child went, and if you will ever see her again.

There was this awful incident in Arizona where a mother and grandfather were trying to exorcise a three-year-old. The grandfather was tazered while he was trying to strangle the child to rid her of the demon. He later died. There is nothing funny about this. In all seriousness, you wonder if the "demon" was just an extended bout of Terrible Twos wrought onto a couple of very misguided and dangerous adults. I hope the poor kid recovers and is placed in a loving home. There are some people who just should not raise kids.

I'm a bit rested and preparing to deal with this phase. In my new life as a mom, I am wise enough to know that it's harder on my child than on me. Remarkable as that seems. But, oh man, good thing I am sane, and that I love her so much, and that once in a while, between tantrums, I get big hugs and a glimpse of my sweet child.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thanks to Carnival Hosts

This week's Carnival of Family Life is hosted at So-Called Me. My posts are a bit light this week. Blame J.K. Rowling ... !

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Roasted Ratatouille — No Rodents

No, I haven't seen the movie. But I've known about Ratatouille for a lot longer than the Pixar version. It's one of those long-standing classic dishes, but until recently, I could not tell you why the dish made so much sense. Not until last summer at the farmers market while I was shopping what was fresh and in season for mid-summer.

Consider what is in season right now: tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, okra, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic. All in season, all together, all in the one recipe. Makes perfect sense to build a dish around those ingredients, right? I just never got that point. The recipe existed before the corner Megamart with anything and everything regardless of season. It was built around the vegetables that were available, fresh, and in grown in one's garden. Simple. Rustic. And delicious.

I do a few things differently. Eggplant can be bitter, so I dice it first and salt it with a half teaspoon of kosher salt and let it rest while I do the other prep work. The rest of the chopping is all easy, large rustic chunks of vegetable. While those of the French or French Quarter persuasion may cringe at the idea, I do not peel my tomatoes. I also roast the dish in the oven to get the most sweetness out of the vegetables.

It's better the next day, cold even. The flavors marry overnight. Most of all, it's an easy and healthy way to use everything in season in one big pot. One more reason why those traditional recipes have endured.

Roasted Ratatouille
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Papa al Pomodoro, Bread and Tomato Soup



Tomato season has arrived. The last two bags from our CSA have held 4-6 pounds of heirlooms. Heirlooms are a big deal for tomato lovers, but can be confusing for those new to the idea. Heirlooms come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, textures and flavors. Some are ugly, bulgy even with cracks in them. Don't judge an heirloom by its cover. Some of the ugly ducklings are the most intesely flavored tomatoes you will ever eat.

By definition, an heirloom must be saved from each season's fruit, "true to type." It must also have been available as a seed variety at least fifty years and each variety must have its own unique history or story. Heirlooms are not often found in the grocery store since they do not generally ship well, and taste best at their peak of ripeness. To find these "beauties," I'd recommend a trip to the Farmers Market between mid-July and early September.

The biggest problem we have during this peak season is the volume of tomatoes we get in our CSA. It's a good problem to have. We just have to work quick to cook and eat all of them before they go bad.

When you have the finest of ingredients, my philosphy is to keep things simple and let the flavor of great ingredients speak the loudest. I find myself making these kinds of simple recipes over and over, and I never get tired of them.

Bread and Tomato Soup
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Organic Farming: Sustainable and Efficient

There's a great study on Live Science that shows how organic farming produce just as high, and in some cases higher, yields than industrial agriculture. The study debunks the myth that industrial agriculture is more efficient in short term and especially long term production. Over time, the quality of the soil that is preserved by sustainable, organic methods actually increases the yield in comparison to industrial practices.

The only benefit to industrial practices is the savings in labor and the convenience, which both have tremendous costs in damage to the environment. It's an enlightening study, and a quick, informative read.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Strange Baby Gear abounds. Honestly, marketers must think the second you have a child, you lose all common sense and will buy anything, anything as long as its labeled for your kid's benefit. Believe me, I've been the lost pregnant woman wandering around Babies 'R Us wondering if I need this crap. Here's some favorites:
  1. The Nursury Sanitizer. Because that binky isn't going to hit the floor every five seconds, anyway. Go ahead, spend $59.95 and drive yourself crazy trying to keep everything "clean." That sucker's going in the closet after about a week of reality.
  2. The $36 designer potty stool. The first user review says it all; "Won't work for boys. By Mother of Twins."
  3. $24.95 on a tub "bumper." What, are you going to leave them alone in there? You're not four inches away? I know. I know. I considered the full body foam protective suit with matching crash helmet, but the useless baby gadget inventors haven't gotten around to that one yet.
  4. Shampoo rinse cup. Only $8.95 for a plastic pitcher. Wow. Bargain.
  5. A cross-shoulder strap that lets you strap on that really heavy car seat/carrier AND your child both. Your hands will be free, and your chiropractor will be rich.
  6. Okay, I bought one of these "Baby Safe Feeders." It's this mesh net attached to a handle like a huge binky. You give it to the kid so she can gnaw away at the food, but never actually get to eat it. Sounds like an eating disorder in the making. I never got it out of the packaging.
  7. Oh, my favorite! The stay-put bowl and cutlery set. You suction cup these to the table so your kiddo doesn't swipe them off the table. Nice in theory. What actually happens is your child pulls and pulls and pulls at this thing until the suction cup gives way, and WHOOSH! Spaghetti-O's all over the wall. I still have them on there a year later. Stellar product, yours for $12.95. Interior paint and labor extra.
  8. On the other end of the scale, an actual baby gift we received: The Tiffany china bowl, plate and cup set. China. Tiffany. Yeah.
  9. The jar holder. $7.95 for a suction cup to hold the baby food jar to the table. Hmm. The reviewer says she uses it to keep her baby from swiping the jar off the table. Okay, their arms aren't that long. Maybe if you just moved it a bit farther away? Nope, farther, almost, there!
  10. Baby Spritz Baby Wipe Alternative. Let's see, you spray it on, then you have to wipe it off with something as opposed to having the wipe wet and wiping off something. I'm still wiping, right? Only $11.95 per 8 oz. to make a one-step process into a two-step process. Sign me up. So, grateful for potty training.
  11. The electric Wipe Warmer. Okay, so maybe my kiddo will have to work out the whole cold wipe thing in therapy later. But $24.95? Still, I almost see the point having gone to the gyno once and heard on arrival, "Oh, sorry! The instrument warmer is down." Yeah, I kinda get it.
  12. The Wee Block. Not that putting a diaper over the boy parts isn't a good idea for your own well-being. But, it's $12.95 for a friggin' sponge. That gets peed on.
  13. I can't do this one justice with my own description. The Baby Care Timer. "For sleep-deprived new parents, it's hard remembering when you did what — but not with our clever time manager! Forget about journaling; with the press of a button, the itzbeen displays the time since baby's last feeding, diaper change, nap, and more. You can even set audible reminders for yourself!"

    It's got more buttons and displays on it than the cell phone I've had for a year and still can't work. And I'm supposed to figure this out sleep deprived? I couldn't even figure out the fridge door then. $24.95. Batteries, of course, sold separately.
Maybe some of these items have worked for you. Cool, post a comment. I've only raised one infant to the Terrible Two point so far. I can still learn a whole lot. As for me, I'm thinking maybe the extra cash might be better in the long run for that practical little item known as The College Fund.

A Note From Our Farmers

While buying local is a great thing to do to reduce one's carbon footprint, and to support sustainable small farms, there is a lot more you are getting in the process than just food.

We try to buy eggs either through our CSA, or the local ones that are sold at the store. Both varieties taste great and are from pastured hens. One of the producers includes a note in each carton that lets you know how the "girls" are doing that week.

"Hello from Campo Lindo Farms. We are sad today. Lambert, the Great Pyranees dog that has watched over our ladies for almost 12 years, is no longer with us. He was born with no eyes and we thought he would have to be put down eventually. He never had any trouble thought, other than bumping into vehicles that had been moved, so when he was about a year old, we put him in wiht a group of hens. He found his purpose. Though he couldn't see, he was great at keeping critters away that wanted to sneak up on the ladies, day or night. He was happy with his lady-friends, and always followed us as we gathered eggs to wrap a frong leg around us and get a little pat (he had a built-in "people locator"). By Lambert, you'll be missed. Thanks for supporting a local, temporarily sad, family farm."

Our CSA grower also includes a weekly update on how the farm is, and how their families are doing. They always end each note with "Until next week, thank you for supporting your local growers."

"We are still soaking wet after a weekend of torrential rainfall. Stacy and I are really starting to feel the muscles in our legs and behinds from slogging around in the mud all day. The good news is we are expecting to dry out during this week, and its not supposed to get real hot until next week. Of course, in August we will be crying for a little rain, but for now, enough is enough."

In a world where we have lost complete touch with where our food comes from, it's good to get that connection back, that understanding of the who and the what it takes to grow and produce food responsibly. For some reason, food just tastes better when you appreciate it.

Some Good News
A few weeks back, I posted about the Federal Preemption Clause, Section 123, that had been added to the Farm Bill. The thousands of calls and emails worked. This clause which would have allowed the USDA to mandate states to allow any approved commodity including GM crops or cloning for example, has been removed from the draft farm bill.

As the House Agriculture Committee is meeting right now to finalize their draft of the 2007 bill, now is a great time to send them and email and make sure your voice is heard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday


Sea turtle checking me out. "What is this strange pink, fleshy creature who obvisously does not belong in the water?" Hmmm.

Good News, Bad News

Not much time to post this morning, but the big story is that 11 companies including Coke, McDonald's and Pepsi have agreed to limit junk food advertising to kids.

The bad news is the measures are voluntary and being applied in an arbitrary manner. Some companies like General Mills will limit ads only on mediums besides television. Given that the audience that is vulnerable here is under age six, television is still the primary media these non-readers consume.

Other points of concern include the "loophole:"

"That qualifier amounts to a major loophole, given the media-watching habits of children. An episode of Nickelodon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” for instance, is viewed by an average audience of 876,000 children age 6 to 11, according to Nielsen Media Research, and falls in the category of shows that are off-limits to ads for junk food. But “American Idol” from Fox, which qualifies as a family show, attracts 2.1 million children in the age group."

You can read more in the NYTimes this morning.

It's time for real change. Ethical marketing is NOT an oxymoron, or at least it should not be. Food manufacturers need to make healthier products. Consumers need to express themselves through their choices as much as possible.

Parents need to turn off the TV or computer, or whatever device, and make their wishes known to food manufacturers, schools, and also to educate their own children. Don't like it? Don't buy it. The whining is awful, but you can resist. Be strong.

We all need to step up. It's not going to be easy. But, you know, marketers and manufacturers are parents, too. These are our children. I think we can all do better.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad


Cauliflower comes in a variety of colors from white to light purple, to yellow, orange, green and even deep purple.



There are two Dans in my culinary world. One is Chef Dan, my culinary school instructor. The other is Farmer Dan, our CSA grower. Both of them challenge me to try new things in the kitchen.

As culinary school has been back-burnered to motherhood, Farmer Dan is my main source of inspiration these days. Each week’s CSA bag holds a new surprise. Just a couple weeks ago, that surprise was a beautiful head of deep purple cauliflower.

Interestingly enough, broccoli and cauliflower are the same plant. The different varieties are called cultivars. The plants have been selectively cultivated to enhance certain characteristics not unlike breeds of dogs, for example. All dogs, be they Chihuahua or St. Bernard are the same species.

The plant, Brassica oleracea, can be found in such cultivars as white, orange, yellow and purple cauliflower, the green Romanesco cauliflower, broccoli, and the cross-variety of brocciflower.

As with other members of the cruciferous vegetables (kale, cabbage, mustard greens), cauliflowers and broccoli are nutrient-dense. The colored varieties are a good indication of the nutrient content, with the gold cauliflower being higher in beta-carotene and the purple variety high in the same anthocyanins that make blueberries and red cabbage healthy.

Now, I am sworn not to give the source of this recipe, but I didn’t exactly follow the recipe. It was written for a quantity of 25 POUNDS, so things like 1 cup bacon fat sounded especially bad. I did a revision on the recipe, and am posting the lighter version with healthier fats, that yields only a few pounds of gorgeous-colored salad.



Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book! Look for the title and announcement soon.

Fiddling Around with New Ingredients


We try to eat local as much as possible, but once in a while there is that irresistible culinary quest that appears in the produce section. That one item that makes you stop the cart and say, “What the hell is that?!”

We had such a moment just a couple weeks ago. Both my husband and I were drawn to these odd, dark green curls of vegetable. He immediately sought out his favorite produce section staffer and she came over.

“Oh, fiddlehead ferns,” she said. She offered us a raw one to sample. Perhaps not the greatest idea, I find out later, but how are you going to know? The ferns have a earthy, “green” flavor to them. Think about being deep in the woods for a walk on a damp, early spring day. You know that smell? The one like fresh dirt and new growing things? That’s the flavor of fiddleheads.

The ferns are harvested while they are still young and tightly furled, hence the common name that references the carved shapes like those on the front of a violin.

Two of the more common varieties of ferns are the young shoots of cinnamon and ostrich ferns found only in the northeastern and central-eastern U.S. These are two varieties considered more safe to eat as ferns often contain carcinogens and one of which, bracken, has been associated with stomach cancer. Fiddleheads are most often sourced from ostrich ferns.

Different approaches and theories exist, but one recommendation for cooking ferns is to clean the brown and yellow spots off, wash them, and put them in water and boil for 10 minutes, then empty the water and bring to a boil again, cooking to desired tenderness. The first change of water is supposed to reduce the ferns’ bitterness from tannins and toxins. Once I learned this, I opted not to feed the Kiddo the final dish.

Some of the ferns also contain an enzyme that breaks down thiamine, so too much consumption can lead to a vitamin B deficiency.

Other caveats exist for the harvest of the plants. Since each shoot only has seven tops, it is recommended not to harvest more than three of the fiddleheads in order to keep the harvest sustainable. Fiddleheads, like morel mushrooms, are not grown commercially.



Fiddleheads, Fava and Asparagus Saute

1/2 pound of fiddlehead ferns, washed, brown and yellow spots removed
1 pound fava beans in pods
1/2 pound asparagus tips
1/3 cup sharp aged cheese like pecorino, grated
2 tbs. butter
1 clove garlic minced

Boil the fiddleheads for at least 10 minutes. Change the water and boil again for a few minutes. Drain. Remove the fava beans from their pods. Blanch the fava beans in boiling water for a minute. Drain and place in ice water immediately. Peel the skin from each fava bean (yes, the beans you have to peel twice. Good thing they are tasty.). Melt butter in skillet and sauté the garlic for a minute. Add fava beans, fiddleheads and asparagus tips and continue to sauté for about five minutes. Remove from skillet and top with grated pecorino. If you don’t have fiddleheads (or don’t want to try them) this is a great recipe for just fava beans.

I have to admit all the advice on toxins is a bit of a culinary turn off! But, it does not prevent me from wanting to try new things. I have a bunch of Thai greens and something called water spinach in the fridge now. Those at least were grown local.

Blackberry Wine (Sauce)

Sometimes recipes just happen. I got a pint of blackberries at the market, saved a lemon from a recipe earlier in the day, and at dinner, I was eyeing the last half cup of Mouvredere wine in the bottle, thinking, "yeah, that flavor is right." Our guests brought chocolate ice cream.

So, all that remained was for me to jump up, grab the wine and run to the kitchen. Which I did, and it all came together in a wonderful dessert sauce.

Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

I "babysat" a bird for an ex-boyfriend who moved to the Marianas Islands. The bird was supposed to learn to talk. I spent countless hours talking to it only to get in return, an evil, beady, little sideways glance. The only noise it ever learned to make was immitating the smoke alarm, which I set off constantly while experimenting with recipes. This noise, the bird would shriek at top volume the second it saw me ambling toward the coffee pot in the morning.

I called my friend, an expensive overseas call, to tell him that he would need to send someone over to get the bird, or I would send it to him by mail in a box. With no holes.

My kiddo is just the opposite of the bird, other than the occasional piercing shriek. She can pick up a word whispered once only, under my breath, from 100 feet away. Especially if it is one I do not want her to know. The words don't always come out as intended, and this is often the best part. Here are 13 of my favorite phrases from my child:
  1. NoNoNoNoNo ... (sometimes this one is not such a favorite).
  2. Choco-la-date!
  3. Kiss my bodunum! (oddly, she'd never heard the phrase before).
  4. Ups'down (I love this contraction. It's perfect and should be added to the English language)
  5. Daddy pooted! Stinky, stinky! Mommy pooted! Stinky, stinky! (she did it, she's blaming us)
  6. Dalmons (almonds)
  7. Mofo (an attempt at the cat's name. We didn't correct her because sometimes this name is more accurate)
  8. More funny! (to me when she wants me to make her laugh more)
  9. Brocchy (broccoli, used in context of "More brocchy!" this is a great one to hear)
  10. Wha-Wha happened? (used synonymously with why)
  11. 'pices! (when demanding a round of spice sniffing)
  12. Binket (not to be confused with binky, this is a blanket)
  13. "Oh shit!" (uttered once, crystal clear, just after I said it. If we're lucky, we won't hear it again until she's riding the school bus).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Speechless Wednesday

I did not get around to posting a Wordless Wednesday photo today. But I was struck absolutely speechless by an article in the Times this morning:

"WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations."

So, there you have it. The current administration cares more about its own agenda than your health. Take a moment to read it, you'll be mad as hell, but maybe it's time we all got mad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Choosing Local, One Thing at a Time


An interview with Tim Schlitzer, Executive Director, Food Routes Network and Buy Fresh Buy Local.

Chances are if you live near one of its 50 chapters in 17 states, you've seen a "Buy Fresh Buy Local" sign. Sighting one of these is a great way to know you are near a source of an active local food network.

"It's not a brand," he says. "It's just continuity that can be identified." You see, brands, according to Tim, mean a label. A set definition. Rules. Eating local is for a person and a community to define for themselves. An example of such restriction, he said, is the hundred-mile diet. A hundred miles of choices is a lot different for someone in Kansas compared to someone in New Jersey. You can't have such fixed rules in a localized approach.

Thus, the Buy Fresh Buy Local program doesn't dictate, rather it exists to help insure that there are local choices, and that consumers can find them. The program includes everything from creating "feedability guides" that identify new opportunities for growers and producers based on an individual community's needs, to assisting with grant proposals, to helping raise awareness of endangered foods and the importance of seed banks. The program also provides marketing materials and the "continuity" of the Buy Fresh Buy Local program that can serve as a guide for consumers.

At the heart of all these different activities, the organization serves as a liaison for sharing information on what programs work and what kinds of solutions are working in other chapters. Each of the 50-plus chapters then determines its own needs and can use the support, marketing materials, and shared knowledge to succeed in recreating its local food system.

Tim uses the analogy of microbreweries to help people understand what has happened to local food systems. As he explains, small, quality-driven breweries used to be the norm. Larger breweries with a standardized, cheaper product then took over. People since realized that the beer just wasn't as good, Tim says, and now you see the rebirth of microbreweries. Local food needs to experience the same rebirth.

Tim also advocates the rebirth of dialog with regard to food. As individuals we need to stop being complacent and take an active role in learning more about where our food comes from, he says. And, while the journey for each of us to define our local food may be complex, starting that journey does not have to be.

"I would say [for a consumer] to start with one thing rather than trying to broadly replace it all," Tim advises. Try sourcing that one thing, and the rest will grow from there.

This is sound advice given that many local food systems can't offer all of the local items needed to sustain their surrounding communities. By starting small, demand and supply can grow together.

As the executive director for the program, it's likely Tim has seen his share of both successes and, well, not successes. Despite this, he remains optimistic when asked about the next ten years ahead for his organization and the long-overdue "consumer-driven food revolution."

"I'd like to see local food systems to be recreated in every state," he says. Currently about two percent of foods are sourced locally. Tim's goals include raising that percentage to ten or even twenty-five percent. "Communities will learn to feed themselves again."

Tim seemed less optimistic about the pending farm bill.

"Too much politics. We can't wait. The public has to stop looking to government for change." There is a certain irony in allowing a centralized government define "rules" for local food systems. These systems are unique and can only be understood by the people in them, Tim explains. "Local chooses local," he says.

Despite the optimism, Tim advises others not to take the fragility of our food systems for granted. It only took fifty years to get to the current state of a highly centralized and industrialized system. It's the goal of Buy Fresh Buy Local and Tim Schlitzer — as well as the responsibility of each of us — to guarantee that when we choose local, we will have that choice.

More information on Buy Fresh Buy Local can be found at foodroutes.org.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Carnival of Family Life

Welcome to the July 9, 2007 edition of carnival of family life. One thing that is always interesting about this carnival is the range of topics that all fall under time at home and family. I'll do my best at organizing. Which, if you have seen some of my closets ... pretty shaky!

Laughter and Stories From the heart:
  1. kailani presents A Proud Mommy Moment posted at Local Girl.
  2. Expat's "13" on ways I will embarrass my child someday.
  3. Leslie Williams presents Oh Yeah...Go Mommy! posted at Do You Weary in Well Doing?, saying, "a good family day!"
  4. Karen Patrick presents MY BROTHER IS AWESOME posted at PediaScribe Blog.
  5. Summer presents Fourth of July posted at Wired For Noise.
  6. Tupelo Kenyon presents Gratitude for Home and Family posted at Tupelo Kenyon, saying, "Home and family is literally the center of our universe, but how often do we take it for granted? Celebrate life through gratitude for our sense of home and the people we share it with."
  7. Grace presents about last night posted at Sandier Pastures, saying, "bringing the cuddle back!"
  8. Jenny presents I hate being left out! posted at the so called me.
  9. Kate Baggott presents My Husband & His Mother-in-Law posted at Babylune, saying, "My husband and his mother-in-law have not had an easy relationship. It's not as hard on them as it is on me."
  10. Charlie Close presents Kathy's Birthday posted at Summer Grasses, stories from the seasons of life by Charlie Close, saying, "Kathy turned forty early this month, and she passed through it mostly unscathed. And, having reached this mature age, she has concluded that if you want the party done the way you like it, you should do it yourself..."
  11. j2r presents Cherish Life. | journey2retirement.com Blog posted at Journey2Retirement.
  12. muse presents The rant of the sandwich! posted at me-ander.
  13. Leisa presents Goldilocks and the sneaky sleep posted at downwiththekids.net.
  14. Jenny presents Back From D.C. posted at As A Star.
  15. Jenny presents Poisoned Baby posted at the so called me.
  16. Anna - On The Ponderosa presents TEENAGERS? The New Gateway Drug For Parents posted at On The Ponderosa.
  17. Jennifer in OR presents In Which We Are Not Like The French posted at Diary of
  18. Stay at home mom presents A Dancing Queen Looks Back posted at Play at Home Mom, saying, "A dancing queen looks back at how her life has changed."
  19. Stephanie presents But I'm Not Tired posted at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.
  20. Karen Bastille presents At The Park posted at Summer With Grandmother Wren.
  21. Micellaneous Mum presents Keira strikes again posted at Miscellanous Adventures of an Aussie Mum, saying, "Just a quick little preschooler anecdote :)"
  22. pickel presents My Day, in a Nutshell posted at My Two Boys, saying, "Adopt Two Boys...because one just isn't enough? I must be insane."
  23. Karen Lynch presents July 3rd-the Love Story posted at LivethePower.
  24. Grace presents boredom gone, weekend's here posted at Sandier Pastures, saying, "Answering a very difficult query from daughter who misses winter!"
  25. Marjorie presents The Space Between posted at Life Without School.
  26. Kerri Aldrich presents A year at Play Library… posted at Play Library, saying, "Thanks!"
  27. Kathryn Lang presents A Shattered Memory posted at The Peculiar Club and How to Become a Good Wife posted at The Peculiar Club.
  28. Christine from Are We There Yet presents Sisterly Love posted at arewethereyetmom.com.
  29. Madeleine Begun Kane presents A Modest Dating Proposal For Anxious Guys posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.


From the head, advice and tips:

  1. Jerry Stearns presents Relationships-How To Find Resources In The Community for Your Aging Parent posted at Your Life After 50, saying, "A lot of us baby-boomers have aging parents and we have to take care of them and it is particularly hard on the primary caregiver. This is particularly stressful for adults who have the dual responsibility of caring for their own children as well as their aging parents. One of the best ways to cope with aging parent care though, is to find resources and help within your local community."
  2. Emma Honey presents The Pro Househunter posted at healthandfitnessfactorfiction.com, saying, "My real estate hunt is made a lot more enjoyable by my small assistant's input and insight!"
  3. Robert Bach presents Gabriel's Bedtime Plan posted at Kintropy In Action, saying, "A Dad's view of putting the kids to bed... eventually."
  4. GP presents Breakfast 'Round The Campfire posted at Fish Creek House - INNside Innkeeping, saying, "Heading out for summer camping, travel tips and breakfast recipes. Enjoy the journey."
  5. Cory Aldrich presents 3 Reasons Early Marriages End posted at marriageactually.com, saying, "Thanks!"
  6. Samir presents How to achieve more by BEING rather than DOING posted at Develop & Grow.
  7. Johan Idstam presents A little bit of Kaizen in life posted at Relay blogger.
  8. Christian Bachmann presents Listen to your partner - for heart's sake posted at Med Journal Watch, saying, "Your partner may know you better than you know yourself. I have found an unexpected proof of this wisdom - in a medical study!"
  9. Eric Ellen presents Teach Your Kids to Negotiate with You Instead of Arguing posted at Husbandhood.
  10. Hueina Su presents The Little Engine That Should posted at Intensive Care for the Nurturer's Soul, saying, "Many moms I've worked with remind me of the beloved children's book "The Little Engine That Could", only they are singing a slightly different tune. It goes like this, "I think I should, I think I should...."
  11. Lisa Mitchell presents Two Perspectives on Infertility posted at Let's Talk Babies.

Crafts, Projects, and Around the House
  1. Mommy Babble presents Try It This Weekend- Puppet Fun posted at Mommy Babble.
  2. Activist mommy presents Fun, without all the fancy packaging posted at Activist Mommy.
  3. Annette Berlin presents Free Curtain Patterns posted at Crafter's Journey, saying, "Summer is a great time to reorganize and beautify your home. New curtains give you the most bang for your decorating buck. Here are some easy ways to make them yourself."


Finance, Work, and Practical Concerns

  1. Jordan presents Teaching Toddlers Financial Responsibility posted at MamaBlogga, saying, "No, we're not learning compounded interest, but it's not impossible to start learning about money at this age."
  2. Paula presents Are You Bankrupting Yourself and Your Children? posted at Queercents, saying, "There is nothing like the joy of parents being able to treat their kids to stuff they really want. With all this emotion flowing around it is easy to see how quickly and innocently parents can risk their financial future and bankrupt their children in the process."
  3. Mommy Babble presents Shopping for a new baby posted at Mommy Babble.
  4. Super Saver presents My Daughter's Currency posted at My Wealth Builder.
  5. Penelope Trunk presents Blending my kids and my career (ugh) posted at Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk.
  6. Megan Bayliss presents What is Happening at Imaginif posted at Imaginif..., saying, "New writers, monthly competitions and disappearing blogs - blogging life is turned upside down in Megan's down under world. While the Northern hemisphere is warm, the southern hemisphere is experiencing winter. Megan is calling for Christmas in July recipes in return for a chance to win a Christmas Stocking full of Protective Play resources."
  7. Emma Honey presents The Pro Househunter posted at healthandfitnessfactorfiction.com, saying, "My real estate hunt is made a lot more enjoyable by my small assistant's input and insight!"
  8. Tushar Mathur presents How much should your Monthly Mortgage Payment be ? posted at Life of a Resident Alien....

Food, Glorious Food
  1. Kevin Heath presents Fourth of July Dessert Surprise: Red White and Blue Trifle posted at More4kids, saying, "We enjoyed these trifles over the 4th. While the 4th of July is over, these red, white and blue trifles are delicous to make anytime."


Pets, the other family members
  1. Matt M presents More Pet Quotes posted at The Pet Haven, saying, "More thoughts on why we love pets in our lives."
  2. DeputyHeadmistress presents Pet Pleasures, Simple Joys, Small Graces posted at The Common Room.
  3. Silicon Valley Blogger presents The Cost Of Living With Pampered Pets In Luxury And Some Really Weird Pet Products posted at The Digerati Life, saying, "A post about pets and things to spoil them with, from a financial blogger."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of family life using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on ourblog carnival index page.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things about me and my family that will embarrass my child later in life:

  1. I set a school record and won a medal for the two-mile run on the track team. Not because I was fast. I was just the only person who had ever run the event.
  2. I was on the drill team (dance squad). They automatically put all girls who failed cheerleading tryouts on drill team. Yeah, it was that bad. Jazz hands!
  3. The photo of me after my stepmom gave me a home perm that earned me the nickname “Harpo.” This is the cruelest thing you can do to a 13-year-old.
  4. The first time my husband met my grandfather, my grandfather told him all about the hardships of his Krohn’s disease. The dialog began like this, “I bet you’re wondering why that paper towel is taped to my toilet lid …” No, we weren’t wondering. Somehow the remainder of that conversation led to an account of his then-wife’s recent case of pin worms. My husband never seems to want to go visit my family…
  5. The fact that she will probably be able to borrow one of my current bras for her “starter” one. Gotta love post-pregnancy.
  6. My brother and I look and sound so much alike, it turns my husband off sex.
  7. The potential that she will inherit my husband’s dance moves and my singing voice. Or vice versa. See point two.
  8. The ten-minute long video of she and I lying on the floor looking up at the camera doing raspberries.
  9. The fact that I will cry loud and publicly the day she stops running to greet me, arms out-stretched for a hug.
  10. My vintage leg-warmer collection. I think they are in a lost box with my hot rollers and Van Halen cassette. Note to self: seek out and burn.
  11. When I am old, and trying to tell her kids stories about my past. And they just think I am a crazy old bat.
  12. My sister can win ANY burping contest for volume and sheer force. Any.
  13. This blog.

Weekend Herb Blogging: Pesto Presto Squaghetti



We had just finished dinner, and the Kiddo polished off more of my latest recipe than I did. This is a major feat since she weighs one-fifth what I do. She loves pesto. If I put roasted garden veggies in front of her, she would not like the mix. Cover it in pesto and Presto! It’s gone. Around here, pesto is better than cheese sauce. And, that was one good batch of pesto. I had used two kinds of basil; the sweet, bright green common basil and the earthier, more subtle opal basil with its deep purple leaves.

We cleared the dishes, and she pulled me over to the spice cabinet for our favorite pastime — smelling the spices and herbs. Tonight, the herb shelves caught her eye, and we began opening jars. She handed me the basil.

“Oh, we just ate this! But it tastes and smells different when it is dried.”

Blank look from the peanut gallery. She’s not yet three, after all, and I didn’t even get the difference of fresh vs. dried herbs until I was out of college. Oh boy, how do we explain this one? I thought.

“Okay, let’s go outside.” I said. We took the jar and went to visit the basil plants. I handed her fresh leaves from the plants to smell, both the sweet basil and the deep purple opal variety. I showed her the jar and we smelled them all. Then, she ate the basil leaves. She does this often. She used to eat the dirt, too. I’m not sure what that says about my cooking.

As I was trying to teach my little one about basil, I learned a bit myself. I had planted both kinds of basil in the same pot. Probably one of those amateur gardener mistakes, huh? As the plants have grown, the deep purple opal basil plants started getting mottled green and purple leaves, and some leaves were completely green. The sweet basil started getting some of the purple coloration.

So, I did a bit of research. Many basil plants are the same species, Oscimum basilicum, even ones that look as distinct as Thai Basil and Green Bush Basil. The varieties are referred to as cultivars. However, if allowed to cross-pollinate, as mine did, they lose their distinct characteristics. The hapless (clueless in my case) gardener ends up with green-purple-mottled-sweet-spicy basil. And some pretty tasty pesto.

The recipe I created for it was another one of those happy accidents. You see, I have this odd aversion to mushy summer squash. I am always trying to find new ways to fix it that I like. I decided to use long strands of squash as part of the “noodles” in the dish. Less mush to noodle ratio or something like that. To make the squash noodles, leave the peel on a long zucchini, and make long sweeps using a lemon zester. Continue zesting until you hit the seeds, turn the squash and start the next strip. The dark green peel adds a lot of color. The end result looks like this.



Squaghetti

Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Want more fresh herb ideas? This post is part of the Weekend Herb Blogging "carnival," hosted this week by Mele Cotte.

Show Me the Money

I was skimming an editorial on food origin labeling issues from the New York Times this morning. Something in the text struck me. Actually it beat me severely about the head. The text said that the reason we consumers do not get access to clear labeling on the origin of our food is in a large part due to the efforts of lobbists on behalf of meat importers and grocery retailers.

Based on all the recent discoveries with Chinese food imports (and toys and drug ingredients and tires ...) I WANT to know where my food came from. I mean, I can turn over my clock radio and know where it was made, it would seem even more important to know where something came from that I am going to EAT.

The article goes on to mention the following:

"As Andrew Martin reported in The Times on Monday, the Bush administration’s Agriculture Department was hostile to the labeling from the start. That comes as no surprise given that many of its top officials had worked for a trade association representing meatpackers and ranchers that opposes labeling. The Republican-controlled Congress, with key members beholden to campaign contributions from agribusiness, twice delayed the starting date for mandatory labeling, ultimately pushing it back to September 2008."

Hmmm. This reeks worse than rotten meat. How did we get to a place in our country where lobbyists have more control over our government than we do? Where the lobbyists ARE in control of our government. It makes me feel powerless. And angry.

So, I did a little search. You CAN find out which representative is getting how much and from whom at this site. You can look here to see who's giving what to your representatives. Be sure to include that information when you write them about the labeling, and about any other issue. Otherwise, they are just counting on you not paying attention while lobbyists are paying for favors.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Rodent in the Kitchen

I'm just as guilty as the next person of loving Pixar and Disney's movies, I just hate all the crap that gets created to go along with the movies. Especially the junk food and Happy Meal toys. Until now. Now I have just a tiny shred of hope.

See, while it would not surprise me if a rat showed up in a Happy Meal, it would be truly off-brand if Pixar's gourmet rodent-du-jour turned up in a fast food bag. That would be well, wrong. Hideous. Not out of the realm of possibility as evidenced by proposing junk food shill Shrek to push physical fitness, but I am more optimistic on Ratatouille and Pixar.

I have not seen the movie. I have seen the merchandise which includes a line of cooking tools and a cookbook for kids. The cookbook foreword was written by Thomas Keller (French Laundry) who was a consultant for the movie.

The merchandise will also include a line of Ratatouille-branded wines and gourmet cheese plates, and upscale tableware. However, the merchandise team was smart enough not be elitist-only. Ratatouille wares will also be available at Wal-Mart, which will help extend the brand of "cooking" to a wide audience of kids.

In a culture where movies offer so much influence over our kids, Ratouille may just be a menu for change. I hope so.

But, and Disney please heed this, if the rat shows up at the drive-thru, I will be twice as angry and disappointed as before.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I've been good ... well, I was ...

I've been good lately. I've fought hard to let pass by the whole lead-based Thomas the Train thing, the defective tires, the endless parade of toxic imported food from China.

Frankly, I needed a break, a bit of anger management time. I figured you deserved a rest from the rant as well. But, things don't just stand still while I'm having coffee and playing with new recipes. Oh no.

IATP and China
There are a blessed few in this world who are the kind of folks that don't dwell on the blame or wait for government and just say, "Okay, let's go fix this." Kudos to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy for trying to bring sustainability to agriculture in China.

CSPI posted the 10 worst and best foods list.
I found myself guilty of one of the worst offenders; the Chipotle burrito. My last fast food hold out. See, here, the chain commits to all-natural meats. I also get it without the cheese and sour cream, and I cut it in half and save the other half for another meal. Some of the other foods surprised me a bit. Even the ones on the good list.

Tomatoes made the list, but I was disappointed to see that CSPI failed to mention that they are higher in lycopene when cooked. I also saw the pre-cut and frozen squash cubes. I went this route once, a good organic brand. They tasted awful. Use the fresh stuff. They also missed the point that farm-raised salmon often lacks the healthy fatty acids that make this food so good for you. Worse, the farm-raised variety can easily contain bad fats from the farmed fishes' grain diet.

Farm Bill
While we were all home throwing out our Thomas the Trains, the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee of the House added a new provision to the farm bill. Section 123 of Title I, would prevent states and localities from passing any laws prohibiting commercial use of USDA-inspected products.

What this means is that any product be it cloned beef or GMO-corn that is deemed “non-regulated” by the USDA cannot be banned from sale in any state, regardless of the state’s wishes.

Hmm, did Cheney write this one? Sure sounds like it.

"California, Arkansas and Missouri have passed laws creating state committees that review whether genetically engineered rice should be grown in the state," notes Joe Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "These laws, which farmers support, would be preempted."

Rally the troops and tell the House Agriculture Committee what they can do with their Section 123.

On the flip side, maybe send a note of thanks to the The House Subcommittee on Nutrition who completed a markup of the bill on July 1 that proposes to increase spending under the Nutrition Title of the 2007 Farm Bill by an estimated $5 billion over five years. The spending will help increase benefits for food stamp recipients and other emergency food programs.

I think I will end on a positive note! Now, I can get back to the recipes ...

A Few Thank You Notes

I've done the carnival hosting thing recently and while it's fun, it is also a commitment of time. So, it's much appreciated for each week's hosts who review the blogs and create a guide.

This week, my thank you note goes to:
Veggie Chic's Vegetarian Carnival #2

Next week, I will be hosting The Carnival of Family Life. The posts should offer great tips, stories, information and humor for all of us parent-types. I'll look forward to the fun.