Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the beginning of August.  August 1st.  For me, it's hard to think of August in any other way besides The Month In Which I Start Working Again.

This year, however, August will be a little different. 

As far as this blog goes, August is No-Breakfast Cereal Month here at Chez Nelson.  We've been without the ubiquitous grain product for about a week and a half now...so it's not like we're going cold turkey.  This morning's grocery cart did not look much different than any other week: another dozen eggs, an extra muskmelon, a few more cartons of yogurt...

I did not do any make-ahead dishes in preparation for this month...so, for this first week, it looks like toast, scrambled/poached eggs, pancakes, yogurt, and fruit will headline the morning meal.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Looking Ahead to August

So.

It's been awhile.

How have you all been?

Is it sad that I am looking forward, in a small way, to the beginning of the school year?  That always seems to mark the start of routine, of focus.

For example, this week.  Last weekend, my two sons (12 and 6) picked the recipes for the family dinners for the week.  I did the shopping.  So far, so good.  We had delicious meatball subs on Monday and amazing chicken pot pie on Tuesday.  I did the prep work, and Brent finished up with the cooking.

Then, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we dined out.  Even though we had a menu.   Neither my husband or I felt like cooking.  Neither of us had willpower, either.  Bad, bad, bad, bad.

Oh well.  Right?  I am already looking ahead to August.  This family seems to eat best when it's faced with some kind of challenge.  It is probably time for the No-Restaurant Challenge.  I wouldn't mind trying the Homemade-Bread-For-An-Extended-Period-of-Time Challenge someday.  Here's one I brought up to my family:

Going-Without-Boxed-Breakfast-Cereal (for a month).

See, cereal is primarily me being a lazy mom.  It's surpassingly easier for my children to get their own breakfast, leaving me time for...whatever it is that I might do in the morning.  I recently came across a blog HERE, which referenced me to the Weston A. Price Foundation website.  And there's where you can read all about the complicated process grain goes through to become a cereal.  Ultimately, cereal is not a food, it is a food product.

Okay, take all this in whatever way you want...I mean, after all, this info comes from a dot.com.  A quick cursory dip into some academic databases I have access to don't turn up much to corroborate the opinions on the Nourished Kitchen blog.   And I don't believe breakfast cereal is the devil incarnate.  But...I did purchase a box of Bran Flakes in the last month.  Just Bran Flakes.  No dried fruit, no sugar-coat, no frills.  Third ingredient on the list: sugar.  Why?  Fiber is good for me, so I purchase a product I *think* will be high in fiber...and in fact, has been recommended to me as such.  But, I've also read dozens of stories about the health dangers of sugar.  I've come to terms with the fact that sugar consumption is unavoidable.  I eat an apple or a serving of peas, I'm going to eat some kind of sugar.  But, it's a naturally-occurring sugar.  What naturally occurring sugar is there in bran?  Why is it added to Bran Flakes?

You see the quandary I face.  And, of course, remember, this is supposed to be a "healthy" cereal.

All this information spurred me to ask my family if they would give up breakfast cereals for a month.  The response was lukewarm, as I suspected it would be.  Keep in mind, the sugariest cereal I purchase for the home is Honey Nut Cheerios.  But, as we discussed the idea more, my children were able to generate dozens of cereal substitutes: fruit, oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, bacon, etc.  From there, we get into egg and sausage bakes, pancakes/waffles, French toast, breakfast burritos, homemade granola, etc.

I do suspect that soon I will be posting about an all-breakfast preparation weekend!  There will be double or triple batching and freezing, I foresee.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lentil Soup For Husbands

Let's play a word association game.  I'll give you a word, and you give me the first thing that comes into your mind.

Lentil.  Barbra Streisand.  Exotic.  Split pea soup.  Legume.  New York.

If any of these are familiar to you, then we share the same thought process.  Again, a lentil is a foodstuff I did not eat, ever, as I was growing up (I know, I know, story of my life).  Lentils were weird, little, pea-like things that people from New York ate.  And Barbra Streisand?  Oh, I know, "Yentl".  A movie she was in; rhymes with lentil.

Lentils, I've discovered are a super-duper nutritional powerhouse.  In fact, check it out here.

So, last night's dinner: Lentil Soup.  The recipe indicated that it would require two hours of cooking time, and because I would be out running errands around the time it would need to be started, I left this task in the hands of my trusty, but nervous husband-chef.

As with most recipes, prepwork makes the actual cooking process go much faster.

In the blue Tupperware at left is: 1 cup sorted and rinsed lentils, 1 stalk celery and 1/2 medium onion (both chopped), and 1 cup of cubed ham.

In the metal dish is garlic powder, salt, pepper, and one bay leaf.

In the Pyrex measuring bowl is five cups of water.
Directions are simple: heat the water (via microwave), pour it into the stockpot, add the seasonings, and ham/lentil mix.  Simmer for two hours.

The husband still had me write the instructions down.  Which I did because I love the guy so much.
It all turned out good, because I came home to a home full of great smells.  And a final product that tasted a lot like bean-and-ham soup.  Rolls and fruit rounded out this very simple, healthy, and delicious meal.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Artichoke, You're No Joke

2011 has been a year of new vegetable experimentation: turnips, asparagus, avocados, etc.  But artichokes, they're nothing new.   I've had them before.  In Spinach-Artichoke Dip.  At TGIFridays. 

Which I've decided - DOES NOT COUNT.

So, here's this week's vegetable project: the artichoke.  As you know, they look like this when you buy them in the produce section of the grocery store:

Here are the two major things I learned: if you cut up the artichoke and don't dip it in lemon juice, it will turn brown quickly.  Kind of like my children in the summertime.  And, these guys are a pain to cut up, and I think next time, I'll go with frozen (if I can find it).

So, I began my project by hacking (and I mean hacking) the stems off.  Then, I lopped off the top inch or so.  Then, I plucked off all the tough outer leaves.  Finally, I was ready to hack the bereft fruit in half...

And that, right there, gives this vegetable its name: that hairy, fuzzy little bit right there when you cut it open.  The choke.  Such a weird name, really.  It's inedible too, so why is it even a part of the vegetable's name?

Anyhow, from here, I quartered it and tossed the pieces into my rice cooker, which happens to have a steaming component to it as well.  After twenty-five minutes, I threw the steamed bits into a skillet with some sauteed mushrooms and green onions (random veg I found in the crisper).

I threw these vegetables (with some minced garlic) together in the skillet (with some garlic-infused olive oil, because olive oil makes the world go round) for another five or so minutes, while I boiled up some rotini pasta.  When the pasta was al dente, I tossed the artichoke/mushroom/onion mess in with it.

The finished product: Sauteed Artichoke-Mushroom Pasta
And this is what we ate for supper the other night.  With some cut-up fruit and bread.  A little Parmesan on top.  The kids' plates were clean, my plate was clean, Brent's plate was clean...I think that's a pretty good indicator that we will be making this again.

I feel as if I am gaining confidence in the kitchen...because guess what?  I totally made this recipe up in my mind!!  No cookbook!  Whee!