Friday, July 31, 2009

One Thought As I Head Off to Work

One of the reasons why I started writing about food lately is because taking time to eat and cook better helps slow down the pace of life a bit. I guess I'm just not a fast food gal.

Living, working, and raising children in the city has pulled hubby and I in many different directions - for many years. It's hard to keep up the pace! But I've come to understand that the process of seeking out ingredients and recipes and tastes helps ground me in the moment. Frankly, it takes my mind off the mind-numbing details of modern life.

'Cuz we have to do that, you know.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Comparing Peaches to Peaches

Events aligned in such a way that yesterday I was eating a Michigan peach, freshly picked and sold from a roadside fruit stand. Then, this morning I ate an Illinois peach, grown on an organic farm I've visited by a farmer I've talked to (and who sends me emails). This is so much more fun than shopping at the grocery store.

Slight taste advantage to the Michigan peach, though.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Didn't Seem Like That Much When We Bought It

These blueberries, Flamin' Fury peaches, Early golden plums, Methley sugar plums, sour cherries, Lodi apples, and berry tomatoes come from a small farm's roadside fruit stand in Watervliet, Michigan. We stopped there on our way back into the city, and got a little carried away....

So I taught our daughters how to make blueberry smoothies (with kefir and honey).

And I'll bring some of those little plums into the office to share.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preschool Blues

From an advocacy alert I receive: "Early childhood programs are marked for funding cuts of one-third – $123.3 million – in budget decisions approved by the Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday.  That move would strip preschool help from more than 30,000 young children. . . ."

For those of us living on the northwest side of Chicago, this could mean the elimination of preschool programs in 60 public schools in the area. That's 70 kids from my daughter's school alone. I don't know what this news means for preschool teachers. (I can imagine what it means for families, though.)

I have a call into my daughters' former preschool teacher - one of the best teachers I've observed in our 9 years with Chicago Public Schools. To see her program dismantled would be an outrage.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meals from the Farm Box

It's hard to cook when friends are in town, but I managed to use up all the veggies except the swiss chard. Tonight I'll cook it, so I can make room in the fridge for today's farm box.

Saturday Cookout
Instead of the standard mustard, ketchup, relish, I topped my burger with 5 purple basil leaves, a little mayo, and a 1/2-inch thick slice of grilled sweet onion. Superb.

No Fancy Salad This Week
Just sliced cucumber and fresh basil with lettuce mix.

Broccoli Side
The steamed broccoli, dressed with balsamic vinegar, made it into our lunches. But mostly I just snacked on it.

Fruit Right Out of the Box
We practically inhaled the cherries within minutes of opening the box.

Zucchini with Chickpea Flour
We had big plans to grill the zucchini, but I ended up making a big batch of the above gluten-free side dish. It's tasty and easy, but I need to try it one more time. I don't think I cooked the flour long enough.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bad Hostess That I Am

We had some friends over for a cookout on Saturday night, during which one of our guests noticed that we "have a lot of food in our fridge."

As it turns out, there wasn't enough food in our fridge, because I could not produce the jalapeno pepper he was craving.

I don't usually cook with jalapeno. In fact there are only two recipes I use that call for it: 1) homemade salsa, and 2) a very special quesadilla made with fontina cheese. Neither of those items were on the cookout menu, so my friend was out of luck.

But now I know. I'll be ready next time!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Feel a Food Coma Comin' On

Thursday lunch at Tub Tim Thai.
Thursday night takeout from Kamehachi.

Frozen kefir at Starfruit on Friday afternoon.
Indian dinner at Hema's Kitchen (Lincoln Park) on Friday night.

And we'll top it all off Sunday morning with dim sum in Chinatown!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Veggies are Multiplying in Our Fridge

I did as best I could with the farm share this week:

cucumber slices
I barely have time to work on my personal writing projects, let alone cook for writing group. But one of our members has wheat allergies. I needed a gluten-free appetizer in a hurry, so I grabbed store-bought hummus and sliced up the farm cucumber.

taco salad
I was craving a taco salad, so I used about half the mongo head of leaf lettuce from the farm for this easy, favorite dinner.

basil salad
I used the other half of the lettuce for a salad to go with grilled italian sausage. I left out the onion this time, though, and went heavy on the basil. Yummy!

kale/italian sausage soup
I used all the farm kale in an easy soup with onion and leftover italian sausage. It was an awful lot of kale, though . . . should have doubled the broth. There is still some leftover kale and onion, but all the broth and italian sausage was eaten up. I'll have to think of something to do with it.

Never got to the broccoli or zucchini, and there is still a nice portion of basil left. Yikes! We're falling down on the job.

And the new farm box came last night.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Coffee Therapy

Recently, I donated some things to a community rummage sale. One of the items was a medium-sized Turkish coffee pot. This is the pot I once left unattended on the stove, just long enough for its contents to reach a pressure point and explode all over the kitchen ceiling and window blinds. And though I haven't made Turkish coffee since, I'd like to again.

But lately, I've gotten into the habit of making myself a cappuccino using one of those pod coffee machines. It's quick and easy, but not delicious. There's no technique involved. And so I've been considering other ways to make myself a cup 'o joe.

My grandmother used to boil her coffee in a saucepan on the stove. That always seemed old-fashioned and unappetizing to me, and I've realized I have no idea if her coffee was any good or not, because I never tasted it. My mother made (and my father still makes) instant coffee with water heated in an electric tea kettle. This I have tasted, and I really don't need to ever again. On the other hand, my brother's wife makes great coffee, Lebanese coffee, and that's more like what I'm craving.

Somewhere in our cluttered house, I have another, smaller Turkish coffee pot for making individual drinks. It was given to me years ago by a very cosmopolitan friend of mine. We've since lost touch, but I think of her often. She lived with her family in a beautiful 4-bedroom apartment on the north side, in which we'd sit around drinking Turkish coffee and talking for hours. It is this sensation . . . this rich flavor I'd like to have in my coffee-drinking life again.

I'll have to go buy Turkish coffee, and I'll have to learn how to make it again, and I promise I won't leave the stove while it's boiling. But in this deliberately inconvenient way, I'll be ready to recycle the Senseo when the next rummage sale comes around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Other Fashion News . . .

. . . our daughters finally found acceptable purses (sorry, bags), and their friend finally found a fedora. Ostensibly at Irish Fest for the live music and the Guinness on tap, I enjoy the shopping, too. I have to admit it's nice to check something off the to-purchase list.

As for the family bands performing Saturday night, I'll take Searson (three sisters out of Ottawa, Canada) over The Screaming Orphans (four sisters out of Donegal, Ireland) any day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Bought It So You Don't Have To

I succumbed to a supermarket-checkout-line-purchase the other day: Teen Vogue.

Shortly thereafter, my Popular Science-reading daughters asked in an accusatory tone, "Mom. . .why is there a Teen Vogue on the counter!?" I explained that I was curious about how Vogue would target teens (which is the truth), and suggested they look through it themselves. Their pithy review follows:

- Emma Watson is still cool--she's going to college and will live in a dorm like other freshmen.

- But why is she all dressed up and walking down a driveway with two ponies?

- Uh, duh. Of course Converse are the height of fashion.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Feel the Pain

Our daughters' taekwondo instructor has started an exercise class for the mothers of his students.

After many months of sitting in the chairs watching our children work out, I think we probably all feel motivated (obligated?) to get on the mats ourselves.

Musa, musa, musa! Ladies rule!

(But I'm still sore.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's True, Sometimes I'm Late Because I Have to Hear the End of the Story

Listening to the radio on my way to work yesterday, I heard an eye-opening story about where we grow most of our food in this country--California's Central Valley. Think residents are healthy? Wrong. Lots of gang activity, roaming dogs, fast food joints, and cases of obesity and diabetes. Not so many sidewalks, grocery stores, or farmers markets. It's all connected you see. . .

. . . and reported by the Kitchen Sisters.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dreaming of the Sun and the Sand

This morning a co-worker of mine brought Munchkins into the office to share and asked, "What better way to celebrate Summer Hours than with fried dough?"

Um . . . an afternoon at the beach?

(Don't get me wrong - I love fried dough. And believe me, if she'd brought in some funnel cake, I wouldn't be complaining!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reading in the Car Doesn't Make Me Carsick

A good thing about driving back and forth between Chicago and Detroit is reading certain lengthy magazine articles I could only skim during a normal work week. For example, while hubby was driving us back home, I luxuriated over:

An article about Nora Ephron and her new movie.

And this piece about an inspirational urban farmer in Milwaukee. His organization has an outpost here in Chicago, too.

The 4th with My Fam

I think what might be more interesting than listing the contents of a weekly box of produce is listing the meals that came out of it. Here's a few from the last few days:

Asian cole slaw (with red cabbage)
This cole slaw is a recipe my mom used to make all the time, and it's usually made with green cabbage. But I suggested to my sisters that we try it with the red, and we all loved it. Looked pretty, too, at the barbeque.

Feed-a-crowd Fourth of July salad (with red-leaf lettuce and cucumber)
My younger sister made the salad for our cookout. When she makes a salad she chops everything up in very small pieces (unlike my lazy cooking self who doesn't even dice onions anymore.) My father dressed the salad, because no one can do it better in my family. However, he wouldn't eat any because he only likes head lettuce.

Green Curry (with kohlrabi and swiss chard)
When we got home, I used up the rest of the vegetables that didn't make the 4th of July menu. I tried making a green curry dish for the first time in my life. There is plenty of room for improvement, so I will try it again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food That's Fun Is Cool, Too

The Vermont beer we are drinking at the moment contains beet juice color. So we poured it into a stein, and sure enough, it's red. (Kind of like the red velvet cake thing.)

Plus there are little sayings printed under the caps. Mine says: "The Planet has Needs for your Deeds."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


For various reasons, many of my friends are going gluten-free these days. I don't know that much about it, so I borrowed a gluten-free cookbook from the warehouse (publishing perk).

Happy to learn some foods I love to eat can be classified as g-f:

potato pancakes
pad thai
flourless chocolate cake

There are plenty of other appealing recipes here, too:

cornmeal pancakes
zucchini w/ toasted chickpea flour
Thai salad rolls
rice noodles with broccoli and tofu
noodles with baby shrimp
turkey piccata
spicy roasted chickpeas

So I'm thinking of instituting a weekly g-f day at our house, alongside the weekly vegetarian day I've been talking about doing forever.

I know the point is to eliminate gluten from the diet, but for now, baby steps. Just trying to educate myself.