posts tagged with 'food'

perilous dessert

I like cooking, but I tend to make the same things over and over again. I guess mostly I don't like reading recipes. It's not really a problem—I make at least ten different dinners, so it's not like we have the same thing every night. And the desserts I do regularly are entirely satisfactory. Still, sometimes I envy the folks who crack a new cookbooks every couple of weeks and turn out exotic treats like chocolate cheesecake or lemon bars (to name two that I've thought of trying for five or six years now...). Yesterday, I was trying to think of something delightful I could create with the ingredients I had on hand, to make it up to the kids for working all morning and being grumpy, and I settled on dream bars—a thing that I've enjoyed tremendously at parties but never made myself. It turns out they're not hard at all, even if the recipe I used (mostly; I added chocolate) wasn't entirely what I was looking for. They're still quite good, though, which leads to a problem: I don't have any trouble controlling my consumption of the desserts I make all the time, but when there's something brand new in the house... watch out! I ate a few more dream bars than I should have in the name of "tasting". Yesterday that was maybe excusable; today not so much. And yet here we are. I guess I'll have to make them again so I get used to having them around!

summer supper

Determined not to see the end of summer quite yet, we enjoyed the most summery of meals yesterday evening. Hamburgers (hot dogs for the little one who doesn't eat real food), corn, watermelon, and lots of tomatoes. The corn was not perfect—the first disappointing corn we've had from the farmers market—but the burgers, also locally sourced, more than made up for it. And of course the tomatoes only had to travel ten feet or so to get to our table on the deck. They were perfect! The grocery store watermelon was a watermelon.

Harvey chomping a big burger


For dessert we had smores, as I like to do when we have a fire going. The meat cooks so quickly and the fire is so lovely, it seems a shame not to do something with it! Especially when I haven't made anything else. This batch of smores was notable for Elijah's first unqualified success at making his own—and his second, too, because once he figured it out he went right in to making another one! His problem in the past has been with holding the marshmallow steady over the fire, where it needs to be; between heat, smoke, and boredom or distractedness he usually gives up before his marshmallow is much more than gently warmed. He doesn't actually mind raw marshmallows (ew) but they do tend to break the graham cracker when you try and squash them. There's been some shouting over that in the past, but no more! He's figured it out. It must be because he's a first grader now.

Elijah biting into his first perfect smore

bad picture, PERFECT smore


to market, to market

We went to the Farmers Market today. It started up last week, but we forgot, so today was our exciting first trip. Of course, things are different than they were last time we were there: there's a fence around the whole thing, separate opening to enter and exit, and a one way path among the widely-spaced stalls. And you can't touch any of the produce before you buy it. Still, we were delighted to be there and to have the chance to buy real food. Most important for me was getting some ground beef: the meat from River Rock Farm is so much better than what we can get at Whole Foods or from the meat delivery box place. The vegetables were less exciting, because almost everything there we already have in great quantities from our own garden. But I still wanted to get some, to support the farmers and the market, so I spent $5 on a pint box of snap peas. I also picked up some plants, which I guess I'll find room for somewhere...

Of course, I've been shopping three or four times over the past couple months; the boys have been away from the temptations of commerce since the beginning of the lockdown and they had money for treats burning a hole in their pockets! (metaphorically speaking: they all asked me to carry their money). Their favorite bakery wasn't there, but they found someone selling homemade cookies and spent $12 between them. Totally worth it. They were good cookies, and part of a good scene. Hooray for farmers markets.

the zeal of a convert

Lijah doesn't eat very many different things. He's not picky in a traditional sense—he'll eat sweet potato, for example, or pickled garlic—but he knows what he likes and doesn't like foods that aren't on his list. Not that the list is static; that would be too easy. A couple years ago he liked his hot dogs without buns; the year after that he only wanted the bun. This week we saw a change in his diet happen.

Yesterday morning I made scrambled eggs for myself, Harvey, and Zion. When he saw them Lijah asked to try some, approved, and asked for more. Well, I wasn't going to cook more eggs so I told him he'd have to wait. Could he have some for lunch, he wanted to know? Remember, this is the child who needed separate breakfast food every time I cooked eggs for the past 18 months.

Well, you can guess what was on the breakfast menu this morning! I admit I felt some pressure as I scrambled today's eggs: what if he didn't like them this time? Would I be doomed to another year of short-order breakfast complexity? Happily, he once again approved. Of course, he also turned down the toast I made him, but I suppose you can't win em all.


reevaluating Subway

One final brief note on last month's trip to Washington. The hardest thing for me there was finding food and water. The sink was bad in the hotel room, and the water fountains in the convention center were warm. We didn't have time to go out for lunch, and by supper time all the restaurants around the hotel were closed. It was pretty stressful. Thank goodness there was a grocery store practically connected to our hotel, but even that could only go so far; we had a fridge the size of a breadbox, and almost no surfaces on which to prepare food (to say nothing of washing up dishes!). In was in these dire straights that Subway came to our rescue.

I'll be the first to admit I've had plenty of bad things to say about Subway in the past. My feeling was that their offerings—especially their bread!—fall far short of what you could expect to find at any middling local sub shop. But we were so hungry that we thought we'd give the one on 7th St NW a try. And that was a good call! As soon as we walked in the three people behind the counter greeted us warmly, and then they waited patiently while we made our slow selection (two of my boys, amazingly, seem not to have ever ordered a sub before). And our turkey subs—one with pickles, one without—were the most delicious food I've ever tasted. Our late-night party on Saturday night, when we ate subs and Giant Food brand chocolate sandwich cookies and watched the Little League World Series, was unironically one of the highlights of the trip. And, AND, we found out later that that same Subway location also has unlimited free cold water on tap. Amazing.

So now my view of Subway has completely changed. Passing that green and yellow sign yesterday in Acton brought not revulsion but a feeling of comfort. Now I'll always have a place in my heart for the chain—and I hope I'll never have to ruin that good feeling by eating there ever again.


new frontiers in cooking

Yesterday a friend brought over some veggies to contribute to lunch, including a big bunch of scallions—which inspired us to try making scallion pancakes! We used this recipe, roughly, and they came out great. The only issue was we started cooking at 11:30, so while we got the rest of the lunch ready by noon we did not have scallion pancakes til much later. Which was bad only because at that point everyone was stuffed with the other delicious food we had made, so for my part at least eating many pieces of scallion pancake on top of that made me feel rather unwell. They're pretty much just flour and water fried in lots of oil, so kind of heavy.

I tend to get in kind of a rut with my cooking, both because I don't want to put a lot of effort into new recipes when there's a good chance the kids won't like the results, and because I tend not to plan very far ahead (like with the pancakes, see). It's not the end of the world—we have more than seven recipes we know we like, so we're not getting the same thing more than once a week unless we do it on purpose—but on the other hand I don't want to miss all the other good things the world might have to offer in the culinary line.

Not quite at the same level, but this evening I made a potato-and-cheese omelet for supper. That was a new one too. Me and Harvey enjoyed it; Lijah liked the bread and the roasted cauliflower, and Zion liked the bread. In his defense, it was just about right out of the oven, so while in no way ground-breaking it was certainly good. Not everything has to be new and exciting.


goodbye October, goodbye farmers market

the boys checking out bright peppers, tomatoes, and gourds

bright bounty

Our home school day Tuesday concluded away from home, at the last regular farmers market of the year. Overall, we did well this year: we didn't miss a single market, and we saved enough food stamp coupons to come away the last few weeks with two gallons of maple syrup and five pounds of honey (that should be enough Leah-grade sweetener to last us through a long winter!). And we enjoyed lots of delicious fresh veggies and fruits, along with a fair amount of ground beef and bacon.

Of course, there's always room for improvement. We bought lots of kale, because rabbits, caterpillars, and our own chickens did such a number on ours. Beets, because I didn't manage to plant any. Carrots, because... well, we eat a lot of carrots. My dream is to be able to grow much of our own vegetables and fruits, leaving us with money to stock up on meat for the freezer, honey, and maybe even some cheese. That didn't happen this year. I can assign some blame to Lijah—or really to having three kids!—but I still have to take most of it myself. That we were spending money on tomatoes this September is entirely my fault, and nearly unforgivable.

Still, those are high level worries. All in all the market was great, and we'll be sad to see it go—we'll especially miss chatting with the fine folks from Charlton Orchards, and not only because they responded to our faithful patronage by letting us have the funny-looking donuts from the end of the batch for free! We're looking forward to the special Thanksgiving market on November 24; after that it'll really be winter!


market time again

Today was the opening day of the Lexington Farmers Market, and we were all happy to be there!

the family at the market manager's stall on opening day

here we are again

Especially happy after a long hot bike ride (the boys were wearing their designed-in-winter Tintin and Snowy costumes on the bikes so they were especially hot), and happy despite the absence, this year, of lemonade for the boys and ice coffee for Mama. There's not a lot coming from local farms this time of year, but we picked up some greens, a couple greenhouse tomatoes, and a pound of bacon—and, more importantly, a chocolate croissant and some apple cider donuts.

Zion, Harvey, and Lijah sitting on the grass eating doughnuts

thanks, farmers

The boys were happier still after that. Hey, no pictures!

Lijah smiling and reaching for the camera

he's ready to be behind the camera


Why I'm eating Paleo right now. Spoiler alert: It's because I'm nuts!

I just finished up a bar of Bakers chocolate that I've been working on for the past few days. Bakers chocolate, as you may remember from an unfortunate attempt to sneak sweets that occurred sometime during your childhood, carries no sugar. On its own its a little bitter. But smothered in honey it's eminently palatable.

I'm doing a kind of a sugar fast right now. It's a little like a bar of Bakers chocolate smothered in honey. A little sneaky. A little bitter.

Here's some background.

At times in my life I've been extremely restrictive in my eating. I received medical treatment for this a long time ago, back in the beautiful dark 90s when everyone was so emotional and raw, us punk generation of teenagers with NEEDS. Though I haven't had any medical problems in my adulthood, I get that not eating is sometimes less stressful than eating. I still have moments when for some unknown reason I'm paralyzed with fear over everything I put in my mouth. It's rather unhinging to experience, but a great way to lose 40 pounds of baby weight fast!

Most restrictive behaviors are socially acceptable, since everyone's trying to lose weight all the time. It's when my behaviors get a little odd that I start to look around me, embarrassed. You don't have to be crazy to be on a diet. You do have to be crazy to take one bite of a bagel and spit it back into your hand because you paniked mid-chew.

But if I speak of my restrictive tendencies I speak of my higher self. Anorexia is a disease of angels, and I am not one. More often I am fighting an uglier force, a sinister monster that lurks underneath my tastebuds and silently tells me to EAT EVERYTHING.

I made a vow to my younger self that I would never again vomit recreationally. It's hard to vow not to eat, though, so when things go poorly in my life, when I feel like minor stresses carry the weight of major ones or I when don't get enough sleep, I become a straight up binge eater. There is nothing pure or pretty or Catherine of Siena about eating past the point you feel ill. I know on some level this is a disease we all share, a mass condition infecting America. But in another way, a more truthful way, I think this is a desease I have alone. All by myself, in the isolation of my kitchen, this is me struggling against eternity and my complete loss of control over it.

I could do due dilligence and write down a list of trigger foods. I wish it were only chocolate chip cookies and then the solution could be simple. Unfortunately I seem able to freak out over almost anything in my kitchen. Here, for example, are some things I have eaten to excess in the past few months:

- Bread and butter
- bran cereal
- bananas
- rice cakes
- rice (and anything I make for dinner that goes on rice)
- whole wheat tortillas
- Any manner of baked good. seriously.

I say to myself "this has got to stop." I can't be running 16 miles every Saturday just to maintain my bread and butter habit. So I cringe and ask myself what these foods have in common, it's obvious that they are all high on the glycemic index. Even if I'm not eating sugar. I'm drawn to foods that quickly metabolize into sugar.

So I said, okay, let's do a sugar fast. Let's stay away from grains too, if I can. Let's see if I can push the reset button on my internal appetite.

Over the past ten days I did just that. I stopped all sugar. (okay, except the honey.) I limited myself to one real piece of bread a day, and nixed anything that came from a package. Did it work? Well, I didn't eat anything that immediately made me regret that vomiting vow. But I didn't feel a wave of heath and sanity wash over my life either. And I went through three tubs of almond butter in a week. Even just financially speaking that's not sustainable.

Plus I don't digest nuts super well. Thus bread made out of almond butter is not so much bread, as it is a recipe for a stomach ache. Then again, a piece of almond bread isn't binging, whereas three pieces of toast might be. Which is worse: moral or physical discomfort?

In the end, it's the cycle of wanting food and then fulfilling that desire that really turns my stomach. The thing that makes me human - that's what I can't stand. I don't mind having a body when I can push it to superhuman accomplishments - long runs and ten minute births and pumping breastmilk while blogging like some kind of cyborg cow. It's the bald face of my need that scares me. The thought that beneath my mature veneer I am terrifyingly animalistic. Desirous. So incredibly HUNGRY.

It would be nice if a diet could solve all this. I assume cavemen didn't experience existential crises. But I could be underestimating them.


(strawberry) field work

some of the berries I picked

strawberry season!

The fields at Parlee finally opened after a cold spring, so we took our first picking trip of the year this morning. Well, most of us did; Leah and Lijah stayed home. She says she has too many bad memories of trying to do pick-your-own with an infant, which is more then fair. But the bigger boys were excited for the adventure!

Harvey and Zion, with backpacks on, heading towards the strawberries

ready for anything, including picking strawberries

They brought their backpacks so they could carry their own lunches, water, and, in one case, diapers. Harvey showed his seriousness by getting right down to picking berries, not all of which ended up in his mouth.

Harvey's head peaking up above the strawberry plants

the plants are big and healthy

Zion was only serious about eating. The only berry he put in his basket was almost entirely white; a little of it was green. But he enjoyed himself!

Zion studiously eating a strawberry, among the plants

just one more

We met the Stevenses there, and I was very impressed at how well elementary-aged children can contribute to the family welfare through their labor. The younger boys, working together, chipped in a tiny bit.

Harvey, Ollie, and Eliot in the strawberry patch

sort of helping

But the best part of the whole trip was that Grandma Judy came along. After she picked her own four quarts and helped Harvey with some of his one, she gave the little ones something else to do while we finished up the harvest.

Grandma Judy reading to Zion, Ollie, Harvey, and Eliot

alternate entertainment

Between all of us we ended up with 32 overflowing quarts: besides Grandma's we took home 12 and Bridget and co. had 16. It was a true team effort, and we were all proud and tired.

Harvey and Zion posing with the strawberry haul

they're meant to be smiling

Now I suppose I have to make some jam!