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Archive | food

Why I Cook

I cook because I can take something yucky:


And make something yummy:


 This banana bread/muffin recipe comes from my battered (literally) copy of Joy of Cooking (I think there’s a whole sociological treatise to be written on what sorts of women were Fannie Farmer cooks, or Julia acolytes, or Joy gals. Not sure what it would all mean, but I’m sure it would mean something).

My mom gave me this paperback edition decades ago and although I more often turn now to my favorite foodie websites, smittenkitchen and ezrapoundcake, I won’t ever part with this book.  It’s not just because I remember my mother’s copy of Joy, its binding holding on by a thread, the pages splattered with flecks of this and that. And it’s not just because these recipes are the recipes of my childhood: lemon meringue pie, popovers, banana bread, soup. 

Nope. I hang on to this book because of this series of illustrations:


Instructions on how to skin a squirrel. Note, please, the delicately held knife and the equally delicate use of the boot as an aid to the all-important peeling of the fur.

The Silver Palate ladies ain’t got nothin on that.

Continue Reading · on February 4, 2010 in food

Dinner Is Served

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Me: Carrots or peas with your chicken?

Caleb: Nuthin

Me (summoning the patience of Job): Right. But carrots or peas?

Caleb: Okay. Peas. FIVE PEAS. Cold ones. And I’m doing what Nancy said to do and holding my nose when I eat them.

In fact he ate SIX peas and stopped holding his nose when I pointed out that frozen peas have no flavor.

I consider this a major victory.

Continue Reading · on October 12, 2009 in food

Seriously, He Banned Bake Sales. No, Really, He Did.

nocupcake.jpgThe other day on the playground, a mommy friend said, “did you hear? Bloomberg banned bake sales in the schools.” 

I thought she was kidding–we’d beeen the PTA Co-Presidents last year, and bake sales had been an ongoing aggravation: when to schedule them, how to staff them, how to scan every donation for potentially lethal ingredients (nuts! sesame seeds! wheat!), how to make sure that all the kids got a chance to exchange their sweaty quarters for a chocolate chip cookie.

But despite the aggravation, we staged those bake sales, yes we did. And there are four thousand, five hundred and twenty-two reasons why we did so: the four or five bake sales we held last year brought in 4,522 dollars.

That’s a lot of sweaty quarters.

That much money allows our PTA to foot the bill for 5th graders whose families can’t afford the price of the 5th grade class camping trip; to pay for kids who might not otherwise be able to join the track team; to fund instrument rental for kids who REALLY want to play the trombone, but whose parents don’t have any extra money in their budgets.

The joke is that this is no joke: the DOE really and truly has put a policy in place that bans bake sales.

Bake sales sell unhealthy food, according to Mayor Mike and his sidekick, Joyless Joe, and so they are going to save our tubby children from further expansion.

Banning monthly or bi-monthly bake sales seems a tad…um…bass-ackward, frankly, if your goal is healthy kids with healthly habits.  What about…having gym class more than once a week? Or a post-lunch recess period that lasts longer than 20 minutes? Oh–right–I forgot. Those activities would take time away from Very Important Test Prep.

So okay, clearly more exercise is out of the question because Data Collection and Accountability matter more.

Let us then consider the school lunch menu for elementary schools in Manhattan, shall we?  Today’s choices are Sweet & Sour Roasted Chicken, Golden Fish and Cheese, White Rice, and if you’re at a SchoolPlus cafeteria you can get collards with sweet tomato.  Anyone want to place bets on how many fourth graders are getting the collards? And could someone define “golden fish” for me? If you drop your kid off for the free breakfast, she could have had a turkey patty with cheese on a biscuit, or pancakes with syrup. Tomorrow’s lunch is something called Southwest Style Beef that comes with something called “Baked Scoops.” Not sure baked scoops of what, exactly, but I’ll bet it’s…healthy. 

And as we peruse our school lunch menus, let’s not even THINK about what all my friends are calling the “scary hamburger article” in Sunday’s Times.  I mean, given the choice, wouldn’t you rather your kid eat a sugar-bomb cupcake than hamburger meat that’s potentially riddled with E. coli or god knows what else?  Can the DOE can guaran-damn-tee me that the burger patties, taco beef, and “baked scoops” on their lunch menus come from utterly safe sources? Given that the USDA is pretty much in cahoots with the beef-packing industry, I’m thinking that’s a promise that will be a long time coming.  

So yeah, let’s ban bake sales instead of equipping school kitchens so that they can actually cook. Right now, most school kitchens simply assemble food from a list of DOE approved ingredients: frozen pre-roasted commodity chickens, for example. Would anyone like to think about the source of something called a “commodity chicken”?

Notice that I’m not even talking about how school organizations and PTAs are supposed to make up the shortfall in their budgets if they can’t hold bake sales. The Times article quotes a school official as saying that maybe schools could hold walk-a-thons to raise money, instead of bake sales. Hmm… let’s see. Collecting money from donors, finding a route, organizing the participants, hoping it doesn’t rain…versus a table in the cafeteria stocked with treats brought in by parents.

Okay, now maybe smokers felt the same way when smoking was banned in bars, but no one yet has said that a cupcake a month causes cancer. Banning bake sales brings to mind the word “draconian” – also ridiculous, farcical, and you’ve-got-to-be-fucking-kidding (if I hyphenate it’s one word, right?)  It’s like cutting off your hand because you’ve got a hangnail.

I’m fighting back, dammit. I’m going to send Liam and Caleb to school EVERY SINGLE DAY with lunchboxes filled with cupcakes, cookies, brownies, maybe even the occasional gummy worm–and I’m telling them to share with all their friends.

Let Bloomberg send the Sugar Stasi after me. They can have my cupcake when they wrestle it out of my fat sticky fingers.


Continue Reading · on October 7, 2009 in Education, food, NYC

Kitchen Ninja

IMG_0743.JPGIt arrived in the mail in a surprise attack…like, well, like a ninja might make.

It was my first-ever blog-related freebie: a product that someone wants me to write about. And so I shall, keeping in mind, of course, the Bloggers With Integrity pledge that I signed (because Mom-101 said we should).

First I should mention that Husband thinks it’s marvelous that people are sending me products and he’s wondering when someone will want me to write about a three-bedroom apartment with a garden and a river view somewhere in the West Village.  I say, let’s start with the food processor thing and work our way up.

Second, I have to say that Liam and Caleb thought that the name–and the Ninja figure on the box–were “totally awesome.”

So having told you that this is a product review for a freebie, and that my kids approve of the packaging, I should tell you how it works, right? Short answer? Works great. 

I’ve had a little bitty Cuisinart mini-prep for a while, which is fine for when I want to make just a soupcon of pesto, or a dollop of guacamole, but that’s about it. I’ve got an almost vintage Osterizer blender with a very powerful motor (although it’s been making ominous noises lately), but it’s a pain in the butt to make anything in it other than smoothies and milkshakes: only the very bottom layer gets pulverized, so there’s lots of stopping, scraping and smooshing. 

The Ninja, however, has its motor on top and it comes with a tall pitcher and a smallish mini-prep.  You pile your ingredients in whichever container, pop the motor on the top, and vroom, vroom, vroom: smoothie is done, guac is done, chicken salad is done… Presto. All the parts go in the dishwasher; the containers have storage lids so that whatever is left can get covered up and stashed in the fridge, and it fits very tidily on the counter where the Osterizer used to sit.  Someday (maybe in that West Village apartment) I’ll have enough counter-space for ALL the appliances to happily co-exist, but at the moment, counter real estate is at a premium, so the Osterizer gets relegated to the closet.

Online, the Ninja retails for about $59, plus shipping/handling; the Cuisinart mini-prep is almost $30, without shipping/handling.  The Ninja doesn’t have a bread hook, the way a big Cuisinart does, but hey–isn’t half the fun of making bread pounding out your aggressions on the dough? Who among us really, really uses that bread hook?

Now… who do I talk to about that three-bedroom West Village apartment?

Continue Reading · on October 4, 2009 in food, Products

Earth’s Best Lunch

IMG_0725.JPGRemember these biscuits? Chances are that if you’ve ever had children, you’ve had these teething biscuits in your cupboard–and your coat pocket, your satchel, your purse, your car. I swear for months after Liam and Caleb each stopped teething, I would find half-gnawed biscuits in the most bizarre places (way under the couch, buried in the closet, deep in an unused backpack), which says as much about my housekeeping skills as it does about their love of these biscuits.

I bought Earth’s Best babyfoods even before I became “one of those people who are weird about food,” as Husband said the last time that I chastised him for taking our children to McDonalds. The baby-food was better than I could make myself (thus assuaging my guilt at not filling the freezer with icecube trays of homemade parsnip puree) and didn’t have any extra junk in it (sugar, salt, polysyllabic ingredients). I’m still using some of those little glass baby-food jars for storage: glitter, sparkles, little stick-on doodads, paint, other random craft supplies. Caleb even decorated one of the jars as a nursery school art project, and it’s on my desk right now holding change and a few buttons.

So you can imagine my delight at being invited to a real-life promotional lunch to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Earth’s Best, at a lovely restaurant in midtown called Rouge Tomate. Yes, there I was, folks, sitting in an elegant restaurant around the corner from The Pierre, on a Wednesday afternoon–totally out of my usual orbit.  At the far end of the dining room were display tables for Earth’s Best products – did you know they make frozen mini-waffles, and multi-grain frozen pizzas, and chicken nuggets? And that each package has a list of ingredients that are actually recognizable as food?

The company has also launched a new series of products–wipes and diapers–and while I am thrilled that I didn’t have to pay attention to the diapers, I did actually talk to one of the Earth’s Best marketing people about wipes. The Eco-Team at Liam’s school have pointed out that classroom teachers ask us to buy these bleach-filled, alcohol-filled wipes, which the kids use to wipe their hands, the desks, and whatever else–and then all those chemicals get transferred to the kids’ little paws as they work at their tables all day. I’m wondering if there’s a way to get these wipes — “so organic you could practically chew on them,” said the marketing rep–into the classroom instead of the toxicloths.

IMG_0728.JPGWe were served an amazing lunch–beautiful gazpacho! a wonderful chicken salad! and an luscious dessert made with Earth’s Best baby food (pear granita and a chocolate-banana napoleon-type thingy that was so good I wanted to steal the one that the woman across the table wasn’t eating, but I figured that it would be wildly inappropriate to pull a bait-and-switch on her when she turned around to watch the video of cute babies eating Earth’s Best). While we ate, we heard how the company grew from a $13 million endeavor to about $100 million–and about the company’s dedication to families and to organic, sustainable farming. Now okay, I don’t know the full story about Earth’s Best–but all the people that I met at that lunch had definitely swallowed the (organic, locally sourced) koolaid, for sure, and by the time I’d swabbed the last crumb of my dessert from the plate and gazed longingly at my (svelte) neighbor’s untouched plate, I was convinced too.

Plus that, I saw Nicole Feliciano in the room–she of Momtrends, where I actually won a contest this summer–and Mom-101, whose blog should be required reading for anyone who thinks that “mommy bloggers” are lightweights. I don’t know if she invented the term, but her blog was the first place I read the word “sanctimommy.” It doesn’t get much better than that. (Sorry, dooce).

I met a few other bloggers, including Heidi from NJ Moms and Jessie; discovered that Mom-101 and Momtrends have great hair; decided that I could give my kids mini-waffles for breakfast without (too much) guilt; and discovered that Earth’s Best Alphabet Cookies make a great post-school-bus ride/spelling lesson for a kindergartner.
All in all, it was a pretty great afternoon.

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Continue Reading · on October 2, 2009 in food, Products

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