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Monday, June 23, 2014

Baking and Breaking Bread

Well, now that my fortieth birthday is a distant memory, I plan to also turn all of the binge eating I did during the week into one too.   I imbibed in all types of deliciousness from Bouchon to Lucques with champagne, wines, cupcakes and ice cream galore!  

We spent Friday and Saturday at the Hotel del Coronado for my firm retreat, but, I just longed for home (for so many reasons, not the least of which is I hate the sand and sun.  Give me my smoggy, congested LA any day.)   To celebrate our return to civilization, Oliver and I opted for making bread this morning followed by a trip to the Natural History Museum (via metro, of course).   If you haven't checked out the Museum's edible garden its a must see/smell/taste!

Oliver recently expressed interest in learning where his food comes from.   His school has a garden (which is good because I hate to garden almost as much as I hate sand.  It's a sensory thing).  And, Justin and I have been trying to show him where other foods come from.   Last weekend, for Father's day, we went fishing and caught a trout.   We decided it would be a good lesson to cook it at eat it.   I'm not suggesting that Troutdale is where I would want all of the fish our family consumes to be from, -- but I think the lesson was well learned and he ate the fish carefully around the bones -- and poked at the eye sockets.   And, just so he was too terribly disappointed I ordered the Trout Almondine at Bouchon so he could see how good it could taste!!!!

We decided to continue that project today and baked bread.    I have never "really" made my own bread, (I don't count pizza crusts and quick breads).   I also don't have a bread maker so it was just up to me.  So, I simply looked for the simplest recipe that sounded good in my Cooking Light Cook Book.  (Note:  this is not the exact recipe I used, but is very similar).   The recipe was for a French bread with a crusty exterior.  Oliver loves "long bread" -- so, even though I wasn't ready to attempt to roll it out, I thought he would enjoy a nice little round loaf of it.

We got out the yeast, and I showed Oliver how it bubbled when hot water was added, he helped me measure the bread flour and salt, and was in charge of the Cuisinart's power button.   The recipe didn't require a lot of kneading, but he got his hands in there a bit, and after the bread had risen twice, he applied the egg wash.

As soon as it came steaming out of the oven he was ready to dig in!    We cut off slices and slathered them in butter.   So delicious.   The bread itself had a crusty exterior but was far more dense than the light airy texture I had hoped for.   But, by the end of the day, Oliver, Justin and I had eaten the whole thing.

So many lines have been spent discussing the breaking of bread, particularly about the Eucharist.  But, Eucharist bread is unleavened.   It has not had the addition of that foamy yeast or the rise and fall of the dough.  For me, the breaking of bread with my family is full of love and laughs as we each spread another smear of butter.   But, the baking of the bread, -- that's where the family is.   It represents us, our ups and our downs, our pasts and our present.  It is the chemistry of our lives.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reflections and Resolutions for Forty

In honor of my fortieth birthday I have decided not to write my usual blog full of commentary on preschool lunches and healthy recipes.   Mostly because I intend to drown my sorrows in a bucket full of wine and champagne while eating a decadent meal tonight.  I plan to follow that with a slice (or four) of Baskin Robbins mint-chocolate chip ice cream cake.  At least, I better.  If I don't get one someone is getting shanked.  (I know, I know, the chemicals, the sugar, the food dye!   Bite me.)  I made it to forty I am eating my damned ice cream cake.


Now, I know there are a lot of blogs out there that want you to feel good about turning forty.  They are full of things like "40 is the new 30", "things I know now that I'm 40."  Blah. Blah. Blah.   Here is what I know about turning 40:

1.  It sucks.   Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
2.  Metabolisms slow.
3.  Hair color changes.
4.  Things hurt more.  Lots of things.  My back, my neck, my knees.  Hangovers.

Now, I know what you are thinking, -that I am going to follow this "bad" list up with a list of all the "good" things that come with being forty - like wisdom and patience.   Fuck that.   You know what wisdom brings you?   The knowledge that other people don't have it!    I do not want to spend my time with those people.   Patience?   I think not.   I do not have time now that I am forty to wait for your sorry ass.

But, what about all of the blessings that come from knowing you are strong confident woman and mother you ask?   WTF?  I ask back.  You do not know me at all.    I am totally insecure all the time.   I'm pretty sure I'm going to get fired like 99% of the time.   And then I will be forty and won't be able to find another job because we all know those age discrimination laws are bullshit.   Motherhood, -- you mean the job that women have done for thousands of years but that I have to check every god damn website and/or book, by every expert out there, to figure out how to do it?    Not to mention the fact that now I'm forty and have to decide within the next minute whether or not I'm going to have another child. I've only just started fucking this one up -- how am I supposed to make that decision?

Have I mentioned wrinkles yet?  Because those suck too.  Forehead, eyes, smile.  Oh, and the neck!   There is not enough moisturizer in the world to contain what is happening to my neck!


There are some lessons that I have learned from watching my other forty-something friends, frenemies and nemeses.  These represent some things that I plan to do:

1.  Cover that shit up.   Now, I don't have some awesome body that I even want to show off, -- but what I have learned is it doesn't matter if its awesome showing it off looks desperate and pathetic.  (e.g. Kris Jenner).   The only exception to this rule is Madonna.   Mostly because she is the exception to every rule.

2.  Stop obsessing about food.   I know, I know, from me, a total foodie, pescetarian, this sounds ridiculous.   But forty-somethings are obsessed with organic, non-gmo, gluten-free, fat-free, vegan, whole foods, diets.   Do you know what we ate when we were 20?   Potatoes.   And, maybe some Ramen.  That's right boat loads of baked potatoes and we made it to 40.  Stop the Insanity!  

3.   I'm 40, not dead.   I like to do stuff.   Ride bikes, hike, climb mountains.   And, I have a group of friends who still do all that stuff even though they're old(er).   But, I have been so caught up in the rat race that was my thirties, that I sometimes forgot that there are things I genuinely enjoy doing and I need to take more time to do those things.

4.   Work.   I am not going to write anything here just in case anyone from my work happens to stumble across this blog.

5.   Parenting.   Back to that.   This is my favorite thing in the world.    So, my sole goal in life, is really to make it another 40 years so I get to spend them with Oliver.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Before and After: Lunchboxes Reviewed

There are so many mommy bloggers out there who post pictures of really beautiful lunches for their children.  The lunches are perfectly balanced with lovely, organic, wholesome fruits and vegetables.  We, as the mom's reading these blogs and planning our own children's lunches, are often inspired by what they have to offer.  And, if your like me, you often wonder:   (1) what the hell is wrong with me that I can't make a perfectly beautiful lunch for my child; and, on the rare occasion that I manage to come up with such a masterpiece, (2) why the ef didn't my child eat it?   We as the readers of these blogs are consistently led to believe if only our produce was more perfect, our designs more clever, our containers more environmentally friendly, then we too could have children that would eat vegetables.  

I sincerely hope that in my attempts to provide meal ideas for you and yours that I have never misled you into thinking that my son eats everything that I put in his lunch for him.  If I describe an item as a "hit," it typically means that somewhere between 55-95% of the item was consumed.   I do not believe than anything has ever been eat in its entirety (I omit here whole fruits, as Oliver sometimes will eat all of the grapes, pineapple or oranges that are provided and, of course, his PB&J if the crusts are removed).   But, an entire sandwich or thermos full of goodness?  No way.    I consider a "miss" to be something that Oliver refuses to eat at all, or something that he picks apart to the point that when it returns home in his lunchbox it is nearly unrecognizable.   So, 49% or below consumption.   You may think my criteria for hits and misses are too liberal.  But, in the world of preschool, I rarely expect more than 50% compliance with anything, to expect that with food would be pure absurdity.  

So, today, in the interest of showing you the inner workings of Oliver's lunch boxes are the results of two separate lunches from last week.

Lunch #1.   Lunch one, to me, looks super tasty.   I made a yellow bell pepper and cheese quesadilla in a whole wheat tortilla.   I cut the yellow bell peppers into super fine pieces so that they could not be easily removed from the cheese.  I chose yellow thinking that their mild sweet taste could not possibly be offensive to the preschool palate (and you can't see them in the cheese.)  I paired the quesadilla with a banana blueberry muffin (last week's recipe which Oliver has eaten up for snacks), pineapple, and some sliced tomatoes.    Here it is:

And, this, this, is how it came home.   Note the obviously unsuccessful attempts to remove the teeny tiny bell peppers and the carnage that remained when that didn't work out.   The tomatoes are untouched.   The muffin has been tried and cast aside.  Only the pineapple found a place in Oliver's tummy on Tuesday.

Lunch #2   As many people know, I began working on school lunch menus to try to get Oliver to stop eating PB&J every. single. day.   But, about once a week (and usually on Fridays), I pack him his preferred sandwich, - although on this particular day he chose peanut butter and honey.  He likes to get adventurous like that every now and then.  We have a few different sandwich cutters and his current preference is for the dolphins with the heart.  So, that's what he got today.   It is also accompanied by two carrot slices, blueberries, and another muffin. 

And, there we have it.   Sandwich totally gone.  Blueberry, Muffin, Carrot massacre.    My point is this, Oliver will never ever eat everything I send.   Even when every single item is something that he himself picked out.    

There may be other children out there who eat their lunches in their entirety, but mine is not one of them.  There is no amount of vegetable manipulation that will make my current preschool age, boundary testing, opinionated, Oliver eat all of his lunch.   Short of disguising them that is.   Now, I know that there are already lots of books on the market about hiding vegetables, -- and I myself have covered it before when I talked about my "special" tomato sauce and my kale smoothies.      In fact, we made up a batch of that special sauce on Friday night (Roma tomatoes, steamed carrots, kale, and bell pepper, all pureed with some basil, oregano, salt and pepper) and had it on pizza!   Oliver only eats pepperoni pizza -- or so he thinks.   I opted for slicing the Tofurky basil and sun dried tomato sausages super thin.... and he was none the wiser.   --I think it helps that he gets to put them on himself.  

Now to the week ahead, this weekend I prepared a pot of black beans (you know, the ones I said I was going to do last week and didn't!)     And, I put together this week's recipe:

Peanut Butter-Banana Granola w/ chocolate chips!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 small super ripe bananas (Tip:  If your bananas have turned, but you don't feel like baking, put them in a ziplock and freeze!   Just defrost and use on another day.)
1/8 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups rolled oats (I like to toast mine)
1 cup whole wheat flour
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the first five ingredients while the oats are toasting (toasting is optional).   Allow the oats to cool completely.   Mix with flour, baking soda, and almonds.  Mix wet and dry ingredients, then add in chocolate chips.   Press firmly into a glass baking dish (I line mine with parchment paper to make it easier to pull them out and cut).  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, remove parchment paper and slice/crumble.  

This recipe was supposed to be for granola bars, -- but they just turned out to crumbly.   But, the flavor profile is right on, -- and Oliver will eat the granola just as easily as he will granola bars.   Here is what his lunch looked like today:  leftover pizza, strawberries and granola.   Can't wait to see what comes home tonight!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Yumday!

Monday is upon us and what a great weekend we had.  Friday night I got a surprise in the form of a babysitter and tickets to see Porgy and Bess.   It was fantastic.   It was a great end to a very long week.  Saturday morning was full of swim lessons and food with some much needed "rest " time in the afternoon.  For me, that's a book, for Justin a nap, and for Oliver quietly playing with his Legos.  Sunday we headed out to the movies but we were too late for the show we wanted, so we had some time kill -- which led us straight to the bagel shop!   Oliver didn't want his so I ended up eating one and a half myself!    At the movie theater Oliver wanted popcorn, -- and well naturally he couldn't be expected to eat a whole bag of it himself, - so I helped him out a little.   It wasn't a great start to the month.    But, I did manage to work my arms and abs a little bit in the afternoon and hope to get back on track and redeem myself. 

I haven't planned out our entire meal plan for this week.  I am just going to wing it and see if I can keep us all on track.   The fact that I have to buy my lunch today will start me off behind the eight ball, - but Monday mornings are tough.   As much as I want to be the mom who is totally organized I totally am NOT.  

Tonight I am going to make up some tuna fish for myself (greek yogurt, with just a little bit of mayo, mustard, onion, bell pepper and celery).  Dinner tonight will probably be a salad as we have some produce to get through before it goes it bad.  And, tomorrow I hope to crockpot some beans (I haven't decided whether to do black beans or lentils yet) to get us through the week.  Of course, we also still have plenty of veggie burgers stashed in the freezer too.  

Oliver's lunch today looked like this:

I know, it's not a great picture, but I'm trying.   It's carrots and bell peppers, hummus, grapes and a whole wheat banana muffin, - which is really what the blog is about today.   I made these last night and they turned out great!   I learned a new tip:  when baking with berries, coat them with the dry ingredients first.  This will prevent them sinking!   As some of you know from previous blogs, I love the Lemon-Raspberry Muffins -- with my own twists of course  -- from the 100 Days of Real Food Blog.   But, I always ended up with one or two muffins that were off because the berries sunk.  I had no idea what the problem was until I read about it on the Joy of Baking.  

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten        
1 teaspoon pure  vanilla extract
3 small ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup honey        
1/4 teaspoon  baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine mashed banana, eggs, vanilla extract and honey in a bowl.  Combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.     Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients slowly, leaving approximately a half of cup in the dry ingredient bowl.   Place blueberries in dry ingredient bowl to coat with mixture and then fold into the rest of the batter.   Divide mixture into twelve baking cups (recommend silicone) and bake for 25 minutes.

Great for breakfast or including in the lunch box!