Of course being 7.5 months pregnant I think often about how I want to raise my son. A few weeks ago we were out to breakfast and saw a mom pick up their child and then watched as the child began to smack, hit, and just go crazy on the mom. I was shocked. Of course I said to Chris “Our child will never act like that.” And — I meant it. First of all, if my kid acts out I will take them outside. I do not care if it is rainy or beautiful out, I would want to take them out of the situation and discuss further. It might even mean making the choice to leave the restaurant. There is absolutely no reason to watch a child loose control and beat the crap out of his mom. Something is not right in that scenario. Those of you who are already parents think I might live in a dream world, but let me tell you, my father might have scared the crap out of me, but I knew how to behave.
So that little rant was about the kids misbehaving, but what about parents? I just read an article about a dad who was mocked for his son loving a custom play kitchen. Now, I will tell you I have not discussed this with Chris, and so he might not agree with me — but I would love for my son to have a play kitchen. Why you might ask? Chris is the chef in our family and he is a damn good one. He does not look at it as the wife’s job. He looks at it as art. He loves his time in the kitchen and from the taste of a dish, to trying something different, right down to how he displays the final product on a plate. Now that does not mean there are nights that it does not feel laborious to him, but he loves his kitchen and I stay out of the way. Why would I do anything to keep my son away from that? Why would he spend his childhood watching his father in the kitchen (and hopefully interested enough to want to join him) and then tell him he cannot have his own play kitchen?
What has this world come to? Cooking is an art and it is not just for women. If I was the one in the kitchen we would eat like crap — just ask Chris. I have no patience, I cannot time things right, and really have no interest. Chris has the patience, loves it, and I know he will have the patience to teach our son as well. My job will be teaching him how to bake. Yes, I will.
I loved this comment from the dad in the article:
“As far as my comment on if he wants to play with a barbie doll…again, let me stress this. HE IS 2. I have seen him get excited and play with a broom. Ya’ll need to chill. Kids are going to play with what they want, and if you try to prevent them from doing something as harmless as playing with the toy they want to play with, they are going to end up resenting you.”
So damn true. Let them play with what inspires them. I would much rather my son paint, get dirty, play in the kitchen and use his mind then be mesmerized behind a video game and develop no social skills whatsoever.
In November we went to the 2014 Portland restaurant of the year (Ava Gene‘s in case you were wondering). It took us almost two months for a reservation due to our schedules, and the fact that we wanted to eat before 10 pm. One of the dishes was a chorizo with white sauce, which they called some fancy name that I cannot remember. It was good, but nothing too amazing. We both decided it was something we could easily make at home, and after I finished reading: “The Cooking Counter Cooking School” I found the below recipe for an easy homemade Alfredo sauce.
We have made this recipe twice now. The first time we tried it with a chorizo that after Chris cooked it he said it was nasty, so instead of chorizo he added chicken. It was so much better than Alfredo sauce from the jar, and so much better for you. Lighter, tastier, and all with three ingredients + salt/pepper. Oh, and so much better for you.
This week we tried it again with a different kind of chorizo.
8 ounces cooked pasta
2 cups heavy cream (2 Tablespoons reserved)
1 teaspoon salt
1/c cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 garlic clove minced (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Carefully reserve one cup of the pasta water to use in the sauce. Over medium-high heat, add all but 2 tablespoons of the cream to a saute pan or skillet. When it bubbles, add the salt. Small bubbles will erupt into larger bubbles. Stir. When the sauce thickens enough to cover the back of a spoon or leaves a clean line in the bottom of the pan when you pull a spatula across it, add the pasta water. Cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until it bubbles again and the sauce thickens. Add the reserved 2 tablespoons of cream, heat through, and then add the cheese, garlic (if using), and a few cranks of pepper. Taste, and add more salt if needed. Add the cooked pasta and any additional ingredients and stir well to coat. (page 142)
Add any items, leftovers to sauce and pasta. Such as: chicken, broccoli, asparagus, shrimp, sausage, the list is endless.
You cannot put that book down, you lose precious sleep at night because you want to read one more page. A different book moves you emotionally to think differently about your life and make some needed changes. Yet another book prompts you to make small moves toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
“The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks” by Kathleen Flinn had an impact on me and the food I consume. Chris and I have found ourselves in a food rut. We make the same few meals each week, and continue to alternate them. Yes, most of the time it is what I crave and want, but what if I do not know what I crave and want because I have not given myself the option to try something new? Over the weekend we went to a Portland restaurant that we have wanted to go to for ages. It took us about two months to find a reservation that would both fit our schedules and be a normal hour to eat dinner (before 10:30 pm). We had an assortment of items all new and different, but one really inspired me: spacatelli, sausage, broccoli, provolone. It was very simple, and yet so delicious. I look up at Chris and say the book I just finished has inspired me and we need to radically change how we think about food. We can make this dish at home.
That does not mean that we do not eat well on a regular basis. I think we have a very balanced diet, what I wanted to radically change was our routine. With the changing season from summer to fall and soon to winter there are so many different options to try. New soups and stews, and warmer dishes we would not want in the summer. So many options to explore, inspire, and change our ways. Flinn’s book is inspired by a woman she met in the grocery store:
“No wonder we’ve forgotten that the most essential thing we do is to feed ourselves and the people we care about. When I saw the stuff the woman had in her basket, it struck me as antinourishment.” Page 22-23
As a country, we eat from cans, the freezer, and over-processed boxes of chemicals. It is what we know, and yet many of the processed foods are a very long list of chemicals that provide no nourishment at all. Flinn sets out to teach a group of women who do not know how to cook how to make food from scratch and replace the quick and easy processed counterparts. She shows them how to make Alfredo sauce from scratch in the same amount of time as you would the boxed version, and she proves that cooking from scratch is not only affordable but the tastier option. She also talks about how much we waste.
We buy food in bulk at stores such as Costco and Sam’s. It seems like a better value, but what we often do not realize is how much waste we create. Why buy one good head of lettuce when you can get three for less? They do not taste great, but oh well. You then do not feel bad when you throw away the other two heads. Which leads to what has been called: “Eating Down the Fridge.” The tactic? You do not buy groceries for a week and instead get creative and eat down all the food currently in your fridge. We would starve in our house because we often only have fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge and eat them down each week, but we could still join the cause and make sure we are eating the salsa, and other condiments that often are forgotten and grow into other entities within the fridge.
Do an Internet search for: Eating Down the Fridge, read Flinn’s book, and use the changing season to jump-start your food inspiration!
Success comes from doing what is hard. This recent Seth Godin blog inspired me. My analogy to this idea is eating your vegetables. Eat your vegetables first and then you can have dessert. Do the hard stuff first, and the rest of it feels easy, a piece of cake. First we have to get through the forest, the battle, the tough moments. Once we have made it through those moments we can rest, celebrate, and eat our cake.
Here is an excerpt of Seth’s blog:
You will care more about the things that aren’t working yet, you’ll push through the dip, you’ll expend effort and expose yourself to fear.
When you have a lot of balls in the air, it’s easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.
Success comes from doing the hard part. When the hard part is all you’ve got, you’re more likely to do it.
And this is precisely why it’s difficult to focus. Because focusing means acknowledging that you just signed up for the hard part.
It means that you do not eat your dessert first. You eat the yucky parts. The ones that keep you strong, full of fiber, but sometimes taste the nastiest. It is easy to ignore the lima beans and/or peas, and eat the tacos on your plate, but the healthy alternative does not always taste the best. It might even be worth a detox so all you eat are the lima beans, peas, and brussels sprouts, aka the hard stuff. These are the foods that make me wince, they gross me out (brussels sprouts are like little mini cabbages). Not fun at all. They are foods that make me uncomfortable and squeamish. They might be easy foods for others. The hard part is different for everyone. Note: I never knew it was brussels sprouts (brussels with an “s”, I always thought it was brussel sprouts).
Are you double fisting the sugar? Or like I do, do you double fist the fries? Start with what is hard. Fight for it, live it, and then put up your feet and relax, and have some cake.
We awoke to many loud popping sounds, almost like gunshots going off. It was the middle of the night. I sat up in bed, my heart pounding. What happened?
My parents, sister, brother, and I ran out of our bedrooms, down the hall, and into the kitchen to find out what had happened. We were shocked. The paneled walls in our dining room, the flowered border wallpaper, the olive green refrigerator, and the painted walls were covered in grape jelly.
A few days prior, we had visited my grandma’s house, and spent an afternoon picking grapes off the grapevines in her backyard. We did it every year. Our fingers purple hued with grape juice. I rarely popped one in my mouth as the tart taste was not my favorite. What I loved is what we would do when we brought our bounty home. Our kitchen turned into grape central. Massive pots brewing and stewing grapes and the counter lined with Ball jars ready for the final product. My mom mostly made grape jelly. Maybe there were other concoctions of grape canning or cooking, but I only remember the jelly. I loved and hated it all at once. It was a lot of work, but the result? Yummy grape jelly (my favorite) for breakfast!
So the grape covered walls? My mom had been canning the grape jelly and had not waited long enough for the grape jelly to cool before sealing the lids on top of the jars. In the middle of the night, the heat inside the jars had made them explode, leaving our kitchen and dining room splattered with grape jelly. It was a bit of a shock and funny all at the same time. The bummer part? My sister, brother, and I had to clean up the hot, sticky mess.
I think of it every time I smear grape jelly on my toast.