Sunday, February 28, 2010

What's cookin'?

I have had an unofficial goal/resolution this year that started somewhat by accident. Or at least I wasn’t entirely conscious of saying “I am striving to feed my family better foods this year”.

In the last 6 months or so – particularly since the end of the growing season here locally and coinciding with the funk I found myself in last fall, dinner options were repetitive and processed. I felt like it was all I could do to get something on the table. This wasn’t like me at all. I am not sure where that person emerged from that purchased dinners in a box. But I tell myself now that sometimes you just have to do what you have to in order to keep things moving and keep cannibalism from taking hold.

There are loads of reasons to try and eat better, it’s better for us health wise and it’s better for the Earth in general. Thankfully my kids tend to be string beans and are very active – I don’t see childhood obesity being a problem with my kids. But I think a lot of my new desire to feed my family better foods has to do with cancer. Cancer runs on my side of the family and my mom’s cancer figures prominently in my mind. Cancer has also stricken other people we know. I fear that by feeding my kids heavily processed foods, that I may encourage unhealthy eating that may (or may not) contribute to problems and diseases later on in their lives.

Lucky for me, my kids like (for the most part) good foods and they make this easy on me. They are also relatively independent when we get home from work/school on the weeknights, allowing me to get dinner on the table fairly timely (most nights). My son is obsessed with fresh fruit and Skadi lights up when she *gets* to have broccoli for dinner! I have a real need within me to encourage these good habits now before they are replaced with less healthy alternatives.

We don’t have a vegetable garden in our new house and I expect this summer we will be doing a lot of work in the back yard – so it won’t happen this year. I pulled out a book recommended to me by Rockergirrl last year and have been flipping through the pages with the kids trying to decide what will be in a few containers in our back yard this year. Someday I will get a raised vegetable bed, but for now, we will do containers. And one thing I am looking forward to in the coming months is venturing back to the Farmer’s Market. Last summer we went at least every other week if not more often and amazingly enough, ate nearly everything we purchased each week.

My approach that is working so far this year is to find a few recipes on the web each week that look good, require minimal prep time and that the kids will like. Then we hit the grocery store during lunch for the needed ingredients. Hitting the grocery store during lunch does a few things for me:
- the kids aren’t there to beg for fruit snacks, Cheetos, etc.,
- I know I have to move quickly through the store and can’t dawdle, so I stick pretty hardcore to the list,
- and I get fresh foods every week, I am not relying on boxed foods that have no real expiration date,
- and very few of the recipes I am looking for use processed foods, so I am not buying them.
- My grocery bill… it has been cut nearly in half.

I expect this to continue to be a slow process to really get us to where I want to be. It has been a year and a half since we have had pop in the house regularly. This was a big one for AB and me. Leif never could stand the stuff and we hoped to keep him deluded with the notion that carbonated beverages are icky. (Skadi has no such delusions and loves the fizzy stuff.)

We still have frozen pizza or something else quick and easy on Wednesday night (pick up night). And there are days where I feel like I haven’t quite gotten my act together and a Zatarains jambalaya mix sounds awfully tasty. And those days I can’t get to the grocery store without the kids I sort of suck at saying no when Skadi holds up a fruit snacks box declaring “Look! Tink-oh-bell mommy!” Canned fruits and veggies are a rarity, but not completely absent. And I am not quite sure how to get rid of chicken nuggets – though the kids were very partial to the chicken schnitzel I made the other day. These are the thinkgs we will continue to work on the coming months.

But the main point is that we are trying and I believe we are on the right path.

I shared a list of recent recipes the other day here.

Here are some more:

Cajun Chicken Pasta : Oh my goodness this rocked. This rocked big time. Really delicious and the kids ate it while picking out the bell peppers - but oh well. I kept the cajun seasoning to a dull roar thinking about the kids. But then added more later for AB and I.

Bacon and Mushroom Pasta : Another one that everyone - including the kids - loved. So they didn't eat the mushrooms, that's ok, more for me.

Beef Stroganov : I love beef straoganov. I really, really do. AB has been converted and he now loves it too. What's not to love? A dark roux with sour cream. Umm yumm. The kids, not terribly fond of this, but they get noodles with butter and beef that I pulled out before dumping delicious roux over it.

Ham and Bean Soup : This one is probably the closest to my recipe. It's easy. Cook a ham bone down and save the stock - or use hamhocks and chicken broth. Either way is fine. Soak Great Northern beans overnight in water. Strain. Saute an onion sliced thinly until browned. Add the ham broth or chicken broth and the ham or ham hocks. Cook until beans are soft. I had a working lunch the other day and brought this to eat. My team despised me. Oh and nope, the kids don't eat this so much. They will however eat the ham I pick out for them.

Crockpot Chicken Makhani or Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken : This was alright. The kids and AB liked it. I wasn't blown over because to me, it didn't taste a whole lot like chicken makhani. It had a bit of that flavor, but not blown over.

And because I thought today that I had awfully wonderful children, I decided to make them cookies. I could do the standby chocolate chip cookies that we all love... but I was craving oatmeal cookies. I found these that would probably be acceptable to my chocolate fiends. Chocolate Brownie Oatmeal Cookies. They taste like a baked "no-bake cookie".

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