Blogs: Food

As I write this, my coworkers and I are all a little excited. Our boss, who we really like, will any minute now become a father for the first time. The parents who work here are especially delighted because we’ll be reminded of our own experiences of becoming parents, and maybe we'll get to share some hard-won wisdom with the new dad.

One thing I’ll definitely share, when the time comes, is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

Feeding babies and children can be really fun. I remember the summer that my first child was able to eat real food; the parade of summer fruits she got to experience for the first time--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches. We got marionberries that were as big as her fists, and she ate them with concentration and joy, purple juice dripping down her chin.

But feeding small children can also be hugely frustrating. One day they love scrambled eggs. The next, they are affronted that you would even suggest they eat such a thing. Many parents react by feeding their children only the tried and true favorites, which can lead to a pretty limited diet, and there’s frequently a lot of stress and discord around feeding issues. Child of Mine can really help. The main thing I got from this book was a firm grasp on what should be my responsibility and what should be my children’s. My job is to provide a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals -- so I decide “what” and “when”. My kids decide if they’re going to eat and how much. I haven’t followed this perfectly, but it kind of set us on our course, and my kids definitely eat their fruits and veggies. So if you have a small child and feeding is an issue -- which it is for just about everyone at one time or another -- check out Child of Mine.

book coverCookbooks are inspiring. At first...

They are tomorrow’s mouth watering meal, a party spread that blows your guests away, and the leftovers you can't wait to dive into. However, good intentions pave a nice road but don't often lead to dinner. Too often, grand culinary aspirations are set aside when the everyday interrupts best laid plans. Soon, tempting recipes morph into overdue fines and dinner is created from a sad game of refrigerator potpourri roullette. Sound familiar?

Enter Pati's Mexican Table.  With easy recipes, accessible ingredients, and lighter takes on classic dishes, Pati Jinich has written a Mexican cookbook for the aspiring Diana Kennedy in all of us (until we have the time to tackle the decades of her genius.) Repeatedly I’ve ventured back to Pati’s world for "chicken a la trash" (trust me, it’s a complete misnomer), black bean and plantain empanadas, simple salsas, and green rice. They’re quick, easy for a weeknight, and delicious.

 

I had this great plan to explore the cuisines of the world with you last summer. Yet, that fall I started school again and fast food and takeout dominated my meals. Here are dishes I made last semester before midterms and finals hit:

Pati's Mexican Table book jacketMexican green rice with beans from Pati’s Mexican Table by Pati Jinich: Rice is simmered in a delicious blend of garlic, onions, poblanos, and cilantro. The addition of a side of beans completes a meal, so simple but good you’ll feel self-congratulatory. Great as a bowl or in a burrito!

Pad kee mao from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu: Finally! This is the first Thai cookbook I’ve checked out with recipes that look both carefully edited and approachable. You can now enjoy the best drunken noodles at home. This also contains the author’s new-to-you childhood favorites and familiar dishes.

Curry rice from Let’s Cook Japanese Food! by Amy Kaneko: I’ve been making this downhome, savory curry since college. This is the perfect dish to make when it’s cold outside and you feel extra lazy.

Kale and white beans in cilantro pesto from Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul by Aarti Sequeira: You seem Aarti Paarti book jacketskeptical… Trust me though: this is a rich and garlicky meal you won’t regret. Extra points for being one of the prettiest cookbooks I’ve ever seen.

Crispy salmon cakes from Cook’s Illustrated: There are a lot of great recipes in here, but these salmon cakes were my stand-out for 2014. Crispy on the outside and bursting with flavors on the inside. Ingredients include scallions, shallots, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and spices.

Even if you get too busy to cook like me, try to carve out some time for yourself and make one of these recipes this year! You will feel accomplished and your tummy will thank you.

 

I’ve said this before, but for me, cooking in winter-- after the holidays and too many cookies-- is all about vivid flavors, about food that both tastes good and will make me and my family feel good when we eat it. So I was delighted when my hold on Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More came in.

The first Ottolenghi cookbook I read was Plenty, which came out a few years ago. My husband and I both like to cook, and we look at a lot of recipes, which can make us kind of blasé about a new cookbook, but Plenty was exciting. We filled it up with post-its and started cooking from it, and eventually we just bought the book. We’re omnivores, but Ottolenghi has such an original way of celebrating vegetables that it was a while before we even paid attention to the fact that the recipes in the book are meatless.

Unlike Plenty, which focuses on Mediterranean recipes, Ottolenghi’s new cookbook widens its scope to include a range of world cuisines. I had some friends over for dinner recently and made a cheesy, quiche-like cauliflower cake inspired by an English dish and a delicious Thai lentil soup that knocked our socks off with its combination of star anise, ginger, lime juice, coconut milk and Kaffir lime leaves, along with a pretty topping of finely sliced sugar snap peas. If you love your vegetables, you must take a look at this cookbook, which offers delights like an arugula salad with caramelized figs and feta, pea and mint croquettes, bell peppers stuffed with buttery rutabaga and goat cheese, and smoky polenta fries. Yum. The hold list is still kind of long, so you might want to check out this list of other excellent international cookbooks while you wait.

I understand your hesitation.

I thought about making preserved lemons for years before I actually did it. You have to pack them into jars, then let them sit and ferment for weeks before you can cook with them. Who plans like that?

I do, now. Once I made them, using Eugenia Bone’s recipe from the book Well Preserved, I found that I can’t live without them, especially after I discovered this kale Caesar salad. Sadly, I do think you have to make your own. I bought a couple of different brands from my favorite Middle Eastern market, and the purchased ones tasted like a cleaning product.

Use Meyer lemons, which are in season right now-- they’re a little sweeter and have a delicious floral quality. And really, all you need are lemons and salt and some clean jars. You quarter the lemons and stuff them in a jar with several tablespoons of salt, then pour in enough fresh-squeezed lemon juice to fill up the jars. There’s no need to process them. Just let them sit on your counter for three or four weeks until the sour, salty, faintly funky magic happens. You eat the whole lemon-- the peel is especially delicious. Eugenia Bone (can you tell I love that name?) suggests a couple of great ways to use them in this book, but I mostly use them in that kale salad and in tuna salad.

You can find a recipe for the lemons here , but do take a look at the book. Bone has ideas for lots of very special things to preserve in small batches, perfect for a novice or an experienced canner, including some things that would make nice holiday gifts.
 

How do you switch up your cooking repertoire? Do you search for new recipes online? Or do you look at new cookbooks? I tend to do a bit of both. I think about a food item I would like to cook then search for a recipe. Nothing beats a cookbook though. Something about those beautiful photographs of food simmering on the stove and I start to dream. My latest mission has been how to get more vegetables into my life. So of course that means I made a vegetable-oriented cookbook list.  Because we all need more veggies, right?

Over thirty men and a woman and baby had to be fed on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis extensively planned what he would purchase in advance to supplement the meat they could hunt along the way. The food they packed onto the boats weighed thousands of pounds including the lifesaving portable soup.

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If there was game to be hunted and killed, the Corps could eat a whole buffalo, an elk and a deer, or four deer in one day. Each person consumed between eight and nine pounds of meat per day! Meat was their main food source whenever available.

They also fished and caught salmon, trout, catfish and eulachon (smelt) which Lewis considered to be delicious. Another treat enjoyed by the Corps was beaver tail. Sometimes it was necessary to eat dogs and horses—in order to stay alive. Sacajawea was extremely helpful in identifying edible plants for the Corps.

There are plenty of recipes described in Expedition journals.Want to try your hand at paleocuisineology®? Check out these instructions for making pemmican or apple pudding.

Bon appétit!

cup of teaMany mornings lately, I have had a date with an Earl. During the hot summer months I don't often crave his company. But when the rains begin, he once again becomes appealing. He is warm and steamy, he smells wonderful, and he gets my day off to a great start. When the Earl is not available, or I'm just not in the mood for his charm, I soothe myself with a robust English or Irish breakfast, or perhaps even some zesty orange and spice. And for those mornings when I need extra calming, green always does the trick.

This is your friendly reminder of the wonders of tea. Coffee is swell, but, to me, nothing beats a warm cuppa. The endless varieties only add to the pleasure. One of the best parts of my mornings is the daily choosing of the tea! Black (especially Earl Grey), green, white, or red, I can always find a tea to match my mood.  Then it's time to take in the aromas and flavors of the day's selection, a bit of peace and tranquility before the start of the day.

The library has many wonderful books about the history and culture of tea. If you are so inclined, check one out, brew yourself a steaming pot of your favorite blend, wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a rainy window, and lose yourself in the world of tea.

 

 

Did you know that September is Food Allergy Awareness Month? If you didn’t, that’s OK, because I didn’t know it either.  With the increase in processed food and additives in our diets, food allergies in the United States are expected to grow in number and severity.  

It’s hard to figure out what to eat when you have food allergies.  It requires careful planning, but don’t let it put a damper on your diet. The library has many amazing recipe cookbooks that are diary, egg and nuts free for you to explore and enjoy.

If you enjoy Sweet Potato Soup, Chicken Tikka Burgers, Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, or Thai Green Curry Rice Bowl, then check out Thrive Energy Cookbook, Allergy-free and Easy Cooking, and Simply Allergy-free

If you have a hankering for sweets, then take a peek at One Bowl, The Allergen-free Baker’s Handbook, Allergy-free Desserts, and Enjoy Life’s Cookies for Everyone!

Your Victory Garden countys more than ever! 1941 - 1945. From the U.S. National Archives

Why do you garden?

  • I like to know where my food comes from.  More importantly I want my children to understand and appreciate where their food comes from and have an idea of the work behind creating a healthy meal or snack.
  • Growing a garden, even if is just a few tomatoes in pots or strawberries in an old kiddie pool is an act of independence.  Independence from the rise and fall of grocery store prices, from crude oil, and other transportation costs.  A row of one's own to hoe allows us in a small but crucial way to be more self-reliant.  It also allows us to share the wealth of a good harvest within our communities. Gardening is a powerful act, both politically and personally.
  • Finally I am a maker and a doer.  I express my creative streak through what I can grow using a medium of water, sunshine, and soil. I'm an experimenter not an expert.  If something doesn't work out so well one year, for example the 16 stalks of corn each in their own little pot (captured for prosperity on Google Earth), I try something different the next year.  Even better, I ask the experts at the OSU Extension Service for help.

From right to left. Strawberry patch in a kiddie pool, a late summer harvest (corn, beans, and tomatoes), slug on a spade, tomato and basil, the corn experiment, pumpkin vine.

Why the Front Yard?

Why not? In our neighborhood with large shade trees sunshine is at a premium. We put our small vegetable garden in our front yard for practical reasons. We get the most sun there and our backyard is a mud pit and slug haven most of the year. It is also hard to forget to water, weed, and pick when you walk through your garden to get to your front door.

It is also beautiful, even in early Spring when it is just a few small plant starts and bean scaffolding, there something about the sight of fresh soil that promises growth and potential.   Having your vegetable garden in the front yard calls attention to your property. We live in an otherwise unremarkable ranch style home but the container corn field, the massive Russian sunflowers, and the Italian heirloom green bean vines growing up twine to the roof gutters turns the heads of neighbors walking by.  Our tomatoes become red in scores while others in dark backyards hold green.

From Left to Right. Boy studies bean sprouts, beans climbing twine, green beans ready to harvest, bean seeds drying for next year.

Why Victory?

Victory Gardens were popular in WWII when everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort in any way they could.  For many this involved growing your own vegetables to save otherwise needed fuel, tin,  and manpower for the fight.  The oldest continually operating World War II Victory Gardens in the United States are the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, MA. "Founded by the Roosevelt Administration, it was one of over 20 million victory gardens responsible for nearly half of all the vegetable produce during the war!"

Today, victory in our garden means being more self-reliant, having a little extra harvest to share, and experimenting to find new ways to successfully grow what we eat and then eat what we grow. One of our tried and true successes is growing Italian heirloom green beans each year from seed.  We pop them in the ground, they germinate in about a week, and then grow, grow, grow!  At the end of the season we save a few seeds and then we are ready for the next year.  

This summer we also learned that we love heirloom tomatoes and are growing Juliet, Old German, and Lincoln varieties.  They are thriving! 

What are some of the victories to be found in your front yard (or backyard!) vegetable garden?  What are your tried and true tips for Pacific Northwest gardening?  What do you make with water, sunshine and soil?

Want to start your own front yard victory garden? Here are some library resources to get you started.  Are you a Maker too?  Find the library at the OMSI Mini-Maker Faire on September 13th and 14th!

 

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