Food for Thought Friday

Something Soup at Textism :: It’s soup season. Here’s one way to do it.

Being :: In the Kitchen with My Girl by Stephanie at Rhythm of the Home :: “Over the years our kitchen has seen its share of spilled flour and fading patience. We’ve coaxed picky eaters and had dinners so wild they seemed more like a circus routine than anything else. Some of it has been handled with grace, some not. But somehow it’s all coming together for this girl.”

The beginning of weaning: guilt, pleasure, and information overload at Mamas in the Making :: Trust yourself, trust your baby, give it time. “We should not forget – food is about relationship as well. The relationship with our own body. While eating we try to constantly listen to myself. Am I enjoying this taste? Is it too cold or too hot? Am I still hungry? We as adults have almost forgotten to eat like that. Our children haven‘t. This is a huge gift we can give them – the ability to listen to their bodies when eating.”

Want kids to eat better? Stop calling them “picky eaters.” at Spoonfed :: “Language is important. Labels are dangerous. And when we label our kids, we diminish our expectations of them and make obstacles seem insurmountable.”

I Want to Marry Marinating at Dinner: A Love Story :: Two things I was rarely doing before reading it this book? Browning meat, and marinating. This post has five marinade suggestions and recipes to go with them. “There. Doesn’t it sorta seem like there’s a little sous chef at home thinking about dinner so you don’t have to? How good does that feel?”

The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater at Northwest Edible Life :: “I know you. We have a lot in common. You have been doing some reading and now you are pretty sure everything in the grocery store and your kitchen cupboards is going to kill you.” Snort.

Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.

Food for Thought Friday: on knives, fall cocktails, French kids, and pooping

 

Preschoolers with Knives: How young can a child be and still learn how to cook? at Slate :: “The great, tubercular Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky proposed the concept of ‘a zone of proximal development,’ for the work a child is not quite able to do on his own. With the guidance of someone more skilled, though, he soon can. With the exception of the oven, and a lot of the stove, much of cooking amounts to a zone of proximal development, even for a preschooler.” Great thoughts on taking kids seriously in the kitchen.

French Kids Don’t Get Fat: Why? at Karen le Billon :: Lots to think about here.

The Postpartum Diet at Simple Bites :: Encouraging and delicious guidance from Aimee on meeting three postpartum needs: physical energy and healing, milk production and quality, and bowel regularity. Several great recipes for new moms – or friends visiting new moms – to try.

In the Kitchen: Knife Skills for Kids at Creative Family Fun :: Our little guy is already pretty capable with a knife. “Only touch the handle, not the blade, Mama.” Just this week he cut all the mushrooms for our pizza. Don’t miss the guacamole recipe in this post!

A Single Mom Takes Off the Superwoman Cape at Simple Mom :: “I am going to cease the super human expectations, take a breath and focus on one thing I can do. Sometimes that one thing involves playing with legos or dump trucks with a beautiful little boy. But sometimes that means putting on a movie for him, so I can spend some time journaling and clearing my head.”

Happy Hour at Home: Apple Smash at Pink of Perfection :: Seasonal! Not kid-friendly!

Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.

Food for Thought Friday (is back!)

4 Quick Questions About Toddler Development with Dr. Alan Greene at Healthy Child Healthy World :: “I’ve heard it said that the ancient Greeks defined children as short humans who don’t like vegetables.” Ha! Just the levity I needed. Some great tips here about toddler development in general, and five motivators to encourage them to eat healthy food.

Beyond Cooking: 10 Experiences in the Kitchen for Children at 52 Brand New :: Lots of great ideas for building skills, confidence, and family connections in the kitchen. I think my favorite is the suggestion to extend books – to cook things from, or inspired by, the books you’re reading. But teaching kitchen techniques – that’s a good one too! Which leads me to…

How to crack an egg: what’s the worst that could happen? at NurtureStore :: Does your little one know how to crack an egg?

Dinner Happens. at Simple Mom :: Thoughts on dinner as the seasons change, with particularly lovely ideas for sharing your meals with friends and strangers.

Slow Cooker Naked Apple Butter at Oh She Glows :: Easy! Healthy! Seasonal! I can’t wait to try this.

Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.

 

Let’s do this thing!

Friends! Let’s do this thing!

A couple months ago, a dear friend wrote to tell me she’d just finished reading Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: A Love Story, that she’d loved its sane approach to picky eaters and family meals, and that she suspected I might just love it too.

Well. We all know that my resolve to keep my cookbook collection in check is tenuous, and that’s on a good day. I had the book on my lap about 23 hours after Wesley’s recommendation, and I devoured the whole thing in under a week. Now, it’s true that I tote all new cookbooks hither and yon – to the comfy chair in the living room, to the banks of our south creek, to the passenger seat of the car. I thumb through them all with hunger and hope, read bite-sized passages (see what I did there?), bookmark recipes. Eventually they get crammed into my kitchen bookcase where, if I’m going to be honest, what they mainly do is cheer me on from their perch.

But when I say I devoured Dinner: A Love Story, I mean that I read it cover to cover, every single gorgeous funny encouraging word, barely surfacing for coffee. Then I got up and cooked three of its recipes in quick succession. (Here’s the first thing I made — easy and scrumptious, which seems to be the common thread in all these recipes. Next we made the grilled pineapple salsa to have with fish tacos — oooooooh my word.)

It’s the story of one family’s commitment to eat a homecooked meal together every single night, no matter how crazy life gets. That sounds daunting, and Rosenstrach never claims it’s as easy as ordering takeout or heating up a frozen dinner. But she doesn’t think it has to be intimidating either. Throughout the whole lovely book – whether she’s writing about how she and her husband cooked as newlyweds, or how they managed to feed two toddler daughters and themselves, or how she juggled a full-time career and this family dinner thing, or how they eat now – her tone is warm, light, and completely contagious.

There’s lots more I’d like to say – like why I needed so badly right now to hear what she had to say – but let’s talk about all that in person instead. Let’s finally launch the Southside Kitchen Collective cookbook (and potluck!) club with Dinner: A Love Story.

Let’s do it at my house, in early November (exact date TBD) – I hope that’s enough time for you to buy and read the book, but not so far away that we’re all in the thick of Thanksgiving and end of the year travels and celebrations.

Yes? Are you in? Questions? Ask ‘em here.

(And also, while you’re waiting for your copy of the book to arrive, definitely check out Jenny’s blog of the same name. Wonderful stuff.)

On seeing past the end of my dinner fork

Oh, friends. Can I tell you about this evening? Can I tell you about the amazing meal my husband made with a certain two-year old and his end-of-the-day sillies while I was getting some work done in a local cafe? Can I tell you about the killer Caesar salad with homemade dressing and croutons he made from a local baker’s bread and our own lettuce and cherry tomatoes and eggs and garlic and chicken? Can I tell you about the cheesy grits full of delicious butter and cheese? Can I tell you about the two-year old who screamed, “I don’t like grits I DON’T LIKE GRITS IDON’TLIKEGRITSICAN’TEATTHEM!!!!!” for a very long time and then proceeded to eat a giant plate full of Caesar salad covered in garlicky anchovy dressing?

This business of toddlers and food is a tricky one. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out. Sometimes it is so stressful I completely lose sight of the Big Picture, the one where this too shall pass, the one where I remember how important these power struggles are as our little people become bigger people, the one where I know he and we will survive his toddlerhood just fine.

I think that in those times where I can barely see past the end of my dinner fork, it is important to remember it’s not always like this. In that spirit I am reposting something I wrote a couple weeks ago over at our farm blog. I think it fits perfectly here.

As we ate these outside at the picnic table last night, in a spell of blessed cool after a quick little thunderstorm, I realized it was the fifth time we’d eaten them in under two weeks. I think that means they’re a winner. I think that means y’all need the recipe.

There’s a very small amount of grating and chopping involved, but really these fritters could not be easier. You grate a summer squash or two – I’ve learned that yellow squash, zephyr, and pattypan work best for our family and for a certain particular two-year old right now, but zucchini fritters are particularly pretty. You squeeze the excess water out of the squash with a dishtowel or paper towels – this is the one picky step, but it only takes a minute, and having tried skipping this step, I think it’s worth doing. You chop an onion – mince it, if you’re living with the same two-year old. Then you mix it all up with some flour, some cornmeal, an egg, some cheese, some salt and pepper, and you shape them into patties, and then you pop them in the oven while you set the table.  Easy peasy!

A word on picky eaters: we have one. It’s been humbling. I thought because we have fields and countertops and a fridge and two freezers all full of delicious vegetables, that he’d take to them right away. And in his first six months of exploring solid foods, he did. But then he started having strong opinions, opinions like: white and brown foods like milk, yogurt, butter, bread, cheese, crackers, pasta, oatmeal, and eggs are really quite sufficient when it comes to one’s diet. And you know what? I want him to have opinions. I want him to be able to disagree with me. I want him to figure out what he loves and what he doesn’t love. I think he needs my guidance, but I also think he needs my patience and my trust … trust that he’ll survive toddlerhood just fine, trust that he is doing what most two-year olds since the dawn of two-year olds have done, trust that he is developing just as he should.

When I was pregnant I proclaimed I’d never “hide” vegetables in food, but I’m coming to realize it’s more complicated than that. In addition to all the independent toddler stuff going on, I think little people have a very acute sense of taste and texture. I think maybe we need to take it easy on them sometimes. And if that means choosing yellow squash over zucchini sometimes, or mincing the onions instead of chopping them – well, I can do that.

I’ll add that our son loves to help me make these. “Mama, I want to grate!” he says, and so he does, with some help. “Dad, I can break the egg,” he offers, and so he does, and pretty well at that! “Let me squoosh it up, Mama!” he demands, and so he does.

And so we make fritters. Sometimes he eats them. Sometimes he just licks the ketchup off his plate. “Like a dog!” he says.

You should make them too.

Baked Squash (or Zucchini) Fritters with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
adapted just a bit from The Yellow House

Kid-friendly! Quick! And easy too to make gluten-free – the flour in this recipe just serves as a binder, so replace it with your favorite gluten-free flour and you should be good to go. One friend replaces the flour with masa harina – that sounds really good to us! Also, while parmesan is particularly tasty in these, feel free to use another kind of cheese. We used mozzarella the first time we made these because that’s what was in the fridge, and they were still very good.

These are great with ketchup (our son’s favorite), a fried egg (my favorite), tzatziki, or the quick garlicky yogurt sauce below.

2 cups grated summer squash or zucchini, pressed between layers of a clean dishtowel or paper towels to absorb some of the water
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour – see note above)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, toss the squash and onion with the flour, cornmeal, and cheese. Add the beaten egg and some salt and pepper, and mix until everything comes together. Use your hands if you like; it’s fun! It should have the consistency of meatloaf.

Using your hands, gently form the mixture into small balls (about 3 tablespoons of mixture for each fritter). Place them on the baking sheet and use your hand to flatten them into small patties about a half-inch thick.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. (If making the yogurt sauce below, make it now – this will give the flavors time to meld a bit.) Then broil for 2-3 minutes longer. The fritters should be a lovely golden color. Good warm or at room temperature. Serve with ketchup, fried eggs, tzatziki, or the garlicky yogurt sauce below.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste, and add more salt if you think it needs it. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.

On research, Thai curry, and baby led weaning

We’re so happy to introduce our newest contributor, Danielle Hunter. Danielle and her family run Spring Mill Farm in Central Virginia, where they keep pastured milk goats, laying hens, pigs, meat rabbits, and beef cattle. It’s a deep shame indeed you can’t taste their amazing goat cheese truffles via the internet … but you can benefit from Danielle’s adventures in baby led weaning with 10-month old Olivia. This is the first in what Danielle hopes will be a series of posts about starting solid foods with her daughter. Check back soon for more!  Learn more about Danielle and Spring Mill Farm here (for now scroll down to Danielle’s bio — hoping to have a more direct link soon).

Being a first-time parent is hard in many ways. I am a researcher. In college I studied microbiology and spent a lot of time performing laboratory research and poring over research articles. My microbiology career didn’t expand much past a brief stint at Harvard post-graduation, as I then moved to an area where my skills weren’t needed. Instead, I took a job at a veterinary hospital as an assistant and took up researching everything else. When I became pregnant, I researched my birth options. Now, as a parent, I try to research information, trying to stay “ahead of the game.” My approach is simple: read a bunch of articles, blogs, and reviews; then, when a new stage presents itself I’ve done my homework. At that point, we experiment with what I’ve read and find what works for us.

And that’s how I found myself breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, and baby wearing. In the post-birth stage under the haze of sleepless nights with a newborn, I missed some research time. Thus, at Olivia’s two month checkup, the topic of vaccination arose and I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t done my research as thoroughly as I had hoped. I didn’t want to be unprepared again. Knowing that I wanted to hold off solids for as long as I could, at least until the six month mark, I started researching solids before Olivia was four months old. I wanted to be prepared.

My research led me to a method called “baby led weaning,” which despite its name (it’s a British term) is more about how food is introduced to babies rather than the process of weaning from breastmilk or formula. Of course, the latter is the ultimate goal, but it happens gradually with BLW. Lately, BLW is gaining press and more acceptance into mainstream society, thanks to a recent article published in the British Medical Journal, who stated in conclusive statements, “Our results suggest that infants weaned through the baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner which leads to a lower BMI and a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates.”

So, how is our attempt at BLW going? I started offering a few solids at meal times when Olivia was a few days shy of six months. So, in the past four months we’ve learned a lot about Olivia’s eating habits. Interestingly, just like researchers in the University of Nottingham study, Olivia prefers carbohydrates. Of course, carbohydrates aren’t just limited to breads and pastas (which we try to use only whole grains), but includes vegetables, fruits, and beans.

We started off slowly, as Olivia was relatively uninterested in solids. I began by first offering steamed carrot sticks and cucumber sticks. We branched out from those to bananas, sliced fruit, and then roasted veggies, and strips of cooked meat. Now, at almost 10 months old, I offer Olivia just about anything we’re eating. Her favorites are strawberries, bananas, sweet potatoes, beef tenderloin, Thai curry, and fajitas. I have withheld a few items: egg whites, shell fish, and honey. The proteins in egg whites are hard for their bodies to digest and can pose an allergy risk, so many sources recommend withholding them until at least 12 months of age. I will admit: Olivia has consumed them cooked into other dishes on occasion.

In the meantime, we continue to offer small bites of our meals. While it IS messy, it’s a lot of fun to watch her explore a variety of tastes and textures. It’s almost like mealtime has become educational – I try to discuss the foods that she’s exploring, describing the taste and texture. Taking this approach has been relatively easy on me, as a parent. Because I’m continuing to breastfeed on demand, I have relatively little anxiety over Olivia’s nutritional intake from solids. I know her nutritional requirements are being met, and that allows us to embrace the BLW motto: “Food before one is just for fun.”

Food for Thought Friday (welcome-to-2012 edition)

What’s been inspiring y’all recently?

Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.

Food for Thought Friday

Hi friends! Thanks for sticking with us here as we find our way. We’ve got some lovely posts coming up on holiday traditions and on eating adventures with both babies and toddlers. For now, enjoy this latest edition of Food for Thought Friday!

(I feel this every time I post a FFTF — but gosh, I think there are some really good ones in this week’s list.)

Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.


Buttery Spudlets!

Doesn’t that sound like something quaint to say when you’ve knocked over a bag of flour or grazed your knuckle because you were daydreaming about pie instead of paying attention to the cheese grater?

But for real: this is just some easy delicious food, and you should make some.

I suppose they look rather unassuming up there, piled on the plate next to a green salad. The list of ingredients is equally humble: potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, herbs-if-you-have-them-but-don’t-let-not-having-them-stop-you-from-making-these-for-dinner-tonight.

Don’t be fooled: underneath their plain Jane exterior, these potatoes are very exciting indeed. We’ve been making them for years, and we think the trick is in the dual cooking method: you start them in some sizzling butter on the stovetop and then slide them into the oven for a spell, where the skins get gorgeously browned and the insides go all light and fluffy and perfect. It’s really something.

Buttery Spudlets
adapted only slightly from The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

A few quick notes … the original recipe calls for tiny new potatoes, and while the pictures in this post might look like new potatoes, in truth they are it’s-the-very-end-of-the-farm-season-and-this-is-what-we-could-scrape-up-from-the-bottom-of-the-potato-bin potatoes. But you can use plain old baking potatoes as well; just cut them into rough 1-inch chunks. This is what we usually do and I think we even prefer them that way! You can also substitute sweet potatoes for some of the regular potatoes – delicious. These potatoes seem to be the perfect side dish to just about everything. But they are also divine on their own with a fried egg on top and that is a perfectly respectable supper. We’re just sayin’.

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 lbs or so potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks (or small new potatoes)
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, chopped fine, if you have them (rosemary is really really good, and thyme is nice too)
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Melt the butter in an oven-safe skillet (you’ll need a lid too in a sec) over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the skillet once or twice.

Cover the skillet and slide it into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the lid. Add the salt and pepper and herbs if you’re using them. Shake the skillet to mix everything up. Cook uncovered for 15 more minutes, giving the skillet a good shake every 5 minutes.

Eat up!

Food for Thought Friday (day-after-Thanksgiving edition)

(Thanksgiving Day, 9pm)

Whew! Just under the wire. Food for Thought Friday is a (more or less) weekly list of links – tasty morsels, if you will, for belly and brain.