Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Thoughts on Food

It is good. We should all eat some. Thanks for reading.

Oh, I kid. I kid.

I have had many food-related thoughts and discussions in recent weeks. Perhaps because our default channel on the TV is Food Network. Anyway, I don't know how coherent this post will be, but I'll try to make some sense.

I want to try new recipes. I know that I tend to stick to the same basic dishes. I have tried some new recipes lately, but they are essentially variations on the same things. Some kind of meat with vegetables and perhaps pasta as a filler. I especially want to broaden my vegetable horizons. The SteamFresh bags of veggies are a miracle, but my family would probably like to eat something else every once in a while. I would like to try some new main dishes as well. We need to eat fish, but I'm not a big fan and I have no idea how to cook it. I know we need to eat less meat, in general, and make the meat we do eat be a better quality.

So why don't I just go ahead and try new things? Well, let me tell you about my many questions, both rational and irrational. On the silly side, I don't know where to find some of the ingredients in recipes that catch my eye. I'm intimidated by things I'm not familiar with and besides, store employees are a rare and unsighted species in my travels. Also, what if I make something and we all hate it? That is a waste of money. First we throw out the awful dish, and then we have to figure out what to eat instead, which could quite likely end up being takeout of some kind. Also, I don't feel like I have enough experience to carry out some of the techniques called for in recipes. Trying to get a meal on the table with the regular evening chaos is challenging enough without throwing in things like "reducing" or "braising" or whatever.

Another food related discussion going on in my head (what, doesn't everyone do this?) relates to the organic issue. Or the natural issue. Or the twig and seed issue. Okay, it is not that bad I know. It seems that each new day brings with it some new information about how bad something is that we have been eating for ages. Everything under the sun has high fructose corn syrup in it, I'm discovering. Lots of things have added sugar for no obvious purpose. Produce is covered in pesticides apparently. It is all so overwhelming. We have tried to make small changes, but even those can prove difficult to stick with over time. Not to mention the money factor. When everything costs more, it is especially hard to commit to buying more natural, organic food. I have to drive to a store twenty minutes away to have access to a large variety of natural/organic/preservative free food, and it is not kid-friendly for us. It looks like I'm going to have to get more dedicated to this particular area though. Monster was just put on an inhaled steroid indefinitely for respiratory issues. We have been in the doctor's office at least once a month this year trying to conquer this problem. They haven't told me has asthma, but they sure have given us lots of asthma-related medication. I want to try to make dietary changes and see if that can stem some of the problem and reduce our reliance on medication. So you might be reading tales of woe from the natural food store in the future.

Of course, there are also the thoughts on the bad food that I love to eat and that I have got to eliminate. I have not lost weight the last two weeks because I have not kept my commitment to cut out soda and fast food. I will never give up my sweets, but I can go without the other stuff a lot more frequently than I do. I've become way too good at keeping the junk away from my kids but not keeping it away from myself. I will allow myself some indulgences on occasion, but I'm recommitting to trying harder.

I'll end with a food success. I had to cook dinner last night (no dinner fairy showed up, darn it). We had chicken breast, elbow macaroni, and some cans of soup and broth. I marinated the chicken in Italian dressing and grilled it on the indoor grill. I boiled the pasta. I mixed a can of cream of mushroom soup (I know it is not the greatest) with some chicken broth and a few shots of sun-dried tomato salad dressing (so delicious). I also heated up a bag of SteamFresh green beans. I diced the chicken and dumped everything in one bowl. It was so yummy! My kids ate some, and I devoured it when I returned from the gym. When I reheated it I added a little more dressing, just because I love it so much. So, yea, I made something up and it was actually good.

What are your thoughts on food?
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  2. I love to cook and I want you to know that simple meals like the one you describe are just fine! You had a nice, nutritious meal there. BONUS--everyone liked it!

    Simple is best when you have little munchkins around. Later you can get more elaborate and learn how to braise and reduce :)

    I have a bunch of "quick and easy" ones on my food blog. Haven't tagged all the ones that fit in that category but there are some.

  3. When looking for new recipes, but are unsure if you will like them... look for ingredients that you know and like. Your family is much more likely to like it if they are comfortable with the tastes that are are familiar with (if it is only one prominent flavor).

    At this point in your life and family, finding crock pot type recipes might be a great starting point. Meals that really don't require a whole lot of work... and are contained all in one pot. This way prep and clean up time are also minimized.

  4. I also tend to stick to my same receipes that I make all of the time. I do have a list of everything I cook for dinner and it's taped on the inside of my pantry door. My memory isn't the greatest, so having it there helps me to remember some recipes and dishes I might forget about, which helps!

  5. I have discovered cooking and recipe reading and menu planning are my favorite hobby of late. I have no idea why, but I have become addicted to it! I plan our our week's worth of meals and all the ingredients needed -- then separate to what I have, what I don't have. Lastly, I take the "don't have" list and separate it by store where I can get it the cheapest (walmart, trader joes, etc). It is time consuming but since I find it fun (esp since it saves money and calories!) I do it every week. Then Saturday I plan my store route to use the least gas and hit all places.

    Yes, obsessed much.

    Here are a few of my own thoughts on food (in relation to yours):

    1) Organic is expensive, and frequently no different than non-organic in quality. If you care about being more natural, choose to buy Organic only when it counts. Like Dairy and Eggs. Maybe your meat. I would never do all my regular shopping at Whole Foods because it would break the bank.

    2)Fish is hard to cook well indoors unless you fry it. Baked fish is not that great imo. Your best bet, especially if you aren't a huge fan, is to do it on the grill outside. It tastes better and absorbs that smokey taste, plus it keeps the fishy smell outside. If you don't like a fishy fish, Mahi Mahi filets are a great choice. They marinate well (use that dressing you like so much or some italian seasoning) and don't have a harsh taste. Grilled Mahi Mahi can also be slapped on a bun with burger toppings (not cheese so much though) and fed to kids as a juicy alternative to beef. Or put in a soft taco with some cabbage and lime. You can buy a big bag of frozen filets at Costco and defrost the night before, or pre-marinated filets from Trader Joes frozen as well. Obviously cheaper at Costco.

    3) If you have set veggies your kids will eat, try making them a new way. I recently made zuchini pancakes and served them as a side with lamb chops. They were VERY tasty and easy to make. Or make variations of the ones they eat. If they will eat Broccoli, try Broccolini. If they eat squash, trying butternut squash "fries" baked in the oven. Asparagus? Try white asparagus.

    4) if you're trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat each night, focus on having a few dishes a week that mix the meat into the dish and use less. Like Fajitas. Use lots of peppers and onions and only a little bit of meat.

    If you email me a list of the dishes you normally serve I can offer some suggestions. :) Did I mention I'm obsessed with this stuff?

    :)Sorry if I'm all talky.


  6. Wow. I have nothing to say that will really add to the conversation. Your other readers, however, have some amazing suggestions!! If I think of something, I'll comment again. Otherwise, I'm coming back to read your comments. :)

  7. To be honest, cooking for the little people has pretty much destroyed my desire to tinker around in the kitchen. I like to cook, but I don't have time to try all the fancy stuff these days.

    And I am with you: what if I make something fancy and it all goes to waste with the kids eating pb&js?

    We only have one really picky eater in the house, and we refuse to cater to her, but I still like to throw in a side dish that she will eat because she is so stubborn that she will leave the table without dinner.

    I feel like someday I will go back to the fancy stuff, but that's not the season I am in right now. And I'm OK with that. Simple, thrown together meals are what I do best these days.

    And pizza - I can dial up one tasty pizza :)

  8. I am with Mama Llama... Crock Pot recipes are great! I have also found a new love for dishes I can throw into a casserole dish and stick in the oven. I love the all-in-one aspect of a casserole! Especially since hubby and I both tend to work late (8pm) so we are tired when we get home. I have a couple recipes for the above mentioned types of dishes I can email you, if you are interested (the chicken and rice casserole and verde enchilada casserole are my 2 favorites).

  9. I am also trying to learn to cook new things and trying to incorporate organic/natural cooking into my routine. Simple, basic foods are best, recipes with fewer ingredients rule, and starting with baby steps are the rules I am going by. I rely on the same recipes too, and am trying to branch out. I'm reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is a great education about WHY mainstream processed food is not good for you...but I'm definitely still a newbie at all of this.


I'm dying to know what you have to say, so talk already! Thanks!