Monday, November 24, 2008

Cup O' Soup

Who doesn't love a meal made up of soup, salad, and crusty bread on a cold winter night? Caroline. It's not that she hates soup. She just doesn't care for it. Since she has been battling a cold all week (and has now passed it on to me and Geoff), I decided to serve chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight. Instead of serving it in bowls, I put the soup in mugs. It did the trick. Caroline drank her soup like a pro. "I do. I do. I do like the soup" she said mimicking the words in Dr. Seuss's Sam I Am.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Food Grouch

Geoff just called me a "food grouch." Since moving to Michigan in 2004, our friends have sung the praises of Ann Arbor. "Oh, you'll never like East Lansing, Betty. I know you. But you'll love Ann Arbor." "There's better food in Ann Arbor." "Ann Arbor has better bookstores." Ann Arbor this, Ann Arbor that. After my food shopping experiences today, I am feeling less than chipper and pining for familiar old favorites like the Meridian Township Farmers' Market, Schuler's Bookstore, and the East Lansing Food Co-op. But here's why I'm grouchy. Our first trip this morning was to the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market. What drives me crazy about this farmers' market is that none of the organic farmers list food prices. So every week, I load up my bag with goodies, tell the farmer (or whoever happens to be working the stand that day) what I've got and some number spills out of their mouth. Today, it was $29. Last week I bought about the same amount of produce and it was $14. What's the deal?! I could ask what each item costs but why do I have to? I've never been to a farmers' market where products weren't labeled with prices. I want to pay a fair price for food but really, was the price of the vegetables we bought today really $29? I guess we'll never know. Our next stop was Zingerman's for our usual cup of coffee and pastry. Since my good friend Allison was coming over for lunch, I also hit the deli for some meat, cheese, and olives. I settled on nicoise olives ($18.99 per pound) and French sausage for $12. It was a splurge but Allison is moving to Italy and today was our last visit together for awhile. And honestly, since I haven't bought nicoise olives in a long time, I couldn't remember what they typically go for. Plus, if it tasted as good as it looked (or if you get what you pay for), why not? But it didn't. The nicoise olives weren't anything special and the French sausage was horrible and left me feeling sick to my stomach. After my food experiences today, I am wondering what all of the Ann Arbor hype is about...well, maybe that isn't a fair statement. There are some good things about food in Ann Arbor. Like Alex Nemeth's Fuji apples. I feel better just thinking about the big bag of Fuji apples in my refrigerator. They are the perfect size, crunchy, and sweet. Now those are good apples. And they're affordable too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inspired!

Before leaving Portland, I bought myself a present: The Paley's Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley. Paley's Place is a well-known restaurant in Portland's chic Northwest 23rd Avenue neighborhood. We've never eaten there but everyone I know that has just raves about it. I read the book on the plane back to Michigan while Caroline slept on my lap. With recipes like Chicken Roulade and Huckleberry Kuchen with Cassis-Huckleberry Sauce and Creme Fraiche, I doubt I'll be able to find the time to make most of the dishes in this book. But I didn't buy it for the recipes. I bought it for the stories. I laughed out loud when I read about Vitaly Paley's weekend with Fergus Henderson cooking pig trotteres and partridges. Reading the stories about the food and food producers of the Northwest reminded me of why I love to cook. Even though I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, much of it is spent preparing easy to prepare meals that I know Caroline will enjoy. The Paley's Place Cookbook inspired me to cook one of my favorite dishes tonight: chicken provencal. It is a recipe I found in an old Cook's Illustrated magazine from years ago and for some reason, I assumed that the flavors would overwhelm Caroline and she wouldn't like it. Instead of following my own advice (I can hear the annoying message now: Some foods may need to be introduced to children up to 20 times before they are willing to try it) I just avoided this dish altogether. I served the chicken with oyster mushrooms (Tantre Farms) sauteed with garlic and Israeli couscous. To my surprise, Caroline loved her meal. Thank goodness!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Bouquet From Kaleng

Life has been busy these days. We spent 10 days in California at the end of October and just returned to Ann Arbor from a trip to Portland, Oregon. We were back in Michigan for only a few days in between, just enough time to get over jet lag...before heading to the west coast again. Portland is our home. Before moving to Michigan, Geoff and I lived in Portland. We were only there for four years but during that time, we made many close friends, including Kaleng Moua (pictured here). Kaleng is a farmer and vendor at the Portland Farmers' Market. He grows and sells fruits, vegetables, and flowers. We became friends with Kaleng and his family years ago. We first met at the farmers' market but we became friends while working together to try to improve farm direct marketing opportunities for immigrant farmers. I visited the Moua's farm years ago and was so impressed with the diversity of the products they grew, how hard they worked, and their care for their land. At that time, Kaleng mostly grew flowers, vegetables, and hazelnuts. Over the years, he has started growing specialty foods like figs and jerusalem artichokes. We visit Kaleng at the Portland Farmers' Market about once a year. The market is so busy that we never get a chance to talk for more than a few minutes. I always bring him one of my favorite Michigan foods and he always gives me something from his stand to eat during my stay. This time, he gave me a bag of perfect jerusalem artichokes, a bunch of bok choy, and a bouquet of dried flowers. "For your office" he said as he handed me the flowers. I turned away and pretended to look at his figs so that he wouldn't see the tears rolling down my cheeks. Kaleng. He is always so kind to me. I thought of Kaleng earlier this week as I cleared a spot on my desk for the flowers. They look beautiful and even though they are dried, they smell lovely. I thought of Kaleng again tonight as Caroline and I prepared the jerusalem artichokes for dinner. It was my first time cooking with jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes because they are the tubers that form under sunflowers). Caroline helped me to scrub them clean and after I sliced them into 1/2 inch rounds, we tossed them with our hands in sunflower oil and dried rosemary and roasted them in the over. They were delicious.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Surviving On Processed Foods

Caroline and I have been in San Diego since last Friday. I am attending the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference (along with 13,000 other people). When I travel to conferences, Geoff usually stays home with Caroline. But this time, Geoff is also attending a conference...in Palo Alto. Since APHA provides on-site childcare (and several breastfeeding lounges....this is definitely the most progressive and family-friendly professional organization around) we decided that Caroline should come with me to San Diego. Camp APHA --the official name of the on-site childcare service -- is run by an organization called ACCENT on Children's Arrangements. For $15, parents can purchase a lunch for their child. Because I am the way I am, I decided to pack Caroline's lunches for her. Before the conference began, I hit a nearby food co-op called Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Market. The market had a great selection of fresh produce but since we are staying in a hotel and only have access to a very small bar fridge, we couldn't take advantage of most of the products. Instead, we had to stock up on processed foods and stick to foods that didn't need any preparation. What did we buy? Nancy's soy milk raspberry yogurt (which has nearly 10 grams of sugar less than fruit flavored yogurt made with cow's milk), whole wheat crackers, single serving applesauce, boxed soy milk, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, Fuji apples, string cheese, sunflower butter, Village Mill Bread Company bread, and Bionaturae strawberry fruit spread. Today was Caroline's first day at Camp APHA. She loved it. And for the most part, she seemed to like what I packed for her lunch...especially the sunflower butter and strawberry fruit spread sandwich.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rose Gold Potatoes

Geoff and I ran to the farmers' market this morning wearing shorts. I don't know what we were thinking, especially since we had Caroline bundled up in a fleece sweater and a hat with ear flaps. We had a beautiful morning with blue skies and sun. But the air was crisp. Very crisp. So by the time we arrived at the market, the only things I could think about were coffee and soup. We bought a couple of butter croissants from Zingerman's (which are quickly becoming Caroline's favorite Saturday morning treat) and coffee from Sweetwaters. After warming up and listening to a man playing the washboard -- yes, it's really a washboard -- we walked through the market to buy our produce for the week. We picked up several things from Frog Holler Organic Farm and then headed to their neighbor, Garden Works. I was immediately drawn to the huge display of potatoes, which included several varieties I had never heard of before. With soup on my mind, I bought a couple of pounds of Rose Gold potatoes and then headed to Tantre Farm for a bunch of carrots and a head of Savoy cabbage. When we got home, I made a pot of potato soup with Savoy cabbage and leeks. I sauted one chopped onion, a large clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary in a few tablespoons of butter for about 10 minutes. I peeled and diced the potatoes and added them to the onions along with with 2 cups of homemade chicken broth (from my freezer) and 4 cups of water and brought it all to a simmer. When the potatoes were tender, about 20 minutes later, I used a potato masher to mash the potatoes and thicken the soup. I then stirred in about 2 cups of finely sliced Savoy cabbage, salt and pepper to taste, and continued cooking the soup on a gentle simmer for about 10 more minutes. I served the soup for lunch today with a loaf of Zingerman's farm bread (their bread of the month), fresh mozzarella cheese, and Frog Holler tomatoes. Perfect foods for a crisp fall day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Roasted Beets

Caroline likes beets! After refusing to eat them all of last season and most of this season, she now eats (and enjoys) red beets. I haven't changed the way that I prepare or serve them. Geoff and I love beets and when they are in season, we eat them as a side vegetable or in our salads. I guess that after watching us eat them, seeing them on her plate, touching them (and then looking at her purple hands), tasting them on occasion (and spiting them out), we finally reached that post-neophobia stage. Our favorite way to prepare beets? Scrub them, trim their tops, place them in a baking pan, add just a splash of water, cover the pan tightly with foil and roast them in the oven at 400 F for about 40 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. Peel them as soon as you can comfortably handle them. The skins should slip off easily leaving you with nice, shiny, smooth beets. I serve them as is or toss them with seasoned rice vinegar and olive oil. Roasted beets are also wonderful on top of a mixed greens salad with toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinegrette. And the beet greens? Use them in place of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach or chard. They are delicious.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Frog Holler Farm

We had a beautiful fall day today. The temperature was in the 70s, the sky was blue, and the leaves were a bright mix of colors - crimson red, burnt orange, and canary yellow. Our new house is close to the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market so instead of driving our car to the market this morning, we put Caroline in her Chariot (baby jogger) and ran the two or so miles. Our first stop was Frog Holler Organic Farm. We bought some veggies from Frog Holler (Brooklyn, Michigan) last weekend and they were delicious...so we went back for more. Ken and Cathy King and their three sons (including Kenny, who is picture here) are the Frog Holler farmers. The farm is an institution at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market having made their mark back in 1972 as the first organic vendors. Now, they are one of several vendors who selling organically grown food. We bought some tomatoes, salad greens, chard, and beets (though we forgot to put the beets in our bag!) from Kenny and continued shopping. Watermelon, apples, Barlett pears, prune plums, Hakurei turnips, and eggs made it into our bags. Needless to say, we didn't run home. Geoff carried Caroline on his shoulders and I pushed the food in the Chariot.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Last Times

Tomorrow is Caroline's last day at her childcare center in East Lansing. It's hard to believe that it will be the last time that I try to mimic the childcare center's meals with seasonal and locally produced foods made with ingredients grown/raised without harmful chemicals. It was a great learning experience for me. For one thing, I found out how boring and repetitive school meals can be because after awhile, I found myself posting the same (or very similar) menus to this blog. I tried to mix up the menus with seasonal fruits and vegetables, but even I became tired of baked and marinated tofu, grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, and lentil croquettes. Speaking of which, chicken nuggets are on the menu tomorrow so Caroline will be getting lentil croquettes for lunch. I would be lying if I said that I would miss packing Caroline's lunch everyday. Packing a nutritious lunch made with whole ingredients takes time, energy, and creativity. There were many days when I just didn't have it in me. At Caroline's new childcare center in Ann Arbor, no outside foods are allowed in the building so packing her meals is not even an option. I wouldn't have gone this route except that nutrition is a high priority for this center so all grains are whole grains, sweets (like brownies, cookies, monkey bread, etc.) are not served, and the administration has made it easy for most of our food needs to be met...though locally produced foods grown/raised without harmful chemicals are not on their radar (yet).

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, October 7: Breakfast - Bartlett pear (Ann Arbor Farmers' Market), corn muffin; Lunch - lentil croquettes, broccoli (Ann Arbor Farmers' Market), yellow watermelon (Ann Arbor Farmers' Market), Ed's mulitgrain bread (Saline); Snack - pumpkin carrot muffins (carrots and pumpkin from Ann Arbor Farmers' Market, Westwind Milling Company flour)

Childcare Center Menu, October 7: Breakfast - applesauce, blueberry muffins; Lunch - chicken nuggets, broccoli, kiwi, wheat bread; Snack - pumpkin carrot muffins (from Caroline)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple Picking And Eating!

Kids love fresh apples. At least that's what I observed on Saturday when we were picking apples at Chudleigh's in Milton, Ontario. Chudleigh's is a stereotypical entertainment farm: straw maze, farm animals, playground, bakery, gift shop, hay rides, BBQ, and 100 acres of apples. My sisters (Sophia and Michelle) and their families visit Chudleigh's every fall as soon as the Honey Crisp apples are ready to pick. The kids love horsing around on the hay bales, seeing the animals, and eating grilled corn-on-the-cob. But most of all, I think they love to pick and eat the apples. Matthew (7 years old) and Olivia (4 years old) couldn't stop eating the Honey Crisp apples. It seemed like for every one they picked, they ate two. Caroline preferred the smaller Empire apples, which she could hold with two hands. As I picked apples, I listened to the conversations taking place around me. I heard small voices say, "Daddy, can I have another one?" and "I love these apples!" And when I looked around, I saw kids and their families munching away on apples. Anyone who has taken a child to a farm or garden to pick their own apple or peach or carrot (...or just about anything) knows that children will eat fresh fruits and vegetables. It's the out-of-season, mealy, flavorless stuff that they don't like. We can't take fresh fruits over the border so we left our bag of Empire apples with Michelle....to add to the 20 lbs of Honey Crisp apples that she picked.

We'll take Caroline apple picking again sometime this month. Clearview Orchard has several varieties of apples ready for picking. They are located at 1051 Barry Road in Haslett (517-655-1454). Like Chudleigh's Clearview Orchards is more than apples. They also have caramel apples horse-drawn wagon rides, and a pumpkin patch.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 30: Breakfast - watermelon, apple muffin; Lunch - cheese quesadilla, carrots (Anne's home garden) and zucchini (Owosso Organics); Snacks - multigrain bread, sunflower butter, Empire apple (Chudleigh's...uh, we brought back a couple of apples)

Childcare Center Menu, September 30: Breakfast - honeydew, wehat bagels, cream cheese; Lunch - chicken fajitas, grapes; Snacks - baked sweet potato, wheat crackers

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Meal Time Accoutrements

Since starting my new job earlier this month, Geoff has been taking on the lion's share of getting Caroline to and from her childcare center. I try to help by writing Caroline's menus and packing her food. We use a variety of meal time accoutrements to help us stay organized. For hot breakfast and lunch items, we use Thermos food jars. Thermos sells FUNtainers (food jars with designs) but we went with the plain old stainless steel style. The food jar works well and keeps Caroline's hot cereal, rice, pasta, and other hot foods steaming for hours. On a side note, Thermos also sells a fabulous guarantee spill-proof coffee mug. The food jars and coffee mug can be purchased on the Thermos website. We pack salads, vegetables, and other cold lunch items in her Laptop Lunchbox. This bento-style lunchbox is plastic, lead-free, and comes with five removable containers (two with lids), including one that can be used for salad dressing, utensils, and a user's guide. We bought three of the lunchboxes last year when Obentec was having a sale on mismatched compartments. We love them and use them everyday. There have been some problems with quality though. We've had several cracked lids and all of our utensils broke. Obentec has great customer service and replaced the lids right away. They replaced one set of the utensils but after the replacements also broke, I didn't bother with additional replacements. I pack the rest of Caroline's food - snacks like muffins, fruit, and yogurt - in 1/2 pint Ball or Mason glass jars with plastic, reusable lids.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 25: Breakfast - watermelon (Greenman Produce), apple bread (Rasch Farms apples); Lunch - cheese and summer squash quesadilla (Owosso Organics summer squash), corn-on-the-cob (Titus Farm), banana; Snacks - cucumbers (Cinzori Farms), 100% whole grain bread, sunflower butter

Childcare Center Menu, September 25: Breakfast - cantaloupe, pumpkin bread; Lunch - cheese and bean enchiladas, corn, beans, grapes; Snacks - smiley fries, cucumbers
    

September 24th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 24: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, banana, raisins; Lunch - whole wheat rotini pasta with pesto, cherry tomatoes (home garden), watermelon (Greenman Produce), zucchini (Owosso Organics), broccoli, cheddar cauliflower (Cinzori Farms); Snacks - string cheese, corn muffin, Honey Crisp apple (Rasch Farms)

Childcare Center Menu, September 24: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - chicken lo mein with red and yellow peppers, kiwi; Snacks - cheese breadsticks, pizza sauce, apples

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Schuler's Quiche

Caroline loves the spinach/basil/feta quiche from The Chapbook Cafe at Schuler Books and Music. It's creamy and packed with spinach. And if you buy it before 11:00 am, it comes with a mini muffin and a side of fresh fruit. Schuler's is a locally owned and operated bookstore with two locations: Meridian Mall (Okemos) and Eastwood Towne Center (Lansing). Geoff and I love bookstores so we usually make a trip to one of the two locations on the weekend. Quiche was on the menu today but instead of making a quiche from scratch, I opted to buy a slice from Schuler's. At $5.25 a slice, it makes for a relatively expensive toddler's lunch but since Caroline always eats every bite, it's worth it.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 23: Breakfast - corn muffin, pear (Threadgould Gardens); Lunch - spinach/basil/feta quiche (The Chapbook Cafe), broccoli (Cinzori Farms), watermelon (Greenman Produce); Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, Honey Crisp apple (Rasch Farms)

Childcare Center Menu, September 23: Breakfast - pineapple and corn muffins; Lunch - broccoli and cheese quiche, salad, honeydew; Snacks - yogurt dip, apples

Monday, September 22, 2008

From Bad To Worse

We are moving to Ann Arbor in a couple of weeks so we have been looking for a new childcare center. As much as I complain about the food served at Caroline's current childcare center, it is not as bad as some of the centers I have visited in Ann Arbor. Last week, I visited a center in downtown Ann Arbor and...to put it nicely, was disgusted. Besides the unprofessional attitudes among the staff (including the director), I was appalled by the condition of the toddler room. There was paint peeling off of the wall, there were no books to speak of, and the kitchen was in the toddler classroom. The rotating lunch menu - an optional meal that families can purchase for $3 per lunch - was cooked by the director and went something like this: Wednesdays - turkey hot dogs/Sun Chips/baked beans, Thursdays - Dominos pizza/Sun Chips, Fridays - chicken nuggets, mac n' cheese, fruit or vegetable. And we wonder why one in every four preschoolers in this country is either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight and why children have such poor dietary habits.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 22: Breakfast - O's, watermelon, cantaloupe; Lunch - zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli (Cinzori Farms), banana, rice with dill, chard, feta cheese; Snacks - whole grain crackers, carrot dip

Childcare Center Menu, September 22: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - ground turkey and rice with tomatoes, California vegetables, bananas; Snacks - guacamole, taco shells

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 19th Menu

I lost tomorrow's menu so I am just going to have to wing it.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 19: Breakfast - cantaloupe (Greenman Produce),pumpkin carrot muffin; Lunch - egg salad (Flying Goat Farm eggs), 100% whole grain bread, tomatoes (home garden), corn-on-the-cob (Titus Farm); Snacks - hummus, whole grain crackers, pear (Kismet Farm)

Sharing Food With Friends

These days, our garden is overflowing with cherry tomatoes. Caroline is learning how to share and is practicing by sharing the tomatoes. We pick them in the morning (or sometimes in the evening) and she takes a big bucketful of them to share with her classmates that day. The kids love them and gobble them right up. Who needs brownies, cookies, and other sweets when you can have vine-ripened cherry tomatoes? When Caroline comes home from school, she says, "I sharing totatoes, Mama." This morning, my friend Anne brought over a beautiful bunch of carrots - tiny ones, long ones, short ones, and fat ones. Caroline took half the bunch to the childcare center this morning to share with her friends. She proudly grabbed them by their tops - I kept them on since many children have never seen carrots with their greens still attached - and took them into her classroom.

Update: Caroline's friends loved the carrots. When I asked one of her teachers if the kids liked the carrots, she said, "I can't believe it, but they ate them. They loved them...Do they really just grow like that?"

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 18: Breakfast -100% whole grain toast, sunflower butter, Flaming Fury peach (Clearview Orchards); Lunch - marinated baked tofu, rice, zucchini (Owosso Organics), pear (Kismet Farm); Snacks - trail mix (Michigan dried cherries, O's, sunflower seeds), cantaloupe (Greenman Produce)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Food Mistakes In The News

I just finished reading an on-line version of the article, 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make, published in Sunday's New York Times. My friend Lori sent it yesterday but I only got around to reading it this evening. In short, the 6 food mistakes are (1) sending children out of the kitchen, (2) pressuring them to take a bite, (3) keeping 'good stuff' out of reach, (4) dieting in front of your children, (5) serving boring vegetables, (6) giving up too soon. One line in particular caught my eye. "Although obesity dominates the national discussion on childhood health, many parents are also worried that their child’s preferred diet of nuggets and noodles could lead to a nutritional deficit." This is a good article but it made no mention of the role of childcare centers in reinforcing the nugget and noodle diet. I realize that the article is focused on the mistakes that parents make. But when your child eats at a childcare center three times a day, five days a week, their role in cultivating children's dietary habits can't be ignored. Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, Ritz "cheese" crackers, cookies, brownies, pie, cake...these are all things that are regularly served at the childcare center. When children are eating these foods, it means that they are missing opportunities to improve their diets by eating one of their favorite healthful snacks or to maybe trying a new fruit or vegetable. For about a month or so early in the spring, the cook was menuing more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed and sweet foods. But when there is no oversight of the food program - the food and nutrition committee no longer exists - its easy go back to the same old, same old.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 17: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, currants, banana; Lunch - cheese and zucchini (Owosso Organics) quesadilla, carrots, cantaloupe (Greenman Produce); Snacks - Flaming Fury peach muffin (Clearview Orchards peach), cucumber (Owosso Organics)

Childcare Center Menu, September 17: Breakfast - cream of what, bananas, raisins; Lunch - veggie tacos, grapes; Snacks - pumpkin pie, cucumbers

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feeling Overwhelmed

I am officially feeling overwhelmed by food. It is canning season and it seems like our boiling water canner has been on non-stop since last weekend. We've canned peaches, pears, and corn in the last couple of weeks and now we're canning tomatoes. I am grumpy tonight because Geoff and I have been canning tomatoes since last night and almost half of every batch (about 3 quarts) isn't sealing. Every batch needs to be processed for 85 minutes so it is maddening when I pull out a batch and 3 quarts have tomato juice spewing out of them. The quarts that don't seal have to be eaten, frozen, or reprocessed (for another 85 minutes). We bought the tomatoes - two bushels - on Saturday from Titus Farm for $15 per half bushel, or $30 per bushel. We have half a bushel left to process. Even though I am stewing now, I know that in the middle of winter, I will be glad that we went through the trouble to can our own tomatoes. Store-bought canned tomatoes tend to have added ingredients like salt, sugar, etc. and some of them leave a metallic after taste in my mouth. Each quart of our home-canned tomatoes have a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice (an extra measure to prevent them from spoiling) and nothing else. And they taste like tomatoes.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 15: Breakfast - peach (Clearview Orchards), O's; Lunch - mac n' cheese with chard and cabbage, broccoli (Cinzori Farms), banana; Snacks - plain yogurt, watermelon, corn bread (Titus Farm corn)

Childcare Center Menu, September 15: Breakfast - Orange juice, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Golden Grahams; Lunch - macaroni and cheese, broccoli, banana; Snacks - pudding, crackers

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Celery?

Caroline loves cookies. We went to my friend Mary's house for tea this afternoon and the first, second, and third things that Caroline wanted to eat were the cookies. She had one cookie but after that, I felt like that was enough. After whining for more cookies for a few minutes and realizing that I was not going to give in, she moved on to the rice crackers and cantaloupe. Chocolate chip cookies and celery are on the menu tomorrow for afternoon snack. I don't know very many two-year-old children who would choose celery over a chocolate chip cookie. In fact, I don't know very many children - or adults for that matter (including me) - who even like celery unless it is served with ranch dressing or used to add crunch to a salmon, egg, or tuna salad sandwich. But I digress. I am sure that Caroline will want one of those chocolate chip cookies tomorrow. And my guess is that if I observed her through the one-way mirror tomorrow during lunch, I would see Caroline munching on one. It's not that I don't think children should eat cookies. I just don't think cookies are appropriate snacks to serve at a childcare center. Children get plenty of opportunities to eat cookies outside of school. What their small bodies need are nutritious foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals. I'll pack a pumpkin carrot muffin in Caroline's lunch tomorrow. I hope she eats it but I won't be surprised if it makes its way back home in her lunchbox untouched.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 12: Breakfast - peach (Clearview Orchards), French toast sticks (Zingerman's bread and Flying Goat Farm eggs); Lunch - salmon salad, 100% whole grain bread, cucumbers (home garden), watermelon (Greenman Produce); Snacks - pumpkin carrot muffin, pear (Kismet Farm)

Childcare Center Menu, September 12: Breakfast - applesauce, French toast sticks; Lunch - tuna fish pitas, cucumbers, watermelon; Snacks - chocolate chip cookies, celery

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homemade Pizza Dough or English Muffins?

Last night, Caroline and I made pizza for dinner. We made a whole wheat crust using my standby pizza dough recipe (makes two pizza crusts) and topped it with mozzarella cheese, a huge heirloom tomato we bought from Rebecca Titus last Saturday and chopped basil from our garden. On one half of the pizza - the half that Geoff and I ate - we also added minced garlic and freshly ground black pepper. The tomato was so sweet! Caroline surprised me when she said (or mimicked), "Oh my gosh, this tomato is soooo sweet." Instead of using all of dough for dinner last night, I used half. After kneading the dough (and before letting it rise), I divided the other half into four balls. I placed them on a cutting board and put the entire board in our deep freezer. When they were firm, I put them into a Ziplock bag and back into the freezer. Pizza is on the menu tomorrow. In the past, I've always used whole wheat English muffins as my pizza crust...but they don't even come close to tasting like a pizza. So tonight, I pulled out one of the frozen pizza crusts and put it into the refrigerator to thaw. Tomorrow morning, I will put it in a warm place (like my oven, turned off) to rise until it doubles in size. It will probably take about an hour and a half to double in size. And once it does, I will make a couple of mini pizzas for Caroline's lunch. Altogether it should take...two hours. What??! That means that I have to wake up at some crazy hour just to make @$#@%!$ homemade pizza for Caroline's lunch. Maybe I should have stuck with the English muffins.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 11: Breakfast - cantaloupe (farmer), 100% whole grain toast, sunflower butter; Lunch - pizza with heirloom tomatoes (Owosso Organics), zucchini (Owosso Organics), apple (Clearview Orchards); Snacks - hummus, whole grain crackers

Childcare Center Menu, September 11: Breakfast - cantaloupe, French bread, strawberry jam; Lunch - cheese pizza, carrots, apples, Snacks - hummus, pita bread

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who's That Farmer?

I don't know his name but at the Saturday Meridian Township Farmers' Market, there is a farmer from Mason (I think) who sells a variety of fruits and vegetables at a stand just outside of the east entrance. His products aren't certified organic but he does not use sprays. Until last Saturday, I had never purchased anything from him. But last weekend, I bought a cantaloupe from him. Cantaloupe is on the menu later this week but the aroma was so lovely that I cut it open this morning. It was beautiful inside - firm, cantaloupe-colored flesh. And it tasted great too. I don't know why I've never patronized this farmer before. Well, it's probably because he's stuck in the corner and is easy to miss. Next week, I'll try to buy something else from him. And I'll find out his name.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 9: Breakfast - cantaloupe, French toast sticks (Zingerman's sandwich bread and Flying Goat Farm eggs); Lunch - cheese and zucchini (Owosso organics) quesadilla, corn-on-the-cob (Titus Farm), apple (Clearview Orchards); Snacks - tomatoes (home garden), fresh mozzarella cheese

Childcare Center Menu, September 9: Breakfast - pears, French toast sticks; Lunch - flour tortillas, cheese, corn, beans, apples; Snacks - sweet potatoes, grapes

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fruit in Season!

There are so many lovely fruits in season right now - peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, raspberries, apples, and pears. We bought some of each this weekend so we will be munching (or gorging) on fruit all week! Unfortunately though, I'll be throwing a banana into the mix tomorrow. Caroline's new teacher, Angie, told us last week that Caroline was asking for a banana after seeing the other kids eating one. I felt badly about her feeling left out so bought a couple of bananas at the co-op on Saturday. It's a shame that the childcare center serves bananas flown in from who-knows-where when we have so many different types of delicious fruits available to us right here in the Lansing area.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 8: Breakfast - Flaming Fury peach (Clearview Orchards), O's; Lunch - zucchini lasagna (Owosso Organics zucchini), banana, raspberries (Swallowtail Farm), Sun Gold and Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes (home garden); Snacks - whole grain crackers, watermelon (Titus Farm)

Childcare Center Menu, September 8: Breakfast - Orange juice, Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Rice Krispies; Lunch - turkey lasagna, mixed vegetables, banana; Snacks - pretzels, watermelon

Swallowtail Farm U-Pick Raspberries Now Open!

This morning we headed to Swallowtail Farm in Mason to pick raspberries. My friends Anne and David (and their son Quinn) own and operate this small farm. It was lightly raining when we arrived at 10:00 am but we were able to pick several pints. The raspberries are $2.50 a pint. We took two pints home but paid for four since Caroline ate about two pints while we picked the berries! The farm is not certified organic the berries are not sprayed with any harmful chemicals. To learn more about the farm, visit the Swallowtail Farm website.

Clearview Orchards Peaches!

Last year, I bought beautiful organically grown Queen's Lace peaches from Jane Bush at Appleshram Organic Orchards. But this year, her peaches got frosted out. I thought I wouldn't have any peaches to eat or can this year but found Flaming Fury peaches from Clearview Orchards at yesterday's farmers' market. Clearview Orchards is a family-owned and operated farm in Haslett, Michigan that grows peaches, apples squash, and asparagus. The apples and pumpkins are pre- or U-pick. They also have hay rides during the fall. The peaches aren't certified organic, but they are grown using IPM (integrated pest management), the next best thing. The peaches were last sprayed (very lightly) early in the summer and haven't been sprayed or treated with anything (biological or chemical) since. I bought peaches and apples from Clearview Orchards a couple of years ago and they were delicious. I ended up buying 3 baskets of peaches ($7 per basket) and a basket of apples on Saturday. Tonight, I'll can most of the peaches and eat the rest fresh. Yesterday may have been the last farmers' market day for peaches from Clearview Orchards but they will be available at the farm throughout the week and if we are very, very lucky, there may be a few leftovers next Saturday. To find out for sure, call the farm at (517) 655-1454.

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: broccoli, Cheddar cauliflower (Cinzori Family Farms); corn, a huge heirloom tomato (Titus Farm); pac choi, Harukai turnips (Green Eagle Farm); mixed heirloom tomatoes, baby eggplant, flowers, zucchini, sweet red bell pepper (Owosso Organics); watermelon (Greenman Produce); Flaming Fury peaches, apples (Clearview Orchards, salad greens (Stone Cloud Gardens), cantaloupe (the nice farmer from Mason)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back to School Supplies

For weeks now, I have been ordering and receiving back to school supplies for Caroline: name labels, insulated lunch bag, SIGG water bottle and thermos food jar. They have been trickling in slowly. The insulated lunch bag (pictured here) just arrived in the mail. I bought it on one of my favorite websites Reusable Bags. These bags made using recycled juice boxes, are 100% lead-free and come in three different sizes - the medium ($19) is the perfect size for lunch. They are made by a women's co-op in the Philippines. The Phillipines is far away from Michigan but I loved the ideas of supporting a women's co-op and recycling old juice boxes. Plus, I love the surprise factor: each bag is unique and you don't know which one you're going to get until it makes its way to your doorstep. I had to laugh at the irony of a dietitian's daughter carrying around a lunch bag made using recycled chocolate milk boxes!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 5: Breakfast - pearsauce, 100% whole grain toast, sunflower butter; Lunch - whole wheat pasta, fresh mozzarella, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (home garden), watermelon; Snacks - pumpkin carrot muffin, cucumber (home garden)

Childcare Center Menu, September 5: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat bagels, strawberry jam; Lunch - chicken lo mein, watermelon; Snacks - banana bread, cucumbers

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ope's Veggie Burgers

I found Ope's Veggie Burger Patties in the freezer section at the co-op on Monday. I was so excited to find these patties because I love burgers and because they are made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I must admit though that I was a bit skeptical because most veggie burger patties that I've tasted are dry and bland. But we ate these for dinner tonight and they were very good - moist and tasted great. The ingredient list is relatively short - organic non GMO soy textured protein, organic grains (brown rice, oats), organic shredded vegetables (carrots, kidney beans, dried diced onions), organic vegetable gum. I served the patties with Zingerman's hamburger buns (also from the co-op), condiments (mayo and ketchup), sliced tomatoes (Titus Farms), and roasted potatoes. Caroline loved the burgers!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 4: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, currants, peach (Heritage Acres Farms); Lunch - tomato soup (Titus Farms tomatoes), grilled cheese sandwich, carrots (Crane Centennial Farm); Snacks - egg (Flying Goat Farm), whole wheat crackers

Childcare Center Menu, September 4: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - tomato soup, grilled cheese, mango, carrots; Snacks - egg, saltines

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September 3rd Menu

Bread is on tomorrow's childcare center menu for breakfast and lunch and snack is pumpkin pie. I am going to rebel by sending O's with Caroline for her breakfast. If I was feeling more creative and had more time, I would make something with rice or with an ancient grain like quinoa or spelt but since I am in my new routine that involves 3 hours in my car commuting to Ann Arbor, boxed cereal will have to do.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 3: Breakfast - pear (Threadgould Gardens), O's; Lunch - 100% whole grain bread, hummus, cucumbers (home garden), watermelon (Greenman Produce); Snacks - carrot bread (Crane Centennial Farm carrots), Sun Gold and Pear cherry tomatoes (home garden)

Childcare Center Menu, September 3: Breakfast - pears, wheat bagel, cream cheese; Lunch - turkey sandwich, cantaloupe, cucumbers; Snacks - pumpkin pie, carrots

Monday, September 1, 2008

End of Summer Pesto

In less than 3 hours, summer will be over. We just got home after a long weekend vacation on Mackinac Island. We had a lovely time. We rented a condo on the more secluded west side of the island. There are no motorized vehicles on Mackinac Island so we spent half of our time biking and riding around on a horse-drawn carriage and the other half exploring, eating, and watching the sunset. It was the perfect end to summer. We drove into town just before 5:00 pm and headed straight for the co-op to buy our week's groceries. The co-op was closed but there were a couple of working members inside and they let us in! We were hungry when we got home so I threw together one of my quickest summer meals: tomato drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, fettuccine with pesto, corn-on-the-cob. The tomato was a gorgeous heirloom variety that I picked up at the co-op and the corn was part of the bushel I bought last week from Rebecca Titus. The pesto is part of the 10 batches or so that I made a couple of weekends ago using my friend Anne's basil. Pesto is easy to make, freezes well, and defrosts quickly. We freeze small portions in old Gerber baby food jars or plastic 1/4 cup serving containers (from all that pearsauce that Caroline eats) and eat it all winter long...and on nights like tonight when I want something that's easy to prepare.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, September 2: Breakfast - O's, peach (Heritage Acres Farms); Lunch - garbanzo beans, corn (Titus Farm), brown rice with chard (Owosso Organics), dill, and feta cheese; watermelon (Greenman Produce); Snacks - graham crackers; sunflower butter

Childcare Center Menu, September 2: Breakfast - grape juice, Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Rice Krispies; Lunch - cheesy rice, corn, beans, bananas; Snacks - graham crackers, soynut butter

Monday, August 25, 2008

How Will I Do It?

I woke up this morning with anxiety. For almost three months now, I haven't had to think much about how to mimic the childcare center's meals with nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and snacks made with ingredients grown/raised without harmful chemicals and sourced as close to home as possible. On most days, Caroline and I just open the refrigerator and pull out whatever seasonal fruits and vegetables we have on hand and pull together a last minute meal. On Monday and Wednesday nights, I grudgingly look over the childcare center's menus for the next day and make a feeble attempt to mimic the cakes, hot dogs, and smiley fries. I realized early this morning that next week will mark the start of my postdoctoral research fellowship at University of Michigan and a new year, and new classroom, for Caroline. University of Michigan is an hour away (an unsustainable commute) which will make finding time to prepare meals challenging. I'm not sure how I will do it just yet but I know that it will involve a lot of planning and advance meal preparation. I just hope that Geoff and I don't kill each other trying to make it work! I tried to get ahead tonight by freezing two 1-cup portions of our dinner leftovers: brown rice with chard, feta cheese, and dill. Tomorrow, I am going to try to take advantage of the Michigan harvest (while it lasts) and pack the fruits and vegetables I picked up at the farmers' market on Saturday, or in our home garden, in lieu of the grapes, kiwi, and California vegetables.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, August 26: Breakfast - pearsauce, French toast (Flying Goat Farm eggs); Lunch - brown rice, baked and marinated tofu, zucchini (Owosso Organics), tomatoes (home garden), Red Baby watermelon (Cinzori Farms); Snacks - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), whole grain crackers

Childcare Center Menu, August 26: Breakfast - applesauce, French toast sticks; Lunch - sweet and sour chicken with rice, California vegetables, kiwi; Snacks - garlic bread, grapes

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

Our fridge is still full of food that we bought last week at the farmers' market so we only picked up a few things today: a bushel of corn for canning (Titus Farms), Red Baby watermelon (Cinzori Farms), okra and Thai basil (Crane Centennial Farm), and two beautiful bouquets of flowers. I love fresh flowers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Training Week

I just got home from a week in Washington, D.C. where I was reviewing grant proposals for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before going on long trips, I usually prepare a bunch of dishes that Geoff and Caroline can eat throughout the week. I put the dishes -- lasagna, soups, salads -- in Tupperware containers and neatly stack them in the refrigerator. And I leave Geoff with the childcare center menus and notes on what to pack for Caroline's lunch. But this time I didn't do either. The days leading up to my trip were busy but more than that, I just felt that I didn't and shouldn't have to spend hours in the kitchen doing what I was sure Geoff was capable of doing for himself (and for Caroline). I thought of it as "training week" for Geoff. I must admit though that I was worried that I would come home to a recycling bin full of empty cans of Wolfgang Puck soups and empty boxes of Amy's frozen pizza, ravioli bowls and enchiladas. And what if I did? Would it really be so bad if Geoff and Caroline ate processed foods for four days? I guess not. But what if....but what if what? Did I think they were going to starve in a house full of food?! Of course, all of my worrying was all for naught -- Geoff was able to fend for himself (of course...what was I thinking?!) and they did just fine.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

We arrived at the farmers' market later than usual this morning so when we got there, it was packed! But I was glad that we arrived when we did because I finally met Kate, a woman who posts comments on Caroline's Lunchbox from time to time. All summer long, I have been keeping my eye out for Kate, hoping that we would meet while buying sweet corn or other vegetables from Rebecca Titus, a mutual farmer/friend. We finally met today, not over peppers or eggplants as I had imagined. But at the playground next the market with our kids in tow...of course!

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: watermelon (Greenman Produce); Buffalo tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, radishes, sugar snap peas, flowers (Owosso Organics); sweet corn (for freezing), cranberry beans (Titus Farm); Orange Blossom tomatoes (Wildflower Eco Farm); garlic, heirloom carrots (Green Eagle Farm); blueberries (Threadgould Gardens)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Watermelon For Dessert

When desserts like pumpkin pie are on the menu, I feel compelled to pack something sweet in Caroline's lunch. This morning, Caroline and I went to the Wednesday Meridian Township Farmers' Market and found just the thing: watermelon! We are having friends over for dinner a couple of nights in a row this week so we picked up several things at the market: corn, green peppers, eggplant, tomatoes from Titus Farm, flowers from Threadgould Gardens and blackberries and watermelon from Dennis Greenman. We've never bought anything from Greenman Produce before but I was drawn to the large display of melons. Dennis Greenman functions as a farmer and a wholesaler. Not everything he sells is grown on his farm or even grown in Michigan. But the blackberries and some of the watermelon is. The blackberries aren't sprayed. The watermelon vine is sprayed before it bears any fruit. After that, it is not sprayed with any chemicals. We bought a yellow-flesh watermelon and will cut it open tomorrow...I hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, August 14: Breakfast - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), yogurt muffin; Lunch - salmon salad, 100% whole grain bread, watermelon, grilled zucchini (Threadgould Gardens); Snacks - cheddar cheese, whole grain crackers, cherry tomatoes (Titus Farm)

Childcare Center Menu, August 14: Breakfast - grapes, wheat croissants; Lunch - tuna fish on pita, salad, peaches; Snacks - pumpkin pie, cheese slices

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summertime Pizza

After years of using Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza crust (which is quite good), I decided to go back to making my own...mostly because I love pizza in the summertime and Trader Joe's is in Ann Arbor, a one hour trek from Lansing. I dug out an old recipe for whole wheat pizza and Caroline and I made it this afternoon. My plan was to have Caroline measure ingredients, watch the yeast come alive, and knead the dough but since she was fussy and not interested until the very last minute, she only ended up poking the dough after it had risen to see if it was ready to punch. I topped half of the pizza with shredded mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup), thickly sliced Buffalo tomatoes, minced garlic (1 clove), a handful of basil (torn into small pieces) (in that order) and the other half with sliced zucchini. After the pizza came out of the oven, I added a pinch of salt to the half with tomatoes and spoonfuls of pesto to the half topped with zucchini. Caroline loved both sides.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, August 12: Breakfast - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), whole wheat mini bagel with sunflower butter; Lunch - brown rice with egg (Flying Goat Farm), pesto (basil grown at Swallow Tail Farm last year), and Buffalo tomatoes (Owosso Organics); Snacks - zucchini muffin, carrots (Green Eagle Farm)

Childcare Center Menu, August 12: Breakfast - strawberries, wheat bagels with cream cheese; Lunch - cheesy rice, California vegetables, mango; Snacks - pound cake, carrots

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kids' Menus In The News

Check it out! The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has just released its report, Kids' Meals: Obesity on the Menu, on the nutritional quality of kids' meals at restaurants like KFC, Burger,and Taco Bell. The results go without saying: kids' meals are not good for kids' health. The press release states that "Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids' meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in sodium. That’s alarming, according to CSPI, because a quarter of children between the ages of five and ten show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure." Yikes! But it's not only at chains where kids' meals are not good for kids' health. And we shouldn't only evaluate meals based on calories, fat, sodium, or other nutrients. If nutrients were all we cared about, we might as well load up a Twinkie with vitamins and minerals. Kids, just like adults, need fresh, whole foods that taste like they should. And if its produced in a way that protects the health of our environment, chances are it will help to protect our kids' health too.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

I wasn't feeling very well when I woke up this morning but I rolled myself out of bed so that I could get to the farmers' market. Being surrounded by good food, friends, and fresh flowers usually makes me feel better. When we pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was that the back of the Titus Farm truck was loaded with sweet corn (see photo, courtesy of Rebecca Titus)! I love sweet corn. And so does Caroline. We love the Titus' sweet corn and buy lots of it every year. We start with enough ears to eat for the week but as the season winds down, we buy it in bushels so that we can freeze it for the winter. Today we bought a dozen ears for $4.75. You can also buy them by the ear for $0.50 per ear. We ate three ears of sweet corn tonight (shucked and blanched for 2 minutes) along with a loaf of Italian Round from Zingerman's, sliced Buffalo tomatoes (Owosso Organics) and fresh mozzarella cheese, basil (home garden).

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: flowers, Buffalo tomatoes, baby eggplant, swiss chard (Owosso Organics); Wolfmoon garlic, mixed onions -- White Winte, Copra (spicy), Alsa Craig Exhibition (sweet), Burger Master (red) -- ( Green Eagle Farm); sweet corn (Titus Farms); blueberries (Threadgould Gardens)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Market Bags and Eggplant Parmesan

I am home with Caroline on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays now and I am loving this time with her. We go on outings to nearby playgrounds, the water park, library, and Michigan State University's 4-H Children's Garden. When we're at home, we spend a lot of time together cooking, gardening, creating art, and reading. Not surprisingly, a lot of our activities revolve around food. For a couple of weeks now, Caroline has been working on painting a large canvas market bag to give as a gift to her Great Uncle Butch. This morning, we watered our vegetable garden and Caroline picked the two Sun Gold cherry tomatoes that were ripe -- she popped them both into her mouth. And this afternoon, we made eggplant parmesan. With a little bit of help and a lot of supervision, Caroline grated the cheese, dredged the eggplant in flour, and helped put together the layers of tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese, and basil. As I write this, I am wondering if artists spend a lot of time teaching their children about art and if science teachers spend their summers doing science experiments with their kids. Or, if maybe I come off as a bit obsessive compulsive or a bit nuts (no pun intended) even to those who share my values. But Caroline doesn't get a chance to cook or garden when she is at her childcare center. If I don't teach her these basic skills, who will?

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, August 5: Breakfast - peach (East Lansing Food Co-op), zucchini muffin; Lunch - egg salad (Heritage Acres eggs), 100% whole grain bread, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (home garden and Wildflower Eco Farm), cucumbers (home garden); Snacks - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), carrot bread

Childcare Center Menu, August 5: Breakfast - peaches, croissants; Lunch - turkey sandwich, cucumber, watermelon; Snacks - blueberry yogurt, vanilla wafers

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

We usually get to the Meridian Township Farmers' Market at around 8:00 am so that we can beat the crowds. We got there at 8:15 am and it was packed! After we did a quick walk-around of the market, we bought food for the week and for our neighborhood brunch that we hosted this morning. There was so much to choose from including these beautiful, juicy, sweet blackberries that we bought from Cinzori Farms. At $4.00 for a 1/2 pint box, these berries were pricey. But our splurge was worth it and we finished off the box before we got home.

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: blackberries, garlic (Cinzori Farms); flowers, Buffalo tomatoes, sugar snap peas, purple bell pepper, zucchini (Owosso Organics); eggplant, Jacqueline Lee potatoes (Titus Farms), Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes (Wildflower Eco Farm); blueberries, spearmint (Threadgould Gardens)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Food Bribes

Lately, I have been feeling conflicted about how I feel about food bribes. I know that food should never be used as a bribe as in, "If you finish your vegetables, you can watch T.V. (or have dessert, or play with your friends, etc.)." But are all food bribes equally bad? Lately, I have caught myself bribing Caroline with food. I was especially disheartened this weekend when eating dinner at my sister's place up in Toronto. It was Caroline's (and her cousin's) 2nd (and her cousin's 7th) birthday celebration and my sister Michelle made a fabulous meal: pork ribs, steak, bean and corn salad, potato salad, tortilla chips, and guacamole. Michelle's kids ate everything but Caroline was only interested in the chips. I love tortilla chips and guacamole so I know where she was coming from. I gave her more chips but insisted that she first eat the salads. Later that weekend, I found myself saying things like, "You can have another tomato if you take a bite of the egg salad." I hate to admit this but in the past, I've even coaxed Caroline into eating another bite of egg salad (or whatever) by giving her only half of a cherry tomato and bribing her with the other half. Did I really just admit that? What?! Am I crazy? Does it really matter if Caroline wants to eat a pound of tomatoes but not her egg salad? Or zucchini instead of yellow summer squash? I asked my sister Sophia about how she handles these types of situations with her three kids. She had good, practical advice. Let your kids eat as much of the healthful foods as they want -- don't get in the way of them gorging on fresh, peaches, carrots, tomatoes, and even pasta. If you're serving treats like chips or French fries with dinner and you think they've had enough just say, "That's enough chips (or French fries)," and put them away. Simple. No more food bribes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

And Food From Friends

We missed the farmers' market again this weekend because we were up visiting my sisters and their families in Toronto. But my friend Colleen picked up some tomatoes for me at the Meridian Farmers' Market on Saturday. She tossed in a couple of cucumbers from her share at the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm and another friend, Ginger, threw in some fava beans from her garden. Thanks, Colleen and Ginger! Salad is on the menu tomorrow but since lettuce is not abundant this time of year, I'll make a zucchini and heirloom carrot slaw for Caroline's lunch. The zucchini is from our friend Christine's garden. Thanks, Christine! And I picked up the carrots from Steve (Green Eagle Farm) at the Meridian Farmers' Market last weekend. The slaw is nothing fancy, just a handful of shredded zucchini mixed with a handful of shredded carrot. Caroline munched on this combo today and was eating it off of her fingers so I am assuming that she liked it!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 29: Breakfast - French toast (Flying Goat Farm eggs), pearsauce; Lunch - lentil croquettes, cucumbers (MSU Student Organic Farm), zucchini (Christine's garden) and heirloom carrot (Green Eagle Farm) slaw, 100% whole grain bread; Snacks - grape tomatoes (Meridian Farmers' Market), fresh mozzarella cheese

Childcare Center Menu, July 29: Breakfast - French toast, applesauce; Lunch - chicken nuggets, kiwi, bread, salad; Snacks - sweet potatoes, apples

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where to Buy Organically Grown Blueberries

Organically grown blueberries are hard to come by but they do exist! My friend Anne went blueberry picking at Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville, Michigan last weekend. John Van Voorhees and Joan Donaldson grow certified organic blueberries and sell them as u-pick or frozen ($15 for 5 lbs and $85 for 30 lbs). Anne and her family picked 9 lbs of berries (big and beautiful) and also bought 5 lb box of the frozen blues (smaller). Contact Pleasant Hilll Farm at (269) 561-2850 for more information.

I am tempted to buy blueberries from John and Joan since theirs are available right now but I am trying to hold out a couple more weeks for Bruce Walton's blueberries (Walton Orchards). Bruce is a farmer up in Benzie County. I guess I could buy from both but I buy Bruce's blueberries by the lug (25 lbs), which is more than enough for our family of three. I have been buying his blueberries for years. His berries are huge (the size of my thumb) and delicious. And they are Demeter certified - organic certification plus biodynamic standards that include a biodiversity land set aside and processing standards that emphasize minimal product manipulation. It is a certification that is based on sustainable, not just organic, farming. Bruce's blueberries are $4.25 per lb - pricey but worth every penny. For more information, contact Bruce at (231) 645-7679.

Michigan Blueberries!

Blueberries are in-season! Last weekend, we picked up a quart of blueberries ($6 per quart) from Sue Threadgould (Threadgould Gardens). The Threadgould's don't grow their own blueberries but sell blueberries that they buy from another farmer. Since Sue wasn't sure how they were grown, I contacted the farmer myself. The farmer (I didn't get his name) was a very nice man who told me in detail how he grows blueberries, what he sprays and when. Bravo and Indar (fungicides) are sprayed before the fruit develops and two other chemicals, which I didn't quite catch, are sprayed when the blueberry is still in its green fruit stage. Geoff and I ate the Threadgould's blueberries but gave Caroline berries from the pint of local and organically grown ones that I picked up at the food co-op last weekend. I did a bit more research on blueberries and according to the Environmental Working Group, blueberries tend to have low pesticide residues making them a good choice when buying fruit grown with chemical sprays. They even made it onto their list of cleanest 12 foods, or foods that are lowest in pesticide residues. Organically grown blueberries are hard to find and I have to admit that when I can't get my hands on local and organically grown blueberries, I feel comfortable (though still a bit conflicted) about giving Caroline blueberries that have been grown by a smaller scale (versus industrial scale) Michigan farmer. We ran out of the local and organically grown blueberries earlier this week so today, I sent a small handful of the Threadgould's blueberries with Caroline to eat for her afternoon snack. Even though they weren't organically grown, to me, they beat the red bell peppers --which rank right at the top of the dirty dozen list -- that were on the menu today.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 24: Breakfast - oatmeal, prunes; Lunch - salmon salad, 100% whole grain bread, cucumbers (Wildflower Eco Farm), carrots (Green Eagle Farm), Celebrity tomatoes (Wildflower Eco Farm); Snacks - blueberries (Threadgould Gardens), yogurt muffin

Childcare Center Menu, July 24: Breakfast - cream of wheat with raisins and bananas; Lunch - fish sandwiches, cucumbers, apples; Snacks - brownies and red peppers

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flying Goat Farm Eggs Now Available!

Flying Goat Farm eggs are now available for $3.50 a dozen! The Hamm's have more eggs than they can use and are looking for a few new customers. The eggs are not certified organic but the hens are fed organic feed and also have lots of room to roam around outside. I have been buying eggs from the Hamm's for almost 4 years. Some of the eggs are brown or blue or green or speckled reflecting the many breeds of hens raised at Flying Goat Farm. The yolks are a beautiful bright yellow-orange color and give the eggs a creamy, rich texture and great flavor. If you're interested in buying eggs from the Hamm's, contact Mike Hamm at mhamm@msu.edu.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

The farmers' market is bursting with color! Chiogga beets, red beets, green beans, dark green leafy greens, tomatoes, cukes, blueberries...Since we were planning to meet friends at Nordhaus Dunes for a camping trip this weekend, we thought we'd have to skip the farmers' market today. But we got rained out and changed our plans at last minute and went to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. Before heading out, we hit the market and loaded up with food for the week. Geoff will be in charge of cooking for the first half of the week (I'll be in Atlanta at the Society for Nutrition Education conference) so we didn't buy as much as usual. We ate the chard for dinner tonight in an easy chard and potato dish. The chard melted in my mouth like butter. It was wonderful.

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: blueberries (Threadgould Gardens); Boothby's Blonde cukes, heirloom carrots, zucchini, yellow summer squash, Cousa squash, chard, orange beets (Green Eagle Farm); mixed cherry tomatoes (Owosso Organics); Celebrity tomatoes, Jade cukes (Wildflower Eco Farm)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Tomatoes

The first tomatoes of the season are here! Caroline and I went to the Allen Street Farmers' Market this afternoon and we were both excited to see that Jane Bush (Appleschram Organic Orchards) had tomatoes. She only had a few and they were expensive but they looked perfect and delicious so we bought 1 medium ($1 each) and 2 large tomatoes ($1.50 each). I'll pack a tomato for Caroline's snack tomorrow along with fresh mozzarella cheese and wholegrain Melba toast crackers. Caroline has gone back and forth on the fresh mozzarella cheese. Last summer, it was my go-to food. A couple of weeks ago, she wouldn't touch it. Today, she couldn't get enough of it. I am learning - yes, it's about time - that this is just the way children eat (or don't eat).

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, July 17: Breakfast - quesadilla with whole wheat tortilla and cheddar cheese, strawberries (Threadgould Gardens); Lunch - brown rice with feta cheese, onions, chard, dill; Snacks - tomato (Appleschram), fresh mozzarella cheese, Melba toast crackers

Childcare Center Menu, July 17: Breakfast - flour tortillas with cheese, strawberries; Lunch - chicken lo mein with red peppers and onions, watermelon; Snacks - trail mix, cucumbers

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pink n' Pretty Fruit Medley and Other Favorites

One of the first books my mom bought when she immigrated to Canada in 1971 was The New Purity Cook Book: The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking. My parents moved from Japan to Lethbridge, what was then a small town in southern Alberta. Ingredients to make traditional Japanese meals were scarce and expensive back then so my mom had to learn how to cook with what was available locally. In addition to its easy-to-follow recipes, The New Purity Cook Book includes a seasonal calendar for fruits and vegetables and step-by-step instructions on how to preserve them for the winter. Cooking terms like “fold,” “simmer,” and “whip” are defined and hand drawn illustrations show how to measure flour and grease a cake pan. It’s here where my mom learned how to make holiday treats like almond crescents and snowballs and salads like pink n’ pretty fruit medley, a combination of fruits set in a raspberry flavored jelly powder mold. During the day when my dad was at work, my mom also learned how to cook “Canadian” food from a German woman (or Russian…she can’t remember) who had a daily cooking show on the Lethbridge television channel. The woman’s recipes were available at the local meat market where my mom would pick them up after the show and try to replicate them in her kitchen.

When I was about 3 years old, my family moved to Vancouver. Six years ago, my parents moved back to southern Alberta. Lethbridge is a much bigger city now with a thriving Japanese community. Even though Japanese cooking ingredients are easy to find now, my mom still uses her old cook book. The book’s binding fell off years ago and the hard cover and pages are now held together with Scotch tape but it’s in here that you’ll find some of our family’s favorite recipes, each marked with my mom’s familiar handwriting.

Caroline and I have been visiting my parents for the last two weeks. We head back to Lansing tomorrow morning. Whenever I come home, my mom makes my favorite foods, both Japanese and Canadian. She didn’t make the pink n’ pretty fruit medley (we haven’t had that for years) but Caroline did get a chance to try her Chicken à l’Orange and other dishes that I love. Some of the recipes are in The New Purity Cook Book but most are in her head. I’ve posted a few on Caroline’s Lunchbox Recipes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Growing Food

When I was growing up, my dad and I grew zucchini and rhubarb in a small plot in our backyard and tomatoes in large containers on our patio. We always grew more than we could eat and ended up sharing our harvest with friends. That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, I have grown little in the way of food and have grown increasingly disconnected from the process. Last year, I challenged myself by growing herbs in pots on my front porch. My parsley and thyme grew like weeds but my rosemary, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, and basil died before I could enjoy eating them. Feeling intimidated, I was reluctant to try growing anything this year. But with the help of two friends, Christine and Barb, we now have three garden plots in our backyard. Back in May, Barb helped us design our plots and gave us transplants from her own garden. Geoff and I felt so inspired that we dug the plot pictured here while Caroline was napping. Christine, who has an incredible vegetable garden, also split some of her plants and gave them to us to grow in our garden. And I bought vegetable plant starts at the farmers' market and I added them to our plot. It's been almost one month now and all of the plants are still alive! The tomato plants are growing tall and the first squash blossoms on our zucchini plant bloomed just a couple of days ago. And today, Caroline picked the lettuce for her egg salad sandwich. The mosquitoes were swarming so it was anything but a Kodak moment. But I did get a chance to take this "after" picture of our vegetable garden.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 26: Breakfast - blueberry muffin (frozen blueberries from Walton Orchards), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Lunch - egg salad (Heritage Acres), lettuce (homegrown), 100% whole grain bread, spinach (Titus Farms) with currants, cucumber (Wildflower Eco Farm); Snacks - whole wheat Melba toast, string cheese

Childcare Center Menu, June 26: Breakfast - apple muffin, peaches; Lunch - egg salad sandwich, oranges, cucumbers; Snacks - cheese sticks, wheat crackers

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas!

My uncle used to have a black part-Pekingese dog named Diva who loved peas. She would walk through his garden eating them right off the vine. She was known to boogie for peas and would get noticeably upset if she found you munching on one without offering one to her. I can't blame Diva for her penchant for peas. I feel the same. I love all peas - English shelling peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, frozen green peas, dried split peas, and wasabi-flavored dried green peas. But fresh, sugar snap peas are my favorite...and they are in-season. I bought some this weekend from the Vang's at Crane Centennial Farm. They are organically grown and were $3 for a basket. They can be lightly steamed or stir-fried but I like to eat the pod and pea raw. Caroline is getting used to the pod but she likes the peas inside. At almost 23 months, she doesn't have quite the dexterity to crack open the shells herself but with a little bit of help, she can grab the peas.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 24: Breakfast - strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm), French toast (Zingerman's sourdough bread, Heritage Acres eggs); Lunch - brown rice with kale (Green Eagle Farm), feta cheese, dill (Crane Centennial Farm), onions; Snacks - peas (Crane Centennial Farm), hummus, whole wheat Melba toast

Childcare Center Menu, June 24: Breakfast - strawberries, French toast sticks; Lunch - turkey and rice, green beans, grapes; Snacks - smiley fries, watermelon

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strawberry Jam!

There are few things that taste better on an early summer afternoon than a slice of fresh sourdough bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam. This weekend, my friend Wynne and I made a couple batches of strawberry jam with berries that we bought, for $23 a flat (8 quarts), from the Vang's (Crane Centennial Farm) at the Meridian Township Farmers' Market. The strawberries are not certified organic but the Vang's do not treat them in any way with harmful chemicals. They are sweet, juicy, and simply delicious. Caroline helped make the jam by crushing the berries with a potato masher (and her hands) and by stirring them as they cooked down. Wynne and I followed a traditional strawberry jam recipe that calls for pectin. Caroline and I made a third batch of jam using my friend Marge's strawberry jam recipe which is great when you only have a small amount of fruit and no pectin handy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

There is so much at the farmers' market now! The asparagus season will be over soon but dark green leafy vegetables, lettuces, radishes, and sugar snap peas are in-season now. Caroline tried something new today at the market - spring rolls! She munched on the fried egg roll wrapped around bean threads and carrots in the car on the way home. The spring rolls are the perfect size for a toddler's small hand. And they are delicious!

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: rhubarb, asparagus, broccoli (Threadgould Gardens); crunchy butter lettuce (Owosso Organics); Red Russian Kale, curly kale, spearmint (Green Eagle Farm); Easter Egg radishes, spinach, chard (Titus Farms); cucumber (Wildflower Eco Farm); strawberries, sugar snap peas (Crane Centennial Farm)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hiyashi-chuka

I come from a family of cooks. My mom is one of the best cooks I know and my older sister, Michelle, is a close second. When we were in Toronto last weekend, Michelle made Hiyashi-chuka, one of my favorite picnic dishes. Hiyashi-chuka is a cold noodle salad. You can be creative with the noodles and toppings but Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka is usually made with a bed of somen noodles (very thin Japanese noodles) topped with thinly sliced eggs, ham, and cucumber. The dressing is simple: 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Caroline loves Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka. Pasta salad was on the menu today so I decided to pack Hiyashi-chuka in Caroline's lunch. Since I didn't have somen noodles, ham, eggs, or cucumber, Caroline's Hiyashi-chuka was made with buckwheat soba noodles and topped with Tohono O'odham Trading Company Tepary beans (a gift from my friend Cheryl), carrots, and lettuce (Owosso Organics). It wasn't as pretty as Michelle's Hiyashi-chuka and the noodles were a bit too starchy but Caroline liked it just the same.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 19: Breakfast - strawberries (Threadgould Gardens), 100% whole grain toast, cardamom apple butter; Lunch - Hiyashi-chuka (buckwheat soba noodles, carrots, lettuce (Owosso Organics), Tepary beans; Snacks - whole wheat pita bread, hummus (Eden garbanzo beans)

Childcare Center Menu, June 19: Breakfast - strawberries, wheat French bread, strawberry jam; Lunch - pasta salad with pinto and garbanzo beans, red and yellow peppers, apples; Snacks - sweet potatoes, wheat crackers

Monday, June 16, 2008

No More Blueberries

We didn't lose very much in our refrigerator and freezer when we lost power for 4 days last week but our blueberries did thaw out. I could have put them back in the freezer after our electricity came back on but rather than lose the quality that comes with freezing, thawing, and refreezing, Caroline and I made blueberry muffins last Friday. We ate a couple of them last week and froze the rest. These were the last of the blueberries that we bought last summer from biodynamic farmer, Bruce Walton.

We spent the weekend in Toronto, so we missed the farmers' market on Saturday. But my friend Wynne picked up a few things for us: strawberries and asparagus (Threadgould Gardens) and lettuce (Owosso organics). Thanks, Wynne!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 17: Breakfast - whole wheat blueberry muffin (Walton Orchards blueberries), pearsauce; Lunch - lentil croquettes, brown rice, asparagus (Threadgould Gardens), carrots; Snacks - strawberries (Threadgould Gardens), string cheese, whole grain Melba toast

Childcare Center Menu, June 17: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat croissants; Lunch - lentils, rice, California vegetables, apples; Snacks - cheese breadsticks, watermelon

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Strawberries Are Here!

This has been our first week of part-time child care for Caroline. It was nice not to have to think about how I would try to mimic the child care center's meals...although I must admit that I have not been doing a very good job of mimickng. We had a long winter and I simply cannot resist sending Caroline the fresh, locally grown foods that are now available. Last weekend, we bought four quarts of strawberries from Crane Centennial Farm. They are not a super sweet variety but they still taste delicious and we have been eating them everyday. I packed a few in Caroline's lunch today even though the lunch fruit was honeydew melon. Caroline likes strawberries but doesn't love them like her cousin Matthew. I remember one summer years ago when Matthew, who was about 3 years old at the time, ate so many strawberries...that he threw them up on to his dinner plate. It actually wasn't as gross as it sounds and is a good reminder that it is possible to overdo anything, even strawberries!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 12: Breakfast - buttermilk currant muffin, pearsauce; Lunch - brown rice with kale (Owosso Organics), feta, and dill (Crane Centennial Farm), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Snacks - hummus, whole wheat pita bread

Childcare Center Menu, June 12: Breakfast - corn muffin, applesauce; Lunch - BBQ chicken with corn on the cob, honeydew, wheat bread; Snacks - hummus, pita bread

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Power: Day 4

It's been four days now that we haven't had power. I attended the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society conference in New Orleans last week and returned home to Lansing on Friday night. On Saturday morning, we visited the farmers' market as we do every Saturday morning. By the evening, dark clouds covered the sky and we knew that a storm was coming. We lost power that night and have been without electricity ever since. What have we been eating? We're eating our way through the perishables in our fridge that we don't need electricity to make into a meal: yogurt, vegetables, bread, cheese, strawberries (from Crane Centennial Farm), cold tofu, dried fruit, sunflower butter. Last night, my friend Wynne who lives two doors down the road got her power restored so we went to her house and grilled asparagus and made pasta. I packed the leftover pasta and asparagus in Caroline's lunch today.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 9: Breakfast - rhubarb muffin (Threadgould Gardens rhubarb), strawberries (Crane Centennial Farm); Lunch - pasta, tomato sauce (canned last summer), asparagus (Threadgould Gardens); Snacks - blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), whole milk plain yogurt, whole wheat graham crackers

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Locally Grown Corn-on-the-Cob in June?-

Now that I have defended my dissertation, I am hoping to spend more time in the kitchen and the garden with Caroline. My research took a critical look at farm to school programs in the United States. Caroline has been my inspiration and motivation for the last two years. The long days and nights were unbearable at times but I kept my eye on the prize - more time with Caroline. She will still go to the childcare center on Tuesdays and Thursdays but starting next week (or the week after...I can't remember what I requested) Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will be time for just us. Until then, we will still pack her lunch five days a week.

In her lunch tomorrow, Caroline will get a little taste of summer. Last year, we froze corn-on-the-cob that I bought from Rebecca Titus at Titus Farms. Geoff and I sat on our front porch and shucked corn for an hour before we blanched it and vacuum-packed it with our Food Saver. Rebecca's corn is always sweet and delicious. Caroline loved eating the corn right off the cob even when she was only 13 months old. In fact, her enthusiasm for corn-on-the-cob inspired the childcare center cook to start buying it for the other kids!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 3: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes, banana; Lunch - marinated and baked tofu, brown rice, corn-on-the-cob, bok choy (Owosso Organics); Snacks - string cheese, whole grain crackers

Childcare Center Menu, June 3: Breakfast - Oatmeal, raisins, bananas; Lunch - chicken lo mein with soy sauce, watermelon, corn-on-the-cob; Snacks - red an yellow bell peppers, saltines

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 1st Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, June 1: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - pinto beans, carrots (Owosso Organics), brown rice with greens from Owosso Organics (chard, beet greens) and Wildflower Eco Farm (broccoli rabe), feta, and dill; Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, June 1: Breakfast - white grape juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - cheesy rice, California vegetables, bananas; Snacks - lemon pudding, wheat crackers

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

I am defending my dissertation on Monday so today's Meridian Township Farmers' Market trip was geared toward the snacks that I am going to provide at my presentation. I found out tonight that providing snacks at your dissertation defense is not the norm across all departments at Michigan State University or elsewhere. But the defenses that I've attended always have snacks, usually coffee and Breton's crackers and some cheese. Since my research has to do with farm to school programs, I thought that I had better practice what I preach and provide locally grown snacks. After the market, we hit ELFCO, our local co-op. and picked up some Grassfields cheese (Gouda and Leyden) and some brownie mix from Westwind Milling Company (yes, even I eat brownies), and apple cider from Almar Orchard.

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: carrots, lettuce (Owosso Organics), asparagus, rhubarb (Threadgould Gardens), Easter Egg radishes (Green Eagle Farm).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Happened to that Broccoli Rabe?

Well, it would be dishonest of me to pretend that Caroline happily ate her broccoli rabe. I did have plans to steam it and then saute it in olive oil with some garlic and a pinch of salt. But before I did, I tasted it. It was so bitter that I nearly spat it out. I ended up putting frozen mixed vegetables in Caroline's lunch today in place of the broccoli rabe. I will experiment with it this weekend after consulting my friend Marge who, based on her comment to yesterday's post, sounds like she knows how to prepare it.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 30: Breakfast - pearsauce, Zingerman's 8 grain 3 seed bread, cardamom apple butter; Lunch - egg salad (Flying Goat Farm), 100% whole grain bread, salad (Owosso Organics lettuce and carrots); Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, rhubarb-raisin compote (Threadgould Gardens rhubarb), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 30: Breakfast - pears, wheat croissants; Lunch - turkey sandwich, salad, watermelon; Snacks - tapioca pudding, wheat crackers

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's broccoli rabe?

I bought broccoli rabe (pronounced "Rob") from Wildflower Eco Farm at the farmers' market last weekend. At least I think it's broccoli rabe. Caroline loves broccoli so I thought that she would like broccoli rabe. But I just found out that it is not a type of broccoli and that the flavor is usually more bitter than broccoli. But broccoli rabe is in the same family as cabbage and Caroline loves cabbage so maybe she will like this new vegetable. I tried to learn more about it through Wikipedia but the entry was too confusing and my brain has already checked out for the night.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 29: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes, banana; Lunch - lentil croquettes, 100% whole grain bread, broccoli rabe (Wildflower Eco Farm), corn (frozen, Titus Farms); Snacks - whole wheat bagel, hummus

Childcare Center Menu, May 29: Breakfast - cream of wheat with bananas and raisins; Lunch - chicken nuggets, cucumbers, peaches, bread; Snacks - cheese bread sticks, pizza sauce

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Asparagus!

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. I love its sweet, earthy flavor and crunchy texture. And I love how easy it is to prepare. I used to trim the stems using a knife but learned from someone (probably my friend Marge in Portland, Oregon) that asparagus should be "trimmed" by breaking off the ends. If you hold a stalk of asparagus near the middle with your left hand and near the end with your right and gently bend it, the stalk will break at its most tender point. When asparagus is in season, I buy several pounds every week from Sue Threadgould at the Saturday farmers' market. I always buy asparagus from Threadgould Gardens because I know they don't use any sprays on their vegetables. Even though it should be eaten within a couple of days, I have found that if I store asparagus in the refrigerator upright in water and covered with a plastic bag, I can get a couple of extra days out of them. I usually eat it raw, broiled, or steamed but tonight, I made an asparagus risotto and shared it with my friend Wynne. The risotto was lovely and tasted like spring. Veggie soft tacos are on the menu tomorrow but with asparagus in season for such a short time, I can't resist sending asparagus in Caroline's lunch. I am going to use the dinner leftovers to make asparagus risotto cakes in lieu of the veggie soft tacos.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 28: Breakfast - rhubarb muffin (Threadgould Gardens), Lunch - asparagus risotto cakes, hard boiled egg (Flying Goat Farm), carrots (Owosso Organics), 100% whole grain bread; Snacks - blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 28: Breakfast - strawberries, wheat croissants; Lunch - veggie soft tacos, refried beans, lettuce, cheese, honeydew; Snacks - grapes, French fries

Monday, May 26, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks


Caroline and Geoff went to California for the Memorial Day weekend. I opted to stay behind to focus on my dissertation defense, which is on June 2nd, just one week away. It feels weird to be the one left behind...It's lonely and boring. And I've found that I don't like to cook for one. I've eaten a lot of salad this weekend but other than that, I haven't felt inspired to pull together anything else with all of the fresh vegetables I bought this weekend at the farmers' market. In addition to the salad mix and lettuce from Pooh Stevenson (Owosso Organics), I also picked up some asparagus and rhubarb from Threadgould Gardens and broccoli rabe and Easter Egg radishes from Wildflower Eco Farm. Geoff and Caroline will be heading back to Lansing tomorrow and I will be glad to have them home.
 
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