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 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.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rhubarb Muffins

When fruit is in season, we eat it every day and sometimes several times a day. Rhubarb is in season now and we are eating it cooked as a compote and in muffins. Last week, I tried a rhubarb muffin recipe that I found on the internet. It was okay but it was too sweet and had the texture of cake. I actually like the tartness of rhubarb and Caroline seems to like it too. So I created a new recipe for rhubarb muffins that is heartier than the cake version that I tried last week. It is posted at Caroline's Lunchbox Recipes.

Caroline's Lunchbox, May 23: Breakfast - rhubarb muffins, pearsauce; Lunch - egg salad (Flying Goat Farm eggs), asparagus (Threadgould Gardens) 100% whole grain bread, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), Easter Egg radishes (Owosso Organics); Snacks - carrots (Owosso Organics), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 23: Breakfast - applesauce, corn muffins; Lunch - chicken salad with red and yellow peppers, mango; Snacks - chocolate chip cookies, carrot sticks

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stone Cloud Gardens

I'm in DC and Geoff is holding down the fort back home. I've been here since Sunday at a networking meeting for the Kellogg Health Scholars Program, a postdoctoral fellowship program that I will be starting in the fall. When I was rummaging through my bag tonight, I came across a fluorescent green flier that I picked up from Stone Cloud Gardens at the farmers' market on Saturday. On the back of the flier are a series of questions from Marjorie Johns, Stone Cloud Gardens farmer and soap maker (pictured here with her heirloom tomato starts), to ask farmers at the farmers' market. Here are some of them: Did you grow this? What type of soil do you have? How do you amend, nurture, and sustain the fertility of the soil? How do you handle pests? How do you handle disease? How do you handle weeks? How do you prepare this food for yourself?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

Carrots are in season! This morning, we bought a nice bunch of small carrots from Pooh Stevenson (Owosso Organics). Caroline was eager to try one so I took a small one out of my bunch, rubbed the dirt off if and gave it to her. She took at bite and said, "Caro-lin-lin, like it!"

Meridian Township Farmers' Market Picks: green leaf lettuce, arugula, Easter Egg radishes, carrots, plant starts (zucchini, Stripped German tomato, Green Zebra tomato) (Owosso Organics); rhubarb, asparagus (Threadgould Gardens); plant starts (Snow White cherry tomato), handmade soap (Stone Cloud Gardens)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 15: Breakfast - French toast (Flying Goat Farm eggs), blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards); Lunch - grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup (canned last summer), carrots, banana; Snacks - rhubarb muffin

Childcare Center Menu, May 15: Breakfast - French toast, pineapple; Lunch - grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup, carrots, pears; Snacks - monkey bread, cucumbers

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My House Is A Mess!

When we first moved into our Lansing home, the girl that lived next door came over and asked if she could hang out at our place until the police arrived. When she came home from school that night, she discovered that her back door was wide open and called the police to have them check it out before she stepped foot inside. I distinctly remember what the police said after they did their walk-through. "There is so much clutter in your house that we can't tell if you've been robbed." After that, I promised myself that my house would never be mistaken for a house that had been robbed. Fast forward three years. Caroline is born and my house is a mess. I write this because today, Caroline's teacher asked me how I manage to make her meals everyday. I told her that I just do. But that sounds like the answer of some perfect mom who has a clean car, doesn't have oatmeal goop on her sweater everyday, and runs marathons in her spare time. And I am not that mom. After thinking about it, I realized that I manage to make Caroline's meals everyday because I don't care about tripping over toys, dirty dishes in the sink, onion peels left on the counter, doing my hair, or wearing make-up. Well, I take that back. I do care but my priorities are just different than they were 21 months ago.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 15: Breakfast - pearsauce, rhubarb muffin; Lunch - baked and marinated tofu, brown rice, asparagus (Threadgould Gardens), Easter Egg radish (Owosso Organics); Snacks - Minneola tangerine, whole milk plain yogurt

Childcare Center Menu, May 15: Breakfast - applesauce, raisins, bread; Lunch - sweet and sour chicken, brown rice, California vegetables, grapes; Snacks - trail mix

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 14th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 14: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes, banana; Lunch - romaine lettuce (Owosso Organics), brown rice with garbanzo beans and beet greens (Owosso Organics), pear (canned); Snacks - sunflower butter, whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 14: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - taco salad with pinto and garbanzo beans, tomatoes, pears; Snacks - apples, soynut butter

Eating Closer to Home

It's only mid-May but we are already eating so much closer to home. My dissertation is due to my committee this weekend so Geoff has been preparing our meals over the past few days - thanks Geoff! He made a chard lasagna for dinner tonight and it was dente noodle tucked between creamy layers of ricotta cheese, chard, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. Caroline loved the lasagna...though she kept calling it "pizza!" I will be packing the leftovers for her lunch tomorrow. Geoff used the chard we bought from Pooh (Oswosso Organics) at the farmers' market on Saturday, tomato sauce we canned last summer and Vita Spelt whole gain spelt lasagna noodles made by Purity Foods, a Michigan food company. Spelt noodles tend to be too sticky and chewy for my tastes but they worked well in the lasagna. The recipe? Mark Bittman's Vegetarian Lasagna.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 13: Breakfast - French toast (Flying Goat Farm eggs), rhubarb-raisin compote; Lunch - vegetarian lasagna; Snacks - parsnips (Wildflower Eco Farm), blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, May 13: Breakfast - French toast sticks, peaches; Lunch - spinach lasagna, mixed vegetables, honeydew; Snacks - sweet potatoes, watermelon

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Rhubarb is in season! If we were living in California, I might be sending rhubarb-strawberry crisp in Caroline's lunch tomorrow. But we won't have strawberries for at least a few more weeks. When I was growing up, my dad used to make rhubarb jam. He would put huge quantities of rhubarb in a pot, add sugar and water and let it simmer for hours on the stove. He loved his rhubarb jam and would eat it all summer long as a spread on a piece of hot buttered toast. This weekend I bought a pound of rhubarb from Sue Threadgould (pictured here) at the Meridian Township Farmers' Market and our friend Christine also gave us a pound from her garden. I mixed the two together to make a rhubarb-raisin compote: chopped rhubarb, raisins, rind and juice from one Minneola tangerine, 4 cloves, sugar, and water to cover. On top of whole milk plain yogurt, it should be delicious.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 12: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - vegetable spirals (Eden Foods), Geoff's meatballs (AppleSchram Organic Orchard ground beef), spaghetti sauce (canned last summer), spinach (Owosso Organics), red and green leaf lettuce (Owosso Organics), banana; Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, rhubarb-raisin compote, whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 12: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - turkey sloppy joes, salad, banana; Snacks - graham crackers, lemon pudding

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Farmers' Market Picks

Last Saturday was the opening day for the Meridian Township Farmers' Market in Okemos but since we were in Arizona, we didn't get a chance to go. But this morning, we were the first ones to arrive! Going to the farmers' market is a weekly ritual for our family. We leave the house at 7:30 am so that we have time to stop for a cup of coffee at Beaner's before arriving at the market at 8:00 am, opening time. I love the farmers' market. I love the colors, the smells, the food, and most of all, the farmers who grow our food for us and reliably show up week after week, rain or shine. After spending the last few months eating storage vegetables, frozen/dried/canned fruits and vegetables, and produce transported thousands of miles from farms to the East Lansing Food Co-op, I was ecstatic to visit the market. There were no strawberries yet but we filled our bags with some of our favorite early spring vegetables.

Meridian Township Saturday Farmers' Market Picks: spinach (Titus Farms); asparagus, rhubarb (Threadgould Gardens); romaine lettuce, baby mixed greens, plant starts (red and green leaf lettuce, green pepper, rosemary, oregano, thyme, Celebrity tomato, cucumber), Easter egg radishes, beets (Owosso Organics); plant starts (Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, sweet Chelsea cherry tomatoes, Yellow Pear tomatoes, Moonglow tomatoes - who can resist a tomato called Moonglow? - basil, Beatrice eggplant, parsley, nasturtium ) Green Eagle Farm; parsnips (Wildflower Eco Farm )

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fresh Produce - Only for the Wealthy?

I'm feeling depressed about our food system after writing about the plight of migrant farmworkers and their children on Tuesday. If migrant farmworkers were paid more and if their children were protected under child labor laws, our food prices would increase. This would not necessarily be a bad thing if it meant that these children and their families were protected. But what will happen to the 37 million Americans who live below the poverty line ($21,200 for a family of four)? Would fresh fruits and vegetables become a luxury item only for the wealthy? The rising cost of food and public outrage over the high price of fresh produce and staples like rice, milk, and eggs suggest that many are already struggling with trying to make ends meet and put healthy meals on the dinner table.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 9th: Breakfast - whole wheat mini bagel, Minneola tangerine; Lunch - whole wheat English muffin cheese pizza, carrots, pears (canned); Snacks - banana bread, sunflower butter

Childcare Center Menu, May 9th: Breakfast - bagels, strawberry jam; Lunch - cheese pizza, cucumbers, cantaloupe; Snacks - soft pretzels, mustard

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farmers' Markets Now Open!

Farmers' markets across Michigan are now in operation! The Meridian Township market is the one that we go to almost every Saturday from May through October. I was just checking out the Michigan Farmers' Markets website and learned that there are several markets in my area that we've never explored. It's only Wednesday night but I am already getting excited about all of the fresh locally grown vegetables that will be for sale...and will I be lucky enough to find strawberries?

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 8th: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes; Lunch - egg salad (Grazing Fields eggs), 100% whole grain bread, carrots, Minneola tangerine; Snacks - hummus, mixed vegetables

Childcare Center Menu, May 8th: Breakfast - flour tortillas with shredded cheese, kiwi; Lunch - egg salad sandwich, carrots, watermelon; Snacks - veggies, sour cream dip

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May 7th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 7: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes; Lunch - brown rice with mushrooms, spinach, and tofu, Minneola tangerine; Snacks - cheddar cheese, whole grain crackers

Childcare Center Menu, May 7: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - chicken, rice with soy sauce, peas, carrots, honeydew; Snacks - string cheese, saltines

Monday, May 5, 2008

Why Are Children Picking Our Food?

My friend Anne once asked me if it was hard for my family to find places to eat when on vacation. The answer is yes if I want to live up to my values and if I want Caroline to eat. When we were in Arizona, we ate incredible meals of rattlesnake beans, tepary beans, and buffalo. Caroline mostly picked at these unfamiliar foods. Given twenty more introductions, she might have decided to eat them enthusiastically or at least give them a try. But we didn't have the luxury of spending three weeks trying cactus paddle cooked three ways. At every buffet and airport quick-stop, we did however, manage to find a colorful mix of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and grapes. This no-fail fruit medley became my go-to food for our 9 days in Arizona. I knew that Caroline would eat it but, as I learned from Norma Flores, a speaker at the 2008 Food and Society conference, it did not align with my values. Not only was it not locally grown or organic, it most likely was harvested by children. What are children doing picking our food? Congress has specifically authorized an exemption to child labor laws that makes it legal in this country to exploit children of migrant farmworkers so that we may all enjoy supposedly cheap food. According to the Association for Farmworker Opportunities Programs, these children work to supplement their families' incomes which average $12,500 - $14,500 - far below the poverty line. In about a month, when school lets out for the summer, many children 12-17 years old will be working in the fields under harsh and dangerous conditions, exposed to 100 degree heat, chemicals, and dangerous equipment. This reality is a direct result of a food system in which the true cost of food remains unknown to most eaters. The director at the childcare center told me that she cannot afford more than $1.00 per pound for any type of produce. How much of this gets into the hands of migrant farmworkers so that their children don't have to work in the fields? Child labor laws in the United States must include the children of migrant farmworkers. But this is not enough. Migrant farmworkers and others who work day in and day out to put food on our table must be paid a living wage so their children do not have help supplement their families' incomes. Grapes are on the menu tomorrow but I will send blueberries with Caroline. Besides the fact that grapes tend to have high pesticide residues, I don't know any grape farmers. But I do know that my blueberries were grown by Bruce Walton, a biodynamic farmer in Frankfort, Michigan. When I bought the blueberries from Bruce last summer, I didn't know to ask questions about his labor practices. But when blueberries are in season, I will ask him if he uses migrant labor, if they are paid a fair wage, and if he uses children to pick his crop. It is virtually impossible, at least for me, to be able to ask these questions to every farmer that grew the food that my family eats. But when I can, I will.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, May 6: Breakfast - pearsauce, whole wheat bagel, sunflower butter; Lunch - tofu cubes, 100% whole grain bread, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), mixed vegetables (frozen, Stahlbush Family Farms); Snacks - banana bread, Minneola tangerine

Childcare Center Menu, May 6: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat bagel, cream cheese; Lunch - hard shell turkey tacos with lettuce, cheese, and salsa, grapes; Snacks - watermelon, pound cake

Kids' Menus in Arizona

We just got back home from a 9-day trip to Arizona. Caroline and I left last Saturday and Geoff joined us on Tuesday night. Half of the trip was devoted to the 2008 Food and Society conference that I wrote about on December 2nd and the other half was spent relaxing in Sedona. I will write more about the conference later this week but what's on my mind right at the moment are kids' menus. Why are they all pretty much the same? Mac n' cheese, chicken fingers, burger, cheese pizza. Caroline had her share of mac n' cheese last week. I wish that restaurants would just make small kid-size portions of their adult fare. My wish came true (almost) at Elote Cafe in Sedona. Chef Jeff Smedstad uses local and sustainably produced ingredients whenever possible. The food and red rock views at Elote Cafe were incredible. Caroline had the cheese quesadilla, black beans, lettuce, and Mexican rice. She loved her quesadilla but wasn't crazy about the beans, lettuce, or rice. But she did pick at my salad of Arizona tomatoes, Oaxaca cheese and cider vinegrette...mmm.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - brown rice with beet greens, feta cheese, and dill, banana; Snacks - blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), whole wheat graham crackers
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