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)
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