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 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 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)
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