Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Taste: Food Revolution

Last night, I watched the first hour of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution online. I think the full episode airs on Friday night, but I couldn't wait! I could feel myself nodding my head 'yes' during the entire show. His whole notion of not putting up with mediocre, numbing food anymore is exactly what motivated me to start writing this blog. I love many things, but I feel most passionate about food. So much of who we are and how healthy and full our lives can be is determined on the day-to-day meals that we choose. I am so pleased that Jamie Oliver is getting the momentum going!

Jamie stressed the use of whole, raw ingredients, which seems basic. It is basic. But, when he showed a group of first-graders a variety of vegetables and none of them identified them correctly! I've tried to use whole foods in my cooking and I'd say dinnertime is pretty solid this way. I still struggle with breakfast and lunch--especially when Peter has to take his lunch to preschool. I've been perusing a few cookbooks today and wrote down some ideas for great, healthful breakfasts and lunches. (Honestly, I wrote this mainly as a reference to plan meals in the future.)

Breakfast Ideas:
Oatmeal with mix-ins:
*a little vanilla and cinnamon
*Bananas, Peaches, Strawberries, Blueberries
*Brown sugar or real maple syrup

Boiled Egg, Toast, and Orange Juice

Muesli, Dried Apricots and cherries, Yogurt

Bagel Sandwich with Scrambled Eggs, Ham, and Cheddar Cheese

Crepes or Pancakes with berries and whipped cream or lemon curd

French Toast Kebabs

Banana-Walnut Muffins and Smoothies

Lunch Box Lunches:

Part of the problem with our lunches at school comes with our current lunch bag situation--cloth lunch bag and ziplock baggies. I'm planning on upgrading to this system soon.

Food that comes in a pocket:
*Individual Pot Pies in a pastry
*Potstickers or spring rolls

*Chicken Noodle
*Tomato Soup
*Lentil Vegetable Soup

*Spaghetti and Meatballs
*Sesame Noodles
*Pad Thai

Finger Food:
*Sticky Barbecue Drumsticks
*Whole Grain Crakers, Celery, Apples and natural Peanut Butter for dipping
*Pinwheel Sandwiches: Peanut Butter and Jelly, Turkey and Cheese
*Homemade Breaded Shrimp (baked!)

Farfalle Pasta Salad
Waldorf Salad
Tuna or Chicken Salad
Tabbouleh Salad
White Bean or Chickpea Salad

Meal Finishers:
*Fresh Fruit slices
*String Cheese

Lunches at Home:
Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry
Chicken Caterpillar Kebabs
Bagels Faces
English Muffin Pizzas
Beef Tacos
Hamburgers and Oven-Baked Fries
Penne with Zucchini, Peppers, and Sausages

So, there may be those who say that my child won't eat any of this, but I've found Pete to be open-minded if it's presented in a fun way. I think kids will eat it (especially if they know that it is the only food available!). One tip I got from my very favorite, favorite new cookbook Mad Hungry, is to cut up a plate of fruits and veggies and put it on the table while preparing the rest of the meal. I've done this, and Pete really chows down on the good stuff, since he's usually hungry.

I guess it really comes down to planning and doing, doesn't it? If I haven't thought through my life, we end up eating stuff that has no heart and does nothing for us but fill our bellies (and clog our arteries). When I do spend that hour on Sunday evening getting the meals planned, an hour or two cooking and filling our freezer, and 20 minutes the night before to do some meal prep, we eat great food all week.

So, friends, what do you think? Do you have some breakfast/lunch faves that you can share? What does your meal-planning look like?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: First Science Experiment

As much as I try to help Peter explore his artistic side, there is no denying that Pete has his dad's interests at heart: he really likes learning about the world around him. He will dabble with paints and crayons, but it is watching how things go (physics) and watching how things grow (biology) that make his eyes sparkle. Because coloring and crafting are most natural for me, it has been a good experience to stretch into this unfamiliar realm. Who knew that the awful intro to physical science class and biology 101 might actually come in handy in the coming years? (*Note* I did enjoy my high school physics class immensely, thanks to a certain Dr. Atiya.)
While we may already have one or two science experiments at work in our fridge (that blue cheese is looking extra blue today), I wanted an official place to observe how several vegetables change over time. I thought I'd introduce some good lab etiquette to begin with. We created our sterile environment by cleaning our jars in the dishwasher and laid a newly washed dishcloth in our "observation deck" (tray). We put set the onion on top of a water-filled jar, sliced the bottom off of four radishes and set them in a pie dish filled with water and pie weights, and put some great northern beans on top of damp toilet paper inside of a jar with the lid on. I made a very simple observation notebook by stapling some paper together, and voila! Our scientific experiment had commenced.
It took a few days for anything to happen and I almost gave up. Shane said that if the experiment didn't work, it would be a good real-life lesson to know that science experiments don't work most of the time. That was a low point in our experiment.
And then, one day, we woke up and found this! Our radishes had changed! The onion continues to be a dud, but our beans, too, began to look very cool.
I'll post a few of Peter's observations (dictated by me):
About the onion:
"The onion is turning RED!"
"The onion is peeling by itself!"
"I peeled the onion a little bit"
"I saw some yellow stuff on the onion"

About the radishes:
"The radishes are turning into gray!"
"The radishes have a little green on top"
"The radishes are peeling"
"The pick-ups are coming out!" (Pick-ups are the stems, because that's where you "pick them up")
"The radishes are getting holes"

And the beans:
"The beans are turning into black beans"
"The toilet paper is flushing" ?
"The beans broke and beans came out!"
"The beans are turning into beans!"
"The beans look like spiders"

In the words of my seventh-grade Life Science teacher, I have to say "Is this data real?" to some of these comments (My teacher was questioning my awesome experiment of when I made my cat listen to blaring music and wrote down his responses. And the data was real.) But, some of Peter's observations are pretty great.

So, friends, do you have any other scientific activities you like to do with your kids?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good Influence: William Morris

“If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, a beautiful house.” William Morris
I have been thinking about who I am and what our family life should look like lately....woah, deep, I know. But, since it is my job to keep house here, I've been contemplating what our environment should consist of. Admittedly, our possessions are primarily family cast-offs and craigslist scores, but I'm wanting to establish a feel for our home right now, so as we grow into an aesthetic in the coming years (in many years, that is, ahem), we won't continue with the mish-mash look we've got going on right now. Mish-mash look has got to go.

I have always been drawn to William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement of the 1880s and '90s in Britain. When I was choosing my area of concentration for my master's program in art history, my top contenders were, in fact, the Arts & Crafts movement and late-medieval feminism. And now, I return to William Morris for inspiration for beautiful, warm, soulful home design.
William Morris was a jack of all trades: talented at crafting textiles, hand-painted wallpaper, soundly constructed furniture, architect, and proselytizer of his moral platform, demanding greater integrity in the construction of the ephemera of daily life. In his words, “More universally…[there should be] a quality that is hard to put your finger on but that is undeniably there in all great work, whether it be a painting, a pot, a roll of wallpaper or a fine tapestry—an inherent quality that derives from the pride, expertise and creative freedom of its maker. It gives craft or good workmanship, and the pleasure we take in it, a moral dimension, so that it is no longer a purely sensory phenomenon.” (Lucia Van Der Post, p. 15).
Morris' demands for a home designed with the integrity of the medieval artisans was timely; the Industrial Revolution was at its height in Great Britain during Morris' youth, and the production of textiles and furniture had shifted from artisans' hands to the assembly lines in factories. London's air had become polluted with the choking smoke, steam and dust from the ever-growing construction of railways, roads, and factories. The poor lived in crowded tenements, while the rich grew increasingly decadent.
Throughout Morris' upbringing, he grew increasingly disillusioned by the culture, or lack of it, that surrounded him. As biographer Lucia van der Post explains, "As a sulky seventeen-year-old heir to a City fortune, William Morris had refused to enter the Crystal Palace to see the Great Exhibition with his family. He already had a horror of the meretricious furniture and decoration that ‘new money’, such as his father’s, had made fashionable. It was only when he got to Oxford, however, that he found the intellectual armoury that helped him articulate his distaste…the writer John Ruskin blamed the degradation of modern taste on the enslavement of workmen to industrial process. Ruskin was sure that ‘the difference between the spirit of touch of the man who is inventing, and of the man who is obeying directions, is often all the difference between a great and a common work of art’. He believed the solution lay in the revival of handcrafts and the abolition of false distinctions between the designer and the maker, the artist and the craftsman."
Here we are in 2010. To me, it seems as if we are right back in 1880. We have collectively witnessed the same explosion of industry (that of the technological sort), the growing decadence of our society, and the cheap, flimsy goods that surround our lives (sorry, Ikea, but seriously...). And then, we see little sparks of William Morris resurface: it seems as though there is a cultural longing for hand-crafted, well-made, simple things again. You know, the good stuff!
So, William Morris, I tip my hat to you! I may not follow you in your socialistic slants, but I do love your commitment to craft and extraordinary home design!

"Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
William Morris