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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

June Bugs and Strawberry Shortcake

June 10, 2013 4 comments

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It’s June, and I’m tired.

Tired of making lunches and putting grapes into plastic containers that are returned at the end of the day unopened, or worse, at the end of the week as a mold experiment. Tired of washing an endless cycle of water bottles. Tired of cleaning out knapsacks with crumpled bits of paper I was supposed to read last week. Tired of nagging my kids to do their homework, put away their rain boots, and for the love of Miss Carroll, hang up their school bags.

The routines and good intentions of September melt into puddles of torment by June, and I need school to end already so I can fantasize about summer.

But aside from the rivulets of hell that June represents to parents nationwide, June also means local strawberries, and local strawberries, for me, can mean only one thing. Strawberry shortcake. Because what’s life if you can’t take something perfectly healthy and make it into something naughty?

Aha. Stop right there. Strawberry shortcake need not be naughty. Nope, nada, nien. Substitute the whip cream or ice cream for vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt and voila, a healthy dessert is born. I discovered this when I opened the empty ice cream container that was in our freezer, and was determined that my strawberry hulling would not be in vain. Who does that? Who among you puts an empty container back in the freezer?

I’m not known for my culinary genius, so when I make a rare discovery in the kitchen, I need to get out the megaphone. And it fits within my criteria of five minute turn-around, leaving me time to dream about swinging in a hammock this summer. Like that’s going to happen.

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Whole Lot of Protein Strawberry Shortcake: Feeds 4 and takes 4 minutes, unless you mistake your thumb for a strawberry, which I may or may not have done.

1 pint of local strawberries

1 packet of tea biscuits (Whole Foods makes them better than me)

500 ml 0% vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt

Clean and chop strawberries avoiding thumbs, spoon over halved biscuits, top with yogurt, and thank me tomorrow. Off to buy my hammock.

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Does Labeling Kraft Dinner ‘Smart’ Make it So?

February 21, 2012 2 comments

The burning question of the day: Is Kraft Dinner, by any other name, still Kraft Dinner?

This notoriously cheap and tasty dish, loved by undergraduates and toddlers everywhere besides Berkeley, has re-branded itself, smacking the word SMART across its boxes, in addition to a promise to provide a helping of either vegetables, fiber or omega 3.  I’m naturally drawn to all things cheap, easy, and tasty, but then add words  SMART and well, you had me at cheap.

Kraft Dinner is a formidable favorite of mine left over from my student days, when hitting two food groups in one meal for 99 cents was only trumped by the cheap beer at J.J. Rossi’s every Tuesday night. And to this day, KD (as it is affectionately known to all who consume it) is a runaway favorite when nursing a hangover. Try it, and thank me later.

But MOST importantly, it is liked by all three of my children, and that has only ever happened with chocolate and root beer, naturally making me suspicious of its nutritional content. Since it takes about 3 minutes to whip up a lunch of KD, from a time management aspect alone I want to love the stuff. I could really use a break from my children complaining about the healthy food I give them – There are too many seeds in this bread! Why doesn’t this peanut butter taste like peanut butter? Can’t you put sugar instead of a banana in my smoothie?

I get a fair bit of flack every day for toiling over their meals. It is crazy to want to provide your kids with a healthy diet, after all. Drives. Me. Insane.

So sue me – I got a bit excited by the SMART marketing. I purposely avoided reading the labels – I suspected the fine print would only reveal a dish that was still, for the most part, unhealthy. I even got creative and bought all three different boxes and combined them into one dish, so my kids would get a serving of vegetables, fiber, and omega 3 in one, painfully orange, highly processed blob.

No surprise, they loved it. Licked their bowls clean. Why don’t you make this for us all the time?

Unable to stand the suspense any longer, I grabbed the box and read the fine print. The vegetable serving they promise amounts to half a serving of vegetables (my ten-year old is supposed to have 6 servings a day), and it comes by way of a cauliflower powder. It’s hard to imagine, all chemistry aside, how many nutrients can be left of the cauliflower once it has been processed into a fine blend of dust and mixed with processed cheese.

As I peeled carrots, I told them sadly, KD would remain in the “seldom consumed” category. Damn you, Kraft Dinner, I really wanted to invite you into my life again. Parting is such sweet sorrow – so, until the next hangover.

When In France, Eat Like the French Do

July 11, 2011 5 comments

I have a penchant for competition, but I would never dream of attempting to beat the French at their own game.

Their passion for eating, that is.

It would take a serious training regime of long lunches and longer dinners – over weeks, preferably months, perhaps years – before one could possibly achieve a similar metabolism, let alone the tolerance for wine that would render one a contender.

Food and drink are their game, and they play it extremely well.

Everywhere you look between the hours of 12 and 2, and then again from 7:30 – 10:30, people are enjoying sumptuous lunches and dinners, eyes closed and conversation hushed as they concentrate on the task at hand.

Rose is consumed like water. We stopped at a little cheese shop the other day and noticed the proprietor was also doing a booming business selling rose out of a vat, filling large glass jugs for his patrons for one and half euros per liter. (It was pretty good wine, I might add.) Bottled water costs more, so it is perfectly rational to drink wine instead.

So although I freely admit I will never beat the french at this game of eating, I would like to join them at playing their game, in my own miniscule way. And so to this end we ventured to Jardin d’Ivana the other night.

Jardin d’Ivana is exactly as it translates: Ivana’s garden, which also serves as a restaurant every night. Ivan is apparently the host, server, and busboy while his wife, Nadine, concocts miracles in her kitchen. It was a short walk down the hill from where we are staying, so we struck out on foot. We felt a little sheepish walking into our neighbor’s yard, but this is how it’s done here we reminded ourselves, and went in.

Ivan greeted us and ushered us in to our table. This night their tables were all set under their sheltered veranda – the mistral, high winds that blow down from Siberia, had arrived the day before, and were whipping up the tablecloths and making waves in their small swimming pool.

In the next fifteen minutes, twenty other people were ushered in to surrounding tables, reconciling our previous worries that this was, in fact, very normal here.

The feast began.

There of course were no menu’s, just Ivan telling us what the menu would be that evening. We didn’t understand all of what was to come, so it was a bit like getting a grab bag of of delicacies – each course a little present in its own right.

It was a slow but steady procession of dishes in various forms of pomp and circumstance. Slim aperatifs were served in tiny champagne flutes. Pureed carrots laced with parmesan and cardamon arrived in glass bowls. A long slice of eggplant spooned an equally long slice of zucchini on a salad plate. A pork stew with thick sauce came in round bowls. Slices of apricot sweetened with brown sugar and some other divine sauce were set down just as I started to see double. Wine glasses were replaced with tiny digestif glasses smaller than shot glasses. Espresso in tiny vessels with saucers.

As we rolled out of their garden, I humbly raised my white flag in defeat. I couldn’t eat like that every night, but it was fun trying.

And I hoped like hell that Ivana had an industrial sized dishwasher.

Eat cake.

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting topped ...

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t bake to save my soul.  Which is either a crime, since my favorite thing in the world is homemade chocolate cake; or a blessing, since I could quickly and easily devour an entire cake in one sitting.  My waistline says blessing.

Many women can laugh off their inability to bake, saying their time would be better spent shopping or chatting or fill in the blank with your favorite woman stereotype.  But as a stay at home mother – of girls to boot – it has not escaped my children’s notice that I cannot bake.  What is more synonymous with “stay at home” mother than baking?  It’s in the job description, wedged between changing diapers and folding laundry.  In fact the only thing I detest more than baking itself is baking with my children – magical moments spent creating chocolate chip cookies whilst wearing matching aprons do not occur under my roof.  That’s what Grandma’s are for.

Recently, my oldest daughter had a friend over to dinner.  I had, ahem, slaved to make a cake for dessert, it being a particularly stormy and dismal Sunday.  The cake had turned out well – as they normally do from the box.  Duncan Hines rarely disappoints.  But my child was mortified – mortified – when her friend asked me to pass on the recipe to her mother and we told her it was from a box.  She had no idea such a concept existed.  Her mother, clearly, would never dream of baking from a box, my daughter told me later.  We all have our strengths, I ventured.

I have the extremely good fortune of having a friend who not only bakes, but bakes very well.  She made me a chocolate cake for my birthday, and let me tell you I have thought of nothing else since.  It was rich, dense and moist, an explosion of goodness on my palette.  The frosting – also chocolate – was likewise rich with a hint of coffee.  Too rich for my friend’s taste, she said she has never combined the two.  But perfectly rich and beyond delectable for me.  Try as I might, I will never be able to describe its perfection on my tongue, but will simply say:  Best. Cake. Ever.

We handily polished off half of it the night of my birthday.  The next day the kids went to school and we were alone together, me and that cake.  I stared at it, and it stared right back.  In the light of day, it looked even sexier and more alluring than it had in its virginal state the evening before.  All day it beckoned me, and I purposely busied myself and avoided the kitchen.  It was exhausting, not eating that cake.  I waited until my kids were home from school before having another piece, forcing myself to share it equally among us.  There was no way I could stop at one piece otherwise.  It was a very long six hours.

It subsequently dawned on me that it is a blessing, indeed, that I don’t bake.  I could not muster such amazing restraint on a regular basis.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , ,

Kale Smoothies – Let’s drink to our health

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Curly kale

Image via Wikipedia

I have never liked salads.  But throw greens and some berries into a blender in order to reap the health benefits?  Now you’re talking.

I try to like salads – I order them frequently when I am in restaurants, especially when in the company of other women.  It seems like the right thing to do.  But I rarely enjoy them, and almost never make them for myself at home –  way too much chopping and dicing for my taste, and my children will recoil in disgust anyway.

This doesn’t sway me, however, from regularly buying bags of prepared greens at the grocery store, only to throw their wilted contents away the next week.  Because I want to be a salad eater, I really do: it’s hip, it’s healthy, we all need to eat more vegetables; my intentions are pure.  But when the chips are down, and my stomach is rumbling, I can’t be bothered.

I am, however, a devotee of smoothies.  These concoctions can be thrown together in mere minutes, and if I’m in a hurry I pour it in a to go cup and take it with me.  My children love them and can even make them for themselves,  they’re a perfect after school snack.  I have perfected my own homemade version of the Starbucks Vivanno: skim milk, a frozen banana, a tablespoon of cocoa and some protein powder.  My children prefer smoothies made from berries.   I’m even happy to customize them for each child, if one likes blueberries while the other prefers strawberries.  All it takes is a quick rinse of the blender.  This makes them over the moon, since I refuse to do this for meals; doing so would render me a short order cook.

But my smoothie repertoire has become stale,  I’m getting sick of the same old thing.  And although healthy, smoothies don’t up my vegetable quota for the day.  The few raw carrots I throw into my mouth don’t amount to a  full serving, thus leaving me a few celery sticks short of fulfilling my recommended daily requirements from Canada’s Food Guide.

A friend made me a kale smoothie the other day.  That’s right, kale.  I don’t know about you, but I have tried to cook with kale, much to the chagrin of my children, and it didn’t turn out so well.  Yet I read about the incredible health benefits of this food – it is the veritable superman of vegetables, rich in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K.; it has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein.  Knowing this, I figured I should at least give it a shot.

The smoothie she passed me was dark green in color, and frankly looked like liquid grass, so I was dubious.  But it tasted fantastic.  In fact, it tasted like goodness itself, and I could practically hear the cells of my body crying out a collective, “thanks, we needed that!” as I drank it.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Kale Smoothie Recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 stocks of kale
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1 banana
  • mint, to taste