A Millie Favorite

A Millie Favorite

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gift Ideas for Teachers

When I was little, I remember this time of year very fondly. It was the end of the school semester and the last week was filled with treats, crafts and excitement. I would go with my mother to pick out neat little gifts as a thank you to my teachers. What I used to love giving was nicer teas and a cool mug. However, in the early 1980's giving locally made gifts was not very common. So, I am sure that the tea was from the grocery store and the mug from the mall.

This year, I want to take my daughter to local stores and have her help me pick out neat gifts for all the wonderful teachers at her school. Giving the gift of locally made products stimulates our economy and gives the teacher a unique and interesting treat to take home on their much deserved vacation.

Make the holiday season this year exciting for your kids, by checking out local artists, vendor and markets. It creates amazing memories of family time, not anxiety at a mall or big box.

Happy Holidays!

Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Simple Holiday


Simplicity... it has become a very big trend in this terrible economy. DIY (do it yourself), handmade soaps, farmer's markets over supermarkets and of course dinners in not out. Instead of wine at your favorite hot spot on a nightly basis, we are now cutting back to once a week or even in some cases, just having our friends over for game night instead. Things have changed and while there may be a willingness to simplify these days, the holiday season which will officially start next week is a hard time to stay put in our simple ways.

Thanksgiving can be stressful and overdone. Trying to make the "perfect" holiday feast for our family and friends can be a bit overwhelming. We have people come into our homes, the football game is playing loudly, children are running around and now your mother-in-law is judging you on how you have decided to make your centerpiece. Oy!

This Thanksgiving we should continue with our traditional foods and having our families gather around us. However, maybe we scale it back a little and spend more of that incredibly meaningful day actually talking to our loved ones. Give your children a dish or two to be responsible for, have them participate in the cooking process. Think carefully about your menu and see what you can get locally. After all that was the original idea behind the feast, enjoying a bountiful harvest.

It can all be so simple and yet one of the best Thanksgivings we will remember. Avoid the stress, include the family and eat locally.

Here is a simple recipe that was made from my farmer's market finds and will work well for your sweet potato side dish. I have my two-year-old wash off the sweet potatoes and leaks, which she just loves. If you have older kids, maybe they can do some simple cuts or plate presentation.

Cheers!

Caramelized Onion/Leak Sweet Potato Saute: 

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, medium dice
  • 3 leaks, washed and cut into rondelles (circles)
  • 1 red onion sliced very thinly
  • 1 half stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Parboil your diced sweet potatoes so they become tender. In your large saute pan melt your butter and start to caramelize your onions and leaks. After about 10 minutes of the leaks and onions caramelizing, then add your sweet potato and finish cooking. Plate and serve! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkins




Halloween has come and gone and we are starting in on the Thanksgiving season. And there is nothing to me that is more Thanksgiving then the beautiful pumpkin. Sure, we use pumpkins to carve our jack-o-lanterns and decorate around the house during the autumn months, but there are so many wonderful uses for this gourd.

As a child, I always loved going to the local pumpkin patch to pick out that perfect pumpkin, a tradition that I have carried on with my own daughter. However, these pumpkins are so much more than decoration or pie filling. They can be used in so many dishes, both savory and sweet which not every vegetable or fruit can do. It has such a lovely orange color that compliments many different dishes and can even be used in drink concoctions as well. And let's face it... is there anything that is more traditional for the autumn?

In my on-going efforts to increase a child's life-long love of whole foods and eating where they live, I say the pumpkin is a perfect food to accomplish that exact goal.

The pumpkin is so personal. You go up and down the pumpkin patch looking for just the right one. We never just show up and take the first one we see, especially when we are children.

Here are some of my favorite ways to work with pumpkins and most winter squash.

Cheers!

Simple pumpkin puree: 
  • One pumpkin
  • Large stock pot
  • A machine or kitchen tool to puree
Start by taking a heavy-duty vegetable peeler and taking the skin off the pumpkin. Then with a good chef's knife cut the top of the pumpkin off and then down the middle. Take the seeds out and place them to the side for another use. Cut into medium-sized cubes and put into your stockpot of simmering water. DO NOT add any salt or seasonings. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and then drain. Bring down to room temperature or slightly above it then puree. 

Now you are able to use your puree in several recipes. It can freeze really well in 4oz containers and be used at a later date. Also this simple puree is the perfect first food for baby. Any winter squash is easy on digestion and very few people have a pumpkin allergy. This puree has so many uses and will keep all winter if stored properly. 

Toddler pumpkin sauce squares: 

Toddlers have the ability to eat more complicated foods, but still lack the dexterity for crunchier treats that are served during the Halloween and Thanksgiving season. This is a great seasonal treat for toddlers, heck all of us! 
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup simple pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup of currants, raisins or dried cranberries. 
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove mixture (pumpkin spice)
  • Three spoonfuls of apple butter (or sauce)
  • 1/8 cup of oats 
  • kosher salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl first add your dry ingredients, then slowly add your wet ingredients until blended perfectly. In a small and greased cake pan pour in your batter. Cook at 350F for around 45 minutes or until golden brown. 

These bars are very moist and melt in your mouth like apple sauce, hence the name. They are delicious for all ages, but really great for toddlers who are still learning how to eat more adult foods. I made up this recipe for my daughter's harvest party at school. They were a great hit! 

Pumpkin Soup: 
  • 5 cups of pumpkin puree or 3 cans of pumpkin
  • Half a box of vegetable or chicken stock. Vegetable stock is a little more earthy and of course has no animal products. 
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • splash of brandy or apple brandy
  • One onion
  • Half a stick of butter
  • Pumpkin spice to taste
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • Bacon (optional for vegetarians) 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
In a large stock pot caramelize your onions and bacon with the half stick of butter. When they start to really brown and pieces start sticking to the bottom deglaze to get the fond off the bottom and let cool for just a minute. 

Add your stock, water and apple cider to the caramelized onion mixture and let simmer for a few minutes. Start to add your pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin. While that simmers start to slice your apple and pear without their skin, then add to the simmering soup. 

Let simmer for about 10 minute and then add your salt, pepper and pumpkin spice and let simmer for another 30 minutes or until all the flavors can fully infuse. Use a kitchen masher to break up the apple and pear into a semi-pureed state. Then at the very end add your wine, brandy and heavy cream. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. 

Serve with a beautiful harvest salad and crusty bread and enjoy your family dinner! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Leaf Windows

I write a lot about a parents perspective on cooking and children. How as parents we effect our children's lives and hopefully influence them to grow up with a love and respect of food. However, today I had the privilege of being the child.

I was free from work and school today, yet my daughter still had to attend her school. This gave me a rare day off. My mother called me and asked if I would like to go on a long walk through the wooded park across the street from my house and then have some lunch. This is truly a rare occasion that we can do this on a weekday... heck any day! Yet on this perfect October day, we made it happen.

Whether my mother will admit it or not, she had an enormous influence on me when it comes to cuisine. It was nice to spend the day with her and gather fall leaves in the park like we did when I was little. A tradition that I have carried on with my own daughter. Autumn leaves are some of the most amazing colors we see all year long. The fiery reds, burning oranges and bright yellows give a nice balance to a grey fall sky. 

I have always loved to gather fall leaves, but why not take it a little further with your children? I love making fall leaf "windows" to preserve that year's memories. It is so simple, in-expensive and most of all fun for your family. 

Before you sit down to dinner, gather the family up and take a walk through your neighborhood or local park. Your family can even make it a scavenger hunt. Look up what trees are in your neighborhood in advance and sit down with your kids and do a little research on different types of leaves. Your family could make a chart or list of what to look for when leaf hunting. You are not only learning something new and in nature, you are bonding over a new interest and creating memories. I cherish this so much in my own family and hope the same for yours. 


Supply list for "Autumn leaf windows" 

  • Fall leaves all colors and textures
  • Wax paper
  • Iron 
  • Construction paper (Fall colors)
  • Glue stick 
  • Scissors (grown ups only)
Cut out wax paper to the size and scale you want for your window. Then on one sheet place your leaves in a pattern that you like and lay the other sheet of wax paper on top. Take your iron and press the two sheets of wax paper together. The heat and steam from the iron makes the paper stick together and gives it a really nice stain glass window look. When you have pressed the paper together with your leaf pattern securely inside, then cut out your frames from construction paper. Of course if you want to do shadow boxes or larger scale frames go right ahead. After all this is your project and you should make it as unique to your family as you wish. 

Cheers!  
Leaf Window 

The leaves I gathered with my mother











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Saturday, September 17, 2011

It was just nice to hear...

I have been writing this little blog for almost a year now as a response to my dismay in the political world. Too much work on campaigns and not enough time dedicated to mind, body and spirit. My daughter has inspired something in me that I never knew was possible, to be creative once again.

This blog was just a way to hold myself accountable to writing and researching recipes, to actually take what was only a passing hobby and make it real and serious. I never thought that I would get a call like I did this morning, one that has really moved me.

There is a woman in my class at culinary school, she has two children and has worked in food for a while. Her husband is in service stationed in Japan right now. I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a military wife, going to school full time and taking care of two children. We do not give enough thanks to the spouses and children who stay behind when our troops are called to serve.

She called me up early this morning with such an enthusiastic tone. "Liz, I took my children to the farmer's market! They loved eating the cucumbers, they told me they tasted so fresh!" The experience of having her children eat the fresh produce awakened her own love of food.

Being woken up like that this morning was a great way to start my day. My goals and ambitions have nothing to do with cooking in a professional kitchen. No, I want to write about food, talk about food and teach young people about food. How it affects all of our lives, even the people that we will never meet across the planet. Food is the only thing in this world that will bring us together over a dispute, an agrument or miscomunication. Food nurishes, food inspires and food restores.

If I inspire even one person to live and eat locally with their children, then I feel like I have contributed something to this planet. I want to leave my daughter with a better earth. Thank you to all of you that read my blog.

Cheers!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kale Chips

It can just be down right impossible sometimes to get your kids to eat their greens! You want to put the absolute best foods into their systems and yet there are times that they protest with the conviction of an activist on Capital Hill. Goodness, what do we do?

Well, here is a recipe that I just love serving kids. Not only is it tasty, but it is packed with vitamins and all the goodness of greens. Kale chips, yes...KALE chips! 

Simple as can be, with a nice crunch that your kids will eat up and so delicate that even a small toddler can enjoy  this snack. 

  • 1 cup of fresh and washed kale 
  • 3 tablespoons of either grape seed oil or good olive oil (good fats)
  • sea salt to taste
In a bowl toss the greens with oil and salt. Place on baking sheet spread out for even-cooking. Cook at 250F for about 11-15 minutes. Let stand and cool for about 10 minutes and serve or make into snack packs. 

Cheers! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fall in love with Fall

Fall... what can I say about this special time of year. Leaves turn from green to reds, oranges, yellow and golds. The wind has a crisp smell to it, the smog of the summer has cleared and for just a minute all of the world's evils and problems just slip away.

This is the time of year when we get out our recipe cards and books and start looking up what will be good to make with all the new autumn produce. We want to nestle in our homes with some warm squash soup and read our books, talk to our children about how the new school year is going and most importantly relaxing after the long and very hot summer months.

Summertime is supposed to be the "fun" season. Filled with long lazy days, hanging out by the pool, fresh lemonade and outdoor excitement. However, it can also be very stressful on parents to keep their kids occupied and if you live in the South, it can get so hot that even a pool can't cool you off. Kids tend to get bored, depressed or even gain weight in the summer months.

Autumn is the antidote to the summertime blues. Kids go off to school, parents are cooled down by the crisp fall breeze and there is a sense of family once again.

And in honor of my very favorite season, I wanted to share with you a couple of autumn recipes. One is for babies six months or older, which I have not done in a while. Yet, fall produce is the best for "first" foods. Think about it... apples, pears, squash... that is what we give our babies first.

I hope that everyone enjoys the change in weather, the change in colors and most importantly their friends and family.

Cheers!

Apple, pear and butternut squash baby food:
  • One apple, peeled and large diced
  • One pear, peeled and large diced
  • One (small) butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and large diced
  • (For older babies 9 months and up) pinch of cinnamon and very small pinch of cloves.
Once you have diced your apples, pears and squash, bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Place your produce in the water, cover and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the fruit is soft to the touch. Drain the fruit and then either place back in the pot or in a food processor. If you do not have a food processor the fruit should be soft enough to smash with a good utility fork or "smasher" or even a dinner fork.

If you have a processor, place all the ingredients into the processor till a good baby food consistency is formed.

This combination will yield about two cups of baby food, depending on how large your apple, pear and squash are. Place enough in a container for the week in the refrigerator and the rest can be frozen in 1oz ice cube trays. And will be good for no longer than six months.

This is also considered a puree and can be the base of some soups, sauces and toppings for bigger kids and adults.

Fresh stone ground oatmeal with warm apple and cranberry topping:
  • 1 cup of GOOD stone ground oats
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of maple brown sugar
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 2 apples from your local farmer's market (cheaper and better for this recipe because they tend to sell a lot of baking apples)
  • 3 tbsp of butter
  • Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (or currants)
In one pot bring 2 cups of water to a simmer (close to a boil) then add your oats. Let that go for about 6-9 minutes. You can actually smell when oatmeal is done. So trust your nose!

Peel and dice your apples into the size you feel comfortable with for your children. I do a small dice, because my child is only two. Then melt your butter into the pan. Yes, you could go the extra step and do clarified  butter to get rid of the milk solids, but it is not 100% necessary. Place the apples, cinnamon and vanilla into the sautuse (rounded sautee pan) and let the fruit start to break down. At the last minute that the apples are breaking down, then add your dried cranberries (or currents). Let them rehydrate for a bit, but not completely.

Once your oatmeal has cooked and is piping hot and smells amazing, place into your serving bowl, add a little cream or milk alternative you like (we like coconut, but almond is really good for this recipe too). Then top with the lucious apple and cranberry topping.

Place a beautiful pot of warm coffee on the table for the grown-ups, cranberry-orange juice for the kids and have a lovely breakfast together.

Suggestion: After you are done with breakfast, go for a walk in your local park or neighborhood and have your children find leaves on the ground that have turned. Come home, press the leaves between wax paper and create a cool art project.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

There is no room for the word "shame" when we are helping others.

The other night I was out with a friend of mine having some dinner. I was so excited to talk about all that I have learned in the past few weeks in culinary school and started to talk about how my chef instructor is really big in the "farm-to-table" movement. This led to a conversation about how I have always loved to go to the farmer's market, pick out my produce and make baby food and eventually toddler and children's meals with seasonal and nutritional foods for my child.

My friend then told me a story about two of her mom friends and a tiff that they got into over organics, farmer's markets and cost. One mom being strict about co-op eggs and how her child would never have anything but local eggs and produce. And then the other mother, who did not have the same financial resources as the other went into how she would love to do that, but simply could not afford to do so. Then the other mother somewhat shamed her for feeding her child what she could afford, which was not as healthy or free of chemicals.

The entire reason why I started this little blog, was to help people have the tools to eat locally without breaking their grocery budget. Why all the shame? To eat like this is not an easy thing to make happen if you do not have the tools or resources.

I have written a couple of times about how to stretch you produce, what you can do with the stuff that is going bad on your counter and mostly how to budget and meal plan. These are just a couple of ways to stretch your dollar, while eating what is grown in your environment and taking care of your family through food.

There is absolutely no reason to shame another parent into eating better or put them down because they are doing the best that they can with what they have. Some of us are so lucky that we have access to good produce and some of us were raised in a house where pizza and fast foods were common place. The only way that we can all have good quality groceries available to us, is through solid and trusting education and then of course through demand.

This process will take a while, but for the first time ever I truly believe that we are on a path to eating better and holding the food industry accountable for their action of the past fifty years. Yet, one thing I just can not stress enough, is that we are all in it together and there is absolutely no room for shaming other parents or children.

Here is a suggestion if you meet someone who you think could eat better on a budget. Invite them to the farm stands and markets for an experience. Share with them your budgeting techniques and make a meal plan for the week. How you can use produce in all of your meals, not just dinners.

They will see how easy and budget-friendly it can all be. And of course bring the kids!

Cheers!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Making a meal to comfort your sick child

Amelia started at a new learning center this past week. I could not be happier about the environment and look forward to her growth there.

However, with a new setting, new children and a new germ pool, comes well a potential for a little cold or croup. Poor little dear got both this week and she became very clingy and anxious to feel better. When you child is not feeling well, you heart aches to make him or her feel better. There is something in their precious little faces that just says, "mommy please take this feeling away" and it can tear us parents apart.

Certain foods can really repair your spirits when you are not feeling well. A lot of our memories are formed around these foods restoring our health as children. I suppose that is why they are called "comfort" foods. I know for me, when I was a child, my mother made the best herbal tea and toast combination. I am not sure what she did to that slice of bread, but whenever I am feeling ill, that is what I make for myself.

For my own daughter, the thing she loves the most when she is not feeling so well is lime Popsicles. It soothes her throat and the tart lime helps put much needed vitamin-c into her little system. Making lime Popsicles are actually a bit more complicated than just lime juice and sugar. There has to be a perfect balance between the tart and the sweet to sooth the delicate palate of a toddler or child. Here is my recipe for lime Popsicles.

Sore throat limecicles:
  • 2 cups of fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of simple syrup
  • lemon zest
  • Popsicle mold
  • splash of orange juice for flavor and a kick of vitamin-c
Store in freezer until ready to serve. Let your little one enjoy this when they have a soar throat or cold.

When your child has an upset stomach or a case of bathroom issues. Soothing their tummy and replacing their electrolytes is vital for hydration.

There are many restoratives for this, home cures, marketed cures etc... I have found that a combination of bananas, apples and rice water is brilliant for this type of illness. It soothes their delicate little tummies and gives them the vitamins and nutrients they need to get better fast. Plus, it is really yummy. Serve with some toast or crackers and they will be feeling better fast.

Banana, apple and rice water smoothie:
  • 1/4 cup of plain white rice
  • One banana
  • One apple
  • pinch of ginger (very small pinch)
  • All natural apple juice
In a small sauce pan, bring water to a slow simmer and then add the rice. Let simmer for about five minutes and then drain the rice water into a cup or container. Leave rice if you wish for a dish to be served later or discard.

Peel the apple and banana and then to a medium dice. 1/2" x 1/2' x 1/2" cubes or close to that. Place in blender with strained rice water, pinch of ginger and some apple juice.

Serve in a special cup with a straw. This is also good for any morning sickness associated with pregnancy.

I truly hope that your little ones stay healthy this fall and everyone grows and learns as the new school season begins.

Cheers!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm back!

I have not posted in a couple of weeks. Not necessarily due to lack of interest, after all this is a true passion of mine. No, the reason for my absence is that I have been preparing for and now attending culinary school. Yes, I am here as a scrubby freshman trying to refine my skills.

My experience here has lead me to think about how I could incorporate it into my own child's life. Well, the truth is, this is NOT a place for a toddler or small child. There are sharp knifes, hot ovens and well a lot of frustrated people. This definitely presents a challenge.

Then I discovered that a lot of culinary institutions do have programs for children, on week nights and Saturdays. Just like I do a small cooking class for toddlers and kids, these professional and amazing chef's will spend a couple of hours with your children in a very safe and controlled environment. What a great way to have your children exposed to the classic training of a culinary institution without the worry of a dangerous kitchen.

I hope that my time here will enable me to become a true culinarian and pursue my goals to teach children the amazing world of food.

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Day at the Museum

IT IS HOT!!! 

The second half of the summer can bring about a bit of boredom when it comes to your children. The newness of being out of school has worn away, the 4th of July festivities have come and gone and now we are stuck with very long and very hot days until school starts. 

What can we do to spark creativity, keep cool and entertain our little ones during this summertime lull? 

This morning, I decided that I would dress up in a pretty peasant shirt and heals with a dash of make up and put my daughter in her pretty floral blouse and her fancy pink "clippy" and pink pants. We both put on our over-sized sun glasses loaded up in the car and headed off to the Art Gallery for lunch, a tour of the French Impressionist exhibit and then a stroll through their beautiful gardens. 

We did not just go to the museum, we made a day of it. Dressing up and being silly and girly was a fun break from the regular pool dates we have. 

We had a lunch of egg and olive salad and fruit with a poppy seed dressing. Fancy water with lemon and of course croissants. The server was kind to Millie and catering to her two-year-old whims. All the ladies of the Memphis Art Society doted on her and kept saying "oh isn't she such a doll" in old southern tones. 

After lunch we went and looked at all the beautiful work from the current exhibit. Dark French Impressionism is truly my favorite. Millie was enthralled with all the different colors and textures on the walls. She kept asking me to pick her up so she could get a better look. Somewhere in my wanna be artist's soul this made me extremely happy. 

We finished with a stroll in the gardens. Smelling flowers and cooling off by the sprinklers. It was such a perfect day. And for us busy parents that are always looking for different ideas for bonding and entertaining with our little ones, a day at the museum is just perfect! 

Cheers!  





Millie running through the gardens

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cooking with kids

"The Art of Cooking" has finally begun. I must say that there were a few things that I did not anticipate, but overall I could not be more thrilled with teaching young people and their parents creative ways to cook in the kitchen. 

Most would agree that cooking with your children is a brilliant way to bond with them and teach them pride and respect for food. However, we are all busy, over-worked and stressed. Sometimes it is really hard to come up with creative, healthy and most of all yummy meal options for your family. 

It was in this frustration that I decided to take control of it and start to really put emphasis on teaching my own daughter about cooking, even when she was a baby. I thought to myself, if she learned about cooking techniques, different foods, culture and cuisine and then combined it with her own curiosity and pride, we would have a solution to to our Tuesday night dinner blues. 

Children are naturally curious and can inspire even the most inexperienced cook. They are also very enthusiastic and creative. It is the adults in the world that suppress their natural appetite for creative foods and cooking, by feeding them awful fast food and processed junk. As we grow, we become more and more complacent, so starting young with our children in the kitchen is one of the best ways to keep a family bonded and our children on a life-long track to health and a love of food. 

The cooking class was messy, loud and most of all fun. We made our own kitchen cleaner that they used to clean their work stations. We learned that different knives serve different purposes and then begun our color theory through food. 

The kids made handmade pizzas with the different veggies that we learned to slice with our new knife skills. There was a moment of panic when my own daughter spilled crushed garlic all over her pizza. We got most of it off, but in the end I had to trade her mine for her vampire-repellent pizza. 

After the class, we all sat down to our creations and had a lovely little dinner. I must say, that I love working on campaigns, lobbying Congress and raising money for candidates. Yet, there is no comparison to the pride a child has after they eat what they just made themselves. 

I am happy I have made a decision to switch my career. I even caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, with my scarf wrapped tight around my head to protect the food from my hair and for the first time really saw myself as a culinary artist. Who knows how far I will go, but for now I am just humbled that anyone would trust me to teach their family cooking ideas. 

Cheers!  

One of the great kids learning about mushrooms and different kinds of eggplants as pizza toppings. Yum

Friday, July 1, 2011

Snack Mama-3

This is the third installment of "snack mama" and I am happy to say that these are a couple of my favorite snack ideas. I enjoy making them and I truly hope the little ones enjoy eating them.

In America, the word snack conjures up ideas of potato chips, pop corn, french fries and all sorts of horrible toxic waste we put into our bodies. In other countries, like Italy and Spain, snacks are fruit, cheese and little "bites" of what would normally be considered a mealtime dish in America.

I was inspired by authentic tapas from Spain for the last few snacks I made. These recipes are more nutritionally sustainable and will be a nice break from orange slices and crackers. 

Tandori Tuna Pasta Salad: 
  • One can of tuna in water
  • One bag of vegetable tri-colored pasta
  • One tbsp of tandori rub (you can use curry powder as well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
After you have cooked the pasta, add tandori spice to your drained tuna fish. In a large bowl combine the ingredients with a touch of olive oil to blend into a perfect pasta salad. 

Pasta Salad 
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Farmer's market cherry tomatoes, Vermont white cheddar, deli pretzel chips. Served with my homemade plum compote.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Snack Mama-2

When I arrived at Millie's school to pick her up today, one of the amazing teachers there told me that the trail mix I made was a big hit. I have decided to name yesterday's snack "Millie Mix" from here on out.

For tomorrow, I decided to keep it simple. Standing at my kitchen island tonight, I started a little assembly line. Whole wheat crackers, peanut butter and delicious strawberry jam which was about to be made into tiny sandwich crackers.

 I see a lot of people packing sandwich crackers with their kids lunches and snack packs, because they are simple, delicious and no fuss. However, there is a lot of processing to these little sandwich crackers and I thought that making them myself would cut down the icky sugars and unnecessary preservatives.

Even though it is a simple snack, there is a little time and love that goes into the assembly process. You do have to make sure, that the simple sandwich cracker adheres to itself and does not fall apart. Yet, when you are finished, the final product is salty, sweet and crunchy. This is a combination that children just love. Tomorrow, it will be served with a side of local blueberries. Hope the kids enjoy!

Handmade sandwich crackers and fresh local blueberries. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Snack Mama

I am in charge of snacks this week at Millie's school. When I saw it was my week, I started to obsess what I could make for all the kids. As if I were preparing a fully catered meal for adults, this became a big deal for me. Yes, I know, it is snack time at school and does not sound sexy or exciting. Well, I would like to say, that the more we play dull on such things like snacks, the more our children will become complacent about food.

Showing enthusiasm when it comes to preparing food, I believe is a good thing to encourage my daughter to embrace good solid nutritional values. I get to share my recipes for snacks with other kids this week and I could not be more excited! 

For the first time since starting this little blog, I am going to post my snack recipes every day that she is in school, starting with tonight's recipe. I hope this encourages you to make your own snacks for your children's school, or even just for yourselves at home. Being a part of my daughter's school helps me connect to our little community. I am happy that they embrace parents to be in charge of snacks, because it keeps us involved. 

Cinnamon-gram trail mix: 
  • 2 cups of plain cheerios 
  • 1 cup granola 
  • 1 cup gram cracker cookies (I like gram bunnies by Annie's) 
  • Local honey
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1tbsp of cinnamon 
In a large bowl bring dry ingredients together first. Then when they are fully incorporated, add honey and brown sugar. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for about 7 minutes on low heat around 257-300 F, just until the brown sugar gets a little crunchy with a little melt to it.  

When the mix is out of the oven, place into individual serving containers. The reason I do individual containers, is to control portions and lessen germ sharing. But of course, whatever works for you go ahead and do that to your comfort level.  


Sliced local peaches and cubed cheese: 

Go to your local market and pick out some beautiful peaches and really good white cheddar cheese. There is not really a recipe, just slice and serve! The combination of white cheddar with peaches is just creamy and amazing. 

Monday's snack will contain a local fruit, protein and grain. This is well-balanced and energy-boosting for small kids. 

Snacking is fun for little ones, so let us give them snacks from the heart, that are good for the heart. Cheers! 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

I grew up in Fayetteville Arkansas, home of the University of Arkansas. It is a college town nestled among the rolling hills of the Ozarks. Being a child in a town like this, meant that I grew up with the freedom to ride my bike anywhere I pleased, I listened to conversations of intellectuals at my parents' dinner table and swam in the pool from open till close. Summer to me was amazing.

Fast forward 20 years. Here I am 31 years old, with a beautiful child of my own and I have come to learn something quite frightening about myself. I have spent the past several summers watching it come and go. Working for many political campaigns, I would spend my summers organizing volunteers, coaxing them to understand that knocking on doors in the heat was the best way to turn out the vote. Even last summer, when I should of soaked up all that beautiful time with my own daughter at the pool, I was busy working for a candidate. While, I am proud of my work, I want to make a resolution for this summer and doing so today, during the solstice seems to make the most sense.

We tend to make resolutions on Jan 1 and by this time of the year, they are but a dusty exercise machine in the corner memory. I think the middle of the year, when everything is green and warm is a better time to sit and reflect on our lives.

My summer solstice resolution is to spend more time in the present. I have a tendency to always think of the future. Forever planning and looking ahead. Which I suppose is a fine thing to do, but what about all the time we have right now? Last night, I was rocking my daughter to sleep while she was nestled in my chest. In that one moment I started to think, one day she is not even going to let me be seen with her. Enjoy this now! Our children grow up so fast and in the blink of an eye, the summer is gone and we prepare for the cold months ahead.

I resolve that I will enjoy and drink up life. To always love and live in the present and to nurture and my daughter to walk gently through this earth. No longer will I live in my ego-driven past or worry about what people think of me since quitting politics. I know I have done my best to move forward. That is all anyone can ask of any of us humans.

This week, make a resolution for the summer. It is a more freeing time for you mind. The more sunshine you are exposed to, the more open your thoughts tend to be. Like I said, this is a brilliant time to make a resolution. Sit down with your children tonight over a lovely summer salad and iced tea and talk about what everyone's resolution could be. It is a great time to reboot and connect with your family.

Cheers! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Locally Delicious

Summer in the South is hot, humid and down right sticky sometimes. It is the kind of heat, that when you get out of a cool shower, you are sweating immediately. A lot of people would scoff at the notion of choosing to live in a place that gets well about 100 degrees for weeks on end. I even have to admit that the older I get, the less I can take the heat. I just keep telling myself, that people pay thousands of dollars each month to have spa treatments that are the same conditions as our natural weather patterns.

Despite all the hot temperatures, I have to say that the produce that comes out of the summer is some of my favorite. There are some theories about why things grow when they do. One such theory is that in the summer, we humans are designed to be leaner and more active. Thus we get bright and sweet fruits and veggies. While the heat can be awful, the produce is amazing.

Every Saturday morning, I get up early and head to the market downtown. It has become sort of ritualistic to our family routine. This past Saturday, I had a thank you dinner to make for my in-laws for putting us up last week while the air conditioner was broken in my house. (We have a brand new one now) My in-laws like "meat and potatoes" and do not stray too much from their comfort foods. I wanted to show them, that a local meal is delicious and easy to make. Not to be intimidated by the process, but to embrace it.

That night watching my daughter wash the veggies with her grandmother standing next to her was very special to me. In a way, Millie was showing her grandmother how easy and fun it is to be in the kitchen and really participate in the food prep process. Usually it would be the other way around. But not every grandmother is "traditional" and not every child is the student. Some happen to be teachers too.

We all sat down to dinner and enjoyed the meal. To say thank you is more than just words, it is showing someone gratitude. What better way to do this, than by sharing a meal you prepared?

Cheers!

Millie washing off carrots and potatoes grown here in Tennessee and Northern Mississippi.


I find the coolest looking veggies at the market

 
Locally made ciabatta bread, with grilled zucchini and fresh sliced tomatoes. 
 When making your dinner from any market, whether it is a chain grocery store, or from a farm stand on the highway, keep one thing in mind: Is the meal that I am preparing have the love I have for that person cooked in it? 

Yes, I encourage everyone to check out their local farm stands or start a local garden for yourself. But at the end of the day, just putting love into your meals is the best ingredient you can every use. Oh, ya and it is free! 

Enjoy the summer!
                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                         
     






























Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Community

Recently, I have had one friend give birth to a beautiful baby boy and another friend who is about to deliver any minute. I was thinking of these two women today and all the wonderful excitement that is surrounding them at this time. However, with all the blessings and joy that come with having a baby, there is also some stress as well.

A real sense of community and involvement surrounding a woman after she has a baby is so important. Giving her the support that she needs, whether it be emotional, physical or spiritual is one of the best baby gifts one can give. I was thinking about all of this today when it occurred to me that in America, we tend to shy away from the "tribal" aspect of raising a child. When we help those who are doing the hard work of giving birth and raising good and productive members of society,we all win.

If there are people in your life that are new parents or a family who just needs some help here and there, I encourage you to go out and find a way that can give them a hand. Here are two recipes and a couple of suggestions on how you can help a new family out. Cheers!

Pregnant woman who has one or more children at home:
Offer to take them to a pool, museum or even just to your home for a few hours. This gives the mother and father some time to just relax or get some things done around the house. Like nursery prep.

Pregnant woman recipe: Triple Berry Smoothie 

  • 1/4 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries 
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup whole milk organic yogurt 
  • sprig of mint
  • tsp of honey
Blend over ice and serve. Many women when they are pregnant do not have a lot of room for a big meal. This is a lovely and refreshing way to get good nutrients in their system, without creating bloat and fatigue. 

Family that has just had a baby: 
Offer to help out with chores or errands. Bring the new mom comfy socks or teas, anything that will ease any pain or uncomfortable moments.

New family recipe: Shrimp and corn salad 

  • Five ears of corn, kernels cut off 
  • One pound of cooked, tail-off and deveined shrimp
  • Two roma tomatoes cubed
  • One mango peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 of one red onion sliced thin
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of hot sauce 
Toss in a large serving bowl and bring over to the hungry new family. It will keep for several days and is good in omelette's, in a whole wheat wrap or on a bed of greens. It is versatile and will be a big hit for hungry folks. 






Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Homemade Birthday Bash

I wrote a couple of weeks ago the ideas I had for my daughter's second birthday. One that would be special and amazing, while doing everything homemade and local.

I am proud to report that I pretty much stuck with my vision which I had laid out for the entire shindig. Complete with homemade crayons, handmade bags and a local and organic menu. The party was a huge success, and my beautiful daughter was so happy to celebrate her fete in the backyard with all her little friends. I could not of been happier to see her have a smile from ear-to-ear the entire time.

When planning a party, especially a children's party, doing a lot of the prep before hand is critical. I stayed up the night before with a friend of mine, making salmon and black bean sliders. That entire day was spent making the little gift bags and crayons, which I could not of completed if I did not have the help of my friend Cindi. As Hillary Clinton says "it takes a village" and that weekend, I needed my tribe. We sat around my dining room table making the charms, cutting ribbons and tearing off the paper of old crayons.We used old fabric from Millie's dresses to make ribbons to hang from the trees, instead of balloons that can choke a bird or create garbage. There is something special about making it all from scratch and with your own two hands. After all, this is my daughter and I wanted it to be from my heart.

On the morning of the party, I got up early and headed to the farmer's market for the rest of the food that we needed. I really lucked out, because peaches are finally in season and they would become to the centerpiece of the table. I even found bright purple and orange cauliflower. I have always said, that kids are attracted to color and that flew off the serving tray like hot cakes. No one even mentioned that there was no meat, we still had a grill going, but this time we would have the black bean sliders on it, not hot dogs and hamburgers.

A child's birthday party is very special. To me it is even more special than a wedding. It is a time we celebrate the life of someone that has graced us with their unconditional love, joy and wonderment. And we can celebrate that without breaking the bank. As a matter of fact, they may even love it more, because you did it with your own two hands.

I hope you enjoy some of these ideas. Cheers!


The veggie tray that was produced my our hardworking local farmers. Love that purple!  


Homemade salmon sliders 


Black bean sliders 


Local peaches instead of cupcakes on the cupcake stand.


Host the party in your own backyard! 


Music for Aardvarks 

 

Gift bags with handmade charm bracelets. 


 Broken crayon bits ready for the oven. I made these circle ones as well as the hearts. Done in a tiny cupcake tin.


After the pieces of broken crayon that were laid out on a cookie sheet had cooked for a bit. Ready to be cut into little hearts with a small cookie cutter. 





Finished heart crayon


A beautiful and festive sign that a friend made for Millie out of recycled materials. Amazing! 


My amazing daughter on her special day! Cheers Amelia, I love you more than words can ever say! 









Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summertime Treats

I like to find the beauty in each season, but I have to admit that the older I become, the less I like the summertime. Well that was until I received a beautiful message from someone today describing his take on Summer. He said that it is a time to slow down and reflect on our lives. To lay in the grass and watch the clouds go by or just to enjoy long evenings on a front porch. I thought that was a very lovely way of looking at it. Inspired by his words, I thought that I would come up with a couple of my favorite summertime treats.

Kids are notoriously bored and hungry in the summer months. As parents we have to be super creative in order to keep our little ones from becoming stagnant and hyped up on junk food. These recipes are sure to please your entire family.

Cheers!

Watermelon and goat cheese salad: 

  • One seedless watermelon cubed
  • One cup of goat cheese
  • Sprig of mint 
Toss into a bowl and serve. 

Mango pops: 
  • Three mangoes cut from their rind and quartered 
  • 1/2 cup of good orange juice 
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • Two tbsp of honey for sweetness 
Blend till perfectly smooth and place into either ice trays with a stick in each cube or if you have popsicle trays go ahead and use that. Freeze for about an hour or two and serve on a hot and sticky day. The vitamin c in the mango helps restore antioxidants lost in the heat. 

Black bean sliders: 
  • One can of black beans, drained and rinsed of the sodium. 
  • 1/2 cup of carrots that have been shredded finely.
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A dash of hot sauce
Placing all ingredients in a large bowl, stir it together until well incorporated. Then with your masher start working the mix. When everything has been well mashed together, then start making your patties. About two inches a piece. Bring a skillet to a high heat with oil or butter and then grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve on slider buns or dinner rolls with your favorite burger toppings. I personally like pepper jack cheese and grilled onions. 

I hope these recipes help with summer time snacking and avoiding the pitfalls of typical summer junk. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cooking class for kids (DETAILS)

I wrote a few days ago how I will be teaching a cooking class for kids this summer. I want to share with you the details of the six week course for kids and their parents.



The Art of Cooking


Teaching a child to cook, love food and have personal responsibility in the kitchen is one of the best gifts we can give to our future generation. My six week course is dedicated to the art of cooking and the love of food.

Studies show that children who learn to cook have a lower obesity rate as well as excel in math and science. However, that is just the beginning. Cooking with our children and sitting down to the dinner table bonds the family unit and gives way to more open and honest conversation. As well as the reward of having your children try new and interesting cuisine because they help prepare it.

Yet, the best reward of all will be the day that you as the parent get to come home from work or a long day to a meal that your child skillfully prepared for you!

The course will be offered from June 14- July 22 

One day a week for six weeks. Each week will explore proper food prep, safe knife skills, food in nature, making our own breads and sodas, with a field trip to the famer’s market. Each student gets their own food journal and measuring spoons.

Week One: Proper food prep, sanitation and knife skills. Teaching our children the fundamentals of kitchen work and safe food preparation.

Week Two: Color Theory. Most children would never identify brown as their favorite color, but yet that is the color of the majority of food we are feeding our kids these days. We will explore colors in foods and come up with recipes based on color.

Week Three: Handmade bread and pastas. Learning how to follow a recipe and proper measurements in order to have a finished product.

Week Four: Making our own sodas and drinks with colors found in nature, not a chemical source.

Week Five: Lunches and snacks made from scratch. We will learn how to plan out our lunches for the week and how to make our own delicious snacks.

Week Six: Budget, plan and grocery list your week. The kids will have made a list of groceries to find at our local farmer’s market, as well as a budget and dinner plan. We will take our lists and bags to the famer’s market and pick out our produce. Come back to the kitchen and prepare our big family dinner. All parents and friends welcome to the dinner that the kids prepare.

Classes are available as follows:

Mondays from 12-2PM
Wednesdays from 10AM-12PM
Fridays from 12-2PM

Full tuition is $150.00 plus $25 supply fee OR you can pay by the class and take as many of as few as you like. $35/class with same supply fee applying. 

Limited to three kids per class ages 5-12 years old.

If you are interested in attending this fun and interactive cooking class, please contact Elizabeth Lownes at 901.413.6983 or eelownes@gmail.com

All classes will be held in my home in our newly remodeled state of the art kitchen. Parents are encouraged to stay with their children and be a part of the classroom as well.

Also, if you have smaller children you would like to bring, we have a fully equipped nursery and playroom that the parents are welcomed to use. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cooking class for kids

I wanted to let you know, that I am currently in the works of putting together a curriculum, menu and schedule for an eight week cooking class this summer for kids and their parents. 

Some of the things we will be covering: measurements, safe knife skills, local produce, international cuisine and even how to make your own soda ! If you are interested, I will have the full schedule up and ready by next weekend. I hope you will be interested in signing up with your little ones. It will be fun, educational and the best part of all, you get to eat your homework! 

Stay tuned for sign-up! 

Cheers! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Keep it Fresh

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to save your famer's market produce from a quick death on your counter. After all, you did get up and go to the market early in the morning on a Saturday, so you might as well enjoy your produce for as long as possible.
These are my beautiful snap peas that I got for a steal, washed and ready to be prepped. One thing that I really really really love about this spring veggie is that it can be eaten raw. It is slightly sweet and has a nice crunch to it, so it is great to grab some for work or on the go for you and your kids. Full of vitamin C and fiber. These little green veggies will keep you full until your next meal.

If you snap the tops then they will stay fresher longer. Keep them in a plastic container in your fridge and they will last up to a week, maybe a few days longer.

Oooh, my beautiful strawberries. Last week, I got to the market too late to buy these sweet and delicious fruit. And since strawberry season will be coming to an end soon, keeping them fresh as long as possible is so important.  Always keep some fruit and veggie wash around for best results.

Cut the tops off and slice in halves and you will be able to save much longer in your fridge.

Finally, this was our dinner tonight. The greens you see here were bought last week and you can see they are bright and green. If you get greens, rinse and clean and store in a ziplock in your crisper. They will be fresher so much longer.

Recipe for the salad above:


  • Red leaf salad greens
  • Sliced olives
  • 1 cucumber sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon  of olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 
  • Toss and serve
I hope these simple tips help you enjoy your local food longer. After all, we are all in this together! Let your children help with the produce prep and reap the rewards of having a child interested in their food. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Party Time

May is a very exciting month for me. My wedding anniversary, my father's birthday, Cinco De Mayo, Memphis in May and most importantly, it is my sweet baby girl's birthday. With all these events, parties are a must in our household.

Most people will tell you throwing parties are hard work, expensive and complicated. I guess this can be true depending on the scope of the party you are throwing, but as far as a child's birthday party it does not have to be the giant headache that people fear.

Since my daughter is about to turn two, I have decided to write about the party we are planning for the big day. Millie's birthday is on May 30th which happens to be Memorial Day this year. In honor of this traditional outdoor bbq holiday, I have decided to go with a similar theme.

Last year we did it BIG! We had her first birthday on the patio of the Brooks Museum of Art in our beautiful and historic Overton Park. I had a fancy cake AND cupcakes with purple icing, champagne and a sit down brunch. The guest list was huge and it took a truck to get her gifts home. It was almost like a wedding reception and totally my vision for her first birthday.

I was thinking this year we would scale it back just a tad. :-)

We are going to get all our food from the local farmer's market, the party favors are handmade and presented in reusable bags and the cake is going to be made by me this year, not a fancy bake shop. We will have all the little kids running around and being silly, with the grown ups sipping on homemade pink lemonade. I can't wait for my darling's party and with that, here is the menu and party favor ideas I want to share.

The idea here, is low-stress but beautiful and cost-efficient. The last thing a little kid needs on their birthday is a stressed out parent. You should enjoy the day too. After all, their birthday would not exist without you!

Party Favors: 

Recycled crayons:
You know all those broken crayons laying around your house? They are underneath couches and behind dressers. Well, go and collect all of them and make new crayons!
  • Pick a shape or several shapes with small cookie cutter molds.
  • Collect all the broken or unused crayons, remove their paper and chop or crumble into small pieces. You almost want them to be sprinkle size. 
  • Place on a baking sheet wax paper to keep the crayons from molding to your bake ware. 
  • Place your tiny molds (I suggest stars and hearts, because they have points) and then sprinkle the crayon piece in. 
  • Bake at a low heat of no more than 300 F for about 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the molds and let stand for a minute. Voila! You now have beautiful multi-colored crayons that look cool and are now usable again. 
Individual granola bags:
If you buy your granola, no one needs to know. However, here is a recipe for homemade granola that will be less sugar than store-bought. 
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup of chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup of dried raisins or cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of good cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of local honey (helps prevent allergies if it is local)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup pecan oil (any nut oil is good, but pecan is just so darn tasty)
Place all dry ingredients and mix well. Add the brown sugar, oil and honey to the dry mix stir will until the entire mixture is coated. Place on a baking sheet and cook at 350 F bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and then start assembling the granola into cute little party bags. 

To encourage our little ones to reuse instead of throwing trash in the garbage, do cloth grocery bags as the party favor bags. They come in all sorts of colors, designs and sizes now. You don't have to have large bags with store names on it. This also gives a child a sense of personal accountability when they have their own bag, instead of just using moms. 

Menu: 
  • Fresh fruit and veggies, sliced and placed perfectly on reusable platters. Served with humus and smashed avocado. 
  • BBQ pasta salad
  • Pink lemonade
  • Veggie burgers with local cheese and caramelized onions. 
  • Spinach and Italian cheese pinwheels, made with whole grain tortillas
  • Big pink cake! 
The menu is super easy to prepare a head of time, tasty and healthy. I will report back after the party with pictures and how things turned out. Pray for sun !

Cheers! 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Love of a Mother

Motherhood has been the most life-changing experience for me. I know a lot of people say things like that, but for me it is most certainly true. I was living my life out of a suitcase, campaign to campaign, state to state and candidate to candidate. My life revolved around winning! Must win! I hated loosing and it very very very rarely happened to me. I even started to look at Election Day as a time to party, because I just knew I would win. I was obsessed with my self-image and did not care who I ignored and let go in my life. 

Hard things to admit out loud for sure. 

What I mean that motherhood has changed my life, is that no longer can I do for myself only. Gone are the days of being selfish and self-centered. I even tried last year to work for two different campaigns and found myself hating every single minute of it. Partly because the egotistical men that were running, did not give a flip that I had family obligations. I found myself so stressed in those days that I wound up in the hospital ER for exhaustion and stress. This is no way to live by example for my daughter. 

On November 2, 2010 I decided that would be my last Election Day for a while. Shortly after I started writing this little blog. The idea of making a career out of food education, writing and living was to me a foreign concept. However through this blog, I found myself doing just that. A change of lifestyle so my daughter would have a happy mommy, thus having a happy life. 

I write all this on Mother's Day because I think we take for granted all the mothers out there that have given up a life in order to have and take care of their children. To live more lovingly and full of joy. To me that is the life change of well... a lifetime! 

Amelia Nancy my beautiful daughter has blessed me with so many wonderful things and for that I am most grateful. I salute all the mothers out there who love, care and treasure their children. Giving the world, a happy, healthy and productive member of society makes the world a better place and I salute all those who put the work in to make this happen. 

Cheers and Happy Mother's Day! 

The Love of a Mother

Motherhood has been the most life-changing experience for me. I know a lot of people say things like that, but for me it is most certainly true. I was living my life out of a suitcase, campaign to campaign, state to state and candidate to candidate. My life revolved around winning! Must win! I hated loosing and it very very very rarely happened to me. I even started to look at Election Day as a time to party, because I just knew I would win. I was obsessed with my self-image and did not care who I ignored and let go in my life. 

Hard things to admit out loud for sure. 

What I mean that motherhood has changed my life, is that no longer can I do for myself only. Gone are the days of being selfish and self-centered. I even tried last year to work for two different campaigns and found myself hating every single minute of it. Partly because the egotistical men that were running, did not give a flip that I had family obligations. I found myself so stressed in those days that I wound up in the hospital ER for exhaustion and stress. This is no way to live by example for my daughter. 

On November 2, 2010 I decided that would be my last Election Day for a while. Shortly after I started writing this little blog. The idea of making a career out of food education, writing and living was to me a foreign concept. However through this blog, I found myself doing just that. A change of lifestyle so my daughter would have a happy mommy, thus having a happy life. 

I write all this on Mother's Day because I think we take for granted all the mothers out there that have given up a life in order to have and take care of their children. To live more lovingly and full of joy. To me that is the life change of well... a lifetime! 

Amelia Nancy my beautiful daughter has blessed me with so many wonderful things and for that I am most grateful. I salute all the mothers out there who love, care and treasure their children. Giving the world, a happy, healthy and productive member of society makes the world a better place and I salute all those who put the work in to make this happen. 

Cheers and Happy Mother's Day! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Summer Travel

With summer fast approaching it may be time to sit down with your family and discuss some options for a vacation. With this economy being so depressing, gas and grocery prices soaring and the overall worry of how to even pick the right destination, I can see how it may be challenging to approach this subject.

I want my daughter to grow up with as many interesting experiences as I can possibly provide for her. However, with these challenging times, it can be tough to come up with that special dream trip. Maybe you can't afford to have a two week stay in France touring fine wineries and eating beautiful triple creme cheese. But I bet you can afford to go through Illinois for a taste of their amazing wine region followed by a trip to Wisconsin for a cheese tour. That trip to China may just be way too expensive, but going to Chinatown in DC, San Francisco or NYC may fit right into your budget. 

This economy while very hard to deal with sometimes, can give way a path to rediscover food, creativity and interesting neighborhoods that may have been overlooked for a more notable location. The people that live in our beautiful cities have stories and recipes to share. Even in some smaller cities and states, like Nebraska or Indiana there can be such amazing food and culture to discover. 

When I was working for Senator Clinton's campaign in Iowa, I discovered that there was quite a wine region there. Who knew? Discovering new places to visit with your kids can be such a wonderful bonding moment for the entire family to share. And may I suggest taking a train. You see so much more of our country that way, while saving quite a bit on gas and food stops. Whenever I can, I try and take a train. You can sit in the observation deck with your kids and discover a whole new America that way!  

I would like to share my favorite places to visit with children:

  1. Washington DC: This city has it all for the family. History, art, culture and an amazing food scene! You can do your tour of Capital Hill in the daytime and enjoy international cuisine by night fall. There is everything here, from Ethiopian to true Spanish  tapas. And don't forget to sample some of the local Maryland crab cakes. Helpful hint: call your local congressman and schedule a private tour of the Capital. You will not have to stand in a huge line and you will have a much more personal and educational experience with your little ones. 
  2. Chicago, IL: The amazing architecture, beautiful shore on Lake Michigan and of course the all the cool and eclectic neighborhoods. Each one boasting a unique food experience. My favorite neighborhoods in Chicago are Wicker Park/Bucktown, Logan Square and Little Village. It is said, that Little Village has the highest concentration of immigrants in the US. So you know there are some great eats there! 
  3. Iowa City, IA: Okay sure, you may find this one strange, but once you visit this extremely family-friendly progressive city, you will want to move there! In the summer time, IC has a jazz concert festival, writers workshops and some really cool nightlife. 
  4. Nashville, TN: This city is way beyond the old honky tonks on Broadway (which are cool don't get me wrong). There is an emerging food culture in Nashville that is imaginative, creative and very delicious! For parents that are raising their kids meat-free like me, there are great vegan-inspired bistros all over East Nashville. This trip will be good on your wallet as well as your stomachs.
  5. Pittsburgh, PA: French fries ON your sandwich... say what? Pittsburgh is known for their several Super Bowl and Stanley Cup wins and unique way of say you guys "yinz going to the game" is what you will hear there. However, it is a very affordable city to visit and has a tone of things for kids to do there. While I find that every city that I get to visit has some challenges and Pittsburgh has many, it also has a great way of showing off their food. You will find that Western PA cheese is all around and some of the tastiest I have ever had. 
I hope that the summer brings great travel, bonding, and of course eating for everyone. Cheers! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Storm Shelter Recipes

April can bring about some of the most beautiful flowers, weather and all around good feelings. However, it can also bring about rain, tornadoes and even floods. What to do with your kids and mealtime when you are under strong weather conditions? I found out first hand last night.

I come home from what was one of the more stressful days of this past year to find on the television that we are under a tornado warning! Does this tornado have to happen during dinner time? I quickly get the lights, water and pillows ready in the enclosed hallway so we can hunker-down and ride out the storm. There is just one problem, this storm does not seem to end! Actually, it is still going on right now as I sit here and write!

Of course for fast and easy food and snack options when in a situation like this, run to your pantry and just grab some crackers and nuts to tide you over. But what if I were to make "stormy weather" meal options ready to go? It is just an idea I had, as my daughter was sitting in the middle of the hallway, sans her dinner last night.

If you know storms are likely for the week a head, especially big spring storms why not make a few ready to eat meals for your family? I am all about prep work in the beginning so I can save time in the end.

First, check your weather report for the week ahead. If there seems to be a weather pattern developing, then go ahead and think out some options for storm ready meals.

Second, make sure you have proper storage containers for the meals.

Third, go a head and prep the meals for your family according to how many family members you may have.

Here are some of my ideas for ready to eat, healthy meals that will satisfy while under crazy weather condition.

Cheers!

Hummus, Pita and Carrot Sticks: 

  • One can chickpeas, drained and washed. 
  • One tbs of good olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • The juice of one lemon
  •  Sesame seed oil or sesame seeds 
Bring the chickpeas to a boil, let stand for about five minutes after ending the boil. Drain the cooked chickpeas and then place back into pot. Add the other ingredients and then put into a food processor to be blended into a nice hummus dip. Of course, feel free to buy the prepackaged hummus, if you want. 

Place the hummus into one container and the pita slices and carrot sticks in another. Store in fridge. 

Smoked Salmon and Bagel Chips, with Dill Dipping Sauce:
  • One cup of sour cream
  • One tsp of dill
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
Mix the above ingredients until a nice creamy dill sauce if formed. Store in small container. Have your smoked salmon in its own package and a bag of bagel chips ready to go. This meal is great for keeping energy levels good while in a tough situation. 

Chocolate Cake Raspberry Cookie Sandwiches: 
  • One box of good chocolate cake mix OR feel free to use your own cake recipe here. 
  • One jar of delicious raspberry jam
  • One box of creme cheese
Follow the cake instructions on the box, use an 8 or 12 inch baking sheet. When the cake has cooled you can then go in and cut small square at 1-2 inches a piece. Place to the side and then start the assembly process. One on cake square add the cream cheese and then the jam on top. It has to be in this order or it will become a mess. Then place the second square on top and press down to make a nice little desert sandwich. If you wrap the cake sandwiches in plastic wrap then they will become more compressed and easier to serve in a storm. Place in the fridge to chill. 

Now, if no storms come your way and you have made all of this food I suggest taking it and having a picnic outside!