Posts Tagged ‘food’

My Baby Smells like Sardines!

…or, why we don’t need another dog (yet)


Summer of 2006, I think

Joda, our endearing old dog, died a year ago tomorrow.  At the time, I was 6 months pregnant, and so we’ve jokingly speculated about whether the baby has inherited a bit of her.  “See, just like Joda!” one of us will say when, for example, Maya grabs a piece of paper and shreds it up gleefully with her mouth.

Most of our comparisons are silly.  Just like Joda, Maya:
-is always excited to see me when I get home from work
-needs help getting around– for now
-takes naps multiple times a day
-likes to swim and bathe, but is not so sure about showers

Other similarities are just odd.  For example, a few weeks ago, we cooked up some chicken breast for Maya.  It was nice, organically raised chicken breast and it was cooked without any seasonings– perfectly unoffensive in every way.  Yet, she rejected it.  This is a kid who happily ate smoked salmon, lamb, and meatballs (both Italian and Norwegian) over the holidays.  She’s eaten everything we’ve ever offered her (except for Bo’s homemade okra pickles, which is another story), so it was puzzling that she didn’t like the chicken.

even beets are okay!

even beets are okay!

But we want to make sure that she is getting enough protein, chicken or no chicken.  My solution is eggs and peanut butter.  Bo’s solution? sardines. We usually have sardines around because Bo likes them.  He used to share them with Joda from time to time.  And now, it turns out, he can share them with Maya.  She loves sardines.

In case you are concerned, they are a Norwegian brand of sardine,  from nice cold water and have been treated well and are quite clean.  They are packed in olive oil, but I guess a little extra oil in her diet won’t hurt (just as we used to say about Joda…).


long-suffering Joda, 2000

Now I’m looking forward to the day when Maya can run and fetch things for us (though Joda was never actually very good at that), when we can go for long rambles amongst the trees in the mountains, and when we can just sit enjoying the outdoors quietly, looking around with our ears open and our sniffers activated.

"Why do *I* have to wear this now?"


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Skinny Shortcake


On Father’s Day, I managed to escape the house for a couple hours for grocery shopping and some other errands.   Two-pound boxes of strawberries were on sale, so I bought one.  As I pushed my cart through the rest of the store, I wondered how we’d use all those beautiful berries.  I ran through a list of ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, milk– we had everything for poundcake at home.  We just needed some whipped cream.

IMG_6808I must pause here to point out that this is only the second time in my life that I’ve bought whipped cream in a can.  But that day, I stood there in front of the dairy case and thought about how we’d just had to throw away a whole container of organic whipping cream because it went bad.  When I reached in and checked the expiration date on the can, it said November 2013.  Five months?  Well, if it lasts one month, I’ll be happy.

You may be wondering where the “skinny” part of this recipe comes in.  Let me introduce the secret ingredient.

IMG_6801Yes, here she is.  Although we did eat shortcake for dessert the first few nights after I made it, the last few bits hung on for days while we intended to eat them but didn’t get a chance.

the last lonely piece of pound cake

the last lonely piece of pound cake

This week has been dominated by the theme of sleep.  Getting Maya to take some of her naps on her own– well, even getting her to take a nap at all on some days– and establishing a bedtime ritual that leads to lasting sleep– these have been first and foremost on our minds.  So when faced with the choice of say, sitting there with a hand on Maya’s tummy to make sure she’s really asleep and eating dessert, well, the decision has been clear.

IMG_6813cropI think I’ve been intending to eat that last helping of shortcake since Wednesday, but didn’t get to it until today.  In the meantime, the last of those beautiful berries got moldy.  Luckily, I had a peach that was still good.  The cake was a bit stale around the edges, but hey!  the whipped cream was fresh as a daisy.

IMG_6798Guess who took a nap while I ate it and composed this post?

And there’s my recipe for a dessert that won’t make you gain too much weight.  Anyone want to borrow my secret ingredient for a few days?

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Fresh Food

IMG_6530After spending the winter in their coldframe home, the lettuce plants are finally ready to pick!  The tidy little plants remind me of an illustration of Farmer McGregor’s garden in the Peter Rabbit stories (especially with the carrots growing in the next coldframe over).

220px-TaleofPeterRabbit8Lucky for us, we have no pesky Peter coming in to pilfer our veggies (knock on wood!), and so we’ve been enjoying salads and kale with our meals for a week or more.

gratuitous baby photo

gratuitous baby photo

It feels good to have fresh food so close and available.  Plus, we know that it was grown without chemicals, and we’re both extra sensitive to issues like that, now that we’re responsible for a new little person.  She’s too young to enjoy garden veggies, but she gets the indirect benefits through me!

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Winter Carrots


We picked some carrots from the garden yesterday.  They are a variety called “Carnival Colors,” which is why some of them are red and yellow. They’re not very large yet– the longest one was about 7 inches and very tapered, as you can see.  But most important– they taste good!

IMG_6306After a good-sized snowfall at Christmas and more than a week of sub-freezing temperatures, it was fun to uncover the beds and have a look.  Some plants were a bit wilty (as were the tops of the carrots we picked, from the “cold” end of the carrot bed), but everything was still alive.  With sunny weather and temperatures in the 50s the next few days, everything should get a re-charge.

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To eat, or not to eat

Last month we had our first party in Colorado.  We served home-made chile verde and beer from a local micro-brewery, and the invitations I made up included the cartoon above.

For eight years, I was a vegetarian.  I was what some precise people would call a “pesco-ovo-lacto” vegetarian, because I was amenable to eating fish, and I ate eggs and dairy products on a fairly regular basis.

Despite all those exceptions, it wasn’t always easy to be a vegetarian.  In eastern Oregon, where I was living, going out to eat usually meant choosing between beef, pork, or chicken as the basis of your meal.  People who lived there were generally hard-working and didn’t have a lot of money to spend on luxuries like eating out.  So, when they did, they certainly wanted to pay for food with “substance” to it!

Most people either worked on a cattle ranch, or had grown up in a family of ranchers, or had friends who were ranchers.  For some, vegetarians were a threat to their way of life.  When it seemed like they were willing to listen, I would explain why I was a vegetarian:  because I was opposed to industrialized livestock farming and its effects on consumer health, animal health, and economic health, especially for small family-based ranches like theirs.  I’d point to their meal and ask where the meat came from– probably not one of their cows!  I’d ask how they felt about the fact that the paper bags at the local grocery store were imprinted with “Proud to Sell Midwestern Corn-fed Beef.”  Some people “got it” after that, but others still just considered me an idealistic hippie who thought she was better than everyone else.  At any rate, I didn’t eat out often and mostly cooked at home, and since a few of my friends with whom I often socialized were in the same boat as me, I usually was able to get something to eat.

Eventually, I gave up vegetarianism.  I realized a few years in that I had a soy sensitivity, which eliminated tofu and soy milk from my diet, but more importantly, it meant that I couldn’t eat anything with soybean oil, and that ruled out most salad dressings, some breads and other baked items, picnic salads made with mayonnaise, and lots of other prepared foods that I just couldn’t be sure about.  At the time I was running almost every day, and was advised by my doctors to include more protein in my diet.  And since it was really the industrial farming that I was opposed to, not the consumption of animal flesh, I started eating chicken and other meat that was naturally or organically raised.

But that opened the gateway up wide.  Once you are no longer a proclaimed “vegetarian” in social settings, you are expected to eat whatever is being served.  And generally I do.  Now that I live with someone who needs to eat a good deal more protein than I, we cook with meat regularly, and it mostly is not the organic, humanely-raised stuff.  One of his recent culinary achievements is chile verde, a pork-based mexican stew with green chiles.  It seemed like a great central dish for a party, since we could ask guests to bring supplementary items like tortillas, rice, shredded cheese, lettuce, and olives.  Bo even made two separate pots, one with chicken and one with pork.

I knew that one guest is vegan, and made arrangements for her to have some plain pinto beans to put over the rice she’d bring.  But another guest asked, after we called people to the buffet table, “which of the two pots of chile is vegetarian?”  My heart sank.  I had agonized a bit over using the cartoon on the invitation: it seemed insensitive and cruel even though it was funny and appropriate, given my writing-and-grammar background and the party’s central food item.  But I had mentally shrugged off the responsibility of considering the non-meat-eaters who might come to my house, and I thought the cartoon might send a warning about the nature of the food to be provided.  It seems so rare to meet vegetarians anymore!  Even my friends from Oregon have all become omnivores like me.

In trying to figure out how to conclude this long confessional about eating preferences, I keep getting drawn back to the idea of personal identity.  For years, being a vegetarian was part of my identity, and even longer than that, I was proud to be a host who always took her guests’ preferences into consideration, even if it was not convenient (for example, I insisted on having veggie burgers available at the buffalo burger barbecue after my wedding in western Nebraska).  At this latest party, I failed.  I deliberately pushed away the responsibility to provide for everyone’s needs and did just the bare minimum in providing the pinto beans.

The other reason I’ve been thinking about personal identity lately has to do with writing.  For years, I’ve been praised as a good writer by friends and family.  I taught writing composition as a grad student and part-time college instructor, I worked as a contract copy-editor, and I was the person my co-workers asked if they had a question about grammar or needed something proof-read.  But now I work in an environment where no one seems to know these things about my background–not that it’s a secret, but it’s too distant from the experience that qualified me for this job.  I now work with someone who recently completed an English degree, and she is the “good writer” in the house.

I’ve been assigned to lead a committee of my co-workers to produce a white paper for our boss, and we’ve come to the concluding stages of the process, in which I’ve served as a sort of editor-in-chief, taking the pieces the others have written and smoothing them into a cohesive whole.    Lately, I can feel tension amongst the committee members.  The work of the “good writer” is praised by one of the other committee members, who consistently jumps on mine for punctuation or capitalization errors and most recently gave me general advice on how to improve my writing.

Whew.  Deep breaths.  Immediately, my mind starts protesting, coming up with retorts.  But after a bit, I start thinking about WHY this is so jarring for me.  Clearly, it has to do with my ego.  Egos get in the way of a lot of positive things.  That’s kind of what ego is all about– helping people preserve themselves in the midst of other influences.  Ego doesn’t like change.  It doesn’t like to ask for or take advice. It doesn’t like to look around much.

So (in conclusion), these two ego shocks are a good reminder to me to look, to be open to change and to advice.  I don’t have to take everyone’s advice, or make all the changes to the document my co-workers recommend.  I just need to be honest about the reasons I accept or reject advice and ideas.  This is true in relation to food or to writing, but also to anything!  It seems easiest to start with one or two things, though.  Consider this an invitation to comment on my writing.  I’ll try not to be shocked.

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garden produce

The high temperature today is supposed to be 43 degrees fahrenheit, and the constant morning rain turned to snow at around 11:00.  When the snow stopped falling a few hours later, I suited up in my long underwear and rain outerwear and coaxed Joda out for a walk.   Then I picked as many fruits of the garden as possible.  That’s my haul above– carrots, onions, bell peppers, swiss chard, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.  Now it’s time to get to work prepping, cooking, and eating!

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Drunken Noodles

Homemade drunken noodles!  They tasted great, and took less time to prepare (once we had all the ingredients) than waiting for the delivery person from New Panda.

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