Make your own bread crumbs

22 Jun

Seriously, don’t buy the bread crumbs at the store. Buying a loaf of bread from your local bakery is cheap. Putting bits of that bread into a food processor and adding herbs is even cheaper! Unless you’re using panko bread crumbs, you’re paying too much for boxed bread crumbs. Fresh crumbs are delicious and you can essentially make them on demand. I like to buy loaves of bread, but we never finish them. Unless I’ve got a crusty bread recipe to use, I like to freeze the remaining bread. Then I take it own in the morning and make bread crumbs that evening as I’m preparing dinner. Try it.

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Baby needs new shoes

22 Jun

I’m sorry about my spotty posts, but I’ve been a tad bit busy trying to get a job. It’s time for this mom to go back to work. Cross your fingers that I get a good gig… so that I can blog on my lunch break!

Meatless Monday: I’ve got to use sweet corn somehow

11 Jun

It’s June and this is a beautiful time at the market. In fact, early summer is my favorite part of the market. I bought corn and need to make it tonight because the gorgeous hairy tops are taunting me. Husbo has a half-fake front tooth and the veneer can’t handle biting directly into the cob. So that eliminates one option. My mom makes a corn and black bean salad that I like so I think I’ll make that tonight.

It starts by steaming the whole ears for about 20 minutes. I want the corn cooked a bit to bring out the sweetness, but not so soft that the kernels get mooshy. Once steamed, I cut the kernels off by sliding my chef’s knife down the sides of the cob. Go ahead and let them cool unless you like burning your hands. To the corn I add chopped avocado, chopped tomato (grape and cherry tomatoes add extra sweetness), cilantro, and fresh lime juice. If you like heat, you can add a splash of hot sauce. If you want more protein, add black beans. This corn-avocado salad is great as a side dish and so easy. We like easy.

Enjoy the sweet summer corn!!! I’d love to hear more ideas for easy corn dishes. How do you make it at home?

Make your own stock

1 Jun

Seriously, why are you buying vegetable or chicken stock? There are some food items I won’t make myself because, frankly, there are people who are really really good at making them. Take bread as an example. I tried my hand at making bread in my quest to be a renaissance woman. Guess what, my bread wasn’t nearly as good as my local bakery’s. It was edible and during a zombie attack, I would definitely take that bread in my rucksack and snack on it in between, you know, surviving. But since it’s not the end of the world, why not have the kind of bread that you just want to tear into and eat with your eyes closed because it’s that good. Stock, on the other hand, is not better out of a can. I make damn good stock and I make it quickly and I make it without a fancy technique.

My first exposure to stock was probably Thanksgiving, when every year my mom would take the inside bits of the turkey and throw them in some lightly salted water to cook while the bird got ready. She would skim the fat then use the liquid in the stuffing. Her turkey stuffing, by the way, is amazing and I eat it with my eyes closed. I always have a moment with those first few bites of stuffing. Now I’m hungry. Okay, sorry for the digression, but I realized recently that she was basically making her own turkey stock for the day. When I started buying chicken directly from local farmers I started making my own chicken stock. It’s been about five years and I haven’t gone back to store-bought stocks.

I mostly used bones from roast chicken at first. Now, I make stock with whatever I have. A month ago my husband had a terrible stomach bug and I figured the best way to get his appetite and energy back was with some chicken stock. It was mid-week and I had no bone-in cuts of chicken on hand. Then I looked in the fridge again: a half-dozen chicken necks were hiding behind the last bars of liquid gold (breastmilk could back the currency of any country, in my opinion).

Let me tell you that chicken necks are my new favorite stock option. They have very little fat so your stock doesn’t require 20 minutes of skimming fat off the top, yet they do have some meat on them for excellent flavor. I make stocks with whatever I have on hand. That day I had onion, garlic, and bay leaves. I served Husbo the stock with nothing else.–it was all he had the energy to eat. It healed him. Alright, I exaggerate, but broth always does a body good. I didn’t even brown anything for this stock, I just put three necks into about 3 quarts of water, along with salt, whole peppercorns, smashed garlic, a bay leaf, and half an onion. I brought everything up to a boil, then covered the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer for 90 minutes. And I did pull the meat off the necks. Again, it wasn’t much meat, but it was enough for about four baby servings of chicken and lentils.

Last week I made a vegetable stock with carrots (the last couple sad ones of the bunch), three cremini mushrooms, a bay leaf, and the center of a celery bunch (lots of leaves). This time I did brown everything first in a spoonful olive oil before adding the water. The beauty of homemade stocks is that you control everything. And they’re cheap to make, so why pay for the packaging at the store?? And don’t thing it’s a strictly-housewife activity. I make stocks on weekends when I have a couple of hours at home. After they cool, I put them in freezer bags or ice cube trays if I don’t plan on using them that very week. Try it. You can’t mess up on this one. Bread, on the other hand, is very easy to mess up.

If you want professional/fancy stuff, Bon Appetit had a great chicken stock 101 recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/09/brown-chicken-stock

Martha offers a great basic vegetable stock recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/332810/homemade-vegetable-stock

Mothers

14 May

Image

Thanks, Mom.

Read this, not that : Mommy Wars edition

11 May

Just as I finally put words to how I’ve been feeling about the pressures of mommy perfection and the conflicts we all face in choosing how we raise our children, BAM! A struggling magazine ignites the mommy wars with heavy-handed headlines and provocative photographs. Well, I say don’t pay attention. Don’t give in and make the magazine’s attempt to stoke fires and create controversy successful. It only hurts us, the parents, and the parenting communities we need and appreciate.

Read this, instead: http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2012/05/10/its-time-to-stop-fighting-the-mommy-wars/ It’s a great opinion from Stroller Derby on the whole thing. Hat tip to Spanglish Baby for the link.

Conflicted over The Conflict

9 May

The mommy wars reignite every so often with a news article and it makes for great web traffic and ridiculous commentary. My problem with this occasional buzz is that it misrepresents the fact that moms do deal with these questions of parenting every day. The grocery store we visit is a parenting choice. So is where we live, what kind of detergent we buy, when to start feeding baby solid foods, and everything else in between is a potential conflict. Elisabeth Badinter’s book The Conflict posits that the central problem with modern motherhood puts the child above the mother. This Salon.com article was sent to me by a local mom group and it got me thinking about this. I see the various views on this issue because, like most things, it’s just not as cut and dry and the book suggests.

In this scary, scary world, mothers are the first line of defense for their children and this prompts mothers to be eco-friendly and do their best to provide a non-toxic and accident-proof environment. Hell, it starts during pregnancy for some women. Moms run around finding the right cloth diapers, sustainable wood furniture and toys, organic everything, and everything else that is certified as “awesome.” It’s tough to do that if you’re poor (this stuff tends to be more expensive) or have a full-time job outside the home (this stuff tends to be time consuming.) The gold standard of motherhood seems (in some circles) to involve breastfeeding forever and banishing all non-organic things from your life. I know that in my experience, the moms are definitely like that. The mommy list-serv I’m on fires away daily with discussions about breastfeeding toddlers, co-sleeping, cloth diapers, and vegan meals for baby-led weaning. But Badinter might be off the mark in thinking this is the norm. Reality and pragmatism crush ideals quickly so women who thought they might puree organic pears with love find themselves with store-bought food and disposable diapers because, honestly, there just isn’t enough time in the day. I’m just saying, these followers of what Badinter calls “ecological parenting” are a sect.

 

I also confess to being an organic-seeking home-pureeing crazy mom. Even before babies came into the picture I was a farmers market devotee and lover of organics. Yes, I buy my daughter organic cotton clothing when I can (when it’s on sale) and try to feed her as much local, homemade food as possible. It seems like every day there is a new study about our toxic food supply and its links to illnesses that plague our children. It’s scary. Our parents didn’t live in a world where your fresh vegetables poison your body or where your kids’ toys were toxic. Our parents also lacked a lot of the scientific research we now have available. It is incumbent upon me to take that information and do something about it. I would feel like a bad parent knowing that something was bad for my child yet still letting that bad element into my house. That’s the conflict I feel most. And that’s where Badinter needs to cut moms a break.

I probably won’t completely baby-proof my house, but I’m also not serving my kid sodas with high-fructose corn syrup or fast food burgers. It is our responsibility to keep our kids safe and set a good example. For me, that meant breastfeeding until my baby was 8 months old and eating organic farmers market food. Anyone can be extreme and I think Badinter is extreme in her argument against granola moms. Then again, I think granola moms are kind of extreme, too. The most important thing for moms is to reduce stress in their lives and different things cause stress in different people. I can’t wait until this mommy war crap stops.

When do we get to pit dads against dads?