Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Aspiring Chef Ollie!

Just in the past two days Oliver has discovered that he can open the compartment underneath the stove where the random ugly back-up pans are stored. You can see from the picture the atrocious foil container that I have under my oven! I don't think I would dream of using it anymore for actual cooking, but I'm pleased to see it revived in a new role as a BED (Baby Entertainment Device). Other prominent BEDs include the small metal bowl, a plastic measuring cup, and my digital thermometer lid -- all favorites of Mr. Popper. Oliver was first attracted to the shiny metal handle of the oven under-compartment (is there a name for this?) while exploring the kitchen, as he loves shiny metal things of all kinds! After a few tries he got it open and proceeded to take everything out and make as much noise as possible banging on the metal racks down there. Of course I would never let him do this when the oven was turned on, but his little efforts at making music in the kitchen are very welcome while I'm cooking my lunch!

Garbage in the freezer?!

Speaking of freezers, ours is nice and empty at the moment as I returned about a month's worth of (frozen) compost to the Lower East Side Ecology Center drop-off at the Greenmarket on Saturday. We had a big canvas Whole Foods bag filled with things like egg shells, vegetable peelings, etc., all frozen. (I keep all my kitchen scraps in the freezer so there is no rotting and unpleasant odor.) It's very cleansing to dispose of waste in general I guess, but doing it with no accompanying landfill guilt is even better! It always feels SO good to know all this organic matter will be turned into soil for NYC gardens and window boxes.

You will probably be hearing more about compost from me than you really want to over the course of this blog. It's one of my favorite ways of being a little more eco-conscious, and incredibly easy to do, even for us city-dwellers with no backyards or compost bins of our own!

Planning ahead

I just referred to this week's menu, which is posted on the refrigerator, to find out if I need to prepare anything for tomorrow's meals. I am planning brown rice and baby bok choy stir-fry for dinner tomorrow night, with tamari (soy sauce), sesame oil, and about 1/3 lb. of wild Alaskan salmon (yes, shared between two people with good appetites! this is one of our ways of spreading our food dollars a little further). This meal requires defrosting the salmon, obviously, but perhaps more importantly, soaking the rice! Again, this is to neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are naturally present in most whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Soaking and sprouting are two great ways to fix these pesky problems. Like the oatmeal, I soak my brown rice (the short grain variety, which has a nicer taste and texture for Asian dishes) with the same amount of warm water and 2 tbsp. of whey per cup of rice.

Here is my bowl of 2 cups brown rice, 2 cups water, and 4 tbsp. whey. Not much to see really. It's best to let your grains soak at least a full day, or even longer. [Not long ago I made a fantastic stuffed butternut squash dish that incorporated quinoa and lots of veggies. I put the quinoa on to soak a bit too soon and it was in the water and whey for five days! Smelled a little odd, but I rinsed and cooked it and it tasted absolutely DELICIOUS. I have never been a quinoa fan as it has always tasted funny to me, but now I know how to make it taste better! The extended soaking definitely did the trick.]

Other recent preparations for future meals includes: saving all remnants of our turkey meals (bones, skin - everything that was not consumed) for making soup later in the week. I like to pop everything into a ziploc bag or plastic container and stick it in the freezer until I'm ready to use it, just so I don't have to worry about spoiling. This makes for easy and delicious homemade stock!

Scallops & Shallots

I enjoyed a delicious lunch today (warning: stop reading right now if you're currently feeling hungry!). As usual I spent about an hour in all between preparation, eating, and clean-up. Oliver enjoyed playing on the kitchen floor while I worked.

I have been making a concerted effort to eat more seafood -- a current favorite is wild sea scallops (the big ones), cooked until slightly brown and caramelized in a pan coated with melted butter and plenty of fresh lemon juice. I add a little sea salt, too, of course, and cook on both sides, only for a few minutes. Also enjoyed some whole wheat spaghetti (a special treat as I try to eat pasta only occasionally), tossed with shallots sauteed in olive oil -- yum! Steamed carrots with butter rounded out this meal. The scallops and shallots were from the Union Square Greenmarket. These particular scallops were some of the best I have EVER tasted. Not too shabby for a Monday lunch!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sleeping cheeks

Oliver and I enjoyed a restful nap together this afternoon, according to our custom. He got a head start on me after nursing, though; I was too busy taking pictures of him to settle down right away. :)

You know what they say: let sleeping cheeks lie! Okay, that's my silly comment of the day.

Baby Food Extravaganza

Here Oliver is enjoying some mashed d'Anjou pears with raw milk yogurt this morning. He seems to forget he likes them at first, then gradually becomes accustomed. At this point he can eat about 1/8th of a pear -- an incredibly tiny amount! I core and peel the sliver of pear of course, then mash it in a little bowl with a baby spoonful of yogurt. The rest of the pear waits in the fridge for following days.

Today has been a day of many foods for the Popper: he started with 3 oz. of raw milk mixed with 1/2 tsp. high-vitamin cod liver oil (from Radiant Life) in his little bottle. I like to give him this while I'm preparing my breakfast - he can hold the bottle on his own and is quite content, despite the fishy taste, which never ceases to amaze me (I still have to take mine while holding my breath). Later he had the pears, and then he filched some of my carrots at lunch time (mashed of course). Dark orange veggies seem to be a big favorite of his - he opens his mouth wide for sweet potatoes and carrots (always mixed with butter, of course, so that he can absorb all the vitamins). This evening he had his first "square" meal: pureed turkey from last night with mashed potatoes and carrots - all mixed together into an enticing orange-ish...mush I guess, is the only way to describe it really. Hugo put the remaining blended food into an ice cube tray for freezing (covered with plastic wrap). Other parents claim it is easy as pie to defrost one cube for dinner any time! We will see how that goes.

To top it all off he tried some lacto-fermented sauerkraut, which I was enjoying before dinner (because it's tasty and to guarantee good digestion). I was shocked that he actually seemed to really like this! He even seemed to eat it with some relish - after making lots of dubious faces first of course.

Time for Monday breakfast!

I've done a few hours of work (starting at 6:30 today), and now Oliver is awake and fed, so it's time for my daily oatmeal. This has been soaking all night to neutralize the phytic acid in the oats; phytic acid is found in all whole grains and will actually pull nutrients out of your body, which is why soaking is a wise practice. Here's how I do it:
  • put one cup Scottish oatmeal in a bowl (this is enough for 3 breakfasts)
  • add 2 tbsp. whey (you can also use yogurt, vinegar, or lemon juice)
  • mix in 1 cup warm-ish water
  • cover with plastic wrap and let sit at least 12 hours or overnight

In the morning it cooks quickly, tastes delicious, and provides a wonderful array of easily-absorbed nutrients! Best of all, it also gives you lots of energy. I have a fast metabolism so I usually need to eat often (and have a tendency to hypoglycemia), but oatmeal sticks with me at least 4 hours and I feel great that whole time. I cook my oatmeal with plenty of raw butter, raw milk (or water), and usually raw honey, organic shredded coconut (unsweetened), some golden ground flaxseed, and sometimes walnuts. I like to serve it with additional butter and raw yogurt, or lots of raw milk. This is especially great for breastfeeding, as it provides lots of nutrition in the form of complex carbs, excellent fats, and plenty of protein and fiber!

Reflections on Sunday dinner

Hugo and I are tired this morning as Oliver was kicking us most of the night. Plus my stomach was a bit gurgly all night -- I think my dinner affected both Ollie and me, thus the kicking (ugh). We had rosemary turkey drumsticks from the Union Square Greenmarket (DePaolo Farms), and organic mashed potatoes, and the garlic string beans which were delicious! Everything was good in fact, but I forgot to enlist the digestive help of some lacto-fermented foods which means I didn't digest my turkey well (I am blood type A, so have less hydrochloric acid in my stomach for digesting meats). [Note: last week I had some turkey at my friend Sharon's house, after which I went home and enjoyed a night of great sleep, complete with peaceful dreams. HOWEVER, I had also consumed a fair amount of goat-milk kefir and a plate of kim chee -- they do wonders for the digestion! Sharon says she is always sure to eat some enzyme-rich foods like these with meat. I will be picking up some of my own kim chee and kefir from a local farmer this Thursday through the buyers' club we belong to.

Back to the turkey. This was a BIG meal - I could only eat about half of my drumstick. However, Hugo (a former vegetarian of more than 15 years) ate everything and was actually full for once. Usually after he finishes he asks me what else there is to eat, and I have gotten pretty tired of hearing this question. I figured it was time to start serving bigger meals. This did the trick!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How have you bean?

Okay, so that's a pretty silly title, but I couldn't resist.

Oliver is 7.5 months old now and becoming ever more (ahem) helpful in the kitchen. Today he helped me prepare string beans for two of my favorite dishes that Hugo and I will enjoy this week: garlicky sauteed string beans and beans with Dijon dressing. Granted these crunchy delicious beans are totally out of season, but I had a hankering. After a long winter of root veggies, winter squash, and dark leafy greens I just thought string beans would be a great treat! Oliver thinks so, too. He's having a good nosh on one here.

The Healthy Family Chronicles begin!

This marks the start of the Healthy Family Chronicles, and I am quite excited! Readers will be privy to all sorts of details about our little family life, from how we're raising our beautiful baby (Oliver, aka the Popper) here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to what we eat, day in and day out. (Considering I almost called this blog the Lard & Chard you can expect some pretty weird posts to come.)

The main focus of this blog will be food, and how what we're eating every day is affecting our family, our mood, our health, and our budget. I am convinced that healthy food can --and should!-- be totally delicious, and produced and prepared in a way that is friendly to the local economy and environment. I hope you will decide to share in our journey; I promise lots of recipes, tips, funny stories, and details you probably didn't want to know. So keep reading to find out what's for lunch!