Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not dead, just sleeping

This blog has gone dormant for the time being. Who knows, maybe it'll wake up some day. Or maybe it'll pretend to be a princess and sleep for 100 years...knowing our household allergy to princesses it probably won't be the latter. But for now it's going to enjoy its snooze.

If you really, really miss me (ha!) I'm still updating the Picky Eater Chronicles (as I make progress which, I tell you, is sloooooow) and my books read list (since I have no memory, I have to use it pretty frequently to check and see if I've already read a book.)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Easing two picky eaters toward some degree of normalcy

I've got a new mission and I am finally determined to pursue it.

I am going to ease my two picky kids toward some degree of normalcy in the food realm.

I've joked for years that their pickiness is my punishment for being overly fixated on food. I've attempted to face this down in bursts but then would fall back to old patterns. I've had massive temper tantrums in the kitchen and at the dining room table when they defeat me with their stubbornness. (I always thought no one was more stubborn than me. Turns out that they not only inherited it from me but have amplified it with their own distinct and strong personalities.)

Why do I think I might have a chance this time when they have defeated me in past attempt? Well, they are getting older (9 and 11). And that means that they are getting (a little) more logical. And recently they have shown small signs of adaptation: they both tried salsa when they were at a Mexican restaurant. They both will eat a little plain lettuce (we started with iceberg, that gateway-lettuce, but now they'll eat romaine and Boston and green leaf, too.) And there are a couple of other individual specific reasons too:

The boy like to travel. Loves it, in fact. I bluntly stated to him that there are places in the world which I won't take him until he starts eating more foods because I don't plan to go to, say, Spain, and have his eating habits be a restriction on our movements. [Not that I have the $ to take him to Spain--he doesn't need to know this. And much as I'd love to, a trip to Thailand or India or China isn't in the works for any of us, so we're talking about mainly different European and Latin American types of dishes.]  I described to him some of the cool places I've been and then told him that while what they regularly eat may be unfamiliar, it is something that a person with a flexible attitude can adapt to. This seemed to get through to him.

The girl likes people. And I told her if you want to spend time with people and not annoy the crap out of them, you need to eat what is available. Friends aren't going to invite you to stay to dinner if you won't try what is on offer. It doesn't mean you have to love it. It doesn't mean you have to eat a lot of it. But it does mean that you can't get distressed when it is something unfamiliar and that you need to broaden your repertoire of "safe" foods so that there is a likelihood that you will encounter at least one of them.

Things I'm willing to do:

  1. Keep it mild. I love spicy food and don't plan on giving it up, but I can make spicy sauces on the side or add spice at the end after serving them.
  2. Make a good amount of the new stuff side-dishes so they don't have to freak out at everything on their plates. Since I've recently gone low-meat, and they are decidedly pro-meat this isn't too hard. I don't mind making a turkey burger or plain chicken breast for them so long as the big pile of roasted fennel, sweet potatoes and carrots and potatoes that I make for my own main dish is a small-portion side dish to them.
  3. Add the unfamiliar to the familiar. Like putting a small amount of salsa and sour cream on their quesidillas and expecting them to tolerate its appearance.

I am going to try and document things that worked both to share with other people who may be in the same predicament as I'm in* and to keep track and use as a crutch for my lousy memory. Since this only appeals to a small subset of those of you who still actually read this blog, I've decided to segregate the posts here:

If you are faced with a picky eater of your own, I hope you'll join me and make this a group effort to ease the picky eaters of the world toward a place where they don't drive the rest of us bat-shit crazy.

*I realize that when you've met one picky eater you've met...one picky eater and we all have different definitions of picky. I actually heard one parent describe her child as picky when he wouldn't eat kohlrabi. Ha!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a little link love

I'm loving pinterest as a way to store on-line recipes that I want to try. I've been pulling up my recipe board and getting inspired to make some new stuff like this soup, this chickpea curry dish (both of which are fantastic recipes) and this kale quinoa crustless quiche (which is tasty and easy, though not exactly mind blowing). The only problem is I also have to keep a file or bookmark for recipes that I find that don't contain a photo.

Our house addition construction continues (siding and windows in as of this week!) and pinterest is also good for saving images of possible bathroom tiles.

On Monday I received a restock of my favorite tea: Ceylon Fancy Silver Tips from Tea Trekker. It came on the perfect day (kids' first day back at school and all of us stumbling around in the afternoon from the early start). They haven't had this particular Ceylon in stock for about 6 months so I ordered kind of a lot of it...

I'm not the biggest non-fiction reader but have been totally sucked in and consumed by The Beauty and the Sorrow. It's an amazing book with a chilling ending.

And for Christmas we finally succumbed to the wishes of the small people and got an Xbox and I think it is...really pretty fun. I thought I'd hate the thing and then I found myself playing Rayman Origins with my kid for two hours. The Kinect is also pretty cool though it'll be better when we have a bigger living room.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


I don't really go in for formal resolutions, but I do like to start the year thinking about what I'd like to accomplish, particularly if it differs from a previous pattern.

1. Get over any lingering fear of the power tools.  When we built the fort in the back yard for the kids I discovered that the compound miter saw is actually pretty easy to use and doesn't give me visions of severed limbs. It has been a while since I dealt with anything more intense than a power sander but with all the finishing of our addition that we'll be doing this coming year, I want to get over my sissy side. Don't make me touch the circular saw or a chain saw, though. I think you have to be bat-shit crazy to touch one of those and come away with all your appendages.

2. Keep the low-meat trend in cooking.  I started eating very little meat around October and what do you know, I feel a lot better. More energy, less sluggish. And it doesn't hurt that I lost about five pounds with almost no effort at all. I didn't eat a lot of meat before October, but I was often a little lazy and ate it even when I didn't really want it because it was there. Lately I've been making regular meaty meals for the other three family members and either piling my plate with sides and salad, adding the meat at the end of a dish and keeping it out of my portion, or doing a tofu version. Much to my surprise, Brian volunteered to join me in low-meat eating (yes, the man who has a "wall of meat" display at work is game to cut down). Of course, he eats out a lot more than I do, so if he's craving meat then he can have it at lunch or when he meets up with guy-friends. And I'm not planning on becoming strict in any sense. I still love lamb, expect that I will want a burger a couple of times a year and know that a little bacon can sometimes make a big impact. But if I am eating meat, it's going to be a conscious decision rather than a lazy default.

2.5. In order to be successful with 2, I'm going to try and cook up at least one pot of dried beans every week. I know this doesn't sound too hard, but it's the planning part that I fail at with dried beans (and I don't own a pressure cooker). I have an unnatural loathing of canned beans (just too mushy...and I hate the smell when the can is first opened) but really love pretty much any bean when cooked from their dried state. Also, I discovered that cooked dried beans can be drained, packed in freezer bags and frozen then used like canned one (but without the mush). But that only works if you remember to make the damn beans in the first place.

3. Finish knitting the frigging sweater I started over a year ago. Preferably before it has become swelteringly hot.

4. Finish the current draft of the book before the kids get out of school for the summer. Feels do-able now, but who knows what writer's blocks will come with deep winter! And once the wonderful builder we hired to get the addition to drywall stage is done, then a good chunk of my time will be spent tileing, laying hardwood floors, painting, etc. etc. So I need to give myself a good push once the kids head back to school on January 9, despite the urge to hibernate.

5. Once that draft is done, share it. That's a really scary proposition and will force me to embrace #6.

6. Be more daring. Ask questions even if you think you'll look stupid rather than save up the thought and research it when you are by yourself (the coward's version of knowledge acquisition). Realize that if, when you share your book, the people you share it with think it is crap, that you can handle it.

7. This may sound contrary to the previous intention, but back off and don't push sometimes. Quiet the voice of nagging that comes way too easily and try to put myself in other people's places. Cultivate kindness toward people who bug me (This doesn't mean I'm going to seek them out, but when in their presence, try to be gracious and tolerant. This may be extra difficult in an election year...)

That's all I can think of for now. Seems like a decent enough mindset with which to start the new year.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Vegetarian Hoppin' John

I don't have a southern bone in my body, but I do like the tradition (and taste) of eating hoppin' john on New Year's Day.  I've always had it with ham or bacon (or both) but I've been cutting back on meat so I thought I'd do a little improvisation. I put in a little smoked paprika to give some depth to the flavor. I also remembered that a restaurant I really like down in Lexington (Alfafa's) tops their vegetarian hoppin' john with sharp white cheddar cheese so I crumbled up a bit I had in the fridge, too.

It turned out really well--I'm thinking that I might make another batch and freeze individual portions because nuking a bowl of it would make for a fast, tasty and healthy lunch.

Vegetarian Hoppin' John

1 C dried black-eyed peas or yellow-eyed beans*
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 t dried thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1 C rice
1 small red pepper, diced
2 C vegetable broth
2-3 scallions, chopped
1/2 C sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded or crumbled
hot sauce

Cook your peas or beans. Either soak overnight in water, change the water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender, or do a fast soak (pour over boiling water and wait an hour before proceeding). If you think of it, chuck a couple of extra garlic cloves into the cooking water. Drain off all but about a cup of cooking liquid.

In a medium pot, heat the oil and add the onion. After about a minute, add the garlic, celery, thyme and smoked paprika. Saute for a couple of more minutes to soften. Add the rice and give it a good stir to coat the grains in oil.  Then add the red pepper, peas/beans and cooking liquid, and veg broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then slap on a lid, turn on low and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Give the pot a good stir, then dish it out. Top each portion with some chopped scallions and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese. Let people add their own hot sauce.

* I hear that you can also make this without the pesky soaking/cooking beans step by using frozen black-eyed peas, in which you just chuck them in with a little extra water or broth with the rice. I've never tried it though since I have enough dried beans in the house to last us through an apocalypse in relative beany comfort.