Is It Spring?

Normally, I’m a red wine kind of gal, but National Margarita Day and unseasonably warm, spring-like weather has me craving cocktails and mixed drinks. I had set out to make a margarita one evening, but ended up making my favorite mojito instead. They are relatively low calorie and low carb. Not too much sugar and I use fresh ingredients. I have a weak spot for a well made mojito.

Muddle 1/4 lime wedges and 8 to 10 mint leaves in a glass.

Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of mint infused simple syrup,

1 to 1 and 1/2 shots of white rum and

a few dashes of Angostura Bitters (optional).

Fill glass 3/4 full with ice.

Top off with seltzer; then shake or stir well.

I’ve been experimenting with vanilla vodka. I bought some vanilla beans a few months ago to make my own vanilla extract and still have plenty leftover. I’ve been hearing a lot about vanilla vodka lately and thought I’d make my own. It’s the same method I use to make vanilla extract, only it takes a lot less vanilla and time. After a week to ten days it was ready for drinks, but two weeks later it was even better.

I have a long list of drinks I want to make with my vanilla vodka. I’m unsure about a few of them. I tried it with lightly sweetened tea. Not good. I rarely drink soda, but I have found a few small, local soda makers that use better ingredients. I mixed a shot of vanilla vodka with half a bottle of Uncle Scott’s Natural Root Beer (made in Mooresville, NC). Tasted like a root beer float and took me back to my first job at an ice cream shop in Eastland Mall. I also tried it with some old fashioned ginger ale (Blenheim, made in South Carolina, and Boylan made in NJ). Hello cream soda. Mmmmm… But because it’s so sugary, this drink is dessert. It’s a treat I won’t indulge in frequently.

Linsey had a request last week. She wanted barbecue and that was just fine with me. I couldn’t make it to the farmers market for our usual Grateful Growers pork shoulder, so I tried it with free range, organic chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s instead. I cooked it slow and low in lime juice, a little pomegranate juice, basil infused rum, garlic, salt and pepper. Then when it was fully cooked, I turned the heat up to let most of the liquid reduce down. The meat gets browned and caramelized and chewy on the outside. But after I used two forks to shred it, I knew it was too dry. Pork has lots more fat, and that’s why it makes such good barbecue. So I added several tablespoons of the pastured bacon lard, which I always have on hand and let it cook, low and covered for another fifteen minutes. The chicken was moist and tender, the way barbecue ought to be. It had a subtly different flavor which we all enjoyed. It was a nice change and a good experiment. I served it with roasted potatoes and cauliflower and my favorite sweet and sour slaw with fennel, onion, red peppers and cabbage.

Spring and warm weather makes me want to slow down. We’re not even into spring quite yet, and already I’m looking forward to long summer vacation days with no schedule to keep. The kids were out of school for two days a couple weeks ago. We spent one lazy evening making pasta, from scratch. Haleigh was bored and sulking because she’s grounded and couldn’t go with her sister and her father to run a few errands. Being a parent sucks sometimes. Even though the punishment was deserved, my heart hurt for her. So I let her roll out the pasta. I’ll admit that I didn’t think she’d have much success with this temperamental machine, but she cranked it out. She had fun. She got the hang of it quickly and had every right to be proud of that. And I was free to prepare the other ingredients. We enjoyed each others company. Cooking, talking and laughing with her in the kitchen like that was exactly how I envisioned it. There will be lots more meals prepared this way now that the girls are growing up.

This weekend time changes and the clocks spring forward. We’ll have another hour of sunlight in the evenings. It takes some getting used to. We’ll probably spend a lot of that time outdoors on sunny days, and we’ll inevitably lose track of time. I welcome those days.

Warm and Cozy Hot Chocolate

We have an icky bug floating around the house. It’s just a cold, but there are five of us. And when we have an icky bug, it can take weeks to run it’s course through our family. We still have a few sniffles, but we’re almost in the clear. The little one started it all. She missed school last Friday because of it. And of course they had something special planned that day. It breaks my heart when they’re sick. It’s worse when they miss an event they’ve been looking forward to all week because of it. This called for a little extra mommy lovin’.

So I had to re-create “warm and cozy day” at home. Especially since she was fighting a cold. We made hot chocolate from scratch. I haven’t bought that stuff in the packets in over a year.  We used to always have it around. So now when I make hot chocolate, it’s extra special.

While I prepared the hot chocolate, she picked a spot and arranged our picnic blanket and her stuffed “aminals”. She came to the kitchen several times. She’d grab my hand and lead me into the living room and ask “Is this okay?” They are unbelievably cute when they’re three.

The cookies were Trader Joe’s Highbrow Chocolate Chips. We don’t normally have this kind of thing in the house, but they were leftover from an event over the holidays. I was saving them for an emergency, and this seemed like the right time. The warm, creamy hot chocolate and those crispy cookies were perfect together. She forgot all about school.

“Uh oh. I had a little accident Mommy.” No problem. I worried that the all that chocolate would keep her from napping, but she slept soundly. The fever never came back after that. I doubt it had much to do with our warm and cozy hot chocolate, but who knows. I let her believe it was the cure.

Warm and Cozy Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • pinch of  sea salt
  • 2 ounces good quality dark chocolate (or 1 square)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil
  • splash of organic heavy cream or half and half (optional)
  • marshmallows are optional

Method:

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coconut oil and salt until dissolved.
  3. Stir in the chocolate until melted.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool slightly or add a splash of cold heavy cream or half and half, or a dollop of whipped cream. Throw in a few marshmallows if desired. Makes 2 servings.

I decided to add the coconut oil not just for a little more flavor, but to make it a little extra nourishing for my feverish lil’ pumpkin. And to strengthen my immune system, just in case I was next… I was.

Coconut oil has been used for centuries to treat illnesses.

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia. As a result of these various health benefits of coconut oil, though its exact mechanism of action was unknown, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system. (from organicfacts.net)

I also had some homemade almond flavored whipped cream leftover from the a few nights before. Whipped cream is ridiculously easy to make from scratch. A cup of organic heavy cream, a few tablespoons of confectioners sugar and some almond extract, all whipped together with a stand or handheld mixer on high speed until thick and creamy. You can substitute with whatever extract you prefer. Store bought whipped cream isn’t anywhere near this good.

I doubled the recipe so I’d have enough leftover for the other two when they came from school. Friday treat!!

Road Trip: Tampa, Legoland, Honeymoon Island and Savannah

I had this whole post typed up about the responsibility of meat eaters to know where their food comes from. Bla, bla, bla… Spent an hour writing it and linking lots of informative sites. Then realized it sounded a little preachy and a bit like vegan or PETA propaganda. I’m not vegan. I’m not a member of PETA. And I hate propaganda, so I deleted the entire thing. Instead I’ll just say this: You should watch this footage of a Butterball turkey plant located in my home state of North Carolina. And here’s the story from the Chicago Tribune that led me to it. Enough said. I’d rather post about our recent road trip to Tampa, Legoland, Honeymoon Island and Savannah.

We rarely travel during the winter, especially during the holidays. And when we did (many years ago) it was to go north to Pennsylvania to visit relatives there. It’s usually frigid and the last time there was a ton of snow on the ground. I love snow, but it’s bitter-sweet when it’s too cold to play outside. Beautiful to look at though.

But this time we traveled south to visit my sister in Tampa. We took the kids to Legoland (thanks Mom) and spent New Year’s Eve on the BEACH!! It was 78 degrees and my kids were in bathing suits and swimming in the gulf. It was kind of surreal to spend New Year’s Eve on a beautiful, warm beach. Aside from the strange, eerie fog that covered Honeymoon Island most of the day, it was wonderfully refreshing for my soul, not to mention all kinds of fun.. and relaxing.

Legoland just opened in October and it was crowded. All of the theme parks in Florida were crowded according to the news broadcast that morning. I’ve made the mistake of going to Disney during spring break and now I know that winter break is only slightly less crowded. But still we had plenty of fun. I had no idea that the Cypress Gardens were in the park and going in there was like warping into some kind of magical garden. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful – a stark contrast to what was going on outside the garden. Cypress Gardens was Florida’s first theme park back in 1936. (I wish I had visited it before it was part of Legoland.) The Banyan Tree was one of the oddest, most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. You could sense the quiet awe from those of us admiring the tree. Roots literally fall from the branches in search of soil. Mother nature never ceases to amaze me. This horrible cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice. I got a new DSLR camera, but didn’t want to lug it around all day. I realized that it was a big mistake as soon as I stepped foot in the gardens. You should see this tree in person, if you ever get the chance.

We left Tampa on New Year’s Day and headed for Savannah. I love this city. The history. The architecture. The natural beauty. Spanish Moss hanging from nearly every tree. The people. We’ve visited quite a few times, but this is a town you want to keep coming back to.  (And I took my camera everywhere this time.) We splurged a little and stayed at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in the middle of downtown so that we could walk out the door in the morning and start exploring. The hotel itself was beautiful and grand. The view from our balcony and the sound of church bells the next morning were breathtaking. (The biting cold and wind hadn’t arrived yet.)

We headed out in search of breakfast and bumped into to a local senior out walking his dog. He could tell we were looking for something and kindly offered to help. Apparently we were headed in the wrong direction if we wanted a good breakfast. He suggested Clary’s Cafe. The restaurant was established about a hundred years ago. The breakfast menu was amazing. I wish I had tried a bite of ‘someone’s pancake with the Georgia Cane Syrup, but I was just too full from my veggie omelette. Thank you to the gentleman that directed us there.

After breakfast we headed toward Forsyth Park. Beautiful. We were there for at least an hour and got some great photos.

Then we headed toward River Street to check out the shops. The wind began tunneling through the buildings.

Eventually we got to the cobblestone streets near River Street. The wind was downright painful by then and we ducked in and out of shops as quickly as we could and sought out sunny patches anytime we had to be outside for more than a minute. The Mad Hatter was a fun stop for the girls. They tried on some funky hats. I didn’t notice the sign restricting photos until my sister-in-law pointed it out, after I’d already taken a few. I’m glad I didn’t.

We visited an art gallery and I found some strikingly beautiful photographs taken at Bonaventure Cemetery. We also passed a couple of Savannah College of Art and Design student galleries that Haleigh (my budding artist) and I wanted to visit, but we were running out of time and the wind and cold was finally unbearable. Next time Haleigh. SCAD, the galleries and Bonaventure Cemetery will be our priority. Maybe our first mother-daughter trip.

Molasses Cookies, Royal Icing and Natural Food Coloring

The cookie jar is full.

No wonder we put on extra pounds every year during the holiday season. Last week it was apple cobbler, and this week it’s homemade gingerbread cookies. Sheesh! What is it about this time of year and homemade goodies? And I haven’t even gotten around to the dark chocolate peppermint bark and white chocolate coated popcorn yet. Maybe if we stop saving these homemade treats for the winter months and spread them throughout the year. Who says you can’t have peppermint bark in July? Why not make a couple of batches of cookies to share in the spring? I know the answer. Tradition. The girls and I look forward to cookie decorating during the holidays. We had hours of fun and there was no fighting and bickering for the duration. We all needed a break from the quarreling.

The cookies are Molasses Sugar Cookies and not gingerbread cookies, though I’m not sure what the difference is. The molasses cookies might be a little softer. But I found that if I cooked them a few minutes longer, they darkened and hardened a little. They were good either way, but the softer ones break easily. Click here for the cookie recipe. I used 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups of all purpose, and instead of shortening I used 3/4 cups of leaf lard and 3/4 cups of real butter. Next time I’ll use all butter just because it tastes better. Refrigerating the dough for hours is not necessary if you just use cold butter in stead of melting it as the recipe instructs. I do refrigerate between batches and recommend it if you are planning to roll it out and use cookie cutters. The first two batches were rolled into  balls and half of those were tossed in sugar.

I refrigerated the rest of the dough overnight and we finished up the following evening. No sugar coating was necessary since we were going to cover them in icing and candy.

London’s cute little cookies were covered in globs of icing and carefully placed pieces of candy. Yummy.

Haleigh, a budding artist, let her creativity fly. She’s a neat little artist.

Linsey, a budding perfectionist, wanted to make sure icing was evenly distributed on her cookies. I have to say though, that the icing is the glue that is keeping her cookies from crumbling to pieces in the cookie jar. This cookie’s head fell off, but the rest is still intact.

Let’s talk about the icing. Royal icing is considered the best type for decorating cookies because it dries and hardens quickly. Some recipes call for meringue powder, cream of tartar or powdered egg whites – things I don’t normally have on hand. How about you? Here’s my simple and easy recipe:

Easy Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or extract of whatever flavor you want to impart – lemon, peppermint, almond etc.)

Method:

  1. Beat egg whites in clean, large bowl or stand mixer at high speed until foamy.
  2. Gradually add sugar and lemon extract. Beat at high speed until thickened.

This made twice as much as we needed, so you might want to cut the recipe in half. Of course you can just use the white icing. Coloring isn’t really necessary since the candy is colored. We generally try to avoid artificial coloring. We did however have some artificially colored candy lying around so we used that, along with some mini-chocolate chips. But I don’t ever use or buy artificial food dyes. I attempted to try and color some of the icing naturally – purple, using juice from some frozen blue berries and pink, using juice from a large handful of pomegranate arils. (Who says Christmas cookies have to be red and green?) The results were not that great. I ended up with two shades of pale pink. Pretty, but not very vibrant. There are better ways, I know. But I was lazy.

And they were a little runnier, even though I added quite a bit more powdered sugar. My guess is that the acid from the fruit broke down the stiffness in the whipped egg whites.

Anyhoo, the girls loved the colors. My favorite are the ones with just chocolate chips. Chocolate chips and cookies belong together.

Simple, Seasonal Food

Carrots are in season. My kids like them raw mostly, but for dinner we like them roasted with just olive oil, salt and pepper. I roast most veggies at 450 degrees, but how long depends on the size. The carrots I get from the farmers market are small-ish, but still I split them in half so they cook even faster. I roasted these maybe… 20  minutes? I used to think that there was an exact science to using the oven. I wouldn’t dare use it without the instructions from a recipe telling me exactly what temperature and how long. I’m finally comfortable with guesstimating a temperature and cook time.  For most things, precision is not necessary. You can just tell when it’s done, or – use a thermometer. Not done yet? Okay. Back you go. Occasionally I wait too long. But usually overcooked or “charred” food is still edible and tasty… usually.

Carrots from the farmers market are never as uniform as the ones they sell in grocery stores.

Thank goodness, because I like a little fun in the kitchen. Put some clothes on those lady legs!

I split them in half, but kept the “legs” together for a little funny on my girls’ plates. They didn’t even notice.

Carrots and roasted chicken… mmm…. I got this sample seasoning packet from the farmers’ market at Atherton Mills. A Savory Spice Shop is opening in the shopping center next door and they were giving these away to spread the word. Good blend. Can’t wait to visit this spice shop. Roasted chicken was so simple. Rub olive oil or butter, salt and whatever seasoning you like on the chicken and roast it at 375 degrees until temp reaches 180 degrees . Unless you got yourself a pastured chicken like this one. They only need to get around 170 to 175 degrees. A four pound chicken takes around an hour and fifteen minutes. (A meat thermometer is inexpensive and doesn’t take up much space. Totally worth it, especially if you tend to to overcook things like I do (in fear of under cooking). I start taking it’s temperature after an hour. Here’s a tip I’ve picked up somewhere. Stick the thermometer between the breast and thigh so that you don’t actually puncture the meat and allow all those juices to escape. And make sure the thermometer doesn’t touch any bones or the bottom of the pan.)

Oh wow. This is the second time I’ve purchased a pastured chicken from Laughing Owl Farm. So moist and yummy.

Ever heard of Cushaw Pie? Not me. I found the cushaw at a pumpkin patch. I bought it mostly to decorate the front porch along with a few other uncommon varieties of winter squash.

The cushaw is the one that looks like a duck. It’s green and white, kind of like a watermelon.

But then thought I’d see if any of them were good for anything else, like eating. Turns out cushaws makes a good pie. It’s especially good with homemade whipped cream infused with nutmeg and orange zest. However, the pie crust was the best part. I used a basic recipe, but substituted 1/2 unrefined coconut oil and 1/2 butter instead of all butter or shortening (leaf lard works well, but I wanted to impart the flavor of coconut and butter). I also added a tablespoon of sugar and maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of  cinnamon. Simple as that.

I made heart shaped pumpkin pancakes for the girls on Friday. They were out of school for Veteran’s Day. I just added a couple extra tablespoons of flour, about a cup of pumpkin puree and some pumpkin pie spices to my usual pancake batter and cut the milk down just a little. If you’ve made pancakes a few times, you know the consistency. We ate them with a little real butter, 100% pure maple syrup and fresh apples. Simple enough.

I found this brand new heart-shaped pancake mold at my favorite thrift store for only $0.49! According to the tag, it came with a partner. Two would have been better for. sure. Double the pancakes in half the time. Took me like 30 minutes to make 6 pancakes! I sure do heart my girls…

Also found this cute cookie jar for a whopping $1.99. No cookies yet. The girls check every few days.

Sometime this week I’m going to surprise them and actually fill it with homemade cookies. I’m thinking I might even restart a fairly new family tradition: “Friday treats”. Just not every Friday. Last school year we did this and the girls really loved it. In fact so much that they actually drove me insane about it all. week. long. “What’cha makin’ this week? What? That’s not a good treat!? Why can’t you make blah, blah, blah? You didn’t have time to make our Friday treat!? Well then you owe us…” Wait, what?  So, no. Not every Friday.

Pomegranates and Smurphat Family Recipes

I bought two pomegranates a week ago. I looked at them nearly every day and asked myself, “When are you going to crack those things open? What exactly are you waiting for?” My kids asked the same sorts of questions. Truth is I haven’t bought one in years. When I was growing up, my mom would buy them. But she lovingly did all the hard work and all we had to do was pick off the arils. I’ve bought them a few times since then, but was always disappointed and never felt they were worth the trouble. The seeds inside were hard and difficult to chew, making the little burst of juice hardly worth the messy, cutting, peeling, prying, plucking and seed spitting. Now, why did I buy these again? Oh yeah. They are good for you and yummy (even if they are a lot of work). They are rich in vitamin C, B5, potassium and polyphenols (like tannins and flavonoids).

Finally, I decided to open this baby up. But first I had to consult YouTube. Not because it’s all that difficult, but because I figured there was a trick to it and YouTube is my favorite site for how-to demonstrations. I found two ways to do it. Since I had two of them, I tried both ways. Yeah. I’m a nerd like that. The first method involves cutting the thing into manageable pieces then working the arils out by hand in a bowl of water. The peel and membrane floated to the top and the kernels sank to the bottom. Of course when you cut the thing open, just know that it has the potential to look like a scene from some gory horror flick. The juices splatter. In fact, I didn’t even notice they had splattered all the way up the wall and under my cabinets. Also found some on the the paper towel roll the next day. And on the canisters. And toaster. Meh… I prefer the second way, which involves “scalping” the top to reveal the sections and then slicing through the skin and prying the sections apart. It was definitely less messy. And the spoon tapping to release the arils worked okay. Though it didn’t really knock them off, the arils were loosened and easy to pry off after the spoon smacking. (I know, I know. I’m a food nerd.)

As it turns out, the seeds aren’t as bad as I remember. I wasn’t going to mention the seed spitting option to the kids unless they had a problem with it. I didn’t have to. The seeds didn’t bother them. One of them even liked the crunch. Huh. Me too. Go figure. And eating the pomegranate with the seeds is better for you. They contain healthy oils, micronutrients and fiber. Pomegranates are high in sugar. In fact, most of it’s calories come from this sugar. But the fiber helps keep blood sugar levels from spiking by slowing the breakdown of sugar in the body.

They make a great healthy snack all by themselves (I ate quite a few while writing this post), but they were also great on our salads last night:

Speaking of salads, this Sweet and Sour Slaw is what led me to the collection of Smurphat family recipes. Of course the recipe is good as is, but you know me – I added fennel, apples and carrots to give it my seasonal, nutrient dense twist.

The slaw recipe is my mother’s. I had misplaced my handwritten recipe and after searching everywhere, I suddenly remembered that she had submitted the recipe for the Smurphat Family Recipes. No she is not technically a Smurphat (that would be my late grandmother on my Dad’s side), and this recipe actually comes from my childhood neighbor. The recipes were gathered at a family reunion and the “Sweet and Sour Slaw” recipe was my mother’s contribution.  So I dug around and found the family recipe book in a closet upstairs. (Upstairs!?)

Even before I’d found this cookbook, I had been thinking a lot about family recipes. Since I’m cooking more traditionally now, I am always in search of old recipes. I love how naturally good for you they are and I’m fascinated that science is now proving that these tried and true methods and ingredients (a.k.a. slow food) are more beneficial to our health than we realized. Good, simple, unprocessed ingredients, food preparations and cooking methods that have been fine-tuned over centuries and handed down for generations – the culture, the tradition. I’ve been wondering how and what recipes I want to pass on to my daughters. And as I was preparing the slaw, I began thinking about my grandmother. She passed away a few months ago. I wondered which recipes she had contributed. So after dinner I finished my glass of Syrah while perusing family recipes.

As it turns out, quite a few of these recipes called for processed food ingredients like cream of mushroom soup and rolls of refrigerated dough, marshmallow creme, shortening and margarine. I was a little disappointed that these recipes weren’t very traditional, and in fact seem to come from the 50’s era of condensed soup and prepackaged convenience foods.

There were a few gems though. Even some traditional Italian and German Recipes. My grandmother’s recipe for “Number 1 Perfect Apple Cobbler” was included and it just so happens that apples are in season. In fact, Saturday is the last day for apples at my favorite farmers market. Other than the “oleo” (margarine) that she calls for, the rest of the ingredients are pretty traditional. I’m excited to try it.

All this has me wanting to put together a collection of family recipes that use traditional ingredients and methods. You’ll probably be hearing more about this and more about traditional recipes and methods in future posts. I’d love to hear about your family food culture, traditions and recipes. Please feel free to comment below.

Play with Your Food.

You probably already know I love food, but cooking from scratch… is like playing with my food. When I was a kid I loved to get in the kitchen and play. Most everyone I know (including my kids) loved it too. I remember coating a spoonful of peanut butter in crumbled Oreos as a kid and thinking it was the best creation – ever! While the combination of Oreos and peanut butter still sounds pretty tasty, I can’t imagine eating that now. When you’re a kid, you’re limited to what your parents have stocked in the kitchen and to what appliances you are capable or allowed to use.  As adults, we don’t have these limits.

And here’s the icing on the cake. You learn so much when you cook from scratch. If you’ve always eaten something out of box you may not even know what’s in it or what cooking methods are used to make it. And believe me – you can find a recipe for nearly everything you can buy in a box or bag. Brownies are so easy to make from scratch, yet I never even bothered to look at a recipe until about a year ago. There are only a few ingredients, most of which anyone would already have in their pantry. I’ll never buy boxed brownies again. You’d be surprised how quickly you learn the basics of cooking when you start cooking from scratch. It’s often cheaper to buy the ingredients than it is to buy it prepackaged, and it’s better for you. It does take a little longer than opening a box, but that’s the best part. Really! When food is too easy to prepare (or already prepared), you tend to eat it more often and over indulge. When you slow down and take the time to make it yourself, you really learn to appreciate food. You eat slowly and savor every bite. You eat less and you get to control the quantity and the quality of the ingredients (and eliminate additives, preservatives and excess sugar). Cooking from scratch is gratifying and you might even lose a few pounds – effortlessly.

If the kitchen is my play ground, then the markets are my toy stores. I used to hate going food shopping. Now that the blinders are off, I find new things all the time. Sometimes I take them home to learn more. My favorite places to shop are off the beaten path – farmers markets, specialty markets and less common markets where you find things you’ve never seen before. I’ve learned what eating seasonal and local means and I’m so inspired by it.

Growing your own food seems like a quintessential part of life. Nurturing a plant and then (hopefully) eating the fruits of your labor restores a connection to food that has been lost in America. I’m still amazed at how disconnected this nation is to food. I recently walked through a small greenhouse display and the woman ahead of me was surprised to see how bell peppers grew. I don’t presume to know how everything grows, but I know how most of what I eat grows and I am curious about the rest. And I’m not suggesting we should all know where everything we eat comes from (or am I?).

Bell Peppers

Asparagus

Broccoli

Artichokes

Pineapple

Coffee is made from the roasted seed inside this berry.

Cacao Tree - Chocolate is made from the beans found inside these pods.

And playing with food is more fun when you do it with friends, family – even strangers. Involve them as often as possible. Nothing is more enjoyable than sharing a good time and good food with other people. This summer I plan to let the kids get in on the fun a little more. It’s not like they have anything better to do. Even London (3 years old)  can help.  Our schedule will be more relaxed which means meal times will be less hurried. They can help in the garden, the kitchen and with shopping, and we’ll learn even more together. Maybe by the end of summer, they’ll be able to help with dinner every night. Hell, maybe they’ll be able to cook an entire meal themselves! I’ll just sit back and have a glass of wine while they do it all. That would be nice. And fun for them I think.