Tag Archives: food

Kitchen Makeover

Packed up kitchen

Kitchen packed up

Our house was built in 1970 and the cabinets are original. It appears this has been a well-loved kitchen, so the cabinets, which are all pressboard, took a beating. Should we have noticed when we bought the house? Probably, but that’s another story all together. Once we moved in, we saw that the cabinets were, well, gross: water stained and warped, with some parts of the cabinets with rot. (The basic house, however, is great and the neighborhood is fabulous.)

Nasty cabinet doors

Doesn’t even shut

Fast forward three years and we are getting a new kitchen. Some of it was inertia on our part; the other was getting someone to call us back. After giving up on the first guy (who went to my high school), we went with the husband of someone I work with. They are both people who also went to my high school. Hey, it’s a small town.

We got a quote, gulped, said OK and we were off and running. Goodbye to the cabinets, the broken dishwasher, the old microwave, the floors and paint color. Keeping the fridge and the range. We’re also keeping the counters (engineered stone) and the sink. He says 2-3 days. I’m thinking 4-5. Husband is thinking a couple of weeks. I hope I’m right.

So, here’s a log of how it went.

Emptying the Kitchen

Day 1: Rough holiday weekend for me. I got a rash, with welts and itching, starting on July 4, right after I finished an antibiotic. Finally, after everyone encouraged me to see urgent care to get a cortisone shot, I broke down and went. Sat around for an hour and finally got in, only to have a two minute consultation with a doctor who declared it couldn’t possibly be that, because I took one more dose after the symptoms started, so if I had a reaction to the drug, I would have ended up in the hospital. Of course, by the time I get in, the Benadryl is really attacking this stuff and I have little rash to show. He patted me on the head and sent me on my way and I burst into tears in the car from frustration. Once I calmed down, I went to get the farm share from the folks that are splitting it with me this year and ended up talking to them for an hour. Great people.

What does this have to do with the kitchen? Well, my husband didn’t exactly know where I was and so he got going on what he thought needed to be done. We frequently attack problems from different angles, so when I got home, he was 1) irritated that he didn’t know where I was and 2) fixated on getting the kitchen packed up ASAP. He is going to miss all the fun, since he has to travel. I’m jealous as I’m stuck here having to work around all this, but he’d rather be here supervising. In the end, there were two goals going on here. My goal was to use up the farm share while I still had a kitchen and then pack and his goal was to pack up the kitchen so he could focus on getting out of town.

Finally, we got to a point where I got cooking done and managed to serve a dinner and half the kitchen was packed up. The pantry stuff is in the extra room in the basement area, behind a closed door to keep the cats out. And, there’s other stuff in the rec room space.

Packing up the kitchen

Packing up the kitchen

Day 2: I go to church and when I get home, we finally get it all out in the open and come up with a plan of attack. A bunch of stuff lands in front of the fireplace in the living room. More stuff in the rec room.

The food in the fridge gets put in the beer fridge in the garage. (A gift from the sellers, who I guess got a new fridge and didn’t want to move the old one.) We push the dining room table against the wall (or as close to the wall as possible) and put the food we will use in the interim on one side of the table. The microwave cart gets put next to that and the toaster oven is on top of the microwave. “Don’t run them at the same time,” I’m told. At least we have a plan and it works. The house is still usable, except we will soon have no kitchen.

I finish up food preparation. I have cut up salad ingredients I will take to work along with some wraps and hummus. I also have prepackaged oatmeal, so I can also eat breakfast at work. I have a frittata and leftover broccoli pasta in the fridge downstairs. Still left from the farm share are potatoes and turnips, which will keep, and cabbage and a tomato. I might give those away. Once the frittata and pasta are gone, we’ll eat peanut butter sandwiches or go out. Or get sushi from Publix. And, we will pray this really doesn’t last more than 4 days.

The Contractor Takes Over

 

 

Confused Blaze cat

Confused Blaze cat

Day 3: Husband takes off for his business trip bright and early. I finally wake up and finish up a few things: I pack the dishes that were in the dishwasher and put those in the living room. I also go ahead and move everything breakable off the shelf near the front door. OK, we can do this. 

Patrick is great. He gets there a little early, ready to dig in. We’re ready for that too. More proof this is a small town: I take the kid to summer drama camp and a minivan pulls up with Patrick’s wife inside. She says “are you ready to eat out for two weeks?” Huh? Is it two-three days or two weeks? Help!

I head home for lunch and get my answer: we’ll be functional again after Thursday, but there will still be some work going on for a week after that. And, the kitchen is ripped out. The underfloor and walls are in GOOD SHAPE! OK, the valves are leaky, but Patrick is going to fix that. I take a bunch of pictures and forward them to my husband, who is relieved to get an overload of news.

The kid and I go to our workouts, head home and eat some frittata. There’s plenty left, so we have more for dinner tomorrow.

Barren kitchen

Barren!

Day 4: a little instant coffee from Starbucks, which isn’t that bad! I then made my oatmeal at work, so I’d be able to wash out the bowl. So far, so good. Oh wait a sec, turns out the kid slept on the couch due to the dripping from the ceiling in her room. Crap. We’ve had some rain in SC. OK, we’ve had a LOT of rain. The lake has gone from extremely under full pool to overflowing within a year. However, my fabulous editor has a roof guy, which I call and within six hours, the dude has patched the roof, punctured by a high falling limb, and they’ve even swept off all the leaves, for $175. He says “sometimes you have to look for it, but this one was easy.” He shows me a picture of a big limb stuck in my roof. I write him a check before he charges me more.

Between running the kid to her various activities and dealing with the roof, I work late and we end up getting Publix sushi. We’ll dig more food out of the fridge tomorrow.

I never see Patrick, but I see evidence he’s been here. Stuff is gone and there’s a new subfloor. And, the walls are different. Tomorrow, I bet I see paint and maybe even cabinets, if we’re on track.

New cabinets

New cabinets

Day 5: Patrick does show up early and I get to talk to him. He scheduled the cabinets to come in today, so paint will have to wait a little longer. His goal is to get the kitchen semi-funtional ASAP. We run by the house at lunch and sure enough, there are cabinets in progress. Oh boy do they look good. When we get home, all they need are countertops. Still lots to do: the ceiling, the floor, the paint. All the appliances, too. We aren’t done yet.

We eat the rest of the food I made that is in the fridge. Tomorrow, I need to visit my dad. He’s been in the hospital and it’s time for a visit.

Day 6: I’m beginning to think if anyone has to deal without a kitchen, it’s me and Bella. Tonight, we pass on the Chinese food and she eats PBB (peanut butter and banana) and I eat oatmeal. (Wait, why am I spending so much on a new kitchen if I can live off oatmeal and peanut butter? Remind me.)

Disposal button

Disposal button

I again get to see Patrick and he’s bought a nice little button device to go into the countertop, which means I can now run the disposal without having to open the bottom cabinet and flip a scary looking switch. I mean, I suppose that was good for my hamstrings, but I can’t think of much else that worked about that arrangement. This button will make things easier AND I didn’t even know such a thing existed. The ceiling has been scraped and the walls are prepped. He still needs to paint, which I think he’s doing after the cabinets just because that schedule worked for the cabinet and countertop guy? Whatever. He seems to know what he’s doing so I’m trusting him. All I know is I’ll have a sink back tomorrow. How exciting! Next week, we’ll work on the other pieces: the floor, the appliances. The whole thing is done and finished in less than two weeks.

Weekend Work

Counters and cabinets

Counters and cabinets

Day 7,8 and 9: so busy with the kitchen, I forgot to blog. Friday, I came home to find a sink hooked up! Hooray! Still, we are lazy and I eat a salad with hummus and she has oatmeal. A long week at work, with Dad in the hospital (he’s doing OK now) and the kid had a short week and I had a job that required a lot of attention (which is all I will say about that.) I spend part of Friday searching pantry ideas on Pinterest. We’re on our own for the pantry and there’s no way we can just use what we’ve had. I’ve been irritated by the pantry for a while, so I have some ideas what I’d like to do.

Drawers

Drawers!

Saturday, I wake up and I’m ready to tackle some kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s raining, again. It’s been raining a lot in the Clemson area for the past two weeks and the night before, we got a whopping 8″. My friends are posting pictures of Nettles Park underwater, Mac’s Drive in parking lot flooded. I hear the Botanical Garden is devastated. Three large trees are down on Pendleton Road, all missing houses, but at least one car is crushed.

We are far more fortunate 3-4 miles up the road, but it does mean there will be no painting today. I go ahead and buy the boards I have in mind for the pantry and instead, I’ll lay down some contact paper. This turns out to be an enormous task. It’s at least 60′ of shelving, and getting it square and flat and bubble-free in drawers is nearly impossible. Fortunately, many of the shelves are removable, but it still takes me all day to get much of it done, and the rest of it, I finish before church the next day.

Sunday, I came home to find the family had unpacked the plates and glasses and there is much happiness from me. My husband tells me that we seem to have less and more storage space. Having done the plastic the day before, I know what he’s talking about. With the pull out drawers and the cabinets each being a unit (so they don’t span the width of two doors, it does limit the capacity. But, it also makes it easier to organize. We’ll just have to adjust. The cabinets over the washer dryer are going to be great, but we’ll need to get used to a stepladder. It’s a reach to get over the units, but we have tons of space up there. Again, an adjustment.

The husband is leery of the button for the disposal and he’s found a door that he thinks is slightly warped. He notices everything.

Now what is left are the things that would go on the counter, some free-standing stuff (the breakfast table, a rollable cart) and, of course, the pantry.

The weather forecast swears it’s going to dry out. I sand my six shelves and set them aside. My husband is extremely dubious of my plans for the pantry. Trust me, I tell him. Fingers crossed I have a good idea here.

Week Two

Paint color

New paint!

Day 10: Kitchen is now painted a lovely coffee latte brown. Seems to be an appropriate color and it goes with the cabinets and the countertop. Getting close! Patrick did say painting wasn’t his favorite and I can see that it’s not his best skill. Still, it’s at least as good as I would have done. Bonus: he painted the pantry. Whoops, he painted those nasty ass shelves I was going to toss. They’re total pressboard with no veneer and some of them are kind of moldy. Gross! They are gone. I leave him a note about that. I also tell him to not bother rehanging the laundry doors. They’re a pain in the ass and they’re old and ugly. The only thing I really use them for is to 1) hide the mess on the dryer which I’ll now be diligent about and 2) hang clothes, which it doesn’t do well. I’ll need to find a solution to that, but it will still be better than what I’m doing now.

Patrick’s list includes: the floor joist in the garage, finish painting, vinyl, lighting, dishwasher.

I go ahead and spray my five new shelves. They will match the cabinets. I do an adequate job spraying them. I’m covering the top with contact paper anyway, so I’m not terribly worried.

Left to buy to finish all this up: some wire shelves to mount in the pantry, a cleaning organizer, a few hooks, something to hang clothes. And, a new can to store recyclables. Not bad.

Finished

Patrick is done

Day 11, 12 and 13: Things have been wacky all round, and yet the progress is less obvious. The painting is slow going. It’s a big space with lots of nooks and it’s not Patrick’s favorite. The floor has gone down (which looks fabulous) and the paint looks good, but it’s slower this week.

The pantry continues to be a puzzle. Patrick offered to cut new shelves, so I took him up on that. My boards were just a little too narrow. My husband was probably right. I told him to cut them about 10-11″ so I could put a broom holder in there. I’ll probably put some hooks on the other side. The two shelf brackets I bought aren’t going to span the boards nailed to the walls for the shelves. CRAP. And the door mounted pantry thing is HUGE. 77″ long? I won’t be able to get stuff off the top shelf and I’m not sure I want stuff on a shelf that close to the kitchen floor. And Lowe’s, ugh. They are very nice down there but their site and their store don’t exactly mesh. I search and search for a broom and mop holder, even trying just broom holder, broom organization, mop holder, cleaning organization and nothing. But when I go to the store, I find the very item I want and it’s called “BROOM AND MOP HOLDER.” WTF, Lowe’s? I had talked myself into buying the 77″ behemoth only to NOT find it in the store, so I came back to order it online and then decided it was a sign not to buy it.

Curtains, too, takes forever. There are none at Lowe’s that suit my tastes. We face a fairly wooded area and so it’s highly unlikely people will be able to look in, but we probably need something. OK, the husband insists. It takes me all night to search online and narrow it to four choices. I send them to him and show our intern in the morning. I end up buying my first choice after all.

Curtains

New curtains

Yesterday, he sent me an update which included that the washer dryer were hooked back up. Yeah! Laundry! We were running low. So I fill ‘er up and get back to work on this nightmare job that has me working nights on it, only to have the kid tell me 30 minutes later that there’s water on the floor. That turns out to be accurate. There’s water everywhere on the floor. We mop as quickly as we can and when we have stopped the bleeding, I take her to her martial arts class. At that point, we find that one reason it’s not more water in the kitchen is it’s all over the garage under the kitchen as well. CRAP. My sister visiting offers to pick her up in an hour and I return home to clean up the mess. I manage to move the fridge and the bottom drawer of the range and clean all that up. I can move the dryer but the washer! I have to take all the clothes out (and catch some of the water that pours out with a bucket.) Those land in a plastic hamper lined with a garbage bag, thrown on the back porch. The kitchen done, I sweep the water out of the garage into the driveway. This is not good for resting my psoas muscle that I injured by poor running form.

I then go visit my sister and my brother-in-law, get something to eat and hang out with them for a few hours. They share this odd version of Baby Got Back and a funny “translation” of an Indian pop tune retitled Benny Lava and I come home and find that it’s drying out and all is good. I send an update to Patrick and to my husband, who happens to be in California this week and no one freaks out. Whew. To bed.

The next day, the husband is a little concerned about what caused it but glad to hear it’s cleaned up. Patrick tells me an appliance guy will figure it out. It might be the seal. I think it might be the hookup. Either way, it will be resolved and that’s all I care about. And God bless good neighbors: mine offers her washer/dryer and I can at least make sure my clothes don’t mold. It’s important to have good people in your life.

As for cooking? I’ve just about given up. I’ll get back to proper eating when it’s done. I’m trying but it’s just too hard with your food one floor down and the door kind of blocked by your car in the garage. Especially when you’ve got emergency jobs, a sick dad, a leaky roof, packing, unpacking, contact paper and mopping mopping mopping.

SO: today’s progress seems to be: paint is about done. Light connection has been properly positioned. Warped cabinet door is replaced. I hope hope hope by tomorrow I at least have a fridge back. And maybe the dishwasher. The rest of it can happen when it happens.

Epilogue

Laundry area

The new laundry area

The kitchen is done with the exception of putting the tabletop back on the base of the breakfast nook table, which has been moved enough that the holes need some larger screws. Turns out the washer wasn’t hooked up correctly, but it was also missing a foot. This is why the washer shook like a mother. They also added some sort of base that would absorb the shaking. I finish it with a tension rod for hanging clothes on hangers. Hangers get put on two drapery tieback hooks that I mount on the wall, to keep them hidden when I’m not doing the wash.

We resolved the recycling issue by getting a separate can. Seems obvious in retrospect. The new can is rectangular. My husband likes to say “rectangular as in recycle.” I like to think “rectangular so it easily fits the Cheerio box.”

Big ass box

MASSIVE box

 

Not so massive baskets

Small baskets

The last step was the pantry. After searching high and low, I finally found my wire baskets. I had to special order them from Walmart. A week and a half later, then a half hour in the store and they arrived: in a humongous box. I left all the cardboard behind, with baskets that took up less than a quarter of that big box. Mounted them on the wall and the pantry is DONE. Everything has a place.

Pantry

The finished pantry

The final test was cooking in the kitchen. So far, it’s been fabulous! What a difference! Moving the microwave gave me more counter space. You can never have enough counter space! It was totally worth it. And, I would have hired the same guy again. Locals, get in touch if you need a guy.

One Year of Veggies

One year ago today, my daughter insisted that she be a vegetarian. Now I know this is pretty common among the pre-teen girl set, but she was dead set on doing it. I’ve seen other mothers let their kids flounder with it, give up after a month, just because it makes dinner so much easier. I don’t blame them at all. In fact, I would have done the very same thing, except it seemed like it might not be such a bad idea.

I had flirted with this idea several decades earlier, but it really was just that. I bought a book, read it and then decided that I probably wouldn’t eat about 80% of the stuff in there. But I was older, wiser, so I thought it was worth a try. My excuse was that if my kid was to be a vegetarian, then, well, I’d go too, to make sure she did it right.

For the record: we are vegetarian, not vegan. I limit dairy. We also eat some fish. Not a lot. Husband has to avoid shellfish, for one. Maybe once every week or so, unless at the beach. Then it’s like once a day.

So, a year later, I present, the Top Ten Things I’ve Learned Being a Vegetarian.

  1. You can be a vegetarian while living with a carnivore. OK, he prefers omnivore and rightly so. My husband does eat all sorts of food and he’s much better about the sweets than me or my daughter. Still, he does like to have a slab of meat at dinner. To say he was angry one year ago today would be an understatement. He was upset that I even entertained the idea. He was concerned that going vegetarian would not give my daughter the nutrients she needed to get through puberty. To be fair, she was going through puberty, growing 6 inches in the past 3 years. But, a quick visit to the doctor (who introduced me to the China Study) assured us that if we ate smart, we’d be just fine. And, the husband found out that we started to eat a lot of vegetables he had always loved and I just never made. So, we might have roasted root vegetables, and he does too, along with a little pork chop he makes. Or not. Sometimes he’ll go meatless too.
  2. There’s a big bad world beyond tofu. I read a post today talking about the pitfalls of going vegan. (I haven’t gone that far yet, although I do try to limit dairy if possible.) One of the problems was all the meat substitutes and that they were really expensive. Most meat substitutes are, of course, made of soy. Soy’s a great source of protein, but really, if you go vegetarian, why would you want to eat fake meat? It’d almost be better to just eat good quality meat, wouldn’t it? In fact, we eat tofu maybe once a month. It’s processed soy, and it’s processed food that’s really the biggest problem in our food supply. (Well, ok maybe it’s corn subsidies that give us this overabundance of hybrid corn that can’t be eaten by humans in its native form, but I digress.) And, soy is in everything, so you can get too much soy. (Note: I am not saying do not eat soy, but to vary your diet. And, eat it and anything else as unprocessed as possible.) Just eat vegetables, grains and nuts, folks. That’s the basis of your diet. And guess what? Things like oatmeal, beans, turnips, carrots … they’re all pretty dang cheap. Heck, even nuts, deemed so expensive, can be purchased for about $4.99 a pound. How much does a pound of meat cost? And I mean a good pound of meat? Be smart about it, examine local sources, shop around. Remember, those processed foods are being subsidized by your government, which is why they are cheap. They’re also really not good for you, no matter if you’re vegetarian or not.
  3. Most restaurants don’t get it. Here’s an example: joined a group of friends down at a new local restaurant that remains unnamed because I’m hoping they improve. They get a fair amount of their supplies locally and try to go organic. Vegetarian would be a slam dunk, wouldn’t it? Wrong. Their sandwiches included: chicken, turkey, ham, burger. They had six different omelets: one was vegetarian. Their spinach salad: spinach, onions, bacon, hard boiled egg. I tried to order the oatmeal (made with milk); no longer served. If I was vegan, there really would be absolutely nothing I could eat here. And places like Chick-Fil-A live up to their name: NO vegetarian options. The good news is that most places like this you don’t want to frequent anyway. (Don’t get me started about the anti-gay policies at Chick-Fil-A.) Most places will kind of work with you. Some (like my local Mexican place) you will have to give up. I’d also add that you just need to be flexible. You might eat soup made with chicken broth. Guess what? For the first 46 years of life, I ate chicken broth. A little bit here and there isn’t going to be what kills me. Flexibility, people. Flexibility and baby steps. Still, it doesn’t hurt to develop a love of cooking. (And chopping. Lots of chopping. But I like chopping, so it’s all OK.)
  4. Pressure cookers ROCK. I finally got wise enough to buy a pressure cooker. I say I’d marry it if I wasn’t already. Much more here and here.
  5. Protein? No problem! Again, if you eat right, you’re gold! Nuts, beans and whole grains are all good sources of protein. Vegetables, even, have protein. You get in trouble when you eat like the average American and just leave the meat portion off the plate. Then you’re unbalanced. You’re going to have to eat greens, and beans and nuts. But then again, MMM! Greens, beans and nuts! (And if you get your protein from cheese, think again. All you’ve done is swap a lean protein source (most meats) for a saturated fat one. Not a good idea.)
  6. It won’t make you skinny. If you’re going vegetarian to lose weight, it’s for the wrong reason. You aren’t going to get as much protein (you’ll get enough), but you’re going to need to graze most of the day. I’ll hear people say “I haven’t eaten all day” and I think “Mon dieu, HOW?!?!” Here’s the short story to my path here: terrible eater –> Weight Watchers (great program) –> SparkPeople.com (I still use this from time to time, love it) –> vegetarian. By the time I got to that last step, I was already eating a lot of vegetables anyway.
  7. It does make the holidays weird. My husband warned my mother-in-law that we would bring a dish and that we wouldn’t eat the turkey. “Not even a slice? For Thanksgiving??” She was very sweet about it, but definitely baffled. And I was grateful that I brought this lovely casserole, because the sides wouldn’t have been enough. (And to be fair, I do the same thing with my mother as well. Not fair to expect them to adapt to a different eating style and that’s totally OK.) With a little adapting, you can keep the holidays very fun.
  8. Resources galore. There’s an endless supply of resources. Good grief, it never ends! Just look at what I’ve linked to in this post alone. Cookbooks, apps, blogs (great advice for runners), more blogs (where I learned about pressure cookers), even more blogs (yummy bean and nut burger here) … google what you need and you will find it. It’s really incredible.
  9. Cooking is easier. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s actually kind of easier. Sure, you gotta remember to soak the beans in the morning, but that takes a minute and then it’s 15 minutes with a pressure cooker and they are done. I don’t miss all that having to be careful with the meat juices or the cleaning up after the cheese stuck to everything. And when I do (because someone in the house still loves cheese), I think “ugh that is in my stomach??” You will be chopping. But, I like that. OK, not so much rutabagas, but the rest can be fun.
  10. There are more out us out there than you think. You’d be surprised who is following this same diet as yourself. Proof that you can be a vegetarian and not be an arrogant prick about the whole thing.

What did I miss, folks? I’m sure I missed something. It’s only been one year, after all!

Menu for April 15

I tweeted the plan for this week’s menu and a twitter follower suggested I blog about it. Even though these recipes aren’t necessarily mine, I’m following her suggestion.

Almond Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Almond Butter Oatmeal CookiesSO, first up are the cookies made for church. We have a new minister coming in and we had a social afterwards to meet her. It went well and the cookies were a big hit, at least in my family. VERY easy to make. I woke up thinking “oh yeah I said I’d bring something,” scrounged around in the kitchen, found I had these ingredients and whipped up a batch. They were done within an hour. My changes: a little more cinnamon and dried cranberries, not chocolate. Certainly not because I don’t like chocolate. In fact, I had no chips in the house because I ate them all. And, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t actually mix all my dry ingredients together beforehand. This might make me a horrible, terrible baker, but I don’t. If there’s a reason why I should that will make my cookies turn out like Martha Stewart, please enlighten me. Otherwise, I’m going to stick to washing one bowl. Secret number two: I totally use parchment paper. This was another “you’ll have to convince me” type of thing but I am SOLD. I do buy the hippie version of the stuff, but man I adore it. (And to those that say “use the silicon,” there’s just something about heating up silicon that I don’t trust.) My cookies DO brown more evenly and the pans are much easier to clean. So, if you have to pick between mixing dry ingredients and parchment paper, it’s a landslide: parchment paper. Oh, and the cookies themselves were gone by 4 pm.

Vegetable Tien

Vegetable TienTonight’s dinner was leftovers. My parents don’t actually believe in leftovers but without them, I think I just would not cook. If a meal doesn’t last two nights, I’m seriously depressed. My friend Jeannie suggested this recipe when I was wondering what I’d make for Easter dinner as a vegetarian (answer: quiche, duh. See the tomatos feta cheese recipe in Joy of Cooking.) So, I saved it and made it on Saturday. Plenty left, so we had it again on Sunday. This one is easy to make, but if I made it again, I’d say one less potato, one more tomato. The second night, I added more cheese when we reheated and that helped a lot. Potatoes can be so bland. They really need a lot of help, which is why I tend to prefer the sweet potato. This recipe, I made as they called for EXCEPT I added smoked paprika. Smoked paprika just makes everything better. Also, the picture in the sample, everything is much smaller. So, I’m thinking next time, I choose a different potato than your standard baking potato and smaller zucchinis. Also, I’d consider adding a grain. It’s missing something, not sure what.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Quinoa

Roasted Root VeggiesTomorrow, the kid and the husband have a late workout. Normally, I jazzercise, but I’m sidelined with a heel injury, grr. So, I’ll probably do some Wii Fit yoga and get the rest of my workout chopping root vegetables. Now, I do not believe I ever ate a turnip or a rutabaga until I went vegetarian. Now, I love them. And, to add to the fun, I like to buy them at my favorite local grocery store, because inevitably I get a young cashier or bag boy (or bonus: both) and they pick these things up and go “what are these??” and I’ll say “oh those are parsnips and they are DELICIOUS and you should totally buy them and roast them” and their eyes eventually roll around to the back of their heads. So, it’s worth making just to watch the cashier pick up a turnip and ask me if it’s a radish. This recipe is a total mashup of the one from Whole Foods and the one from Kind Diet. (BTW, Whole Foods has rocking recipes and I adore their app. And Alicia Silverstone has a great book!) Basically, I cut up:

  • A couple small turnips
  • A bunch of carrots
  • A sweet potato or two (husband actually doesn’t like sweet potatoes! I will cut up two tomorrow because they were on sale at Ingles AND bonus also organic)
  • Beets (about 4, since I have to buy in batches)
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnips (they looked good this week, bought 3)
  • Onion (gotta have an onion)
  • Garlic
  • Then cover the whole mess with some olive oil and salt and paprika and thyme and roast for about 40 minutes at 400, then add some chopped up dried apricots and serve with quinoa. Or barley. Or bulgur, which is what it’s with in the photo. Or heck, rice!

Peanut Soba Noodles

Tofu Peanut NoodlesThis one, believe it or not, was in my Runner’s World magazine. Uber-easy to make and a big hit with me and my kid. AND, a massive protein bomb. Who says vegetarians don’t get protein? We skip the chicken and go with tofu, which I bake after marinating in the same sort of sauce listed. And, I usually skip the peanuts (kid has braces and nuts are a problem), and the cilantro (unless I’m using for another meal that week, I hate to spend money on a big batch and not use it.)

Sweet Potato Burgers

This one has been on my radar for a while, but we’ll see if I get around to making it this week or not. So, nothing new to add here. When we finally make it, seems like we HAVE to have it with corn on the cob.

Thoughts? Any way I can make these meals better? (Besides adding meat, which is always my husband’s answer.)

The Food History, the college years

Back to the food history! My teen years were mostly a variation of how I grew up. Lots of sweet snacks, breakfast was cereal. No lunch. When I was a second grader, someone ratted me out to my mother that I was only eating the roll. She then tried packing me a lunch, but didn’t pack anything I enjoyed eating. So I again ate the bare minimum and threw the rest away and again, someone ratted me out. She told me to pack my own damn lunch and so eventually, I just quit bringing a lunch all together. And dinner was much the same as it was when I was a kid.

But then, I went to college. In college, I was on the meal plan. It was the cheapest option and my parents wanted to make sure I ate appropriately. Here’s what I found at dining hall:

1. Unlimited soda! It came out of the tap, just flowed freely! You’d see lots of people with two or even three glasses full of the stuff. It didn’t take me long to learn that the sugary stuff had “calories” in it and that was a bad thing and I learned to switch to the diet stuff.

2. Unlimited food! OK it wasn’t very good. If today’s college student think the dining halls get stale, they have no idea what it used to be. You’ve heard of mystery meat? It really was. It was large pans of meat floating in water. Ick. And the veggies were totally overdone too. I think there was a salad bar at some places, but not in the one closest to my dorm. However, there was also unlimited desserts!

I usually didn’t make it there for breakfast, which would have been my very best choice, but at this point, I was sleeping in late and dashing off to class.

I only did the 5-day a week plan and weekends were usually a can of soup, maybe a baguette I’d gnaw on all weekend or we’d get a meal somewhere and follow that up with beer.

After my freshman year, I convinced my parents to get me off the meal plan (it doesn’t matter … 5 days a week of whatever you’re served institutionally, it does get old.) I didn’t have a car and I’d walk a mile to the grocery store. There were few vegetables or fruits in my bags. I only had a mini-fridge and the stove and microwave was 4 floors down. I really don’t remember what I’d buy but I think it was a lot of bread and sandwich meat and Chef Boyardee and chips and salsa and maybe frozen dinners. And I drank a lot of Diet Coke too. A fancy meal might be that I boiled spaghetti and poured Ragu on it. And I ate out a fair amount too, I think.

And after my freshman year, there was a fair amount of beer involved too.

I’m surprised I could get out of bed at all! Anyone else eat any better in college? I hope?

Food History, Childhood Part 2

I remembered a few other things, and got some reaction that got me to think, so I thought I’d continue my childhood food memories.

1. Sugar. I have a massive sweet tooth. I always have had it. My mother tells me I used to steal maraschino cherries out of the fridge when I was 2. For a snack (and yeah I know this is gross), I might take some powdered sugar, pour it in a bowl, add water and eat it. THAT’S a sweet tooth. (No, I do not do this anymore. Really. I could, but I don’t.)

2. Spaghettios. I am not certain, but it is possible we were introduced to Spaghettios by my paternal grandmother when we visited her once in Connecticut. We LOVED Spaghettios and it was something we could make ourselves for lunch, so that was permitted. We ate a lot of that and Chef Boyardee. In fact, I ate that through college and perhaps a bit beyond that. So did my husband. DYK? There’s a book about him and his real recipes, before they sold out and did the canned food thing.

3. More cereal. I think at some point, my mother gave up and let us get some of the cereals we craved. My sister used to eat the heck out of some Lucky Charms. Well, actually, mostly she picked out the marshmallows. Maybe she knew what she was doing. She truly is gluten intolerant.

4. Little Debbies. Like I said, Nutter Butters were the cookie of choice, but for some reason, those Zebra Stripe cakes were OK. I’d eat the heck out of those too. (But not those nasty oatmeal pies. OK, only when I really needed my sugar fix.)

5. School lunch. Oh big fail for me here. My mother had me eat the school lunch, until someone ratted me out in second grade that I only ate the roll. So she started to pack my lunch until someone ratted me out that I was throwing it away. (Hey, what can I say, wasn’t a fan of the granola bars back then) So I had to pack my own lunch at a very early age. I guess I did this, but somewhere down the line, I gave up taking lunch all together. I must imagine I was quite hungry when I got home. I did always eat breakfast though!

My point in all of this isn’t that we necessarily ate any worse than we do today. We just ate our junk in other ways. Sure, there are stories about mayo bacon sandwiches and the like, but the truth is that we didn’t eat out that much, we didn’t drink many sodas and we didn’t have high fructose corn syrup and soy in everything we ate. (Soy in moderation, and preferable unprocessed (including tofu) is fine.) Nor had we given into the whole “fat is bad” thing that I believed until recently. You need fat. It just has to be the right fat. For instance, did you know that if you eat spinach without some fat, you won’t get the nutritional benefits of the spinach? Those nutrients are fat soluble! And the eating out, oy, the eating out! Fast food is just … well it’s just not really food of any quality. As for a sit down restaurant, an adult might get a good meal but a kid? Their choices, at restaurants from fern bars to sushi bars tend to be: mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, hot dogs, pizzas. Comes with fries or a fruit cup (if you’re lucky) and their choice of drink. Which is usually a soda. Folks, these are not good choices for kids. Have you seen how chicken nuggets are made? And where are the veggies?

So as I look back on my childhood eating habits, there’s some bad, sure, but there’s a lot more good than we think.

And a recipe! This is from memory, and it’s my version, which is probably lazier than what my mother does:

  1. Boil half a box of elbow macaroni according to the directions.
  2. Cut a kielbasa into slices.
  3. Take a can of tomato sauce (small) and another of diced tomatoes (also small and can be eliminated, depending on how tomato-y you want it. Mix with some oregano, garlic salt and basil.
  4. In an 8″ round casserole dish (or even a 9 x 12), put a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add a third of the noodles, a third of the kielbasa, some more sauce and sprinkle cheddar cheese. Keep layering until you are out of noodles and kielbasa. The top layer should be more tomato sauce and cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

OK, next food chapter, Christine goes to college. :-)