Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar in the Landfills

Since it is Halloween, I am going to refrain from preaching about giving kids too much candy today. I do allow my kids to go trick or treating, and they are allowed to eat a few pieces of their treasured loot (after I go through it to find the good stuff, that is). But in about a month I am sure I will be tossing about three quarters of their candy in the trash. Not because I am that mean mommy all the time, but thankfully because they forget about it.

At our house, Halloween is all about the costumes and making a show for all to see. Since we do not live in a great “trick or treating” neighborhood, we travel to Nana’s each year where there are more people to impress. And when Eden dresses up, she plays the part. Since she is a peacock this year, I am sure she will be making that awful peacock cry and fanning her tail. Little Lane will be happy just walking around and seeing everyone.

When the candy comes home, there are rules attached. Eden has been my daughter long enough that she knows to ask before getting into her bucket. I let her have a piece or two of candy a day, usually after she has had something good to eat. After the fourth day, she quits asking, and it just sits on top of the refrigerator. Daddy will go through and find the things he likes – anything made out of chocolate. I am bit pickier; it has to have both chocolate and caramel (I’m so glad that candy costs more and people are less likely to buy it to give out).

So now I am wondering if my family is atypical, or if most families end up tossing a lot of the candy in the trash. I’m also wondering if we should be doing something different these days if our candy money is wasted. Should we be giving quarters to every great costume that comes knocking on our door? I think Unicef used to give kids boxes in order to collect donations during Halloween, but I have not seen that lately. Could we be collecting for local children in need to good food? It would take a great deal of effort to change the tradition, but I am all for it. Now who’s with me? Mars and Hersey’s, please don’t send me any hate mail!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day & Learning to Say “NO”

While I appreciate the efforts of FOOD DAY organizers, I have a few issues and will attempt to address them in time. (Initially I wanted to tackle one each day this week, but I am a busy mom.)

Food Day Principle #5 - Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing aimed at kids

Food, Mommy Principle #1 - Promote health by providing your kids better food choices and teach them to say "No" to poor food choices

I think it is very ironic that everyone is pointing their fingers at “junk-food” producers and marketers for making our kids fat, when they don’t have any real buying power. Who buys it for them? WE DO!

“No” may be the most important word you ever teach your child. My kids hear it at least 50 times a day, and at least half of those “no’s” are aimed at their food choices.

“Mommy, can I pick a cereal that I want?” And I say, “No, we are not going to get a cereal with that much sugar.”

“Mommy, can I have some ice cream?” Me, “What did you eat today at Nana’s house?” Kid, “Well, we had pancakes for breakfast, macaroni and cheese and a popsicle at lunch.” Me, “No, not today. If we make better food choices tomorrow, then I will consider letting you have some ice cream.”

“Mommy, I’m starving. Can we go by McDonald’s or Taco Bell.” Me, “No, I have something to cook for dinner. Eat an apple when we get home.”

As marketing tactics become increasingly aggressive, we the adults need to put on our fighting gear and quit asking the government to step in or stop filing silly lawsuits against the best food marketers. Slick advertising does not make our kids fat. They may ask for it, but adults are giving in. I will even be so bold to say that parents are worse than the marketers. We get lazy or blame the fact that we just don’t have time to do better.

On more occasions than I can count in the last few months, I have seen adults making very poor food choices for our children. Pizza, hot dogs and sodas were the main fare at a juvenile diabetes research fund raising walk this weekend. Every time my child is sent home with a fundraising form, it is for selling doughnuts or treats or cookie dough. Upcomoing Halloween and fall festivals will be filled with bags of candy and food our kids just do not need. How often do our kids have an extra-curricular activity and pizza, cookies, cupcakes, sodas and sugar-filled drinks aren’t on the menu? The kids aren’t shelling out the cash for these things, and I bet they aren’t even asking for it. We just assume that is what they want to eat and we provide it for them.

I am not opposed to pizza and treats on occassion, but let’s get off our duffs and show our kids that we care about their health. Just say, “NO,” and give them a good meal for a change.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Search of the Best Broccoli Soup

I love soup. Beyond chili and my grandfather's cabbage soup (a recipe I may share soon), broccoli soup is one my top food pleasures. My children love it as well, and it is usually ordered at most any restaurant that has it on their menu. But I would love to find that perfect recipe so we can enjoy broccoli soup at home.

I have tried a couple recipes over the last year without much luck. I came close last night with this recipe I found on - - which claims to be what Panera Bread serves. Since we are huge fans of Panera Bread, we thought we would give it a try.

I call this our "hurry up and take the picture so I can eat" broccoli soup!

It was pretty delicious, but I think improving some of my stovetop handiwork may make it better. Since the broccoli was still pretty crisp, I may consider cooking it a little longer. I think I will also omit the nutmeg in the future. Leaving out the floor dirt may also be a good idea. I let my daughter chop up the broccoli and carrots, and she then called her little brother over to help. After he took a few cranks on the rotary chopper, he thought it would be a good idea to dump the broccoli all over the floor. It had to be saved! All in all, we were pretty happy with the result, and every bowl was licked clean. But still I would give it an only an 8.

If you have a favorite broccoli soup recipe for my family to try, please send it my way. The search is still on. I may also be in need of a few soup cooking tips.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Big may not be all BAD, but Small is not OUT OF TOUCH

In my post "Incedible Cause for Concern" last week, I shared my frustrations with the public's lack of understanding about today's farmers. Whether you praise their efforts or curse the current direction of our food system, the average U.S. farmer is feeding 155 people, compared to 27 people in 1950. The point of my post was to encourage people to remember the faces behind all the farms that are providing us 82% of our food, as they are not all huge food company conglomerates hundreds of miles away. What I may have failed to do, however, is praise the small farmers (whatever your definition of "small" may be) in which so many hold dear to their hearts. Each farmer has a unique story, and we all need to learn to listen to every voice at the "table," myself included.

Therefore I wanted to share this post by a fellow Kentucky blogger, Friends Drift Inn. She wants to make sure we know that she is also a famer - a very tired farmer -  trying to produce food for reasons she believes the current food system has failed her.

"I am a farmer. I am not the enemy" -

Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Something Old, Something New, Something Wild

I was pretty proud of the dinner I made on this past Sunday night. I had a bunch of my chicken's eggs in the fridge, so I decided to make a quiche. Loaded with bacon, cheese, onion and butter, there is nothing that says "comfort food" more than this dish I learned to cook from my mama. We usually reserve it for holiday mornings, but I wanted to splurge a bit (I skipped the crust to reduce a few calories).

Bacon, cheese and onion quiche, acorn squash, and sorrel garnish. Quiche recipe below.

What made this dinner even better was that I cooked up something I never had before, acorn squash. My mother-in-law and good old Betty Crocker instructed me to cut the squash in half, sprinkle with a little sugar (I used Truvia) and salt, add a pat of butter and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. When they halves were done, I scooped the flesh out and served. Can we say, favorite new food!

Now here comes the "wild." I was outside playing with the kids earlier and saw little plants with yellow flowers growing all over the walkway to the house. I was convinced these little greens were edible, so I looked them up. Turns out they were wood sorrel and very tasty. They have a strong lemony flavor. So they were added to the plate as well. I did learn that you can't eat too much because of the high oxalic acid content (which gives them their flavor). Since, I have put some on my sandwiches as well. Love the "free" food.

I'm so glad I am getting more creative in the kitchen. It is such a joy to try new things and try to improve on old favorites. And don't forget to involve the kids. Happy cooking to everyone.

My favorite quiche:

Saute' a cup of onions in one stick of butter and pour into a pie crust (you can just pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish to save some calories)
Add crumbled bacon (about 6 pieces, more if desired)
Add a 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Mix 4 large eggs, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and a 1/2 cup of milk, salt and pepper
Pour over the onions, bacon and cheese.

Cook for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce temperature to 300 and cook for 30 minutes longer.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I don't even want to think about how many calories are in one serving!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Incredible Cause for Concern

What is your definition of “farmer?” Apparently to many of the visitors to the Incredible Food Show in Lexington, Ky. this past weekend it is someone who is growing their own food in their backyard or selling at a “Farmer’s” market.

Farm women volunteers, who are part of the CommonGround initiative, went to the Incredible Food Show to engage with the public and answer any questions they may have about how food is produced on their farms. I was able to assist by moderating a panel discussion about food marketing and production concerns, as well as, encourage conversations at the CommonGround booth.

While it seemed everyone was glad we were there, it really shocked me that every time I mentioned to someone that we were there on behalf of farmers to encourage conversation about how food is produced, the instant response was, “Oh, I love that. I visit the Farmer’s Market all the time.” Or, “My sister has a garden. That’s great.”

The Voltaggio brothers - of Top Chef fame - showed the audience at the Incredible Food Show in Lexington how to use every part of local veggies for some very creative and "artful" eating.

Another thing that really got to me was the fact that one of the guest celebrity chefs, Michael Voltaggio (his brother Bryan was also there) made the comment during their show that “produce from local farmers was great, but everything at the grocery store was test tube food grown in a factory.”

Really? Why does everything think that?

I admit 100% that the fruits and vegetables grown right under our noses taste better to the 100th degree. Farmers that have local markets are able to pick the produce at the peak of freshness and can get it to the consumer very quickly. Unfortunately, this makes up a very small portion of the food supply, at least in Kentucky. There is a big push right now to get more local food to our local customers, but it will take some time.

In the meantime, however, the produce farmer in Ohio, or even California, who is large enough to service several grocery stores in our state now has a big “X” on his/her face. Some folks are just convinced that since the farm is not “local” and is producing food on several hundred acres instead of two, that the product is bad, industrial food.

At what point does a farmer or farm become “industrial?” And when did “success” become a bad word in agriculture?

Having visited several Kentucky farms recently, I wish all the best for them. If Mary and Shane Courtney’s vegetable business is thriving, and they are able to add more acres, more labor, and service more customers, I hope that is what they do. And what if they are able to grow enough produce that they can move beyond the local CSAs, wholesale and restaurant markets? Is there a point where they will no longer be considered farmers? Maybe that is when they are able to hire enough help that they can actually take a vacation during the growing/harvest season? Heaven forbid.

We have farmers and farms of all types and sizes, using various production techniques and located in all geographic areas. Some areas are great at growing produce, and other land is best suited for grains or livestock production. I know that it will take all farmers and farms to satisfy the needs of our growing population. Just today I saw the following statistic:

“Up until 1920 more people lived on farms than in cities and it took almost 20 million farms to feed the U.S. population which at the time was about 100 million people. Advances in and modernization of agriculture since then now allows for 6.5 million farms to feed 300 million people in the U.S. and export food to people around the world.”

While some may not like the idea of fewer farmers producing more food, this is our current food reality, and I don’t think it is all bad. Jerome Monroe Smucker of Ohio made apple cider from a few apple trees planted by Johnny “Appleseed” in the late 1800s. As popularity grew beyond the locals, he needed more supplies of fruit and he eventually had to move some of the processing to Washington, where fruit was more plentiful. Now his family’s products are sold all over the world.

Back to Kentucky, many of our grain farmers are selling corn and wheat to the local distilleries for bourbon and other spirits. Those products are also sold worldwide. Our local family grain farmers are selling to the food industry as well. Our wheat ends up in crackers and cookies sold throughout the U.S. at Wal-Mart stores via Siemer Milling in Hopkinsville. Our corn ends up in corn chips sold all over the country via Mesa Foods in Louisville. Weisenberger Mills in Midway has used corn and wheat from local farmers since 1865 to make its baking products.

My hope is that no matter the origin of the food products, the consumer remembers there is a face behind the production of the food ingredients, and that face is local to someone. To me, the term “farmer” goes beyond a person or family growing enough fruits and vegetables for themselves and few folks at a farmer’s market. It goes beyond the person like me with a few chickens in a coop. Farmers are producing food for the masses.

Just a side note before I close – I was also perplexed at literature I saw from Whole Foods at the Incredible Food Show. On the back of a local magazine, they placed an ad that said “Eat Seasonal. Eat Local.” On the front page of their newsletter/coupon book, however, they were advertising a pasta product produced in Italy. To me this is very hypocritical. The whole premise of eating local is to reduce the environmental impact of shipping food all over the place. Why aren’t they selling pasta made from Durum wheat in the good ole USA? Seems like the Pacific Northwest, where Durum is grown by our farmers, is a little more local than Italy. I’m just saying.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Singing the Busy Mom Blues - Dishes in the Sink

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve been away from my home/office nearly every day this week for work, and as soon as I am home, my family and animals have warranted my full attention. This busy schedule has left little time for blogging, and as usual, the household chores. Toys are everywhere, beds are rarely made, dust dragons lurking in dark corners, and there are a new pile of dishes in the sink every night.

While this may put most OCD moms in a state of panic, I at least can be proud of one aspect of my out-of-order home; more dishes in the sink means less meals out. In fact, every dinner this week has been cooked from ingredients I had at home… no boxes and definitely no fast food cartons and wrappers.

It would be so easy to make the 15 minute trek into town to purchase a ready-made meal for my kids and husband, but I took the high road. This is in no disrespect to moms that choose that route, because I have been there, and still visit that option on occasion. But it has been so rewarding for my soul to cook for my family… and did I mention the fact that I have the “mother lode” of fruits and veggies in the fridge that I don’t want to throw out. It has become harder and harder these days for me to toss food (and money) into the trash.

And while home cooking takes quite a bit more time and gives me a pile of dishes that won’t fit in the dishwasher, this is one chore I have stopped groaning about. I am providing my family nutritious food made from my heart.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Letters to My Food: Dear Chickens

Dear Chickens,

I know you want to get out and enjoy the sun, cool breeze, bugs and lush plant life, but you will stay inside. I am not trying to punish you, but want to keep you safe from the hawk that decided to eat your sister yesterday. In fact, that hawk has eaten several of you the past month, including your most beloved rooster.

Until I can get a nice fence around and over your yard, you will have to remain confined, but I will try to bring you treats for your patience.

Most sincerely,

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