Tag Archive 'food'

Feb 04 2014


Published by under Parenting,The Boy

Since I’m a stay at home mom, The Boy doesn’t go to day care. He’s also not yet ready for the area preschools. So, he doesn’t get a lot of interaction with other kids. Additionally, I don’t know if you’re aware, but this winter has sucked frozen gorilla balls. Playing outside has not been an option. Both of us are in dire need of escaping the house, and The Boy also has a need to release some energy every now and then. McDonald’s Play Place is the perfect solution. He gets to run and climb and interact, and I get Diet Coke. It’s win-win.

We went to McDonald’s today. Not at lunch time, and not at dinner time. At in-between time, when he is rested from his nap and shouldn’t need food for awhile. I got me a Diet Coke and him a juice and we went into the Play Place so he could play. At first, everything was fine. He was exploring, and running around, and occasionally looking in the direction of other children. Then, he started approaching the other adults who were sitting at tables, hanging out. He specifically zoned in on this older couple kitty corner from us, who had two young girls with them (their granddaughters, as I later learned). He would walk up to their table and grab the edge of it with his hands, and kind of survey the surface like “Whatcha got up there?” I removed him several times, apologizing, but they laughed it off and said he was cute and not to worry.

Then he started eating their food.

Please understand, it’s not like I was ignoring him or just letting him do whatever. But I couldn’t park myself in front of these people’s table like a security guard or bouncer, fending him off whenever he got near. “Sorry, sir. This is VIP. You’ll have to show a card.” It took me a little time to get up from my table and hustle over there, and between the time of me getting up and hustling, Scrounger McHomelessdude started shoving these people’s fries in his mouth like he’d never been granted the gift of solid food before. I was mortified. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” I apologized as, I’m sure, my face turned tomato red. But these people were not just any people, oh no. They were grandparents. Grandparents who apparently just looooved babies (or toddlers, in this case). Before I knew it, I was standing there awkwardly watching my son integrate into a new family. He was getting on the guy’s lap, cozying up to the smallest girl on the bench seat, taking fries from the older girl, all while Grandma cooed at him approvingly. It was like the Twilight Zone. Is that really my child? Did I imagine the last two years? How long until this happy family calls the police and reports the strange woman who is just standing there staring at their grandson?

He sat with those people for a good 10 minutes while I’m making awkward conversation and they are feeding him fries. I started wondering if they thought I couldn’t afford to buy him his own food, or if they thought I was out of it in some fashion (drugs, general stupidity), because what kind of mother lets her child just crawl all over strangers and what kind of mother lets strangers feed her kid?

Here’s the thing though: if I had tried to remove him, it would have been an ugly scene. I mean, he would have thrown the grandest of conniption fits and we would have had to leave the restaurant. Also, the people probably would have been offended andm after all, they were the ones who had the most to be pissed about, really. I knew he wasn’t going to be hurt – those people hadn’t poisoned their own french fries. And I was right there, the whole time, observing like a totally superfluous idiot. I also knew that they weren’t just politely tolerating my child, because I know the difference between “I Am Sincerely Enjoying This Interaction” and “Society Dictates That I Wear My Pleasant Face and Soldier Through This Episode”.

That doesn’t mean that I was enjoying this incident, however. I was actually quite embarrassed and a little troubled that my kid obviously didn’t give two hoots whose lap he was sitting on, as long as they had food. I know that this is a normal phase, where kids are like “I LOVE THE ENTIRE WORLD, INCLUDING BANANA SLUGS”, but it’s still not great to think “My kid would walk off with anyone who offered him anything with a flavor, or a toy car”.

Eventually, I brought the humiliating episode to a close by checking my phone and realizing that we had to get home to meet The Man after his work day. I packed up and we both said goodbye to Stranger Grandma and Stranger Grandpa, and their two granddaughters. The Boy had done a lot of playing, and had made some new friends.

Mission accomplished?

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May 11 2011

Portion Sizes

Published by under Health,Life and Living It,Rants

We’ve been dining out a lot more than usual lately, and it has struck me that the portion sizes in restaurants are getting to be ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that I live in a country where I can get a lot of food for relatively little money, but I do not like going to a restaurant and being made to feel like a weirdo for my inability to finish a platter-size serving of food. I find myself wishing more and more that the concept of “half-order” or selecting a size was more prevalent. Why can you only control your portions if you’re eating someplace like McDonald’s? Yesterday, we went out to a Coney Island restaurant. I got a chicken gyro and an order of fries. The gyro was pretty standard sized – a filled pita – although there was a LOT of chicken in it. However, this meal was served on a platter and the entire rest of the platter was filled with french fries. They were great fries, and the gyro was delicious, but when the server came by at the end of the meal, she looked at the 1/4 of the pita I had left and the 3/4 serving of fries and her eyebrows went up. “Are you going to need a box or something?” she asked, almost incredulously. I hate being made to feel as though I’m the one being wasteful when in actuality no one needs a half pound of french fries for lunch, along with a rather hefty sandwich. Give the people who want a huge meal the option to order a “large” side, and give me the option to order the “small” side, and your restaurant will save money and I won’t feel bad for wasting food.

I’ve run into a similar situation at fast food places, McDonald’s especially. They often run a “2 for $1″ special on their pies. I like the cherry pies, but I don’t need two pies at a time. So, I only order one. Invariably, I’m asked if I want to add a second pie so I can get the promotion, and when I say no, I’m charged $.80 or something for the one pie. Why should I be penalized for not wanting to throw a pie in the garbage? Is McDonald’s losing money if I don’t take that pie off their hands?

Americans hear quite a bit about how we’re all overweight, and a large part of this problem are portions that are far too large, but at the same time, we are punished or looked down on if we do want to have the option of getting less food. I have tried to order half of an appetizer or a meal at restaurants where the portions are historically huge, only to be told rather meanly that half-orders are not allowed or available.  If I do manage to get a half-order, there is usually a big kerfuffle where the server has to go consult with the cook and manager as though this is some epic-level negotiation. I understand that some things (such as cuts of meat) cannot be halved, but when I’m getting a bowl of pasta, this should not be an issue.

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Dec 01 2009

Clock watching.

Published by under Health

I wouldn’t say I’m on a DIET, exactly, since I didn’t really eat a lot during the day before.  I think it’s more like an eating plan.  I’m trying to do that thing where you have small meals throughout the day in order to keep your metabolism running.  My metabolism doesn’t run, much like the rest of me.  My metabolism slogs along halfheartedly, and will eventually get to where it’s going, much more slowly than a normal person’s metabolism might get there.  So now, I’m eating small meals throughout the day.  The only problem with this arrangement is that it forces me to think about food and eating more or less constantly.  I feel like all day I’m watching the clock – “Should I eat now?  Is it time to eat yet?  When did I last eat?”  The unpleasant side effect of thinking about food all the time is that I feel hungry a lot more often, simply because I’m always wondering when I shall eat next.

This is my second day of this new plan (oh yes, day two and I’m already writing a complainy blog entry, this is going to end well), and my Wii Fit has told me I gained a pound.  Well, if THAT isn’t a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is.  If I keep going on at that rate for a week, I might just throw all this salad and 100 calorie pack stuff out the door and let the wildlife jump start THEIR metabolisms.

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Apr 09 2009

Herbs and Spices.

Published by under Food Products,In The Kitchen

If you do any cooking at all, you are going to want to have some herbs and spices on hand.  Even Colonel Sanders had his special blend of herbs and spices, and look what that did for him!  These little gems are pretty important to almost every dish you can make, but it can be confusing for beginning cooks or those with limited space to know which to have on hand.  The herbs and spices you want to keep in your kitchen depends on the kinds of foods you like to cook.  If you’re like me, and cook a bit of everything, then you may think you’ll need to keep a lot of things around you, but since so many herbs are multi-taskers, I think you’ll find that you don’t need a lot of little jars to make a big impact.

Another question is: fresh or dried?  Again, this depends on your cooking style.  I mostly opt for dried, just because there is a longer shelf life.  However, for some foods, I will pick up fresh herbs, especially if it’s the first time I’ve made a recipe and it specifically calls for fresh.  Just remember that dried herbs are more potent than fresh.  If you’re going to substitute, a good rule of thumb is to sub 1 teaspoon of dried for every tablespoon of fresh the recipe calls for.  And sometimes – like when making a cheeseball or a salad – you’ll just want to use fresh no matter what.   Also, dried herbs do lose their potency over time!  If it’s six months old, throw it out and replace it.

Before we talk specifics, there are a few staples that you’re going to want to keep around no matter what.  With these, you can season just about anything successfully.  The staples are:  salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley.  These four things go with everything.  Now, keep in mind that better quality is going to get you better results, and there are fun subcategories to explore (such as kosher or seasoned salt, and a range of peppercorns), but in general, I would keep both kosher and iodized (or table) salt on hand, and both whole peppercorns (in a grinder) and the stuff that comes in a can.  The thyme and parsley I keep on hand in their dry forms, and I will occasionally bring in fresh of each, depending on what I’m making (potato skins are another thing that need fresh).

OK, so now you’ve got your four staples, but you’re interested in expanding out and trying new things.  Here’s a list of meats (or flavors), and some of the herbs and spices that complement them.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you going.  Also, just assume that each list also includes thyme and parsley, because, as I said, they go with everything:

  • Beef: marjoram (not margarine, even though they sound alike), chives, rosemary, ground mustard, ginger
  • Mutton: mint, dill, rosemary
  • Pork: rosemary, pineapple sage, savory
  • Poultry: tarragon, sage, paprika, ground mustard, lovage*
  • Fish: fennel, dill, savory, lemon balm, ginger
  • Non-fish seafood (like lobster): dill, tarragon, basil, lemon balm, lovage
  • Eggs: chervil, basil, chives, tarragon
  • Salad: savory, marjoram, basil, ginger

*It may be hard to find lovage, as it is not a commonly used herb, at least in the USA.

When seasoning, remember that more is not always better.  Don’t pile all your herbs on at once – add one at a time, and see how you like it.  You may find that you like a dish better when it contains only one or two herbs or spices as opposed to four or five.  The purpose of herbs is not to overwhelm the taste of the main ingredient, but rather to provide a subtle change in flavor.

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Mar 20 2008

Grandma’s sweet potatoes.

Published by under Recipes

In honor of my favorite meal of the year – Easter dinner – I present this recipe.

I learned how to make these from years of helping my mom and grandma make family dinners. However, they are not just for special occasions like Thanksgiving or Easter. Sweet potatoes are good all year round. This recipe is easy, but requires a substantial amount of prep time. That’s not to say you’ll be doing a substantial amount of work! It’s just that there’s a lot of boiling that has to happen, and that takes awhile.

Also, these reheat nicely the next day, so if you want to make extra, go for it. I like to have them as a snack.

You should start this about 1 1/2 hours before you want to eat. You will need:

2-3 medium size sweet potatoes
Lots of softened butter. I try to have a stick out, although I might not use it all.
Brown sugar
Ground pepper
a pot big enough to boil all the sweet potatoes at once
a medium sized casserole dish with a lid

Fill your pot with enough water to cover the sweet potatoes by about an inch or two, and get it boiling.

There’s the pot and the sweet potatoes.

Once the water is boiling, put the sweet potatoes in just as they are – don’t peel them, in other words – and let them boil until a fork passes easily through. I don’t know how long this will take – it depends on the girth of the sweet potatoes you chose. It won’t be any less than 30 minutes, though. For the sweet potatoes pictured above it took 40 minutes. You may need to add more water, just to keep the sweet potatoes covered, if your boiling time runs long and you lose a lot to steam.

After 30 minutes, you’ll want to check on them every 10 minutes or so til they’re done. And if one gets done first, just take it out and set it on a plate or something. It won’t go bad waiting for its friends. Also, at the 30 minute mark, whether the sweet potatoes are done boiling or not, you’ll want to set your oven to 350°F (or around 176°C) and get it heating.

When all the sweet potatoes are done boiling, sit them out on a plate to cool down for a few minutes. Or, if you’re like me and impatient, let them cool for approximately 30 seconds, then grab an oven mitt and do the next steps with a clumsy glove on your hand.

Cut the ends off of one sweet potato and stand it up. We’re going to take the skin off, which should be pretty easy. Just take a knife and kind of slice it away. Try not to get too much of the meat off with it. A sharp knife is a bonus for this step; it makes things a lot easier.

Do this for all the sweet potatoes until they are naked, then cut them into 3/4 – 1 inch thick rounds. Arrange the slices in your casserole dish. Pack them together as tightly as you want, but be careful not to smoosh them.

Time to season! Grind some pepper over top of the slices. Don’t go overboard – just add enough so that every slice has some on it. Once that’s done, liberally add brown sugar. And I mean liberally. I never measure this out, but here’s how mine looked when I was done:

A lot, right? That’s probably 1/2 cup unpacked, at least. The point is, don’t skimp. That goes for the butter as well, which we’re going to add next.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you have a heart attack from looking at that? You know, I was stupidly surprised when my mother told me that heart disease runs in our family. I think we’ve found the root cause, here. That’s about a half stick of butter.

At this point, you can choose to either cover the dish, or leave it uncovered.  Covering it will result in a thin glaze, and that’s what I did this time.  Leaving it uncovered will result in a thicker glaze; also, some of the sugar will crust to the potato pieces, which provides extra sweetness bursts.  It’s a matter of taste, and also a matter of convenience.  You don’t really have to keep on eye on the covered ones.

Anyway, choose covered or uncovered.  If you choose covered, you can leave them in for 30 minutes, no problem.  If you choose uncovered, I’d start checking on them after 15 minutes, and take them out when everything looks melted and good, but before the sugar burns.  After 30 minutes (or when the glaze is done), take it out, remove the lid (careful, it’s hot) and take a look at the yummy goodness.

These were cooked covered.

They are ready to eat right now. I usually add a little more pepper to mine, because I like the contrast between the pepper and the syrup. If you have leftovers, make sure you put some of the juice in the with the sweet potatoes when you store them.

And, that’s it! Eat, Poppa! No one wants a skinny Santa!

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