Food Nostalgia

I spent a whole day with the 1980’s today. I’m in the show “Steel Magnolias” which takes place during that decade, and then tonight I went to see Cheap Trick and Blondie in concert. Talk about a blast (or two) from the past! As a child of that decade (I graduated high school in the mid-80’s) days like today take me right back to my teenage years. I remember the music, television, fashion, and of course, the FOOD!

The play references a LOT of food, including a recipe that contains Bisquick “which makes it SO easy!” I remember my mom making recipes with Bisquick, including “Impossible Cheeseburger Pie” and a few others. That got me to thinking, what foods do YOU identify with from your childhood? My dad was the pizza king. Every couple of weeks, we’d have a pizza night, where Daddy would make up the crusts from the Chef Boyardee pizza kit, and us kids would get to help him put toppings on it. He was never content to just put that little can of Parmesan cheese on those pizzas. Instead we had provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, even American cheese some weeks! Mom also made a chicken and stuffing casserole that was a family favorite. My brother and I ate PB&J on white Wonder Bread, and we actually put Utz potato chips INSIDE our sandwich to make it crunch. My mom also would make us Steak-Umm sandwiches, with American cheese and mayo. They were great at home, not so great for school when they tended to get cold.

It amazes me how closely linked my memories are to food. I guess I was feeding way more than my stomach back then! What did YOU eat as a kid? Are there any foods that when you taste them take you back in time? Please share!

A confession

I have not done so great during this current Paleo challenge. Despite my good intentions, my life just has not allowed me time to put in the time and effort needed to cook meals that are 100% Paleo.

I’m not eating horribly or anything, and I certainly haven’t been eating wheat (except those three bites of funnel cake which was SO not worth it). But going to the theater every day after work, and then going out with my castmates after shows means that some dairy, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol have made their way into my body.

However, rather than feel guilty about it, I have accepted that this is just where my life is right now. I choose to take part in theater as my hobby. I choose to take time to go watch my kids play soccer. I choose to enjoy the social activities during this beautiful fall season. I don’t exactly CHOOSE to work full time, but I do enjoy the things my employment affords.

You get what I’m saying right? It is what it is. As much as I love food, my life is about more than that right now. My activities are feeding other appetites now, I am feeding my soul and that is just as important.

So maybe the point of this challenge, and the lesson to be learned is that doing my best is good enough. I want to have a happy, healthy relationship with food, not one that is obsessive and filled with guilt. My life is like a gemstone, colorful and multi-faceted, and I am just polishing each one – allowing them to shine and become more beautiful.

Hope your Saturday sparkles too!

Save the Jars!

So, in my quest to eat better, healthier, higher quality food, I have to share with you one of my little secrets.

I save glass jars. Pickle, jelly, salsa, canning, whatever…I save jars. Once they’re empty, I sanitize them in my dishwasher and add them to my food storage collection. For every piece of glass storage I add, I throw away a piece of plastic.

Why? Well, let me answer a question with a question… if I am being mindful of eating healthier, organic, farm fresh, pasture raised food, why would I serve, store, and reheat in containers that possibly transfer BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Antibacterials and other chemicals into my food? Doesn’t that seem silly?

I already have started rebuilding my collection with the leakproof glass food storage items, and the tempered glass prep bowls from The Pampered Chef (I LOVE these!) as well as glass storage from Pyrex and other places. Tempered glass is safe to use in the freezer, the refrigerator, the microwave, and the oven. Reheating in glass does not allow harmful chemicals and compounds to leech into my food, and then into my body. Now, I DO use a FoodSaver for freezing, however the FoodSaver company states that its bags are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free. Also, I try to be very diligent about not putting HOT food into those bags (I let my blanched vegetables cool before bagging and freezing) and taking the food out of the bags before cooking.

Today, I packed some potato-leek soup and a poached pear for my lunch. Two glass jars with their tight fitting lids fit beautifully into my thermal lunch tote, and all I had to do was take off the lids and reheat in our work microwave. Delicious! Plus I didn’t have to wory about warped lids not fitting correctly, or the glass heating up so that I couldn’t lift it and carry it back to my desk.

As an added bonus, when I store food in glass, it’s easier to see the contents and I find myself far more likely to USE what’s inside, rather than let it go to waste. This applies to the pantry too! Jelly, Dip, Salsa, Pickle… any jar can be sanitized in the dishwasher and then put to good use. Canning jars can be had for pennies or even free at yard and garage sales.

Also, never EVER reheat food on Styrofoam plates, or in those foam carryout containers you get at restaurants. Styrofoam is a petroleum product, and melts when heat contacts it. Where do you think those toxins end up? In your food. Transfer leftovers to glass containers as soon as you get home and store them in your fridge. Then you’re guaranteed a delicious and non-toxic meal the second time around.

I am an ant

I think nearly every culture has a version of the story “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” You know the one, where the ant works through beautiful days putting up food, building a house, preparing for winter while the grasshopper plays the summer days away. When winter comes, only one insect is left warm, well-fed, and alive. Here’s a hint: It ain’t the grasshopper.

Well I am obviously an ant. Today I bathed the two dogs; spread Borax on the floor and furniture to combat the fleas; roasted, shredded, and froze eight large spaghetti squash; peeled, wedged, and froze the last of the season’s fresh peaches in light syrup, roasted half of my stash of butternut squash, which I will freeze tomorrow (it’s in the fridge now), and loaded the dehydrator with poblano/ancho chiles that will dry overnight. Tomorrow I will put up the final bit of beans, and start harvesting the herbs in my herb garden.

I think I will also make this: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I first read the recipe. With any luck, I’ll have some other insect hanging out playing the fiddle while I cook.

A night off…

Means I actually MADE DINNER tonight. Man it felt GOOD to cook something again. I know that sounds weird, but I had really missed getting creative in the kitchen.

I had a ham steak in the freezer from one of our local pork producers. I also had those cute baby sweet potatoes and fresh green beans that I bought on Friday. The spouse had gotten some pearl onions for beef stew, and I had two Roma tomatoes that I needed to use. There’s that cheapskate gene again! I scrubbed up a bunch of those little taters and popped them in a 400 degree oven. I peeled and halved the onions, dropping them in a skillet with some olive oil. While they browned, I diced up the two tomatoes, and then added them to the skillet. Finally, my green beans went in along with a splash of chicken stock and sea salt. I let them steam a bit, then uncovered to cook off some of the juice from the tomatoes. I ended up with a nice medley there, and the tomato pulp added to the caramelized onion made a nice coating on those crisp-tender green beans. The ham steak went into a grill pan just to get warmed up and get a few grill marks. With good protein, all I want to apply is simple seasonings and HEAT.

I ended up with ham that had crispy skin and charred grill marks, potatoes that were perfectly creamy and sweet without any kind of seasoning, and savory green beans seasoned with tomato and those pearl onions. Completely satisfying. It was so satisfying in fact, that I concentrated more on eating than in remembering to take a photo for the blog tonight.

I wanted dessert, and I had four pears in the fridge. I also had two half bottles of Moscato wine. I’d never poached pears before, but I was in the mood to be adventurous. So, I poured the wine into a saucepan, added some organic raw honey, candied ginger, lemon peel, a vanilla bean, and a teeny bit of simple syrup. I let that mixture come to a boil, and then a simmer while I peeled the pears. I left the stems on and cored them from the bottom and then dropped them into the simmering poaching liquid. It took 30 minutes or so before the pears were soft (but not mushy) and I pulled them from the liquid, standing them in a bowl. I then turned the heat up slightly and let the poaching liquid reduce to a syrup. Into the fridge it went until cool and thick. I drizzled that syrup all over one of those pears and OH MY HEAVEN was it good. The pear was sweet, the reduced wine syrup still had a nice light acidic bite to it and the ginger came singing through clearly while not overpowering.

Some nights it’s so so GOOD to just have a night off to play with my food.

On another note, one of my Facebook friends suggested a mini feature within the blog called “Hey Stacy, look what I made!” He sent me a photo of his dinner tonight, and MAN did it look good. So I think I’d LOVE that. Since sometimes I end up eating instead of taking pictures, you all can send me photos of what YOU make for dinner.

Here’s what Ernie made:

Doesn’t that look good? Now he needs to give me the recipe!

So what have YOU made lately? Post here, or hit me up on Facebook. I’d love to know what’s cooking in YOUR kitchen!

Necessity is the mother of invention

So remember that “everything pesto” I made last week? Well I used some of it, but had quite a bit left over. Since pesto freezes so beautifully, I figured I’d freeze this too.

HOWEVER, I had forgotten that I sent my ice trays up to college with Stretch for her apartment. So, I was a bit at a loss as to how I’d freeze this pesto. Lucky me, I’d bought some small ramekins a while back at a discount kitchenware and home goods shop. I pulled them down and grabbed a serving spoon out of my silverware drawer. One heaping spoonful went into each ramekin and I used the spoon to spread it out just a little. Lucky me, the ramekins are STACKABLE, and so I stacked them up and stuck them in the freezer to harden.

Once they were thoroughly frozen, I just used a little paring knife to free them and voila! I have beautiful, round disks of pesto in the perfect serving size to toss with roasted veggies, or spoon over meat, or toss with gluten free pasta.