Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snap Out of It!

Good grief. I've had a certain post I've been trying to finish for.... well, let's just say it's a recipe for the Little House Snow Candy.

Because I imagine this blog is to actually record my life, not just my meals, let me just say I'm in a bit of a funk. I think I have some strange breed of SAD, and it manifests itself in very late winter and early spring.

I'm not walking around crying or anything... not even really feeling sad most of the time. But my energy is so low and my interest level is, too. And so I associate it as depression because that's what the symptoms are. Every day I tell myself that I'll finish that blog post for sure (among other things) and here it is bedtime and I'm just too tired.

I actually prepared something interesting in the kitchen today (beouf bourguignon) and it didn't occur to me to take pictures of it. My kitchen is kind of a mess anyway.

The good news is: It's happened before and it seems to be seasonal. And I declare it over. Or nearly over anyway. We're taking a trip to The Big City on Friday and I hope to get a great restaurant review out of it. Also friends are coming over on Sunday and that will be a great time. Making plans and feeling hopeful...

Feeder of the Family

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday (and Wednesday, and Thursday)

Never fear. This is not about to become a health food blog or a weight loss blog. But Mama's turning 40 this summer and the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be.

(When I was in school, I worked in the kitchen of a retirement community. From time to time, my duties included serving Sunday dinner in an assisted living portion of the campus. At these times I became acquainted with A Woman of a Certain Age who managed to work the phrase "the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be" into every conversation we had as she followed me about the dining hall after the meal. When I used it just now, I imagined myself, white-haired and wheelchair-bound, coasting around behind the kitchen help, telling her of Days Gone By.)

As I've approached 40, I've put on some weight. When I tried to get into my winter clothes this past fall, I realized that my weight had reached a number I'd never seen before, not even on the delivery dates of my children. And the comfortable pants size was one that had never been in my closet before, not even post-partum.

I gained weight simply by aging. I hadn't increased my food intake or decreased my activity. I tried cutting out soda pop and kept gaining weight. I took up running and kept gaining weight. I was pretty frustrated.

OK, I've already given this topic a higher word count than it deserves. Look, my mom was 5'10" and wore a size 13 shoe - we're of corn-fed, country stock. I've never been petite nor prideful about my smallness. But I desire to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible and to set a responsible example for my kids. I've got to stop cooking as though I'm feeding farmhands.

Even though it feels more like lunch and not the kind of evening family meal I'm accustomed to, I've begun to incorporate more meals like this into the menu rotation. It's a nice, healthful, low-carb wrap with plenty of ingredients so that everyone may combine flavors and textures that they enjoy.

I usually provide lots of worthy ingredients like shredded chicken breast, onion, lettuce, sweet peppers and chiles. On another occasion, I had a leftover sweet potato, which I cubed and put in my wrap. I liked the spots of rich, warm sweet potatoes against the cool crunch of the lettuce and pepers. I put as much of these vegetables into my wrap as I want.

I offer some fats, too, but I measure my portions and count my calories. I might sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese and use a schmear of sour cream or guacamole along one edge of the wrap to seal it shut.

When I counted up my portions, I had a meal that satisfied me in about 400 calories.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Two For the Road

I enjoy the NPR food program "Splendid Table." Frequent contributers are Jane and Michael Stern (Or at least I THINK that is how they are still billed. I understand they are now divorced, but continue to work together. Wow. Diligence.) who taste their way about the country, stopping mostly at diners, coffee shops and the occasional bar.

They've written several books and, to my surprise, they are not all about food. Some are more specifically about travel or about American culture. This should come as no surprise since, in the tone of their writing and radio segments, they seem so sweet on the people living out small town culture, be they open-hearted midwesterners, crusty easterners, bigger-than-life southerners or loosey-goosey west coast types.

All I want to think about or talk about lately is our upcoming summertime road trip "out west." I've read, or at least browsed the Stern books "Road Food," "Eat Your Way Across the USA," and "500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: and the Very Best Places to Eat Them" in anticipation of these two weeks on the road.

Only by happenstance did I find this book: "Two For the Road," the Sterns' memoir about their travels. The good news: this book made me laugh out loud three times in the first eight pages. I was expecting to find culinary opionions that I trust, but funny, irreverant writing was a happy suprise. The bad news: their conclusion is that the people of the great plains undoubtedly eat well at home, but they offer very few public eateries worth a mention. On this matter I cannot be consoled.

Here comes a cute story, however - For the dearth of lovely roadside diners in that part of the country, the Sterns' very favorite diner story takes place in South Dakota. The coffee shop is easy enough to imagine. It was the one and only such place in town, privately owned with simple, hearty fare - open only for breakfast and lunch. In this particular community, the folks used it regularly and knew they could count on it, but they really never thought much about the service it offered to them all. And then, after decades of business, the owners closed up shop and moved on to other things. Like most can-do folks, the South Dakotans considered the new situation, clucked their tongues and shrugged, getting back to life as usual.

But as time wore on, they found they missed the daily opportunity to meet with their neighbors. Because the typical lifestyle was limited to: being alone in the house, being alone in the barn and being alone on the tractor, the coffee shop was such a comfort when one was looking for a little human contact and conversation.

This is where the story gets especially nice. Volunteers were recruited from the community in order to staff the kitchen on a monthly basis. Here I read stories of husband/wife teams splitting the labor on their assigned days of feeding their neighbors. One hog farmer might do kitchen duty (with an apron tied across his belly and a spatula in hand), preparing breakfast ham, waving away the instructions of how to prepare Earl's eggs because he knows already; hasn't he been cooking them for three years? And the hog farmer's wife rings up the orders and makes sure the coffee cups don't go too cool or too dry. Whomever makes up the menu and does the shopping plans for cinnamon rolls an another day, when a certain farm wife is in the kitchen because she's known for that particular breakfast and folks would be disappointed if they weren't on the menu when they know she's cooking.

I just thought that was such a cool story. I love that kind of community, folk and diner, don't you?