Friday, November 5, 2010


My birthday is on Monday, and for my party this weekend, I'm cooking up something very, very wicked. A cherpumple!

Yeah, I know, it's terrible. For godssake, the thing has been featured on this is why you're fat! It's been described as a "stunt dessert" and the dessert equivalent of a turducken. As much as I'm all about healthy food... I also love making crazy "stunt" food. I've made a turducken twice before, and frankly, the cherpumple looks 1000 times easier. So I had to ramp up the difficulty a bit...

Instead of store bought pies, boxed mix and tubs of frosting, I'm doing it all from scratch. No corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils... just a pile of sugar, white flour, butter, eggs & cream cheese. Oh and a little bit of apples & pumpkin.

I'm really only making a semi-cherpumple, 2 layers (apple & pumpkin) because I'm a little worried about the stability of a 3 layer. Structural stability is my big concern overall... I'm using a sturdier pie crust than my mom's traditional recipe (the cream cheese pie crust from Mad Hungry again), using circles of parchment paper in the bottom of the pie pans and I'm arranging the apple pie to be fairly flat and stable.

For the cake, I've split a basic yellow cake recipe in half... the pumpkin pie will be in a standard yellow cake, while the apple pie will be in a spice cake. That took a bit of tricky math to split the dry ingredients, but at least the recipe called for an even number of eggs.

And I'm going to punk out on the frosting... I asked my mom to make her 7 minute icing. I'm a little concerned it will not be as stable as a cream cheese initially, but it does firm up into more of a merengue. My cream cheese frosting recipe is just too darn messy to make.

All of that and frankly... it's still way less work than a turducken. Deboning the birds was just a total pain.

Monday, November 1, 2010


We have artichokes!!! I planted them last spring in the bed of weeds adjoining our front porch. And then they all died. They died a horrible death. I thought they were gone for good because, well, the nursery sells them in late spring, early summer, so therefore they should grow throughout the summer, right? Apparently not in our area. They just die off in the crazy heat of the summer, only to start growing again once the winters get cool.

So like a phoenix out of the ashes... we have artichoke shoots! They're a good 18" high right now, and I'm excited because I've heard the plants can grow to a good 5' (as tall as I am). And SUPER excited because, well, I love artichokes! Best vegetable ever. I'll be so happy if we get enough cool nights this year to get a substantial crop. Artichokes need 250 hours <50 degrees in order to set fruit. These are planted in the coolest area of our lot, so I've got my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm back... pop, pop, pop!

I'm back and it's canning time!

Last year we had a bumper crop of jalapenos, so I tried making pickled jalapeno rings and jalapeno jelly. The jelly didn't go over so great (turned out fine, but we don't really eat that much sugary stuff around here), but the pickled jalapenos were a smash hit! A friend of ours, who's a connoisseur of all things hot and spicy, tasted one and exclaimed "WOW... these have terroir!" And they really do, I don't usually like taco bar pickled jalapenos, but these are quite tasty.

First things first, even if you're ultimately going to use another recipe, you'll want to check out the instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Rule #1 of canning, either read the Ball Blue Book, or NCHFP for the food you're planning to can. And do a quick review of the basics for hot water bath canning before you start.

That being said, I think their recipe is too fussy. I get firm pickled peppers without using pickling lime. I don't like using salt for a few reasons, partially it's healthier, but partially it's because these are often served alongside salty foods like nachos, carne asada and salsa and I think they're more refreshing unsalted.

Instead, I use a variation on this Pepper Fool recipe. It's pretty simple, herbs, peppers and vinegar. No need for anything fancy, full strength vinegar is acidic enough to take care of the Big Bad Botulism. I slice the jalapenos into rings, use sprigs of strong greek oregano straight from the garden, and double up the garlic. Terroir? Yeah, I think we've got that!

Today is actually my second round of jalapeno pickling this year... I did 5 half pints earlier in the season. Today I processed a full pound and a half (48 chiles) into 3 full pint jars! And believe it or not, we still have chiles on the plants!!! :-o What can I say? Chiles and eggplants just love our microclimate.

Jalapenos ready for slicing & pickling:

Canning set up, left side is my water bath canner, back right is a saucepan full of vinegar, front right is a saucepan of hot water for the lids:

Finished pints of peppers:

This little lady was pickled all by herself (like the oddities in science class). I didn't think such a modest girl would be comfortable mixing it up with the other hotties.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted much. Things have been mega hectic around our home lately. We were off on vacation and then soon after we got back my husband's grandmother passed away, so we had to fly back east for the funeral.

I had a very important post I wanted to make for World Breastfeeding Week, but I'm still getting back on track with many other things, so it's going to have to wait another week or two.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Best smelling compost on the block

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
When we bought our house we inherited a completely overgrown rose bush/tree in a weed covered, overheated bed next to our patio. Every fall I've trimmed it back and every spring, my mom comes a few weeks before my son's birthday and mixes up her super special organic "rose cocktail" and it blooms bigger and bolder every year. This year it's just been insane... so far it's been blooming for 4 months straight. And I mean it has been B L O O M I N G!!! Every evening I'm out there deadheading 3, 4, 5, 6 flowers, and it seems like every time I trim it back, it comes back with more and more. Apparently the scraggly old bush just needed some love and care.

What does this have to do with my compost heap? Well, I'm not really one for potpourri, and it's not a particularly fragrant rose, so all the trimmings are going straight into the bin. The biomass of roses is probably equal to the amount of kitchen trimmings going into our compost. It sure keeps the compost heap smelling good though.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The joys of a kitchen scale

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
My kitchen scale is by far my favorite tool in the kitchen. I first got it to measure portion sizes, you know, figuring out what a 4oz piece of chicken really looks like, instead of going by restaurant portions. But it's oh so much more useful than that, especially for baking. Take the chicken pocket pies I made for dinner tonight.

When I went to the store on Sunday, I thought to myself "Oh, I have enough butter for the piecrust," then of course when I looked today, I had less butter than I thought. Poop. If you're new to baking, here's a tip. When you're cooking you can eyeball it, when you're baking, you need to measure properly or it will be a disaster. Thankfully, I had a substitute, I've been using coconut oil for pan frying lately (it's very stable at higher heats), and I knew that as a saturated fat, I could substitute it for a small amount of the butter in the pie crust. Time to pull out the trusty kitchen scale... 8 tablespoons butter should be 4oz, I had about 3.2oz, I just scooped some coconut oil in for the rest, and popped it in the food processor. Man, I LOVE making pie crust in the food processor, it's so much easier than by hand.

BTW: The pies in question were from the totally amazing cookbook Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys. There's only 4 in the picture because the others went in the freezer for the Bearded One's lunches. Beats the pants off a hot pocket, I'll tell you that much, they were pretty damn tasty.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July? Really?

How is it July already? It sure doesn't feel like it! Here in Southern California the "June gloom" is still hanging around and it's cloudy half the day.

Our eggplants don't seem to care though, we've got eggplants coming out our ears. I need to make a big link-parking post for eggplant recipes, because I'm getting kind of bored with just roasting it with a little balsalmic vinegar. (I can't believe I'm saying that, the clouds must be getting into my head!) Is there any way to preserve eggplant without a pressure canner? I'm running out of room in the freezer, but canned eggplant doesn't sound all that great.

I got our chicken delivery schedule wrong this month, and they came today while I was at work. I am VERY proud to say that I got all three chickens prepped and one in the oven in less than the length of time it took for the Little One to watch one episode of Miffy the Bunny. (25 minutes?) That's pretty darn good, if you ask me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Month of Pastured Chickens...

This post is mostly to wrap up links to this month's chicken adventure for Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays, but also to take a moment to talk about what my adventure in sustainable meats has meant to my family, namely my husband. (Scroll down if you just want to read about the chickens.)

Now my husband eats badly. He'd be the first person to admit that to you. It's not that he eats the worst of the standard american diet, but there are a lot of potato chips, white bread & lunch meat and not much in the way of veggies. He's made some efforts to improve it in the last few years, but he doesn't seem to engage with his food in the same way I do. And frankly, it's easier to just go with the flow and eat prepackaged sandwiches than search out better quality food. So what does this have to do with chickens, wild salmon and grass fed beef? Apparently everything! You see, I pointed him to a recent study about the health risks of processed meats and it really seemed to get him thinking. As we've been talking about pastured chickens and grass fed beef, it's really seemed to click with him. And then I got it... meat makes sense to him. He can talk in a more sophisticated way about meat quality simply because he's thought more about meat than he's ever thought about veggies. Veggies are what sits on the side of the dish, meat is his main course (most of the time). So meat quality matters in his world, much more than it ever did in mine. That was a really new thing for me to realize about him.

OK.... onto the links:

I am a Food RENEGADE!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last of this month's birds

I roasted the last of this month's chickens last night. This would be the one I divided into pieces and gave a garlic/olive oil marinade. Frankly, it was the least impressive bird of the month. The meat tasted nice and chicken-y, but beyond that it was nothing to write home about. The marinade was ho-hum and chicken pieces don't get the same kind of crisp skin as a roasted whole chicken. I think for next month I'm not going to bother with dividing up the bird, it's so much easier just to freeze it whole, and with vacuum sealing there's little risk of freezer burn over 3-4 weeks time.

Because of the Independence day holiday, I don't think we're getting next month's chickens until the 13th, so I'll probably pick up some grass fed beef for meatloaf this weekend. Next month, I'll probably repeat the same herb roasted chicken & 5 spice marinade for two of the birds, and scan through my cookbooks for some new ideas with the third bird. Chicken chili is on the menu again (great way to use up scraps), but I may keep a bunch of carcasses in the freezer for a couple months before I do broth again. The idea of a big ol' boiling stock pot in the middle of summer just sounds miserable.

In other sad news, I had to take out 3/4 of our tomato plants due to an unknown virus. I'm going to use the space to put in some winter (hard shell) squash, which fed us very well last year. And I might try to do some tomatoes in pots... though irrigating potted tomatoes is a nightmare around here. Mostly I'm just bummed. And really praying that whatever it is doesn't spread to the eggplants & chiles in the same bed (all part of the same botanical family and some of the virii can cross over). I can't quite figure out exactly which virus it is though, so I have no idea if they're at risk.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh Produce

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
I'm really excited we're starting to get veggies from the garden! Last weekend I pulled out some chiles to make chicken chili. And today we have some eggplants as well, the striped ones are fairytale eggplants and they're meant to be harvested when they're young and tender. The longer one is an heirloom chinese eggplant.

Dinner tonight is going to be my husband's favorite salmon cake recipe, with anaheim chiles subbed for the bell peppers, and roasted eggplant on the side. My basic roasted vegetable recipe can be made with almost anything, it's as amazing with eggplant as it is with cauliflower.

Basic roasted veggies

Any quantity of fresh veggies, cut into chunks. Options include everything from bell peppers to cauliflower to root vegetables to squash. Mix and match according to your imagination and what you have available.
Olive oil
Salt & freshly cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Throw the veggies in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Oil a roasting pan using either using a cooking spray, or coating it with a brush. Throw the veggies in the pan, roast for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the chunks and density of the veggies, large pieces of sweet potato will take longer than thin slices of zucchini). Vegetables should be starting to brown around the edges.

For mediterranean vegetables (like eggplant) sprinkle with some parmesan cheese halfway through roasting or deglaze with a tiny sprinkling of balsalmic vinegar at the end.

If you wanted more of an chinese feel (green beans anyone?), you could use peanut oil with a dash of sesame oil and add 5 spice powder along with the salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The subject of finding great, healthy recipes online has come up a lot lately in chatting with people, so I figured I'd park a few links here so that I can direct folks to one spot (instead of re-typing up the same e-mail a whole bunch).

Two really awesome websites that I rely on for recipes are:
Eating Well magazine and
Kalyn's Kitchen.

Eating Well is a wonderful magazine and has great food photography (yum!), but let's face it, it's 100 times easier to search a website for recipe ideas than to flip through a stack of back issues! I love their quick, easy to understand "Nutrition Profile" for each recipe.

Kalyn's Kitchen is a South Beach Diet recipe blog. But unlike the recipes in the South Beach Diet books (which tend to be a little heavy for me), Kalyn's idea of good food is light and fresh. If you're scared of nuts & olive oil or think that beans have too many carbs, then her site is not for you. But if you love fresh veggies, beans, whole grains and fish (like I do) you'll love her recipes. Her way of eating suits me just fine and I'm always getting great ideas from her blog.

And as a side note: I have been positively obsessed with kale lately. I'm planting more in my garden because the plants just can't keep up. I've been making a really great lentil & kale salad (recipe to come next week), and a friend of mine has been serving a totally different amazing kale salad recipe at every BBQ and get together. I'll have to bug her for the recipe because it has even my husband wolfing down his greens like there's no tomorrow. But by far, the greatest kale recipe I've been making lately has been kale chips. Tons and tons of kale chips. Man they are INCREDIBLE! Instructions abound in the blog-o-sphere, but I'll point you in the direction of my friend Mo at Kinda Like a Chef.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peach & pistachio salad

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
Today, for Meatless Mondays, we had an awesome salad for dinner, with a side of stuffed mushrooms. The salad was a tweak of an idea I found online, the combo of pistachios & peaches just sounded luscious and I've been anxiously awaiting peaches so I can try it out. The Small One doesn't like lettuce, so I just served his portion without the lettuce, and he sucked it down and asked for more! Not bad.

Peach & Pistachio Salad
Serves 4

1 head of green leaf or butter lettuce
4 peaches
1 avocado
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, chopped
Basil, thinly sliced (optional)

Wash the lettuce and tear into edible sized pieces. Divide into 4 portions among the serving bowls. Slice the peaches and avocados into chunks, mix them together and divide among the bowls. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with pistachios and garnish with basil. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

5 spice roasted chicken, ginger coleslaw

OK, I'm just going to call a spade, a spade here: This is a food blog. Any pretensions of mine that it was going to be anything else were foolish. I'm a foodie through and through and I can't try to write about things having to do with food without getting sidetracked by... OOOOO! FOOD! So yeah, I'm still probably going to tackle some other themes, but for now, I'm just going to settle in and post some recipes.

Today I roasted the second of our chickens. I'd popped this one in the freezer with a 5 spice marinade, pulled it out of the freezer Friday night and threw it in the oven this evening and it was thoroughly delicious. The wings especially were divine, tender with a nice crispy salty skin. As a side, we had my vegan ginger coleslaw. I'm not vegan (by a loooooong shot), but eggs don't agree with me, so I prefer to avoid things that are heavy on the mayo. However, this coleslaw is so amazing, it will win you over even if you're a die-hard traditionalist. I love bringing it to BBQs because people are always surprised by the big time flavor.

5 Spice Marinade

2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake (I have a cheap bottle I use just for cooking)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix all ingredients together. Makes enough to marinade one 3-5 pound chicken. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with chunks of onion before roasting. Roast in a 350 degree oven for an hour & 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. For an extra crispy skin, baste with a little peanut or sesame oil after 1 hour in the oven.

Ginger Colelsaw

1/4 cup tahini
Juice of two limes
2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
~1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups finely chopped cabbage (about 1 bag)
3 medium carrots, grated

Put everything except the cabbage and carrots in the food processor and whizz it until it's a nice dressing-like consistency. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the cabbage, and dump the dressing into the remaining cabbage and carrots. Throw the 1/2 cup of reserved cabbage in the food processor and buzz a couple times, then throw in the bowl with everything else. (This is just an easy way to get all the extra dressing out of the bottom of the processor.) Toss well, let sit for at least 2 hours and enjoy.

If you don't have a ginger grater, just peel about 1" long chunk of ginger, and run it through the food processor before adding the other ingredients.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Our chickens came on Tuesday!

After watching and waiting most of the morning, they showed up USPS instead of UPS like I had expected. Which is good because our UPS guy usually comes way at the end of the day, and I would have had to go to plan B for dinner. I was really impressed at how well they were packed, not a huge amount of packing material, but everything was in a mylar bag and it was a good 30-40 degrees cooler inside the bag, and even colder in the cavity of the chickens; definitely withing food safety guidelines.

So the big deal is that the chickens from this particular farm are processed "buddhist style" which doesn't mean anything about buddhism, just that the feet and heads are still attached. My first order of business was to chop them off. I am NOT going to be facing down heads and feet every week of the month. That part wasn't as bad as I had thought, I need to get better aim with the cleaver, but a broiler/fryer is a pretty small chicken so it wasn't too hard to get through the bones.

Then I got one ready for the oven and prepared the other two for freezing. Frankly, this is where I kinda got stuck. I need to look up some better "once a month cooking" recipes for whole chickens, so I can put them together as meals and pop them in the freezer. According to the USDA, fresh raw chicken is only supposed to stay in a home fridge for 1-2 days (although, they were slaughtered on Monday and in my freezer by the end of Tuesday, so it's not like they were sitting around in a supermarket cold case with people picking at them). Anyway, I left one chicken whole with a basic soy sauce, sesame oil and 5 spice marinade, and the other I cut into pieces and covered with olive oil & garlic. Both went into vacuum bags (love 'em!) and then straight to the freezer.

The one I roasted I simply rubbed with salt, pepper and oregano, popped a whole onion in the cavity and threw in the oven for an hour & 15 minutes. Let me tell you people... it was AWESOME! I don't think I've ever had a chicken where the breast meat had so much flavor, usually breast is really bland. And I was really worried that the credit for my tender chicken rested more on the shoulders of Foster Farms than my own... but nope, this bird was tender & juicy. I think because it was a broiler/fryer which is a smaller, younger chicken. Overall, I was impressed. The price is only a little more than organic breast meat, I know the quality is better than factory farmed organic chicken and frankly, it just plain tasted good!

Thursday, I made stock with the bones... I had bones & gibblets from one supermarket chicken, and the carcasses from the chicken I roasted and the one I took apart into pieces. I had roasted the carcass that I had divide up, a trick from my mom to get more flavorful broth. Oh and I also had a bunch of mushroom stems that I'd been throwing in the freezer from cooking for the past few months. I'm a big fan of holding onto veggie scraps to throw in the stock pot. The stock was way easier, I sauteed the gibblets & mushrooms, threw everything in a BIG pot (my husband brews beer so we have some MEGA POTS), covered it with water and threw in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to extract some of the minerals from the bones. Then I let it sit for an hour, brought it to a simmer and let it go for the rest of the day. The tricky part was after I skimmed out the bones, I had to cool the broth quickly to avoid bacteria. Do you remember those little glass plates you grew gross stuff on in science class? Well fresh warm broth is full of all those same nutrients and the perfect temperature for nasties to grow. So you can't just pop your MEGA POT into the fridge and hope for the best, you have to bring the temperature down quickly, by putting it into smaller containers and putting those in an ice water bath and then in the fridge. It was awkward, especially since I was scrambling for containers, but it all got done. I now have broth for one batch of chicken soup, some stew for my lunches next week and a 4 cup container that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with. I also got a lot more meat picked off the bones, so hopefully by the end of the month I'll have enough chicken scraps in the freezer for chili. Lord knows, our jalapenos are already going great guns in the garden!

I would post pictures of the chickenpalooza, but I'm kinda uptight about safety when it comes to food borne pathogens. I'm not one of those people who's going to go back and forth between my camera and handling raw poultry! The broth making... well, I could have taken a picture, but all it would have shown is that my kitchen was a MESS that day!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How does it work?

Sorry, I didn't finish up last month's series, the end of the month got very hectic in our household. I promise to spend a little bit of time this month wrapping up the loose ends.

This month, however, my theme is F-ing meal plans, how do they work? (If you have not seen the Insane Clown Posse video from which the 'F-ing magnets, how do they work?' meme comes from, go watch it now. Bring chocolate, you'll need it.)

I have no CSA chickens yet! They're coming next week because of the holiday. But here's what our week is looking like.

Tuesday - Chicken with pesto, cole slaw.
Wednesday - Pasta with artichoke sausage.
Thursday - Salmon cakes, with mixed veggies
Friday - Burgers on the grill
Saturday - Dinner out

Pictures to come.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coming up...

Just a little FYI about what I have planned coming up on this blog.

June - Meal planning part II: a month in the life, in which I tackle those CSA chickens.
July - Play month. The importance of getting outside and having some fun.
August - Boobies. The first week in August we're celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, and I'll follow up with an assortment of women's health and nutrition topics.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Step 2: The meat of the matter

Now that you have your framework, it's time to actually plan meals for the week. I typically do my planning on Sunday morning, just because it's an easy time for me to get the shopping done. But whatever time works for you... you could even split the week in half and plan just a few days at a time. Once you have the framework though, the planning is pretty easy. Just follow your plan and write in dishes for each day of the week. I like to try a new recipe once or twice a week, but you can also stick with your old favorites. Don't stress yourself out over it, you did most of the hard work when you made your framework, you're just filling in slots here.

I typically just plan main dishes and then wing it on side dishes. Mostly I do veggies for sides, and I pick up a bunch of whatever is on sale, what sounds good to me, or in the summer, I just go with what's growing in the garden. If you get a CSA box on a regular basis, you don't have to look much farther for inspiration. But, here's one of my important shortcuts... keep a few boxes or bags of frozen veggies in your freezer. I usually have some microwavable basics, as well as some seasoned mixes (Trader Joes has some awesome veggie mixes). I know, processed food has a bad rap, but when it comes to the choice between getting some veggies on the table and not getting veggies on the table, I'd go with the microwave. I strongly believe that it's much better to get in the habit of regularly having a vegetable side dish than it is to stand on principal against processed food and end up skipping out on veggies completely. Especially if you have kids, get in the routine, set a good example, put the veggies on the table and get on with dinner.

Whoops... sorry, got on my soapbox for a minute there, back to meal planning. Feel free to plan out your side dishes if that works for you. There are times where I think it's a good idea, like if I'm making greek marinated grilled chicken, I'll make greek style green beans. Or if I'm roasting something, it's nice to do roasted root vegetables and baked potatoes as sides because then everything's in the oven and you don't have to bother with the stovetop.

Once you've got your week planned out, make your grocery list. I like to split the groceries into two trips a week, because I don't trust vegetables and meats to sit around in my fridge for 6 days. Be sure to double check your spice cabinet, buying doubles of spices gets expensive really quickly, but it's never nice to realize you're out of something in the middle of fixing dinner. And, of course, think a bit about what you're going to need for breakfasts and lunches and add that to your list. (I'll cover a bit more about how I handle lunch planning in a later post.)

And there you are, you have a plan, you have a list... get shopping. :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meal planning: Where to start

Now for the basics, how to plan your meals for the week. Step 1 is to make an outline. Your outline is your framework, you go back to it week after week, month after month. It's going to help you guide your planning. What does an outline look like?

Well my current one goes like this:
Sunday: Casserole, meatloaf, chili or stew.
Monday: Chicken
Tuesday: Meatball/sausage over pasta (or sandwich)
Wednesdays: Leftovers from Sunday
Thursday: Fish
Friday: My husband BBQs
Saturday: Dinner out

It's not set in stone. BBQ night and dinner out often get switched up, depending on our weekend plans. Your plan may be radically different... say you're vegetarian or have food sensitivities. Maybe you'll start with a theme (italian, japanese, comfort food) rather than basing your meal plan around a main ingredient. Consider trying Meatless Mondays. Think about your life, maybe you have a volunteer comitment on Tuesdays, date night on Fridays or your kid wants to have buddies over to watch football every Sunday. The key is to go with a framework that works for you.

Even if you don't really know much about cooking, it helps to start with a framework. Go with things like canned chili, peanut butter sandwiches, frozen burritos... but set aside one day a week to try and cook something from scratch. Preferably a weekend day, when you have some time to really learn. And slowly, as you learn to cook one week at a time, you can start to add new, home cooked, favorites into your weekly menu.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's the point...

So if I'm so gung-ho about meal planning, well then why am I blogging about it?

Well, for several months I've been trying to figure out if I want to join a local chicken CSA (community supported agriculture program). They've got truly free range chickens, humanely raised, and I hear they're pretty tasty too. My big drawback? Well, you get three whole chickens on your doorstep once a month and you gotta figure out what to do with them. Even though I know how to roast a whole chicken, the idea of dealing with a whole chicken every week is daunting. It's not like picking up a pack of boneless, skinless breasts. I've decided to go for it, but it shakes up my meal planning a bit, because I actually need to plan for how I'm going to cook a whole chicken and what I'm going to do with the leftovers.

While I'm at it, I decided to just go ahead and do a bulk order of some sustainably fished, low mercury, canned wild salmon and tuna. So if this works for us, it's going to swing my family's meat consumption dramatically away from industrial farmed animals. But it's going to require me to up my game on the meal planning front.

Some worthwhile articles:
CHOW: Tips for responsible carnivores
Which meat harms our planet the least?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Hi there, and welcome to my new blog Fresh Habits. What is "Fresh Habits"? Well, it's intended as a place where I can share my practice of creating a healthy, happy, sustainable lifestyle one habit at a time. Each month, I'll pick a new theme, sometimes it will be habits I already do well, sometimes it will be things I know I need to work on.

And I'll probably post some recipes and random parenting & gardening stuff from time to time. Because everyone loves food, gardens and babies!

For the month of May, I'm picking meal planning as a theme. I know, I know... WAY boring. Who likes to sit down and plan meals and make grocery lists? Not me. But you know what I hate more than planning meals? The alternative. It goes like this:

Me: Honey, what do you want for dinner?
The Bearded One: I don't know? What's in the fridge.
The Small One: Mama, mama, lookit tower!!!
Me: Nothing. You want pasta or you want to order out? Oh honey, nice tower, but let's put the soup cans away!
The Bearded One: I'm sick of pasta, let's order out.
The Small One: Mama, mama, want my milk cup! And a cereal bar! And banana!
Me: Yes, yes honey, are you hungry? Mama's trying to find the take-out menus. Hmmm... jeez, I'm sick of all our take-out places. And sick of spending big money for crappy food.

You get the picture. I get really sick of the "I dunno, what do you want to eat" every night, and we don't eat well when everything is either frozen pizza, pasta or take-out... night after night. Meal planning is a great way to get good food on the table, faster and easier, regardless of your busy lifestyle.