Monday, June 13, 2011
About a week ago, I had an email from Annelies at Attune Foods asking if I’d be interesting in trying some of their products. I checked out the Attune webpage and found that they’re a company devoted to creating community around good food like whole grain cereals and crackers. I was familiar with their Uncle Sam cereal (which you can probably find in the super-healthy-bran-cereals section of the breakfast aisle at your favorite grocery store), but I’d never heard of their Erewhon product line. So I told Annelies I’d be happy to try them out and share my reactions.
First things first: the funky name of the Erewhon products is taken from a late-19th century utopian novel written by Samuel Butler as a critique of Victorian England. (Erewhon is meant to be Nowhere spelled backwards, in spite of the transposed h and w.) The idea of good food being part of a utopian society certainly makes sense to me (and I’m always up for an obscure literary reference), so I was excited to try both of the samples Annelies sent me. I received a box of Erehwon Corn Flakes, which looked pretty much like your standard-issue cornflakes when poured into a cereal bowl, and a box of their Rice Twice cereal, which looked like a slightly more toasty version of Rice Krispies.
I confess that I’m not, in general, a fan of corn flakes–I love the taste, but they have a tendency to turn to mush the minute they’re doused with milk. So I was pleased to discover that the Erewhon flakes didn’t do that at all. They started out crunchy and stayed that way through to the bottom of the bowl. These corn flakes are a little thicker and more substantial than what I’m used to, which probably accounts for the difference in texture. They aren’t sweet at all, so if you want a little sugar to get you going in the morning, you might want to add a drizzle of honey after you add your milk. (Corn Chex with honey were The Girl’s favorite breakfast item for years, until she turned into the sort of teenager that doesn’t eat breakfast.) I’m going to try crushing and using some of these corn flakes as a coating for chicken later this week, because their texture seems well-suited to that use.
Next, we tried the Rice Twice cereal. I was a little skeptical about this one because, in spite of my best efforts to change my tastebuds, I really don’t like brown rice. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself actually preferring this cereal to the corn flakes. The name Rice Twice reflects the fact that the cereal includes rice crisps and rice puffs–I’m assuming this accounts for the darker and lighter bits of rice in the cereal, but the texture of each is essentially the same. Rice Twice is very light, slightly sweet (thanks to a very thin glaze of rice syrup and honey)–and, like the corn flakes, it stands up to milk without getting soggy. That’s the true test of success for a breakfast cereal, in my book. I’m going to buy another box of this one and try to come up with a hybrid version of Rice Krispy Treats/granola bars using the brown rice cereal as a base. If I can get the Foodie children to eat brown rice in any form, I’ll be delighted.
I tried to price check these cereals at my grocery store this morning, but only Uncle Sam cereal was on the shelf, which explains why I was unfamiliar with the Erehwon product line. But I’ll definitely be asking my local HEB to carry Rice Twice and save me the effort of making a separate trip to Whole Foods.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Remember when I mentioned that The Hubs is an all-around good guy? Well, if you need empirical evidence to support that claim, here it is.
Last Friday, I was getting ready to go for a run when The Hubs came into the room wearing a look I’ve come to know all too well. The look that says he’s done something very kind, but a little extravagant, and he’s hoping one will balance out the other. He asked me to come into the other room and look at the computer.
The Hubs had bought me this KitchenAid Artisan mixer. It was an Amazon Gold Box deal, and he got it for a very good price. But even so, it was expensive.
“You’ve just been working so hard on your blog,” he said, “and you’ve wanted one of these for a really long time. I thought you deserved it.”
Not only did he buy me the mixer of my dreams, he bought it in Cinnamon–which happens to match my kitchen perfectly. He did that without even being asked, because I’d never specified a color. My longing for a KitchenAid mixer was pretty generic, in an “I want one of those someday” kind of way.
So, there you go. Proof positive that The Hubs is as good as it gets–and I am one lucky Foodie.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Remember these guys? A couple of weeks ago, I found them at the farmer’s market. I went back again last week, hoping to find more, but no such luck. I’ll go back again tomorrow with the same hope in my heart–along with the memory of an excellent blackberry cobbler I made with them.
Cobbler is one of my favorite summer desserts because it’s so easily adapted to whatever fruit is in season. Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches–you name it, you can’t go wrong. There are, however, several groups of thought with regard to the way cobbler should look and taste. They break down something like this:
Group 1: Cobbler should have a cooked fruit filling topped with a broken (“cobbled”) biscuit-like topping. Usually, the biscuitty stuff is sprinkled with sugar and/or cinnamon.
Group 2: Cobbler should have a cooked fruit filling and a crisp, flaky, pie crust-like topping. (I was once served a portion of cobbler in a small ramekin, with a little disc of pie crust perched atop the mound of cooked fruit. It was quite delicious, but I wouldn’t have called it cobbler.)
Group 3: Cobbler should have fresh fruit snuggled up in a cake-like batter. As the batter bakes, the fruit releases some of its juices and flavors the surrounding cake.
Personally, I’m a Group 3 girl, followed closely by Group 1. As far as I’m concerned, any dessert in Group 2 is a single-crust pie. And I love pie, so I will happily eat it whenever it’s offered–but I’m not going to call it cobbler. Not unless you do so first. And even then, I will do it only if you’re the chef, just to be polite. I will not, in my heart of hearts, believe for one minute that I’m eating cobbler.
This is my favorite cobbler recipe because it’s so easy to remember. But the best part about Group 3 cobblers is that they don’t require a separate step for cooking the fruit filling before you brown the topping. Minimizing heat exposure: yet another reason why cobbler is the perfect summer treat.
1 stick of butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups blackberries
1 T. sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the stick of butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish and allow it to melt in the oven while you're preparing the cobbler batter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the milk and the vanilla all at once and whisk the batter until it's free of lumps. Set the batter aside.
Remove the pan with the melted butter from the oven. Tip the pan to make sure the melted butter is coating the bottom evenly. Pour in the cake batter over the butter, then arrange blackberries evenly over the top. (The cake batter will rise over the berries while baking.) You may notice butter floating on top of the cake batter, or berries sinking to the bottom. Worry not. All is well.
Place the assembled cobbler in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Then, sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon of sugar and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until the top is browned and just slightly crunchy.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Earlier today, I was browsing through food blogs–I’m making the first tentative steps toward taking The Family Foodie into another format, so I wanted to look at a variety of examples for inspiration. In the process, I happened upon Can You Stay For Dinner?
, written by the lovely Andie Mitchell.
I wound up spending much more time on her blog than I’d intended to, largely because Andie is a very engaging writer, funny and wise and insightful. I found myself reading about Andie’s weight loss journey
–she’s lost 135 pounds
–and about her relationship with exercise.
So much of her story felt familiar to me that, even though she’s nearly half my age, I felt like Andie understood a few things better than I do even now. Or, better than I did until I read her blog today.
If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’ve struggled with my weight for a good part of my life. I’ve never been obese–at least, I’ve never considered myself obese. But when I looked at the medical file from my first pregnancy, the first words I saw were Obese female. That’s how my doctor described me after our initial meeting. I weighed, at the time, 158 pounds. I’m 5′ 5″, and while 158 pounds is not a healthy weight for that height, I don’t think of it as obese. My doctor did, obviously. She spent the rest of that pregnancy cautioning me against any weight gain, telling me “You’re already heavy enough.”
158 pounds was not the highest non-pregnancy weight I’d ever seen on the scale, but it was close: 162 pounds was my all-time high. Some little warning bell in my brain went off, at that point, and I started a liquid diet that brought me down to 140 pounds. I managed to stay close to that weight for about two years, but then the scale started creeping upward again. It was a pattern I’d grown familiar with: lose the weight, maintain for awhile, start thinking I was set for life, gain the weight back. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I have no idea how much weight I’ve gained or lost over the course of my life. I can, however, give you various readings from the scale at key moments. For instance, I weighed 128 pounds on the first day of my senior year of high school (after a summer that included one day per week of fasting.) That was 14 pounds less than I’d weighed on the last day of my junior year, when I pledged to use the summer months to improve myself. Improvement, of course, just meant losing weight.
I weighed 132 pounds the day I left home for college. Already, the scale was creeping upward again.
For years, I relied on those numbers to tell me whether or not I should be proud of myself. All I wanted was a lower number, every time I stepped on the scale. Just less than last time, that’s all. Or the same number, at least. No progress, but no damage–I could live with that.
But I lived in a household where desserts and junk food were readily available at all times, which meant maintaining a healthy weight was difficult. When I complained about this, my mother said “Your brother has to have something to eat.” (My brother weighed 72 pounds for three years during elementary school. When he sucked in his stomach, you could count every one of his ribs.) She was not a big fan of desserts, so she didn’t see why I couldn’t just leave the sweets alone. But it wasn’t that easy for me–I wanted dessert with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I’ve often wondered why I carried the extra weight for so many years. If I was so deeply unhappy as a fat girl, why didn’t I just take control of the food I consumed? It seems so logical. For years I attributed my behavior to low self-esteem: I didn’t like myself, so I didn’t take care of myself. I was unhappy, and eating made me happy. Simple. But today, reading Andie’s blog, I had a revelation: it was more than that. I ate because I loved food. Just like I still love food. The problem was that I believed losing weight meant avoiding food altogether. Once I’d fallen off the wagon–which is to say, started eating–I had already failed. There was no reason not to eat to excess, and I might as well enjoy my failure while it lasted, because the diet train was sure to be pulling into the station again.
That behavior followed me around for years. By the time I was 34, I had two children and a husband who loved me no matter what size I was–and you would think being loved unconditionally might change the way you feel about yourself. But no. Those are two different things entirely.
Then came the horrible day that my daughter came home from preschool crying Jack said you were fat and I told him that’s a mean thing to say! I don’t like it when people say you’re fat! It hurts my feelings because I love you! I hadn’t yet lost all the weight from my second pregnancy (which I began at 142 pounds, and during which I was chastised by the doctor for losing weight during my morning-sickness-plagued first trimester), but I was maybe five pounds over what I thought of as a healthy weight. Still, according to my daughter, people say you’re fat.
I gained (and lost) 15 more pounds. And then, after that final dip in the scale–when I was over 40–I made a major change in my life: I started running. (If you’d like to know why, you can read that story here.) I was stunned by how much better I felt, almost immediately, and by how much better my clothes fit. Nothing was bunchy. Nothing pulled. Nothing cut into me at the waist. And I felt so powerful and confident, in addition to feeling physically healthier. Sometimes I’d go to work and spend the whole day watching the clock, just waiting until I could go home and take a run. No one was more surprised by this transformation than I was.
I stopped weighing myself almost by accident–I didn’t feel fat, so it didn’t feel necessary. And when I did weigh myself, just out of curiosity, I discovered that I’d lost exactly two pounds. Two pounds. Almost nothing, really. I felt so much better about myself than I ever had before–and it had nothing to do with the number on the scale.
It would be another year before it occurred to me that maybe I needed to buy new clothes. My husband, actually, was the one to suggest that I needed to buy clothes that actually fit. I thought he was crazy, but I wasn’t going to object to the idea of buying a new wardrobe. When we went to the store, I automatically went to the size 14 section, out of habit. “I think you need to try a smaller size,” he said, reminding me of why we’d gone shopping in the first place. But I was reluctant. I couldn’t believe a size 12 pair of jeans would actually fit. I’d only lost two pounds, after all.
And the 12 didn’t fit. It was too big.
I hadn’t worn a size 10 since I was in seventh grade, but when I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t deny that it was the right size. That was me. Size 10.
I was sure those jeans were a fluke. At every other store we visited that day, I insisted on trying a 12 before I’d admit that I really, actually, needed a 10. When I looked in the mirror, no matter what size I was wearing, I still saw the fat girl. I still see her now, five years later, even though all the clothes in my closet are now that size.
And today, reading Andie’s blog, I figured out why this is: because the fat girl is part of who I am. She’s not a person I left behind when the numbers on the scale changed. I loved food then, and I love food now. The difference is, I can love food now and eat it, too. Eating is success, not failure. It fuels my body and lets me take care of the people I love.
Including the fat girl.
I think about all the years I spent in that body, and I know there were many happy moments: the births of both of my children. My wedding to the love of my life. Travel, both cross-country and overseas. There were things to be proud of, too: accomplishments in graduate school, admission to a highly competitive MFA program, earning my Ph.D. I did all of those things as the fat girl–and when I think of them, I don’t think about my weight. I think of what a miracle it is that any child is born whole and healthy. I think about how amazing it is that I managed to earn my doctorate while holding down a full-time job and raising two preschoolers. The fat girl and I did that, together.
And then she brought me to this moment, and I am grateful she let me make the journey with her.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I know what you’re thinking: lentil sprouts and granola in one week? Foodie, have you gone hippie-mad? No. I’ve just been making a concerted effort to eat well and undo some of the damage I did to myself (and the Foodie family) during the last six weeks of the semester. I don’t think I’ve ever lived through a busier time at work, and the Foodie family paid the price–in frozen dinners, fast food, and many other forms of quick-but-not-nutritious eating. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge your helplessness in the face of the value meal.
But when I finally had time to start thinking about some of my healthier favorites, I remembered a delicious bunch of lentil spouts I’d received in my Greenling box a few years ago. I subscribed to Greenling’s organic produce delivery service for quite awhile, until San Antonio got more serious about organizing farmer’s markets and providing residents with access to local growers–then it no longer seemed necessary. Still, I miss being presented with a box of sometimes-mysterious produce on a regular basis. Lentil sprouts were one of those strange-looking things I’d never tasted before they appeared in my Greenling box.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until very recently that I could try sprouting my own lentils at home. Perhaps I thought this process would require some sort of sprouting enzyme that I didn’t have on hand. Perhaps I thought the sprouting had to happen during the growing process. Whatever I thought, a little research made it clear that sprouting lentils was a very easy process. It requires
- some dried lentils (the kind you can buy from the grocery store–any kind will do)
- a canning jar or a tall, narrow drinking glass
That’s it. The sprouting process is equally simple.
- Pour 1/2 cup of dry lentils and 2 cups of water into the jar or glass.
- Cover the top with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, a thin washcloth, or some other breathable material. (I used a canning jar, so I just removed the metal plate from the lid, stretched half of a coffee filter over the opening, and secured it with the screw-on ring. You can easily do the same with a coffee filter and rubber band, if you don’t have a two-part lid.)
- Let the lentils soak in the water for 12 hours, then drain off the water and rinse the lentils in a colander. Put them back in the jar, wet but drained, and leave them alone for 12 more hours. Keep them out of direct sunlight.
- After 12 hours, rinse the lentils again. Repeat this as many times as necessary, until your lentils have sprouts that are 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch long. (You’ll see from the picture above that I let mine grow a little longer, which is also fine, unless you’re in a hurry to eat your sprouts.) Your sprouts will be ready to eat in 2 to 3 days.
Why take the time to sprout lentils? First of all, the sprouting process makes many nutrients more readily available to the body, so lentils (which are already a nutritional powerhouse) become even better for you when you sprout them. Sprouting lentils also makes them a complete protein source, like meat, by adding 2 amino acids to the 20 lentils possess in their dried form. That means, if you’re trying to reduce your meat consumptions, sprouted lentils can help you replace the nutrients you lose when you cut out animal protein. (Plus, sprouted lentils offer more fiber than their dried counterparts. Meat, of course, gives you none. So eating lentil sprouts is a double-whammy of goodness.)
And now you’re wondering What on earth would I do with lentil sprouts? Lots of things. You can toss them into a salad, or put them on top of a sandwich in place of lettuce or alfalfa sprouts. You can stir fry them with veggies (although cooking them breaks down some of the available nutrients, as it does with all vegetables.) You can stir them into a bowl of soup to add a little crunch. There are also many salads made with lentil sprouts as the base ingredient, and I’m sure you’ll see a recipe for one or more of those on this blog over the summer.
Go on, give it a try. What have you got to lose? Half a cup of dry lentils, at the most. And if nothing else, watching the lentils grow their sprouty tails makes for an interesting kitchen science experiment.