Saturday, February 09, 2008

Food, glorious food

I like food. I like to cook it and I like to eat it. Planning meals, shopping, and cooking occupies a fair amount of my time. Food also accounts for a huge chunk of our budget. (Feeding six--or seven-- people is never cheap, but when three of them are teen or pre-teen boys, wow!)

I also like to read about food. I've been reading about nutrition for several years, realizing more and more that the conventional wisdom is often wrong. (Can anyone say butter?) I enjoy reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows to get ideas and inspiration. Books like Real Food have made a big difference in the way we eat. Sometimes it can take me hours to do my grocery shopping because I spend a lot of time reading labels.

My big challenge is to take these things I've learned and the ideas I've gained and fit them into the constraints of my available time and budget. Some things have becomealmost non-negotiable. We buy free-range organic chicken because it tastes better and is healthier. Same with cage-free eggs. We buy most of our meat from local farmers or from nearby sources. We do really well in the summer with fruits and veggies because they almost all come from our garden or we go pick them.

However, there are lots of places we could do better. I would to make my own bread, because we love really good bread, and it's expensive, but time shortages get in the way. So right now we eat mediocre bread most of the time, with good bread thrown in for a treat now and then.

I'm trying to make more soup, because it can be a great way to deliver flavor and nutrition in a cost-effective way, but I need to do better planning so that I don't need to purchase broth or stock. And I could always use more recipes!

I want to try buying raw milk, because each friend who has switched has seen health benefits in her family, and it tastes better,too, but it takes some effort. Up to this point, the changes I've made have mostly been relatively easy. I think I keep waiting for it to be more convenient.

For a while I was feeling guilty for knowing that there were things that I could be doing better and wasn't. I don't feel guilty anymore. I do the best I can without too much difficulty. I try to cook tasty meals that are reasonably nutritious. And if my kids eat the occasional frozen pizza or we share a bag of Doritos Hot Wings and Blue Cheese , overall we're still doing pretty well.


Anonymous said...

I got this recipe from Erin Seifferlein's blog. It's quite easy. While I've made it a few times, I always end up giving it as a gift and so haven't tried it, but it's supposed to be like the good Panera/European crusty bread. Just make sure to get it ready the night before!

RPW said...


stock making is you know those free-range chickens? Well after you are done with your dining, take a stock pot, slice 2 onions in half (skin on is fine), 2-3 stalks of celery, 2-3 carrots, and the carcasses of the chickens, (or save bones in the freezer) and add water to cover. Sea salt, thyme or basil, and a couple of bay leaves, and I often will slice a lemon in half and add it.

Bring to a boil, then take down to a low simmer and cook for as long as you want. I often do this overnight.

Voila, you have a goodly amount of stock to do what you want with. Strain the stock and throw away the flavorings. I often bag amounts in ziplocks or in canning jars (though I have had a few break through the temp change process) and stick 'em in the freezer.

Alton Brown of Good Eats says to put the stock in smaller stock pots and puts them in a cooler with 3 inches of ice and frozen water bottles in the pots to get them down to the safe zone quickly without jeopardizing your food. Probably a good idea, but I have a fridge outside that doesn't often have perishables. Haven't had food poisoning from the stock yet.

Now you can make whatever soup you want, and you haven't wasted an ounce of that ultra-good slightly more expensive chicken (and my recommendations, if possible to save a couple of cups of the meat before making stock (cooking it three times would be overkill) to add to whatever soup you make...with 3 teenage boys, that might be difficult).

I do this once a week or so, pretty much while I am sleeping.

Anonymous said...

My philosophy too! You do what you can, and change as you go. My favorite health books are anything by Dr. Fuhrman and The China Study - those really change the way I shop for and prepare food.