How do you get enough fruits and veggies?

Our local CSA went out of business about a year ago.  That was great for getting more veggies in our diet because we’d get a box of mostly veggies that we would have to use up, so we’d plan recipes around what was in the box.

It’s harder to go the other direction.  We were brought up to plan meals around a meat, so when things get busy that’s the easiest thing to do.  We do pretty well on bananas and apples and whatever fruit is in season because those all make great snacks, but our veggie consumption is way down without the weekly box.

#2 has a subscription to Purple Carrot.  That’s really not a fit for our life since it’s optimized for 2 people and at $12/plate we could get pretty fancy take-out around here.

How do you get fruits and veggies into your diet?

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Do you twirl your spaghetti?

And if you do, do you use a spoon to assist with the twirls?

What are your thoughts on cutting spaghetti noodles?  Pro/Con/Ambivalent?

#1:  I twirl but don’t use a spoon. A very small part of me cringes at the thought of cutting spaghetti noodles, but the bulk of me thinks it makes total sense.  This is somewhere around the level of split infinitives for me, maybe some other grammar thing that I don’t do in formal writing myself but don’t mind when others do it.  (I’m pretty sure I occasionally split infinitives in formal writing.)

#2:  Yes twirl, no on the spoon, I think cutting it is wrong but my dad does it (and I continually give him [excrement] for it)

Locally specific manners? Reading at the dinner table edition

Do you let your kids read at the table?  I feel like this used to be impolite but personally, I have no problem with it.  When I was growing up, at home we were allowed to read at lunch (my dad still does).  But we were not allowed to read at the dinner table.

I’m lucky that my parents supported and modeled that reading for fun is a great thing to do.  My dad’s mother was also a big reader, and as a result so are most of her children.  I think it’s ok to read in restaurants and bars (if you can concentrate).  My nightmare is a person who sits on a plane next to me and brings nothing to do except talk.  What did you plan to do for this six-hour flight, just stare into space???

Do you think reading at the dinner table is rude or perfectly ok?

#2 who has kids hasn’t really given this much thought but her kids do read at the dinner table sometimes.  We’re much more informal about meals than we were growing up though and sometimes eat standing up in the kitchen.  #2 also cannot handle the middle-seat chatterbox who has run out of the airplane magazine.  #2 wants to read novels uninterrupted on planes!

Trying out recipes that sound kind of gross

The first recipe I remember as an adult that fit this category was egg and onion soup from Help! My apartment has a kitchen!  The name sounds awful.  But this turns out to be a quick and amazingly delicious soup that became part of our regular rotation until our children started mobilizing against diced tomatoes.  It’s a comfort food that blends different textures and feels healthy without tasting too vegetal.

Most recently we bit the bullet and made eggs sardou Cooking Light style (so hard boiled eggs instead of poached and a faux hollandaise).  Basically:  frozen artichoke hearts, spinach, green onions, with sliced hard boiled eggs on top, then covered in a roux that has a touch of thyme, pepper, and Parmesan.  Finished with Parmesan and paprika sprinkled on top.  It came out and looked terribly healthy.  But… it actually tasted good.  Hard boiled eggs, cooked spinach and all.  And it didn’t make me feel at all gross like eggs Benedict recipes often do.

This has me wondering if I should try the next appetizer in the Gourmet Magazine cookbook— it is a chicken liver pate (we’re in the crostini section).  I am not a fan of liver in any form (disclaimer:  have not tried foie gras) and hate the smell of it being cooked.  (One of my grandmothers LOVED calf liver and onions, and although I loved my grandma, I did not love that dish.)  But maybe it’s worth a try?  [Update:  it was ok– the first taste was kind of yummy, then it was ok, but then I didn’t like the aftertaste.  So not as horrifying as I’d predicted, but also not something I feel the need to make again.]

Have you tried out any foods lately that sounded gross but turned out to be ok, even good?  Have your tastes changed as you’ve aged?

observations from my new job

Whatever one may say about the red tape around here (and it is indeed very silly), this place is doing really well on the dry-erase markers. This is an honest delight. They are everywhere, in multiple colors, and they all work! Now I want a dry-erase board by my desk. Also I have a bunch of sharpies now, yay.

…Goodness! My boss said I could have some of her tea (and I brought some to share in return), but I had no idea all the stuff that was in that cabinet until just now. It’s in between our desks. In addition to lots of kinds of tea, mostly black but some green (both loose and bagged), there are also some weird old powdered drink mixes, crystal light, plastic cups, terrible plain popcorn, fiber supplements, antacids, gummy vitamins, and a lone can of beef noodle soup. I feel like my drawer is better: granola bars (somewhat crumbly), mints (from HR; a gift from our 401k company), and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. And I keep string cheese in the office refrigerator.

This has been today’s edition of Afternoon Snax.

Ask the grumpies: Please talk at length about how wonderful gourmet ice creams and related frozen treats are

Leah asks:

What is your take on “gourmet” ice creams? Things like Salt & Straw from Portland, where they put weird combos in. My favorite from them, by the way, is arabequina olive oil. Sea salt and caramel is another example (tho that has gone mainstream). What’s your favorite “weird” flavor?

#1  I find ice cream places in many cities I visit (there are no good places in my town  *sob*.  Not even a Ben and Jerry’s!).  Man, I love ice cream so much.  And gelato.  And fancy flavors.  And all sorts of fun things mixed inside.  I love weird combos and straight combos and all sorts of stuff.  Let’s see though, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a place that offers fancy combos.  Something with rosemary is coming to mind, but I can’t remember what else was in it… I think it was a sorbetto, so something fruity.

I like all sorts of variations on kulfi.  There’s something about cardamom that I just love, whether that’s with pistachios or pecans or whatever else they put in.  I think I’ve had different kinds in Boston, Westwood, and Houston.  I’ve also had variations of rosewater ice cream in a couple different cities.

Salted caramel is definitely mainstream enough to get at the grocery store.  Though I do remember the first time I had it at a gelato shop in the city.  Angels sang in heavenly choirs.

#2:  Ice cream is delicious. Ben & Jerry’s used to make a White Russian that I liked. I’ve had Black Sesame ice cream — it tastes just like sesame seeds but that’s not really what I’m looking for in an ice cream. I don’t like caramel. In general: more ice cream is good. Taste them all. noms.

#1:  I like black sesame.  Especially when there’s still toasted seeds and it crunches.  I don’t think I’d pick it as just one ice cream, but when I get three little scoops in a cup, it might be one of the choices.

Grumpy eaters, opine!

What’s in your pantry?

I was going to have this be:  “and how has it changed over time” but I can’t find a previous post about what we always keep on hand.  There’s descriptions of cooking systems, which includes a brief overview of the pantry system, and a post about what to cook when you’re really broke, but nothing on the basic question.  So the basic question will come first!

So what is pantry cooking?  Pantry cooking is when you always keep certain things in your pantry (and refrigerator/freezer– not literally just your pantry) so that they’re on-hand so that you can decide what to make without having to menu plan or make extra trips to the grocery store.  You combine having the ingredients on hand with having a repertoire of things that you can make with those ingredients.  You can buy in bulk, and when you’re close to running out, you make sure to buy more even if you don’t have any particular menu item in mind that will be using it.  Here’s a quote from the cooking system post:

I always have the ingredients for spaghetti, bean chili, tomato soup (and grilled cheese sandwiches), lots of rice/quinoa dishes, and so on. My pantry is full of cans of tomatoes, beans, and grains, and I always have eggs, milk, onions, carrots, and usually celery on hand. These, along with sauces and mixed frozen veggies, fruit, and/or nuts, can be turned into any number of meals, especially with chicken and bacon in the freezer. I used to also keep potatoes, but they don’t work well with my metabolism so that’s out (sweet potatoes aren’t as versatile)… no more occasional fry-ups. When something is used up, a new one is bought to replace it. If there’s a sale, we stock up. This saves time and can save money, but can get boring if you’re not feeling especially creative. (In the summer, creative juices are flowing… not so much during the school year.)

Also, if you overspend one month, you can make up for it by eating off your pantry the next month.

All of the food in your house isn’t considered your pantry under this system, only the stuff that you always keep on hand.  The seasons and sales will provide different meals than will just using your pantry alone.

We keep:

Eggs
Butter
basic condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo)
carrots, celery, apples
bread
cheese
minced garlic (yes, we should use regular garlic and mince it ourselves but we only do that for special dishes)
sunflower oil
lemon juice
tortillas
salsa
sour cream or yogurt
some kind of fresh green thing (like lettuce)

Olive oil
vinegars, soy sauce, tabasco
honey
rice
quinoa
spaghetti, other pastas
tuna
various canned beans
various canned tomato products
peanut butter
sunbutter
maple syrup
oatmeal
crackers
O cereal
jams
red wine, white wine, brandy or sherry

bananas
onions

tea, coffee beans

huge amount of spices
salts, flours, baking soda, baking powder, sugars, cocoa powder, vanilla
chocolate chips, pecans, walnuts

boxed macaroni and cheese
spaghetti sauce
TJ’s sauces (ex. red curry)
trail mix, almonds, raisins
fruit cups/applesauces for kids’ lunches
lara bars

frozen mixed veggies of various kinds
frozen peas
frozen chicken breasts
frozen berries of various kinds
fresh ginger
Parmesan
ground beef or buffalo

Do you have foods that you always make sure to  keep on hand?  What are some of the things you try to never run out of?  How has your pantry changed over time?