What We Spent and What We Ate: The Case for Slow Lunch

Tomorrow is a milestone for our youngest son:  he’ll be eating lunch at school from now on.  He’ll be eating at school for the next fifteen years.  This will help shape his attitudes about food, eating and socializing.  Unfortunately, for most of these years, he’s going to learn to scarf down what he can in ten minutes and shout to his friends above the din of the school cafeteria.  He’ll learn that food should be cold and fast and that most people eat it out of plastic packages.

We spend a great deal of time and energy discussing state standards, test scores, accountability, teacher quality and safety, yet we barely give a nod to issues about food and health.  This is in the face of an obesity epidemic and the likelihood that our children will not have a longer life expectancy than our own.  We can’t divorce children’s health from our attitudes about eating.  Food is a contributor to health–good and bad–and therefore should be approached as seriously as immunizations and safety.  We say we want our children to be healthy, yet we avoid the very thing that could have enormous, lasting effects on their health:  teaching them to eat in a way that keeps them happy and healthy.

I often walk through my eldest son’s cafeteria at lunch time and it’s an assault on the senses.  The noise is almost unbearable, I can never find the kids I know in the huge, packed in crowd, with kids alternately standing, walking, waiting in line and squirming in their seats.  Last month my son got in trouble for throwing a handful of ketchup soaked tater tots.  I was completely mortified.  It was entirely his fault, I know.  But I also wonder if he were eating in a calm, relaxed environment with proper teacher supervision, wether he’d be able to control such impulses.  I’ll probably never find out.

My littlest, however, will start his school lunch experience in such a place.  When I walk into his classroom at lunch, I see twenty preschoolers sitting in a sunny room at little wooden tables with silverware and green place mats.  They chatter quietly while the teachers visit with them and remind them to maintain good manners and polite conversation.  The room is so quiet, I can whisper to the teacher twenty feet away and she can hear me.

It’s hard to know, however, if this experience will be drowned out by the nerve wracking cafeteria experiences of the following ten or twelve years.

It’s not easy to teach kids to eat slowly and mindfully, but we could at least try.  In most schools, lunchtime means herding hundreds of kids into a giant, cold, artificially lit cafeteria, getting them fed as quickly as possible and herding them back out for a few minutes of exercise.  Teachers are expected to skip lunch and patrol the chaos–they rarely get a chance to enjoy a lunch break themselves.

We are missing a great opportunity to teach kids how to enjoy food and conversation.  We are missing an opportunity to show them how adults eat lunch.  And most of all, we are missing an opportunity to keep them healthy.

We should stop thinking of eating as something we need to hurry up and get done so we can get to the next thing.  Last month, I was working with the kids on the school’s Wellness Council.  We were in the kitchen making roasted cauliflower and cookies.  The kids loved washing and chopping the vegetables, mixing batter and watching through the window of the oven.  When I asked them to smell the mint and the ginger, they did so eagerly–and often just popped in their mouths.  While we waited for the cookies to be done, one kid said to me, “You know, cooking takes a really long time.”  This not only cracked me up, but it also made me think about kids’ attitudes about food.  Most kids think food should be ready instantly.  You just open a package and you eat.  It’s high time we re-educate them.  Teach them to cook, let them watch us in the kitchen, feed them food, wether at home or school, that we’ve prepared with love.  Teach them to slow down and enjoy the day.


Here’s what we ate this week.  We spent $249 last week so we spent under $200 this week.

Saturday: kale, sardine and risotto gratin, warm beet salad with yogurt and goat cheese dressing (from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express)


I know.  What was I thinking with the sardines?  It sounded French and I want to start using sustainable fish.  So sue me.

Sunday: white bean ragout w/toast


Monday: Moroccan Venison Shepherd’s Pie (with elk instead of Venison) from www.deeranddeerhunting.com on which you can find an article about how to give input on hunt guidelines in Arizona.



Moroccan Venison Shepherds Pie


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds venison hindquarter,

cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon roasted ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups beef broth

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/3 cup raisins

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1 cup frozen green peas

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle venison with cumin and salt. Add venison to the pan and brown  for about 1 minute on each side. Remove venison from the pan. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add  garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste. Stir well.

Add broth to the pan. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen the browned bits. Stir in olives, raisins, honey, ground red pepper,  turmeric, and one half of the cinnamon. Add venison back to the pan. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peas.

Meanwhile, place sweet potatoes in a pot of boiling water until tender and drain. Sprinkle  with a pinch of salt and the rest of the cinnamon. Beat potatoes with a mixer and add egg.  Continue mixing until well combined. Spoon venison mixture evenly into 4 ramekins.  Spread potato mixture over the venison mixture. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Tuesday: roasted potatoes and crustless duck egg quiche–quick, simple and easy

Wednesday: tofu curry with all the vegetables left in the fridge–I used a Seeds of Change jarred curry sauce I got at Sprouts on clearance for 99 cents.  This took all of 10 minutes to prepare.

Thursday: hot wings from JH Ranch (with crudite and ranch dressing), baked macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli–requested by the birthday boy

Our oldest turned nine today!  As for the cake, he said he loved Whoppers and wanted chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.  Ikey chose the devil’s food cake recipe from Tate’s Bake Shop: Baking with Kids,  he got for Christmas.



Friday: leftovers


What We Spent and What We Ate: Playing Catch Up

I’m still lamenting the demise of my Nikon, which quit on us a few weeks ago.  These ipad pictures, especially when they’re of sausages, remind me of these faded plastic menu boards I saw on every sidewalk in Eastern Europe in the 80s. Everything is kind of the same color.  The communist sausage pictures were often done in bas-relief, though.  I kind of like the aesthetic, but it’s unappetizing.

The temperature has finally fallen below 80 (72 today), so we’re cooking up lots of hearty winter meals, some with shockingly high alcohol content.  Here’s the last two weeks.

What we ate:

Sunday: roasted beets and potatoes, andouille sausage and cabbage deglazed with cognac 

For several years, I’ve looked to The Flavor Bible, a gift from my brother, whenever I have lots of ingredients and little inspiration.  This week I came across this under the “cabbage” entry:

Cabbage often has the connotation of being heavy but in the fall, we’ll make a fine chiffonade of cabbage that’s very light.  I like to cut cabbage thin and roast it in a pan so that the edges just get brown because that tastes really good.  We figured that out by mistake by putting cabbage into too hot a pan.  After the chef raised his voice about how that is the wrong way to cook cabbage, we tasted it, and it was good!  We now serve a green cabbage dish cooked this way with caraway seeds and walnuts, then deglazed with Calvados.  WE also add a little cider vinegar and olive oil to finish.  It is a nice, easy marriage.

-Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern (New York City)

I wasn’t about to spring for a bottle of Calvados, but I did stop at AJs and pick up several little bottles of interesting liquor.  Those little airplane bottles are perfect for cooking–you get to try different flavors without spending much money.  I deglazed the pan with some ginger cognac and added some chopped apples.  I have never enjoyed cabbage so much.

Monday: quiche with bacon and greens, and a garden salad

Tuesday: venison chili and jalapeno corn muffins

My mom gave us some venison from her freezer–a friend had given it to her.  We made the chili about half beans and half meat and it worked really well.

Wednesday: orecchiette with tuna puttanesca and a salad

We tried last week’s orecchiette again.  This time I had lots of help.  Pat made an amazing sauce in about 20 minutes.


Thursday: chili with squash and sweet potato muffins

I got some organic squash on sale at Safeway.  It was called confetti squash or Mardis Gras squash or something.  It sucked.  I added it to the chili to change it up a little and it turned to mush.  It thickened the chili to a gross paste and the kids wouldn’t eat it.  They liked the muffins I made with all the leftover sweet potatoes, though.  I used a recipe from Fast Paleo–I substituted butter for the applesauce, though.  Paleolithic man didn’t know what he was missing.


Friday: Leftover chili.  Again.  Next time I’ll remember to freeze it.  

What We Spent:  We spent $224.90 on groceries.  We couldn’t make it to either farmers’ market this weeks, so we had to make do.  I went to Safeway twice on Friday because they had the deal where you get a $10 off coupon if you spend $75.  I spend as close to $75 as I can and then go back again.  With coupons, specials and the $10 offer, I saved about $100.





What We Spent and What We Ate: Last Week


Saturday: beet greens vegetable lasagna with a beet salad

I’ve been having fun using beets and beet greens in the same meals.  It seems especially thrifty to me.  This was good–the beet greens were great in the lasagna and the beets were lovely roasted, chilled and served on a bed of baby lettuce.



Sunday: dal and carrot salad with flatbread.

The dal was ugly, but tasted okay.  I should have used red lentils. The carrot salad was delicious–the kids really liked it even though it was a little spicy.

My new favorite Lee Lee Market discovery is Masala Craft Malaysian Style Whole Wheat Roti Paratha.  You simply cook them in pan on the stove like you would a tortilla.  You can find it in the frozen section with the naan.  I always keep frozen naan for dinner emergencies.  From now on, I’ll be getting this flatbread, too.




Monday: carmelized onion and salami pizza and broccoli, brussels sprout and kale slaw

I made this pizza dough the same day–it could be made ahead, though.  And it could be made for the previous night’s dinner and baked as flatbread to go with the dal.  I love the idea of one dough–two meals, but I didn’t have time to actually do it.  Click the dal link on Sunday’s dinner for a corainder flatbread recipe.

I’m hooked on this packaged salad mix from Costco–it has kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli and other green things in it.  Skip the dressing, though–too much sugar.




Tuesday: tofu pad Thai

This Martha Stewart recipe is good, but remember to use our method of cooking tofu.  You cube the tofu, put it in a bowl, pour boiling water over it and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then fry it in coconut oil until it’s golden brown.



Wednesday: beef bourguignon and mizuna salad with pomegranate dressing

We’re now using the more difficult meat from our steer.  This week was a few pounds of shoulder steak.  Pat used a whole bottle of wine (as marinade and braising liquid) and you could taste it.  Yum.



I also got another chance to use my pomegranate concentrate (I used it a couple of weeks ago for a lamb stew).  This time I made a salad dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, honey mustard and pomegranate concentrate.  The salad was just mizuna from the farmers’ market and some apples and pomegranate seeds.  IMG_0781


Thursday: salmon and simmer sauce with couscous and broccoli—10 minute dinner

I got a free jar of Safeway Select Sesame Ginger simmer sauce at when I bought some pasta sauce.  I used it for this very quick dinner.  It was very, very, very sweet and high in sodium, so if I ever get it again I’ll only use a 1/4 cup or so.  The kids loved it, though and Ikey ate salmon for the first time in years.  I might try putting sugary syrup on other fish/meat to see if he’ll eat them.


Friday: spaghetti squash with mushrooms, roasted fennel and sausages

I layered spaghetti squash (cooked until just tender), tomato sauce, and sauteed mushrooms (two layers) in a baking dish, then topped it off with parmesan and baked it until it was brown on top.

Roasted fennel is the easiest thing ever, but it seems really special.  You just slice it, put it on a cookie sheet and toss it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (and parmesan if you want).  I roast it until the edges are starting to get black–the crispy parts are the best.



What We Spent–Oops:  We spent $80 at the downtown and Town and Country Farmers’ markets.  We didn’t get there early enough to buy eggs, though.  This made me sad.  We went way over this week. Total: $247.14.

reciepts 12:1

What We Spent and What We Ate: Goodbye to clocks ticking


Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?

My mother could never teach Our Town.  She said she couldn’t get through Act III without sobbing.  I never understood why.  I never taught it because I thought it was dumb. But as I was rushing to the farmers’ market, yelling at the kids to stop yelling,  I heard Emily’s cemetery monologue on NPR and it brought me to tears.  Now I get what my mom knows.  She knows I should stop rushing around all the time.  I should stop worrying.  I should stop feeling put upon for having to chauffeur my kids to Boy Scouts, school functions, parties, holiday events, piano lessons.  Sure, it’s hard being a mom to three young boys, but in a few short years, I won’t have to do these things anymore.  I won’t have three young boys anymore–I’ll have grown men and it will just be me and Pat in the house.

Emily’s right–we need to really look at each other.  I  need to really look at my sons, my husband, my in-laws, my parents.  I want to enjoy them and treasure the time we have together.  I want to appreciate how lucky I am.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m still going to bitch and moan all the time.  My friend Jamie says that it’s just in my nature to complain.  But I’m going to make a concerted effort to realize life.

What we ate:

Saturday: pork chops, potatoes, three greens gratin

I cut little Yukon Gold potatoes in half, rubbed them with olive oil and put a sprig of rosemary on each cut side.  Pretty.  I was sick of greens, so I decided to try something different.  sautéed some kale and beet greens in a little olive oil and garlic, transferred them to a baking dish, made a quick bechemel sauce, lightly covered the greens (put some under the greens, too) and topped the thing off with a generous sprinkling of grated Romano.  I baked it for a few minutes to warm it up, then broiled it until the top was browned.  It was perfection (okay, maybe it would be slightly better with bacon).

Sunday: chicken soup and Spinach Salad

Last week’s $50 worth of chicken made the best chicken soup in the world.  My broth was a beautiful color and turned to firm Jell-O in the fridge.  I know–gross–but a sure sign of a great broth.  I put way too much chicken in the soup–I should have gotten another meal out of it. Same with the broth–I could have stretched it with a little more water.  I was self-indulgent, so I got three $20 meals out those chickens, when I really should have gotten four of five $15 meals.

Side note:  Don’t put purple carrots in your soup–they’ll turn it blue.

Monday: braised chuck steaks

We’re down to the less easy-to-cook cuts of meat from our steer.  I had several chuck steaks to deal with, so I browned them (when they were at room temp), put them in my dutch oven and just covered them with water and leftover broth.

I deglazed the pan with port, but I’d use a different wine next time (it was overpowering, but that’s all I had). Then, in the same pan, I lightly sautéed some garlic, onion, carrots and celery in a little olive oil, added a can of chipotle peppers (including sauce) and put the mixture in the dutch oven.

Then it went in the oven (at 325 degrees) for three hours.  It was great–a different alcohol to deglaze the pan, and some diced tomatoes would have improved it.

Tuesday: shredded beef soft tacos with tomatoes, cabbage, avocado and crema

I shredded the leftover chuck steak from the previous night for the tacos and warmed it in a little of its sauce.  I saved the rest of the sauce for bean soup.  I liked the tacos even better than the original braised chuck steaks.

Wednesday: lentils and naan

On nights when we’re too busy to cook, this is one of my favorite meals.  I warm Tasty Bite lentils and put six pieces of frozen naan (from the Asian market) in the oven.  The whole thing takes about 10 minutes and I don’t use any pans, so there’s no clean up.  Phew.

Thursday: The kids ate at my moms and Pat and I had a late night dinner of America’s (The Vampiro and carne).  A relief after a hard day.

Friday:  bean soup

I remembered to soak the beans the night before.  That’s three times in a row–I’m getting good at this planning thing.  Seriously, planning the week’s meals it the KEY to cooking on a budget.  You’re able to use everything.  We rarely let anything go to waste.

I used the leftover broth from the chuck steaks, a box of beef broth, and a container of salsa from last week’s party.  I just added all the appropriate vegetables left in the fridge (garlic, onion, tomatoes, celery, carrots).  Pretty good.

My camera broke this week–hence the lack of pictures.  I borrowed my dad’s old camera and took some great photos, only the turned out to be black squares.  I only swore a little, because I’m trying to realize how wonderful the world is.

What we spent:

We spent about $60 on fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ markets this week.  We also used about $15 worth of beef from our steer.  The rest we spent at Whole Foods and Sprouts.

Total : $205

Oh–by the way.  Do not EVER, EVER, EVER buy the bulk sprouted, cocao, coconut reishi at Whole Foods.  It was really expensive, but I wanted to try a new porridge for breakfast.  It smelled and tasted sour and bitter and horrible.  I added a mountain of sugar and it was still inedible.  Just thinking about it is making feel queasy.  I feel bad about spending so much money on it and I also really want to meet the people who eat this.

What We Spent and What We Ate: Channelling Joe Biden on Taco Night

School Lunch in the News

Last week’s front page NYTimes story on the new federal school lunch regulations generated enough letters to the editor to warrant a follow up.  Check out several of the letters here:  When Children Reject a Healthy Lunch.

I met with Patty Hunn, Camelview’s nutrition director, this afternoon to talk more about farm to school.  Currently the school district purchases all food from Shamrock Farms.  We’d like to start purchasing from the IRC New Roots farm cooperatives next year–perhaps starting with a few specialty items.  Chow Locally, a local food hub, is interested in helping out, too.  So far, so good.

In honor of  National Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week (next week), I put together a list of Phoenix farmers’ markets to hand out to students.  The Wellness Council met after our little meeting and the kids made decorated lists of healthy alternatives to Halloween candy.


Taco Night

Taco night is always a big hit.  This is universally true.  But this week’s taco night was special.  Isaac was raving about the spread and suggested we have tacos every night.  In the middle of our happy dinnertime chatter, Isaac leans over to me and (rather loudly) whispers in my ear, “This is fucking good!”  For some reason, whenever my kids say something off-color, I always immediately (and stupidly) respond with, “What did you say?”  like I have some naughty language hearing impairment . I just couldn’t believe that he’d said it (Isaac still thinks the s-word is stupid).   I looked up and Pat and Lute were shaking their heads vigorously.  I was about to say, “No–don’t repeat it!” but I was too late.  He said it again, but louder.  Pat and Lute were trying not to laugh, but I, as the only adult in the family, was able to hold it together.  I said, “We don’t use that kind of language, Isaac.  Please don’t ever say that again.”  After some snickering from Pat and Lute, dinner continued as normal.  At six, our son has joined the ranks of such illustrious f-bomb droppers as Joe Biden, Tim Lincecum and Jon Stewart–at least he’s in good company.


Quick Bread

I decided to try two of the quick breads in this month’s Cooking Light.  I modified the recipes and was pleased with the results.  I gave the banana bread to my step grandmother, so I didn’t get to taste it.  It looked and smelled wonderful, though.

Walnut Streusel Bread with Extra Streusel


Streusel (this is double the original)

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of salt

4 tablespoons butter, melted

6 tablespoons chopped walnuts


1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup whole milk yogurt



1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, stirring until well combined. Stir in nuts. Set aside.

3. To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined. Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture. Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl. Sprinkle remaining streusel on top of batter, reserving two tablespoons to eat yourself or share with whichever child you like best. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

Banana Bread with (extra) Browned Butter Glaze

Hannah Whitaker, Cooking Light


5 tablespoons butter, softened and divided

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 medium ripe bananas, sliced

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt

3 tablespoons organic canola oil

2 tablespoons amber rum

2 large eggs

1 1/2 whole wheat flour

1/2 cup almond meal

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

soft butter to grease the loaf pan

2/3 cup powdered sugar

4 teaspoons half-and-half


Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and bananas; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Place banana mixture in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

3. Combine milk, yogurt, oil, rum and eggs.   Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Scrape batter into a greased metal loaf pan.  Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan, and cool on wire rack.

4. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes or until butter begins to brown; remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and half-and-half, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over bread. Let stand until glaze sets.

Note: Since I always double icing, glazes, streusel, etc., you will have more glaze than you need.  This is for you to eat with a spoon and perhaps share with favorite child as in previous recipe.


What We Ate

Saturday: roasted vegetable salad with yogurt sauce

Easy: I tossed pieces of eggplant, zucchini, purple onion and cauliflower in 1/4 cup olive oil (I added a clove of crushed garlic to the oil first) and some salt and pepper.   I put these on a baking sheet.  On a separate sheet, I put 3 tomatoes which I’d cut into pieces and tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I roasted these (at the same time) at 375 degrees.

The tomatoes took about 25 minutes, and the vegetables about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made a quick yogurt sauce with Greek yogurt, minced fresh mint, lemon juice, 1 very small clove crushed garlic, and salt and pepper.

Serve vegetables warm with yogurt dressing on the side.


Sunday: quinoa verde salad

This was ridiculously easy.

Quinoa Verde


2/3 cup salsa verde (Ranch Market makes a great one or you can use a jar)

3-4 cups cooked quinoa

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I always use the chili infused vinegar Pat makes)

2/3 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 yellow squash diced

¼ cup red onion, minced

4 cups shredded napa cabbage

1-2 avocados, diced

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts


Combine ingredients and toss (I like to add the salsa to the quinoa while it’s still a little warm, so it soaks it up a little). Add the avocados last so they don’t get mushy


Monday: tacos w/ ground beef, refried beans, avocado, tomato, shredded lettuce and salsa fresca–fucking good!


Tuesday: fajitas at Pat’s sister’s house to celebrate their parents’ 50th anniversary–lovely


Wednesday: nachos with avocados, pinto beans, green chiles and sour cream (what can I say–we were on a Mexican roll)


Thursday: dal, naan and eggplant

I wanted to replicate the packaged lentils, incorrectly named “Madras Lentils,” from Tasty Bite and Trader Joe’s.  I figured out they’re called Dal Makhani.  While my kids love the packaged lentils, they didn’t love this one.  Lute ate it happily, but the other two ate a few bites and then focused on their naan.  Isaac said it was too spicy–but he lies.

I found this recipe on a quirky little blog called The Colors of Indian Cooking.  I used scarlet runner beans instead of the traditional red kidney beans and it turned out great.  I love that it’s a rich and decadent beans and lentils dish–what a delicious contradiction.

Beware: this takes a while to make and uses a few dishes.  Best for a weekend night, when you can make it in the late morning and leave it to cook all day.

I get frozen naan at Le Le Market and just pop it in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes.

Dal Makhani


2 cups of dried whole beluga or French green lentils

1-2 cups scarlet runner beans (I quick-soaked them by boiling them in 3x their volume of water for a minute or two and them letting them sit an hour).

4 Tbs of melted ghee

4 fresh green serrano chilies—seeds removed

One 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped

2 large shallots, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups of water

1/4 cup or so of heavy cream

1 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp of garam masala

4-5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

fresh cilantro and whole milk yogurt for garnish


1.  In a blender or grinder, grind the peppers, ginger and shallot into a coarse paste.  Set aside.

2.  Pour 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water in crock pot.

3.  Add in the lentils and beans, 1 Tbs of ghee, and the chili/ginger paste.  Turn the heat to high, cover and cook for about 45 minutes.

4.  Stir the dal well with and turn heat to low.  Cook for another 6 hours.

5. An hour or so before serving, melt the remaining 4 Tbs of ghee in a skillet.  When the butter is foamy, add in the cumin, garam masala, and turmeric.  Stir fry spices together for about a minute.  Then add in the tomatoes.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has boiled off, stirring frequently.  Add 3 or 4 Tbs of heavy cream to this mixture. Make sure the cream is thoroughly warmed, and then pour everything from the skillet into the slow cooker.  Cook for another hour.

Garnish with yogurt and cilantro and serve with naan and roasted eggplant.

I found these little green eggplants at LeLe Market.

And I roasted them. They’re full of seeds, so they get crunchy!


Friday:   quick black bean cakes, fried eggs and baby greens with cherry tomatoes

I also got this recipe from Cooking Light and modified it.  I promise I’ll get more original next week.

Mary Britton Senseney/Wonderful Machine


2/3 cup olive oil plus oil to fry eggs

7 large eggs, divided

2 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup panko, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced


1. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 eggs, and beans in a food processor. Pulse 20 times or until mixture becomes a coarsely chopped paste. Combine bean mixture, 2/3 cup panko, onions, and next 5 ingredients in a bowl.

2. Place 1/3 cup panko in a dish. Divide bean mixture into 8 equal portions. Shape each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty; dredge in panko. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2/3 cup olive oil. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Wipe pan clean. Add about a tablespoon  olive oil. Crack 6 eggs into skillet. Cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

serve with salad lightly dressed in olive oil.


What We Spent

We spent $164.34 at Safeway and Sprouts this week.  I usually don’t spend so much on food at Safeway, but they had their “spend $75 and get $10 off your next purchase” deal this week.  I went 3 times and spent just over $75 each time.  One of those trips was for food, the other for household items we needed.  So I have $30 for groceries next week.

I spent $40 at the farmers’ market–most of this was on an impulse buy at the Hummus Doctor.  Lute wanted hummus and it was buy 3/get a free container of chips.  It was overpriced and less than mediocre.

The grand total: $204.34.

They are Hungry and They’re Feeding Us a Load of Crap

I can see why “We Are Hungry,” the video of students protesting new school lunch requirements went viral a couple of weeks ago.  It’s funny, it’s creative and it’s cute.  But some on the right have tried to use it to gain momentum for their anti-“nanny state” agenda.

While the video is cute, it’s not the voice of a political movement.  It’s the voice of some teenagers (with good video equipment) whining for more junk food.  The end.

I don’t really have a problem with that.  I hope my kids express their opinions in positive ways like this.  This farcical look at school lunch was a fun diversion for these kids–no harm done.  I just don’t give credence to their “lunch nanny” argument.  And I’m surprised any adults do (including the teachers who wrote the lyrics and helped with the video).

I guess I’m surprised by the uproar.  The new regulations have been in effect for only a few weeks.  Let’s give it a little time, shall we?

Even so, the changes are so minor, most people would be hard pressed to spot the difference.

The lack of protein these kids are singing about may be an issue, but it’s not necessarily the result of the 2010 law, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  For high school students, the minimum protein requirement remains the same.

They also complain about the lack of carbs.  There’s not much difference in requirements there, either.  Right now, half of all grains served must be whole grains and this percentage will gradually increase.  And what about portions?  Well, the requirement for grains has changed (for high school students) from 8 one oz servings a week to (get this) at least 10 servings a week!  If my math is correct, that means they’re getting more carbohydrates this year than last.

Kids can eat as much fruit and as many vegetables as they want.  They’re not going to starve.  In fact, the USDA has provisions for athletes and students participating in after school programs.  Schools also have some flexibility in how much they serve and can up the servings if they determine the kids aren’t getting enough to eat.  It will take individual schools time to figure out what works best for them.

And what about all the waste we’re hearing about?  If they’re so hungry, maybe they shouldn’t throw away their lunch.

In short, none of these issues should concern adults, parents or policy makers.

What should concern us is making sure school cafeteria staff know how to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables in a appealing way.  Most kids find a colorful plate of fresh, well prepared food appealing and the kids who don’t need to learn.  But to make the transition from processed, pre-prepared food to fresh, home made and local food, cafeteria employees need education and training.  You can’t just hand them more work to do and expect everything to be fine.  They need support and they need to know that eventually it won’t be any more work than it was before.

We should also be concerned that there is still a great deal of junk food lurking in our cafeterias.  Junk food should not be an option.  In fact, students should have very few options.  Forget the choice between the healthy meal or the inhumanely raised, pesticide ridden, hormone laden hamburger.  Let’s just offer the healthy meal and call it a day.  If we keep pandering to the lowest common denominator, we will raise a generation of unhealthy adults.

We could also worry that the cacophony and institutional atmosphere of our school cafeterias is not conducive to a relaxed, enjoyable meal.  And we might want to worry that kids get less than 15 minutes to eat lunch.

And we should absolutely be worried about the very real issue of childhood hunger in this country.  There are young people all over the country raising awareness, volunteering, organizing and donating to end childhood hungry.  If they had a catchy video, we’d hear more about them.  But it’s up to teachers to find these kids, too.  We need to recognize them and get our own kids involved in ending hunger.

But to spend a second worrying that kids might not prefer vegetables to Cheetos or that they might get a little hungry before snack time is distracting us from the need for more change.

The small victory for children’s health has resulted in some backlash.  And we’ve given the backlash far more attention than it deserves.  As I recall, the tobacco industry and those who benefitted from it didn’t go down without a fight.  Neither will the processed food industry.

School Lunch Rules Caught Up In Politics  by Marion Nestle

Dear Lunch Ladies, Thank You.  Sincerely, the Parents Marlene Schwarz Ph.D.

Starved by the Bell Jon Stewart The Daily Show video clip

Starved by the Bell 2 Jon Stewart The Daily Show video clip

School Lunch Requirements Create Waste, Hungry Kids from KBIA National Public Radio

Schools Fight Hunger 

Comparison of previous and current NSLP lunch requirements:

What We Spent and What We Ate: Cheap Dinners and Cheap Shots

This week was awesome, mostly due to the Republican backlash to the National School Lunch Program changes, which went into effect at the beginning of this school year.  Chef Ann Cooper was on Talk of the Nation discussing school lunch reform and Jon Stewart did a great bit on kids protesting the changes.

I was even able to get into the fray myself.  I got a Google Alert about a post on the conservative blog, Seeing Red Arizona.  The post, entitled (with unnervingly confusing and incorrect punctuation) Hunger games? Hypocrite Obama’s mandate food choices, blasted the new school lunch requirements.

It didn’t say anything especially interesting, but then I scrolled down to the comments and holy shit, these people are crazy.  I felt compelled to use my most condescending tone to insert some reason into the “discussions” (read: litany of attacks on the first lady).  This was met with a retort (among several) that Michelle Obama has no right to tell us how to eat because she has a big ass.  Really?  What makes it disturbing is that I’ve heard criticisms of the first lady’s body serve as the basis of political arguments before.  Apparently it’s all fair game in the blogosphere.

The irony is that the changes to the lunch program are minimal.  I know we need to celebrate every small victory, but this change represents a very, very small victory for school lunch reform.  Here’s an example of how the new requirements translate to one day’s lunch:


Hot dog on bun (3 oz) with ketchup (4 T)

Canned Pears (1/4 cup)

Raw Celery and Carrots (1/8 cup each) with ranch dressing (1.75 T)

Low-fat (1%) Chocolate Milk (8 oz)


Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (1/2 cup)

Whole Wheat Roll

Green Beans, cooked (1/2 cup)

Broccoli (1/2 cup)

Cauliflower (1/2 cup)

Kiwi Halves (1/2 cup)

Low-fat (1%) Milk (8 oz)

Low Fat Ranch Dip (1 oz)

Soft Margarine (5 g)

There is mounting evidence that low-fat diets aren’t healthy and may even contribute to obesity, so I have serious issues with things like low-fat ranch dip, low-fat milk (especially when it’s not organic and not grass-fed) and margarine.  All are highly processed foods that would be better left out of a child’s diet.  And I don’t even want to get into the meat that’s used for the spaghetti sauce.

See more examples of menu changes on the pdf: beforeafternutritionact


What We Spent and What We Ate:

We spent $218.57 this week.  $75 of that was at the Downtown and Town and Country farmers’ markets.  I’ve been trying to ask for receipts at the farmers’ markets, but I usually forget.  This week, I asked, but then I lost them.

On the Cheap Without Chicken

My first issue of Cooking Light (which I love) came this week and I was very excited because the cover touted lots of budget-friendly recipes.  I flipped through them and immediately noticed that, like every f-ing budget meal feature, most of the dinners include chicken.  There are a lot of reasons not to eat chicken, but one of the main reasons is precisely because it is cheap.

Cheap chicken is factory farmed chicken.  Factory farmed chicken is bad for workers, bad for the birds, bad for the environment, bad for public health and bad for personal health.  If I’m going to eat chicken, I’m going to spend a lot of money for a real chicken from the farmers’ market.  It’s just not worth saving a few bucks–the price of cheap chicken is passed on to all of us down the road in health, environmental, and human costs.

So I decided to plan a few meals this week that were budget friendly without relying on cheap chicken.  I also tried to avoid beans.  Cooking beans on the cheap makes me feel poor–especially after Sean Hannity’s “let them eat beans” comment last year.  Likewise, I only made one dinner featuring pasta.  Pasta is the cheap diner I fall back on, not something I put thought and effort into.  When I get around to making my own pasta, I’ll be whistling a different tune, I’m sure.

Here are this weeks cheap dinners–all well under 15 dollars:

Saturday:  tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread

I used another of my Mark Bittman favorites–“Almost No Work Whole Wheat Bread.”  Adding fresh baked bread to this time honored cheap dinner turns it into nostalgic comfort food.

Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour

½ tsp instant yeast (I use a tiny, tiny bit more)

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil to grease the pan and brush the top of the loaf

1.  Combine ingredients in large bowl.  Add 1 ½ cups water and stir until blended;  the dogh should be wet—add water if it doesn’t look kind of like batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12-24 hours.

The dough will be a little bubbly when it’s done rising the first time.

2.  Scoop the dough into a greased loaf pan and use a spatula to gently settle it in evenly.

3.  Brush the top with olive oil.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, an hour or 2 (It won’t quite reach the top of the pan).

4.  Heat oven to 350 and bake until the bread is a deep brown and hollow-sounding when tapped—about 45 minutes.

5.  Immediately turn the loaf on a wire rack to cool.


Sunday: Himalayan Curry and Tibetan noodles

I got the Gila Farms cookbook last week and tried a few recipes.  There’s nothing earth shatteringly inspiring about the recipes, but the photographs and stories of the farmers are beautiful.  The book offers a few dozen ideas for what to do with your farmers’ market produce.

Himalayan Curry:


1 pound Tibetan noodles or spaghetti

3 cups assorted vegetables, chopped into bit size pieces (cauliflower, carrots, green beans, collard greens, potatoes)

½ pound spinach, washed and torn into bite-size pieces–this is a great job to keep the kids busy!

1 onion, chopped

4 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon turmeric

3 fresh chilies, julienned

1 bay leaf

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


Cook noodles according to package directions.  Remove while still slightly undercooked; drain and rinse.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions; fry until brown, about 10 minutes.

Add turmeric, garlic, ginger, and chilies; stir for 1 minute.  Add assorted vegetables; stir-fry for 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, soy sauce, broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper; cook until vegetables are tender.

Add noodles; cook 5 minutes or until sauce is consistent and begins to thicken.  Fold in spinach for 1-2, until wilted.  Garnish with cilantro.

I used Einkorn pasta for the boys’ dinner:

and buckwheat noodles for Pat’s dinner:


Monday: low carb pizza and flatbread pizza

Pat had to go the first Montessori parents’ night at Walter’s preschool.  This was an awkward affair at which my husband did the hokey pokey with several unenthusiastic East Indian couples.  I had to feed the kids, so I tried making pizza crust using the flatbread recipe from last week.  It was pretty good and they were nuts about it–done and done.

little low carb Hawaiian Pizzas

Pat and I are trying to lose two pounds (each) to get back down to fighting weight.  So, it’s easy on the carbs for us this week.  I made little low carb pizzas for us.  They were good, too.


Tuesday: kale and quinoa salad

This was my very, very favorite thing this weeks.  The kids were decidedly unimpressed and Pat said, “It’s really good” when I inquired, but I could tell he was sad not to have meat.

I got this idea from the MOJO food truck at the Downtown Farmers’ Market.  The boys always go there for smoothies (very good, I might add) while I shop.  I’ve been wanting to try their quinoa salad, but I never have time.  I finally decided to just try it at home.  I bet they make it better, but mine was absolutely delicious.  I could seriously eat it every day until I die–and that would be a very long time because it’s healthy.

Kale and Quinoa Salad stolen from MOJO


one bunch of kale

one cup raw walnuts

1/3 cup cranberries

1 cup uncooked quinoa

For the dressing, whisk 1-2 tbsp. tahini and 1/2 cup olive oil into 1/4 cup lemon juice.


Cook 1 cup of quinoa according to these directions and allow to cool.

1.  Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.

2.  Tear the kale leaves off the stems and then chop with a knife–I made my pieces on the small side

3.  In a frying pan, toss the walnuts in a couple of tablespoons of melted butter to coat.

4.  Put the walnuts on a tray, sprinkle with a little salt (more if you used unsalted butter) and toast them until they brown very slightly–five minutes or so.

5.  In a heavy bottomed frying pan, saute some minced shallots in olive oil for a minute or two.

6.  Add the kale to the pan and saute for a minute or so–just until the kale turns bright green and is a little more tender.

7.  Remove the kale and walnuts to separate dishes and allow to cool.

8.  When it’s time to eat, toss the kale in the dressing and mix in quinoa, walnuts and dried cranberries.


Wednesday: a mountain of dolma

I inquired of my students how to make dolma.  Most of them are Iraqi, so they should know.  I got lots of advice in broken English, and it was fun hearing all the different ways to do it.  On Wednesday morning, when I walked in, I was greeted with a ginourmous plate of dolma.  There were stuffed tomatoes, onions, grape leaves, potatoes, and summer squash.  Pat and the boys loved them–we ate them for dinner and then snacked on them the next day.  The boys’ favorite were the stuffed potatoes and Pat and I liked the stuffed tomatoes, grape leaves and onions the best.  Now the prospect of making dolma is even more daunting because my family has tasted the real thing.

Even though I didn’t make them, I’ll share the recipe from the Gila Farm Cookbook that I had planned to use.

Iraqi Dolma


1 medium onion, diced

4 cups uncooked rice

2 pounds ground meat (beef, lamb or mixture)

1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon allspice

¼ teaspoon curry powder

6 medium cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh lemon juice


In a medium bowl, add onion, garlic, meat, rice, parsley, half the allspice, half the curry powder, and half the lemon juice; mix thoroughly.  Using a spoon, carve out insides of eggplants, squash, tomatoes, and green peppers and add to the bowl; mix thoroughly.  It may be helpful to open the top of the tomatoes and green peppers with a knife, then use a spoon to remove the insides.  Set aside emptied vegetables.


3 medium onions

3 medium eggplants

2 medium tomatoes

4 medium green peppers

4 medium zucchini

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed


Peel skin from onions and discard, then peel off the large outer layers and set aside.  Add vegetable oil to a large pot.  Fill the outer onion layers with stuffing and arrange along the bottom of the pot.  Fill emptied vegetables with stuffing and arrange in a layer on top of the onions.  Lay grape leaves on a flat surface.  Spoon 1 tablespoon stuffing into the center of each leaf, fold sides toward the center, then roll.  Stack in a layer on top of the vegetables.  In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup water, tomato paste, allspice, curry powder, and lemon juice.  Pour over dolma in pot.  Place a heavy dinner plate on top of dolma to prevent vegetables from separating.  There should still be a little room ont e sides fo the pot.  Add enough water to the pot to cover all the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat; cook for 1 hour, until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender.


Thursday: spicy sesame shiratake noodles, brown beech mushrooms and roasted eggplant

This was sooooo good.  I used a different sauce and it was perfect with the shirataki noodles.  The mushrooms and eggplant are ideal with this dish.  The bonus is it’s very low carb, so I could enjoy the fork twirling fun of a bowl of noodles and not have to worry about feeling too full and sleepy or falling off the diet wagon.  I got the noodles, mushrooms and Japanese eggplant at Le Le Asian Market.  You can get all three at Whole Foods, but it’s more expensive and not as good.



Spicy Sesame Noodles with Vegetables adapted from 1001 Low Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender

For the sauce:

¼ cup water

4 tbsp soy sauce

1.5 tbs tahini

1 tbs peanut butter

1 tbs rice vinegar

1 tbs mirin

½ tsp red pepper flakes or sambal

a little grated ginger


1.  Make 1-2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

Place the seasame seeds in a small, heavy skillet over high heat and shake the skillet constantly until the seeds start to make little popping sounds and jump in the skillet.  When that happens, immediately turn off the heat and shake the seeds out onto a small plate to cool.  Set aside.

2. Saute about 1 cup brown beech mushrooms in butter over medium heat, just until they start to brown

3.  Roast about 2 cups sliced eggplant, coated in olive oil, at 350 degrees.  When they’re soft and starting to brown, they’re done (about 15 minutes)

4.  Drain the shirataki noodles and put them in hot water until they’re warm.  Then mix the noodles and sauce.

5.  Add the mushrooms and eggplant and top with sesame seeds (a little Thai basil or cilantro would be good on top, too).


Friday: roasted beet salad with goat cheese

I saw this recipe in this week’s New York Times and the picture made me want to eat it.  So I made it.  By Friday, I was a little tired of the oven, but it roasting the beets was worth it.  I only had a nibble (lots of carbs), but the sweetness of the beets was delightful with the cheese.

Roasted Beet Salad

For the dressing:

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach

4 medium beets, roasted

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, chives, parsley or a combination

1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted


1. Make the dressing. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the vinegars and salt to taste. Whisk in the mustard and the olive oil. Set aside.

2. Toss the spinach with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Line a platter or individual plates.

3. Skin the beets and cut in half lengthwise (stem to root), then slice into thin half moons. Place the sliced halves on top of the spinach and fan them out.

4.  Drizzle on the remaining dressing and sprinkle on the herbs. Top each fan of beets with crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts, and serve.

This week’s receipts:

Related: I love infographics!!!

Low Hanging Fruit: A Crash Course in Food Politics

This week’s pick will require a 1/2 hour of your time and $1.99.  The film Nourish, part of a PBS series called Power Shift: Energy + Sustainability, explores the story  of where our food comes from.  Just click on the picture below and download this movie from Amazon for $1.99.

It’s a very small investment of your time and money–totally worth it.  The movie is concise and visually appealing.  This is not a masterpiece, but it briefly touches on most of the major issues that fall under the “food politics” umbrella–and it’s way easier (albeit less interesting) than reading three Michael Pollan books and suffering through the creepiest scenes in Food Inc.  Enjoy.

Click below for the action guide:

Michael Pollan’s Supermarket Secrets