Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conscious Kitchen - a book review

After reading several blog posts of this author’s on The Daily Green I decided to put the book Conscious Kitchen on hold at the library. About a month later it came up and I dug through it. An easy and quick read and broken up nice so you can read only the sections that interest you – here is what I got out of it:
  • Whole foods do cost less. I agree, but she suggests you don’t have to be a good cook you just have to know how to cook with source ingredients and then sub seasonal foods. I might beg to differ on the first part and I could certainly use more help on the second. I think all this is fine, but not convenient and if you are not a good planner can end up wasteful. Still, I agree this is where you can truly get the most conscious kitchen
  • It seems to me that you have to be really good at putting a menu together in your head at the store or farmers market once you see what there is available – again, I suck at this…if anyone knows how I can learn this (preferably in my sleep which is when I would have the most time) please let me know
  • Coolest tip: PLU codes on fruit that start with #9 and have 5 digits are organic,#4 and 4 digits are conventional, #8 and 5 digits are genetically modified
  • Some great resources to learn about COOL (country of origin labels)
  • Know the dirty dozen and other good tips to help you in choosing organic vs. local, etc.
  • Best takeaway for me: Test your garden soil! I have this on my list to do before next year’s garden season!
  • There are in depth sections on dairy and the information on OJ and tea really got me thinking (looks like I’m going to take organic more seriously)
  • If you are really into cooking there is a great section on cooking gear
  • There are lots and lots of good reasons to get rid of all the plastic in your kitchen

Obviously nothing in the book is convenient – trips to 6-7 places a week just are not possible for most families. I felt like many things discussed were not new to me – but if you were just starting down this path it might be interesting to read (or it might scare you off). Tips like learn to cook with local ingredients are great general statements, but learning to cook is a huge hurdle for some of us – well, for me at least. I loved the idea of making your own pastas and breads and I believe that I can do this…but I have to find the time. Still, all in all a good library check out. 
This leads me to my super duper big idea (PBS Kids parents will get that reference). After reading this book, I would LOVE to organize some mass making parties or meal pieces swaps. Something like a 2-3 hour party where we make something like pasta or sauce and each take some home. OR, find a few friends and “trade” ingredients. So for instance one person bakes bread, one makes and freezes pasta, one makes some jam – all in mass quantities and then we all trade for a little of each.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meatless Monday

One of the best things about being a mom is all the families we have become friends just because we have kids. I had a play date yesterday with one such mother-daughter duo who we met, totally by chance on a chat board (crazy and random). I loved hearing her say she followed my blog and she even gave me a great idea (and a yummy sample) for this Meatless Monday. Spring Rolls!

We make pot stickers (or dumplings) a lot with our ground pork (from our hog) but spring rolls are actually even easier (very little cooking and you just eat them nice and cold). You start with the spring roll wrappers, rice noodles (I have seen them also referred to as rice vermicelli, lettuce, and then go from there.

You can really vary the ingredients on your taste/preferences adding things like sliced carrots, cilantro, Thai basil, tofu (regular or fried or even marinated), bean sprouts, red peppers. Just think about what your family loves to eat then roll what you like burrito style into the wrappers then dip in peanut sauce.

I of course neglected to ask her for her perfect dipping recipe but the easiest version I found and plan to stick with for now is just hoisin sauce combined with peanut butter. About a 4:1 ratio sauce to peanut butter is what I found and plan to try (so 1 cup sauce, 1/4 cup pb) seems to be the most common, then you can add garlic, rice vinegar, water, or even chili if you like it spicy.

Great day with great food and I can't wait to try this as a family meal!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cook with your kids

I think most of us who read this blog realize that one of the key's to doing more with your budget is to cook more at home. Um, but I never really learned how to cook (didn't need to, I was going to work right). HELP. So I don't want to hinder my girls and thus I am always looking for ways to get the kids in the kitchen.

A friend of mine tipped me off to the Pampered Chef kids knife. This is a very simple serrated knife that given good supervision can allow them to cut without getting hurt (notice I said, with supervision) and works slightly better than a plastic knife. Probably not for a 2 year old but my 4 year old is starting to use it some with items like tofu, bananas, etc. I also really like their mini muffin tray for baking kid sized treats, and their garlic peeler which you just roll around to peel the garlic… all very easy things to do. Another item that has been a must for me is a good step stool. I like the nice tall wooden one we picked up at Ikea.

Actually our older daughter has cooking classes at school about once a week and many times we take ideas from school. Last week she made fruit pizzas and I asked the director too share the recipe (well, more like how-too):

Collect up some english muffins, cream cheese, and a variety of fruits and veggies to make a yummy pizza (i.e. raisin eyes, cucumber slice nose, apple slice mouth). Let kids use their imaginations to make a fun pizza

I would eventually like to take it beyond our kitchen to some cooking classes or camps. I’m not sure my 4 year old is quite old enough to get something real out of these places but here are two I have come across in the last few weeks that got me thinking about this post.

Cooking Thyme (cooking classes for all ages)

The Merry Kitchen (check out their party ideas – sounds like super fun)

I would love to get more ideas in getting the kids in the kitchen (especially since I don’t like to cook so much myself).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meatless Monday

As I come accross recipies that look absoutly amazing AND I think my kids will eat them I save them here to share with you for Meatless Monday. For some reason I have been thinking about Gnocchi lately and this one looked great.

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons

Friday, July 9, 2010


I started this blog not too long ago thinking a lot about doing more with less money, but, inevitably as I start to write about more… and less… I have to ask when is there enough?

Am I doing enough? Is there enough? Was that enough? Will there be enough? I’ve had enough!

From the mile high viewpoint I look down and say, if I’m conscious of it, educated about it (or getting educated) and making plans for change that is probably enough. If I’m doing what I can right now, I try not to beat myself up about it (meaning, it is probably also enough). If I doesn’t seem to be doing enough… well then I’m back to this blog (needing to do more or less) right :)

I’m still contemplating many things I want to try to get across in the blog but for now I’m going to stick with doing enough to keep myself and my family going. I hope to be back to this in a few days.