Recipe Day- Bookclub on the Deck by A. Woz

It seems I always get to host our group on starry nights in the spring.

We gather on the deck with fresh salads on our forks and this time, a lovely mojito beverage with mint picked from the front porch flowerbed.

Our discussion is not about food,  not even much about the book we have finished, White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.  We do talk about unlikeable characters, family loyalty, traditions,  but it’s really all reflections of normalcy as compared to our regular lives.

On evenings filled with re-enactments of our real-life laughter moments, frustrations, and a-ha moments, this group really knows how to take the topic from India’s caste system and segue effortlessly into the rigors of teaching our children manners, gratitude and our attempts to accept whatever our ten year olds think it is they need that week, which tonight, includes serious inquiries into getting a cell phone.

The deck railing hides the pushpins holding a string of last year’s twinkling white tree lights and with a blanket and a spare sweater the guests settle back in despite the cooling evening air and voices tinged with shivered sounding syllables. We hug our glasses of wine a little closer and lean in to add our opinions as we try to reclaim the book discussion that brings us together each month.

For just a moment, we are interrupted by the ringing telephone. The neighbor has called to report that a bear has been spotted a half mile away at an intersection in Hometown USA. The guests quickly look under their chairs, lift their sandaled feet and pedicured toes just a few inches  off the deck floorboards,  as if to protect themselves from an ankle lick from a wayward bear.

With gentle assurances we turn on the yard light, make sure the dogs are safe inside the fence and resume our sharing of the details that make us who we are. As our giggles float to the willow tree and the grapevine covered arbor in the side yard, we step back inside to add a spoon of Watermelon Lime Salad to our plates or to grab another serving of Totellini Mozz salad. While we chat, my husband who has graciously tucked the children into bed has an opportunity to have the last of Mel’s Cabin Salad- his favorite.

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for July
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson for August
  • You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon for September

– book picks recalled and published here with credit to Karen and her iphone.

Recipes

For best results, use fresh ingredients from a local Community Shares Agriculture farm share. We support Vermont Valley CSA Farm- and farmers Barb and Dave Perkins.

Tortellini Mozz Salad

Fresh or frozen tortellini- tri colored best

2 med. tomatoes diced

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, drained

10 basil leaves, torn

2-3 T Olive Oil

1 can medium olives

Fresh ground pepper.

Cook tortellini according to directions, drain, allow to stop steaming before adding the remaining ingredients. Toss and serve immediately.

Mel’s Cabin Salad

Fresh lettuce mix

1 pint any combination fresh seasonal berries- mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.

4 oz slivered almonds

4 tbsp PoppySeed Dressing drizzled on top  (Marzetti’s Natural is a good choice)

Just toss and serve in a pretty salad bowl.

### enjoy! for ChildGrower blog, A. Woz

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Check out Marlene’s website!

I’m all for getting real food into kids but realize that the biggest hurdle is the family chef doesn’t know what real food is!

Sadly, we are the generation of parents raised after the microwave made it possible for anyone to eat any time instead of waiting until everyone was home and sitting around the kitchen table.  The convenience of packaged “food” seemed to solve a lot of problems- it was inexpensive, it took little time to prepare and big sister could cook if mom or dad were busy with personal development (also known as overtime- heck yeah, there used to be so much work people were paid to stay late and get it done).

Prior to the microwave (a giant beast that took up the entire top of the counter) we relied on the stove to make meat, a veggie and a starch. Now we were using canned soups, canned veggies, and meat that could be nuked and on the table in less time than it took Dad to make the commute home from work.  My comfort food was redefined.

Flash to the future and I’m feeding my kids the packaged food from birth and now trying to introduce the old meat,veggie, starch as better.  My kids think comfort food is goldfish crackers, pop tarts and chicken nuggets. A carrot is the most adventurous veggie they have embraced and only if it is dipped in high fructose corn syrup mixed with some partially hydrogenated oil whipped into a sad version of ranch dressing.

Lucky for me, I love to cook and now that I’m connected to a CSA and get new recipes regularly I’m able to pause mid-grab at the grocery store and ask myself- is this convenience food or real food before I throw it in the cart. I cook. I cook things no one eats but me, sometimes but the kids are coming around.

This new website is one you can check out to learn how to cook without spending hours in the kitchen and with results that are nutritious and everyone will try.  We’ll see! http://www.marlenesmealmakeovers.com/

Bon appetit! or Let’s have some Eats!  as mine say.

Green Zinger 2 of 2 by child grower Annita Woz

jennysjellystonegreentoesThis is the second of a two part story on a trip to Willy Street Co- op for a class on healthy eating (link to part 1 of Zinger here) 

Kombuchi Girl next to me has an affinity for sweets -sometimes in the middle of the night- and the instructor has a quick response to her question, ” What oil is best to use for baking?  ”

” I don’t bake anymore.”    

KG pushes on, she is kind of in shock that baking is off the allowed activities list  but goes in with the children angle.  “Ok, but I have to bake for my kids, so are you telling me that I should use olive oil in my double nut plus oatmeal chocolate chip cookies?”

The educator relaxes and admits she does sometimes bake for her kids, but throws in that cookies are no longer part of her healthy diet.  Seeing my friend’s face fall,  she hastily adds that if she did bake she’d recommend coconut oil, not to be confused with palm oil, hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil and no more war for oil.

Suddenly, I feel so out of place in this health food class and so odd, so obviously a Woodman’s kind of non-local shopper that I am almost embarrassed in this group of natural fiber wearing people.  I look down to see if I am wearing any non-synthetic material at all. 

Nope, not a stitch.

And my toenails are polished.  I cross my feet under my chair.

And, shamefacedly, I admit I have some very non-organic product in my hair today, likely some that was tested on baby kitties or worse,  baby kitties shipped here from China.   

I am an outsider, pretending to be an East side-enlightened- buyer.  I am a total faker. My eyes widen in revelation!

Then I remember I shaved my armpits that morning. Yup. I was clearly not in the right place.

But when my neighbor to the left raises her arm to wave for a glass of Kombuchi (the green fermented stuff) I see she is friends with the razor, too.  Whew! I take this prickly sign as confirmation that I am supposed to be here, in the present, in the now, as my mantra quoting friend next to me often says.  Presently, I’m thinking that if I start drinking more of these Green Zingers,  I’ll truly turn green.

In all fairness,  I’ll make fun of myself in this post and a little fun of the evening, but I have complete respect for the educator and her efforts to share what she is trained to share with us.  She is a cancer survivor. She takes her food, her body, her consumption, seriously. Her seriousness, her knowledge about how serious food is,  humbles and inspires us on the spot.

Our instructor is the very helpful Terry Klas, ND, RN, CNHP who is a naturopathic doctor at Human Nature, on Atwood Avenue in downtown Madison. She smiles and laughs out loud at my question about whether she still loves food.  She admits she does, and she reminds me that she is also the cooking instructor for the business with owner Katy Wallace.   Together they tackle a number of health issues with a combination of medical analyses followed up by nutritional solutions at their clinic on Atwood Avenue.

Klas shrugs as she admits that she doesn’t have much time for entertaining or cooking for large groups in her rural home where she juggles work, family time and still dedicates Saturday mornings to hospice care.  I wait for the wink when she suggests I can serve healthier fare at my next book club like some of what we are tasting this evening.

There is no mistaking that she still loves to cook as her eyes light up with a tale of making an incredible pudding with gluten free ingredients that she absolutely loves. 

I take a skeptical look at the next ingredient she has introduced.  This is kimchi sitting under my nose and I catch a waft like a forgotten diaper retrieved from under the passenger seat in my van last year.

This digestive boosting saurkrauty looking pile sitting on a very unappetizing rice cracker is not giving me a good vibe.  I resist holding my nose and put the whole thing in my mouth. It is horrible. What gut wouldn’t clean itself up when faced with this? I know it is powerful. I also know I will never buy it. 

Ever.

We follow Ms. Klas thru Willy Street Coop struggling with the new words floating from her mouth.  This is beyond buy-local thinking. We are discussing sprouting our own legumes, the value of cows milk, or any milk at all.  Forget yogurt, chocolate milk, cereal with milk, pasteurizing milk and why in the heck do we feed our kids cow’s milk in the first place? She’s talking organic vs natural, local vs Whole Foods, nutrition vs nourishment and showing me more kinds of beans than I know exist.

The ingredients labels flashing by on the well-stocked shelves of the Willy Street Co-op are new to me but also much shorter and more prounounceable than what I see on the sides of my boxes of cereal. 

Our guide, well versed in determining the value of grapeseed oil vs canola (take grapeseed) shares a brief lesson on how soy messes with middle age hormones and the value of just eating fruit for breakfast in a smoothie, or from my hand in all of its naked natural glory. 

For only a second, I imagine myself reclining on my deck chair,  sipping a refreshing spinach shake on a hot summer evening.

Back in the tasting room I try some fresh goat cheese and a no-wheat blueberry muffin that is of actual portion size- that is, I could fit  six inside one of the mammoth muffins from the local bakery. 

“I can eat these,” I nod, making eye contact with my good friend who has not yet had a satisfying meal after a day at work. We are looking forward to going up the street to Lao Laan Xang for some fresh spring rolls.  Her eyes say stop asking questions so we can get outta here but her grin is telling me she enjoys watching me find my way on this side of town.  We both know that the people on the East side “get it” but now we are left wondering if we “want it”. 

We also realize we don’t have an equivalent place like this on the West side.  And we want one.  

Now our hostess is laughing but not at me. She says, “Sure, I make this at home! I trick my kids into eating good food. I make an incredible bean burrito and they wolf it down and don’t even know it is good for them!” 

I could get into the spirit of the moment now.  I, too,  like to trick my kids into eating healthy.  But can I ever trick myself?

I try to wash all the new info down with my goat cheese sample.  This slab of cheese is nothing like the fresh chevre I get from my CSA share…then, just as this thought about my farm share comes to me,  the heavens open and a beam of light shines down and illuminates my once-gray-now-chemically-altered-and- dyed hair.  I know I am hearing cherubs singing sweet melodies with a cathedral size organ supporting the chorus that loosely translated goes something like, “Yes, she DOES buy local.  Let her enter the golden gates and fan her with naturally grown palm fronds and feed her some seaweed soup in a bamboo bowl and wash her hair back to gray with baking soda and home made mayonnaise. ”

### by child grower Annita Woz.

Recipe Day- Fennel & Cuke Slaw from A. Woz

bare feet at I T

It is good to see that in 2009 women, should we choose, may cook, may explore recipes , may take pride in throwing on an apron if we wish.

With the same enthusiasm as taking a trip to a foreign country, we test new ingredients, new flavors and we purposely spend time in the kitchen creating something memorable, edible, beautiful even, or we are allowed to simply step back from the stove entirely, and smile while watching someone else give it a go.

Our bodies don’t need all the food that we dream up, but our minds and hearts might.  A good meal provides a transport to conversation. Breaking bread together can take us to a level of pleasure that is acceptable to express in public.  As we experience intense emotions over a sublime flavor, a good recipe gives us permission to reach inside someone else’s personal space and grab their arm and make a connection.

Find those women and cook together if you can. Don’t spend one minute of time eating a meal with people who fail to feed your soul or to fill up your conscience or challenge your mind.  

This recipe is a combination of flavors from the combination of two good friends.

The dressing for this slaw is adapted from one served by my friend Nancy Rohrman.  She poured a slightly sweeter version of it over fresh fruit- blueberries, strawberries, fresh grapes, and pineapple. 

The coleslaw I created in this post was served for the same Red Tent book club that Nancy has been a part of for many years and she phoned-in to join us from a friend’s home in a far away state.  Since we weren’t set up to Skype , we passed the phone around to hear how the transition was going,  did our best to raise our glasses in several toasts in her honor and served an ice-cream dessert on my deck as she scooped out a bowl for herself  in another time zone.

For the fennel part of the slaw,  I owe thanks to another friend, Karen Johnson.  Though I have no doubt that she could turn any fresh ingredient into an excellent meal, I’m giving her credit for the fennel as it first arrived in my weekly community supported agriculture (CSA) farm share, that I pick up from her garage each week in the growing season.  She turned me on to the farm share and I am forever indebted.

The farm delivers 2-3 bulbs of fresh fennel each season as part of a variety of fruits, veggies, eggs and cheeses from a farm co-op out of Blue Mounds. Karen’s garage is the host location for about 100 local families.  When she’s around at pickup time on Thursdays,  I get to chat about good recipes for all these good veggies, some of which I had heard of but would not have recognized, and most certainly I would never have tasted until I joined Vermont Valley Farm. Kohlrabi, turnips, leeks and buttery eggs from free range chickens -that honestly do taste better than what is available in the grocery store-  have all found their way into my recipes. And my mouth is happier for it.

I tested this coleslaw recipe for my family last week and my kids couldn’t believe how much fennel tastes like black jelly beans. Have fun experimenting in your kitchen with this new recipe and cheers to Nancy and Karen. 

Fennel and Cuke Slaw with Sweet Poppyseed Dressing

1 large cucumber, cut in half and sliced with peel

1/2 head of cabbage, chopped

1/4 medium sized red onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh fennel, diced

1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Dressing: 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c vinegar, 1/3 cup oil, 1 tbsp poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard or 1 1/2 tsp dried mustard.

Slice cukes into bowl, add salt, cover for 1/2 hour,  toss cukes a few times in the brine and after 1/2-1 hr hour, rinse under cool water and drain to remove salt.

Combine the cukes with the rest of the ingredients: cabbage, onion, fennel.

Whisk together ingredients for dressing.  Drizzle over salad, toss to coat.  Let stand for 15 minutes, serve.  Enjoy with a citrusy white wine.

### from child grower Annita Woz.

Corn Queen part 3 of 3 by Child Grower A. Woz

caeltiptoegeraniumfeetSo I have to confess that strong, healthy buns were on my mind.

I was walking the aisles of the grocery store, picking up, putting down, picking up, reading, putting down. Over and over.

My youngest was dancing up and down the aisle with one foot on the lowest shelf the other other on the floor, and hopping up and down the length of the metal shelf. He asked what I was doing and I told him I was looking for some buns that did not have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in them.

He watched me for a few seconds and resumed his lopsided loping entertainment.

After I could not find a single set of six (or eight) buns without the ingredient I was trying to avoid,  I paused for a moment and did the V-8 head slap with the palm of my hand.

I was in the aisle looking for a nutritious bun that I was going to fill with a HOTDOG!

OMG, I was out of my mind. Who cares what the bun is made of, take a look at the DOG!

So, laughing out loud at myself,  I shook off the impulse to look around and see who was judging my inappropriate behavior in the adult world and left the aisle with a very unhealthy bag of buns to stuff these equally unhealthy hot dogs.

So this is my new life with awareness.

I feel like a hypocrite and a fanatic in one body, but I’m feeling like I’m making a dent in my family dinner regimen and that I am ready for the next step.

I’ve purged the bad foods, learned about shopping the outside of the store for simple items packaged without packaging, and I’ve done some comparison tasting with the kids to get them on board with what I’m trying to accomplish. They are reading labels and they are starting to mimic my words and that is making them sound like my mother.  They even have the finger wagging down pat with the words, “You know, you are what you eat!”

So the next step is clearly the CSA. Community Supported Agriculture. Yup, that’s right. Eating real veggies, real food, grown locally and by real people that we are supposed to get to know while they get to grow umpteen varieties of lettuce and potatoes.

I’m loving it. I admit I have belonged to the same CSA for about five years and I have the added bonus that the pick up point is in my friend Karen’s garage. Once a week a big truck rolls up to her garage door, deposits about a hundred (maybe more!) crates of fresh, cleaned, sorted, labeled, counted produce all of which is ripe and ready to eat and the variety from the beginning of the season to the end in October is astounding, delicious and colorful.

And thankfully, it arrives with recipes and identification.

When I started this farm share, I could not recognize turnips, parsnips or celeriac. I had never purchased or prepared kohlrabi, leeks, jicama, soybeans (also known as edemamme) or eggplant. And, I have to confess I have been introduced to fava beans and I have also rejected fava beans.  I can’t love it all! So I trade my fava beans with a fellow farm sharer for her sweet sugar beets.

And with this CSA share we are also invited to the farm. We went to the pea pick one season where essentially families go up and down these beautiful rows of pea stalks carefully staked and stringed to stand tall.  The farmer has held up a fat plump pea pod (so we know what to put in the collection bags) and then demonstrates how to unzip the pod from the top and then to discard the zipper and stem and eat the peas right out there in the fields.

We pick 6 lbs for the farmer and get to take 3 lbs home. While my children are picking, I hear one tell the other, I’m going to help this farmer get all of her peas picked even if it makes my fingers bleed. She’s clearly dedicated to doing her share!

And sure enough, while in the fields, my kids eat the peas, taste testing straight from the vines. We declare the peas our favorite veggie and no one stops eating the fat fresh peas while the baskets are emptied, the peas are weighed and handed over to our CSA farmers and we load up for the drive home.  We arrive at our destination with almost nothing to show for our afternoon of picking, but have mastered the skill of unzippering and happy tummy making.

I took the liberty of signing up for a Fruit Share this time, too. Three families will split a weekly delivery of ripe, local fruits from farms all over the state and we’ve made a deal to get together to learn about freezer jams, canning and pie making. I think I’ll have to ask my mother to come and teach us these forgotten skills. Isn’t that sad that store-bought has become so easy that we have lost our skills in preserving and with that, abandoned our taste buds to mushy processed, additive and preservative filled fruit that we have accepted as both delicious and just as nutritionally safe and sound as what Grandma put on her pantry shelves?

But not all Grandma’s would agree with me on that point. The store bought time savings really was freeing for parents. No more hours in the kitchen with hot jars and mason lids, no more juggling a garden with a job.  No more need for pickling and processing and pure hard work around a kitchen table with the kids snapping beans and the Aunt blanching the corn and then cutting the bumpity rows for freezing. No more blue enamel canners and no more jelly sitting on the counter waiting for the pop of the lids to show they were safely sealed.

I guess I don’t want to go back to that, either but I’ll settle for somewhere in the middle- in the middle of a CSA farm field, the middle of a forkful of real food, in the middle of an incredibly tasty tomato.  This is where I’m happy to be.

### A. Woz.

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