Saturday, March 04, 2006

Food, Glorious Food!

Reader Warning: There is definitely no point to this entry. I am such a foodie. I love to read cooking magazines (in fact, those are the only ones I subscribe to), I love to save recipes, plan menus and grocery shop. I absolutely love to feed friends and family. There is nothing like gathering around a table full of good food, sharing sweet wine, and lots of discussion. Although, I must confuse with three little kids, meals rarely meet my romantic expectations these days. But, I remain hopefully that one day, all of the sudden I will think, "hey, I just got through a meal without someone saying I have to pee, falling out of their chair, spilling their water, or dumping 10 ounces of Parmesan cheese on their pasta."

My obsession with food starts by going through my magazines and cutting out all the recipes that sound sort of interesting. Fish, pork, chicken, turkey and pasta--plus every once in a main ingredient of something else, like polenta. No beef in this house. I haven't eaten beef since I became a vegetarian when I was about 12. Actually, for years, I didn't eat any meat products. I slowly started again with chicken and turkey about 10 years ago. Then, sometime in the past three years, I decided pork sounded good--and I was right!

Now, there are two exceptions to the beef rule that, to be fair, I should share. I love Arby's roast beef sandwiches when I am pregnant. And, I do indulge in an occasional steakburger at 96th Street Steakburgers, but that is the only place. As a general exception, if I go to someone else's house and they have prepared a meal that includes ground beef, I do eat the meal--but while carefully avoiding the beef (however, I am sure I get some bits and pieces here and there).

So, once I neatly cut out the recipes, I file them in this expandable file folder with labels like pork, fish, baking, side dishes, etc. Then, each week I plan a menu of meals. I try to cover the basics--one fish, one chicken, one pasta, etc. I make my grocery list from these recipes. I make everything I can from scratch, as time allows and as is practical. For example, if they really matter in the recipe, I will make my own sourdough bread crumbs. Otherwise, I will use store-bought. I plan a salad, side dish and bread selection to go with each meal.

And, as if that planning isn't enough, I plan much of my day around food. Banana for breakfast around 10AM (unless I have a meeting at Panera, then it is a pumpkin muffin). Lunch? A handful of crackers, maybe some cheese or a fist-size portion of some leftovers. All in anticipation of dinner. I want to be hungry and eat until I am stuffed. Usually, I enjoy a glass of wine while cooking dinner and I try to have everything ready between 5 and 6. On top of our meal, I must make something for the kids. Rarely to we all share the same meal--but we almost always share the table and the dinner experience.

If I have lunch with someone and actually eat a full meal, or if evening activities would make it impossible to cook, dinner is out of the question for me. Instead, I wait until the kids are in bed and pop a huge bowl of popcorn with warm butter and salt. I would say that on average, about every two weeks our dinner consists of something to-go, usually pizza.

For the most part, I just don't like restaurants. With the exception of a handful that are reserved for dates with Jeff, and a handful that I enjoy for the occasional lunch out, they all suck. The food is over-salted, over-cooked, and otherwise tasteless. For most major restaurants in this world, the food all starts out the same--in a box from Sysco stored in the freezer. It kills me to pay $50 for the five of us to go out to eat and have some nasty guy in a dirty kitchen essentially reheating food for us.

Not to mention the fact of the three kids. Have you been to a restaurant lately with three kids? I am sure there are many who behave beautifully in restaurants. And, to be honest, mine are pretty good given their limited exposure (you know, if you want your kids to behave in restaurants, you would actually have to take them on a regular basis). But, I get riddled with anxiety about it and the stress leads to me snapping at them for every move--or the opposite, letting things go to the point where they get so wound up that things are totally out of control. Plus, they only like the "bunny" mac & cheese (Annie's brand), or sandwich on "our" kind of bread. They are picky, picky eaters. That is a whole other entry within itself (and it is on my list to cover).

However, given their limited palette, they of course love McDonald's and have fallen prey to the marketing ploys of the big McD. I, on the other hand, do not eat fast food and could not think of one thing I would get on the McDonald's menu. Salad, you are thinking? Have you tried it?!? Given limited options sometimes in the middle of Georgia on a road trip, indeed it has to do. But, for day-to-day meals..Never. Now, I believe I am officially rambling. See, I love to talk about food.

This is all leading up to the fact that I have decided to post on my blog a sort of food journal. Before I started my blog, I checked out a lot of other blogs (and still do read some on a regular basis). Some gave you the book they were reading, others the music they were listening to. So, in addition to my general ramblings, I will give you a daily dinner post. We have a system in our house that you will need to become familiar with.

Each meal receives a rating (since I so often try new recipes). Two thumbs up is the ultimate. And, Jeff is a tough grader (and a very picky eater). My grade usually includes some points for ease of preparation as it relates to taste. Really time consuming to prepare and not exceptional taste? Couldn't get more than a thumb. If you ever see something that looks interesting, I would be happy to share the recipe. Here is a picture of my cooking "bible." It is a composition book with each recipe glued right on the pages, with just about four dots of Elmer's. Decide it is a dud or I have found something I like better? I just rip it out and replace it with something else.

Tonight on the menu? Turkey-Jasmine Rice Meatballs with Baby Bok Choy. Check back tomorrow for the full menu and the results. Here is a picture of a page from my main cook book. This one is dedicated to main dishes. I have two others devoted to side dishes and baking.

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