Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Way We Eat

I think about food constantly. One because I'm looking at the belly of the third trimester of this pregnancy and two because the majority of my day is occupied by preparing and cleaning up food.  I like the way we eat, but I wish it were better. I think that is true for most of us. I wish we could grab eggs from our own chickens in our own backyard, but our city doesn't allow it. I wish we grew all of our own food, but we just aren't there yet. I wish what we did have to buy was all organic, but we just don't have the budget for it all the time. Ideally there would be more fruits and vegetables and less starchiness.

Growing up my mom made dinner every night and my dad made breakfast on the weekends. We ate the same every night. Meat. Potato. Vegetable. Usually in the form of a breaded and pan-fried pork chop, real mashed potatoes and veggies from a can. My mom worked long days in a factory and when she got home, I'm sure the last thing she wanted to do was put a lot of time and energy into dinner. So she consistently made the same things that were cheap to buy and she knew we would eat. Makes sense, right? We never ate chicken or pasta of any kind. It was either ground beef or pork tenderloins. We never ate salad. It was canned green beans or corn. It wasn't uncommon to have mashed potatoes, boxed macaroni and cheese and bread with butter in one meal. And we drank 2% milk every night with dinner period.  We never ate breakfast. We had pb & j packed sandwiches for lunch with crackers and money for juice. On the weekends we grilled or my dad made a pot of chili.

It wasn't until I was married did I realize that I had absolutely no idea how to cook and no clue to eat well. I was given a Better Homes and Garden Cookbook as a wedding gift. I balked at it. And then one day I was forced to open it and figure out how to feed myself and another person on a very tight budget. I still use this cookbook to this day... it's one of my favorites. (Thanks Aunt Nancy!)

Having children drastically changed my views on food. I think I may have gone a little crazy, to be honest. Our first born ate only organic for almost the first 3 years of her life. I remember almost biting through my jaw when my mother gave our daughter instant mashed potatoes. We planned our vacations contingent upon a natural food store being nearby. It was a slightly manic time for me.

My husband was vegetarian for the first 8 years we were married. While some may have found this challenge exciting and a great way to express their creativity... I was bored and frustrated. I was making three different meals for each of us... and none of them were anything that I was proud of.

Over the past few years I have tried to make food that I feel good about. I gave myself permission to screw up. To burn meals. To try things that weren't in cookbooks... and this has been an awakening. I love to cook now. I love the heat from the oven and bubbling of a pot and the way onions and garlic fill my house with a smell that makes my mouth water every single time.

Tonight I made dinner with my mother on my mind. Simple and easy.
 Meat. Potatoes. Vegetables.

Meat: Pan fried Chicken Breast
Coat a frying pan with olive oil. Drop 3 chicken breast into pan. Add 1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce. 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce and a couple shakes of garlic powder and black pepper. I usually end up cutting my chicken right in the pan to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Potatoes: Russet Potatoes
Par-boil 3 to 4 medium size sliced potatoes for 5 - 10 minutes until tender but not completely soft. Drain water. Add a bit of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook Potatoes until they reach the doneness you like. For us, that's crispy and brown. Top with parmesan cheese.

Vegetable: Green Beans
Place 2 to 3 Cups of frozen cut green beans in pan. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and a nice pinch of salt. Cover with lid and let cook until medium softness. Top with parmesan cheese.

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