Archive for December, 2010

Buttermilk pie doesn’t sound too appetizing to most people.  In fact, several years ago when I told my husband I was going to make one he said with a horrified look on his face, “Ugh, that sounds disgusting.”  Now, it is one of his favorite pies.

When I was growing up our next door neighbor was a retired woman named Ora Lee, who’s husband had died before I was born.  She seemed ancient then, with short white hair and a home that seemed frozen in the 1960’s.  She was (and still is) a very good friend to my family, though, and used to babysit my brothers and I on occasion.  She’s a fiery, tough, lady of the land, and at 86 still mows her own lawn.   I have very fond memories of playing domino’s in her living room and petting her scruffy dog.  My favorite memory, though, is eating the fantastic cookies and pies she baked.

Like many women who grew up and lived during the depression, she was a fantastic cook and baker.  She knew secrets on substituting ingredients and tips like adding potatoes to a burned pot of soup to eliminate any burned flavors.  She also knew how to make desserts from ingredients that a) almost every cook has on hand and b) you wouldn’t think should be in a dessert.  One of my families all time favorite examples of this – buttermilk pie.  It has a sweet yet slightly tangy flavor and a smooth custard-like texture, with a  subtle hint of nutmeg.  It’s fantastic, and the best part – the filling requires seven ingredients and less than ten minutes to whip up.  So without further ado, here is the recipe for this easy and delicious depression era pie:

Recipe: Buttermilk Pie
From the Kitchen Of: Ora Lee Ashmore

1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup oleo (or softened or melted butter)
3 tablespoons flour (rounded)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Cream sugar and oleo (or butter), add flour and eggs and beat well.  Add buttermilk,
vanilla and nutmeg.  Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes
(until set and the center no longer jiggles – it will be slightly browned on top).

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Yes…You read that right.  My 12 month old daughter’s favorite food is SPINACH.  She also loves mustard and turnip greens, kale and swiss chard.  Sometimes she shovels greens into her mouth so fast she nearly chokes (true story – she really did put so many little pieces of spinach in her mouth so fast they wadded up and she started gagging).  I NEVER would have thought she would like spinach, much less that it would be in her top ten list.  But low and behold, she sucks it down!  (Disclaimer – you should never give spinach to a baby under 3 months of age due to a risk of nitrate poisoning – but in my opinion you shouldn’t be giving real food to a 3 month old baby anyway!)

The reaction I get when people learn of this love is mixed.  Many are impressed, some are perplexed, and a surprisingly high number of people make the comment “better her than me.”  Therein lies the problem.  So many adults are turned off by this power veggie that they never even give their child a chance to like it.  I certainly didn’t used to like it and only started eating because I read about how great it is for you.

How good for you is it?  Glad you asked… Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B2, potassium, and vitamin B6, protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc, dietary fiber, copper, selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is also loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals. Researchers have discovered at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that act as anti-cancer substances.  For example, the United States Department of Agriculture states that a 180 g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 mg of iron, whereas one 170 g ground hamburger patty contains at most 4.42 mg.[i] All of that healthy goodness in a little green leaf.

So I’ve demonstrated why YOU should be eating it.  Now on to the burning question in your mind, “how on earth did you get your child to eat (and love) spinach?”  I get that a lot.  It’s simple – she eats what we eat.  Since she began eating solids, I pureed what I cooked for my husband and me.  Once she was old enough to eat more textures I cut up well cooked (and soft) pieces of whatever we were eating and put it on her tray.  Since we always eat meals together she could easily see she was eating the same thing we were and I honestly think that helped tremendously.  Children want to be included in the family and learn though imitating.  Yet so many people overlook that fact when it comes to what their kids eat.

Another reason she started eating (and liking) the foods we ate – she was also never given the option to eat anything else.  Baby food is not outrageously expensive or anything, but every dollar saved counts in my family.  Sure, it’s easier to open a jar, but pureeing what I’ve already cooked takes less than 3 minutes (I have an immersion blender with a mini food processor attachment).  I also know what is in it and how it is made.  With so many recalls and stories of unsafe prepackaged foods I figured I’d take that risk out of the equation completely.

My biggest motivating factor for only feeding her what we eat is simple; I want her to eat what we eat.  Simple as that.  I have NO interest in preparing a separate meal for her (or my future children for that matter) nor do I want her ordering the expensive fat laden garbage off the kids menu at a restaurant.  So what better time to start gearing her taste buds for “adult food” then with her first taste of food ever!

Now, six months after her first taste of food, she eats practically everything (except ginger ice cream….REALLY not a fan).  I let her try things I know she can chew and mash and as long as she can physically eat it I don’t worry about whether she will spit it out.  What you eat is a learned process – just look at what children and adults eat in other cultures.

So please, use caution on what your kids can safely eat, but beyond that, let them try anything and everything.  Start ‘em young, and hopefully you will raise your own little foodie.

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The memory of picking Kentucky pole beans in the hot, muggy Texas summer every season of my childhood still haunts me to this day.  As mosquitoes practically carried us off, my brothers and I would spend what seemed like an hour searching for the tender beans amongst the vines.  My parents always had a huge garden that was responsible for growing the majority of the fresh produce we consumed.  They also had free child labor to pick everything.  I’ll admit I was none too fond of harvesting vegetables from our family garden…until the year I had my own section.

I was given a choice of several vegetable and flower seeds to plant and nurture all by myself.  Surprisingly, one of my selections was Kentucky pole beans.  I can remember digging a hole in the earth, carefully placing each bean pod in the soil and gently covering it with soil.  Only a week and a half later, the first sprouts appeared.  Never had I felt so much pride in something I created.  Every evening before dinner I would scrutinize my section of the garden, pulling weeds and monitoring the growth of my plants.  For the first time I was excited about getting to pick beans – I had grown them after all.  Not only was I excited about getting to pick green beans, I was equally so about getting to eat them.  Yes, you read that right; a kid excited to eat green beans.

There is a definite sense of accomplishment and pride amassed by growing a large healthy plant from seed.  It is taken a step further when that plant produces food that can nourish you and your loved ones.  Besides the boost in self pride, there are several other health benefits to growing a garden.  Spending just five minutes a day with nature can positively impact people’s self esteem and improve their mood.[i] Gardening can also be a low impact workout, burning on average 200-300 calories per hour.  It can also improve the diet of you and your family.  The expense of fresh produce is often a prohibiting factor in eating healthy for many families.  Seeds and plants are relatively cheap and depending on where you live, growing a variety of fresh produce year round is fairly easy to do.  Even more expensive at the grocery store is organic produce.  Well, you can’t get more organic than growing it on your own!  You control whether pesticides or chemicals are sprayed on your plants and if fertilizers are even used.  Last, home grown food just tastes better.  Let’s face it, there is no comparison to eating a juicy ripe tomato handpicked from the vine.  If you haven’t had the luxury of doing so, well, you are seriously missing out.

If the benefits discussed above are not enough to make you yield a shovel, consider this common expression: “The family that plays together stays together.” Family involvement in growing your own produce is a relatively simple and low cost way to spend quality time together.  Everyone gets some exercise, vitamin D and the ability to grow food AND a stronger family.  Weekend entertainment for a family of four can be very costly, especially if you add in the cost of eating out.  The entire family can spend time in the garden and make dinner together using food that was just harvested.  To get your kids excited about the idea, allow them to have their own section.  Children involved in gardening can learn responsibility, patience and creativity while reinforcing the values of healthy eating.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that preschool children who ate homegrown produce were twice as likely to both eat and LIKE more fruit and vegetables. [ii] Furthermore, it is a great way to slip in lessons about science, nature, ecology and horticulture.  Too many children these days are glued to a television or video game and rarely get to experience the splendor of nature or given the opportunity to cultivate a love for the outdoors.

Whether you donate half your backyard or just a small pot for herbs, it’s easy to reap the many benefits of the family garden.

[i] Dr Jo Barton and Professor Jules Pretty, the American journal, Environmental Science and Technology http://www.essex.ac.uk/news/event.aspx?e_id=1588

[ii] (Rural Missouri. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 107, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 577-584 Marilyn S. Nanney, Sheldon Johnson, Michael Elliott and Debra Haire-Joshu.

Picture from Homemaking-Cottage.com

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As a new mom, eating out at a restaurant sans baby is almost as exciting and priceless as taking a long hot shower and getting to shave your legs.  It generally turns into quite an ordeal: finding a suitable babysitter, breaking from baby’s nightly routine (and risking the detriment caused from doing so), deciding on where to go and what to do, finding an outfit that says “sexy” rather than “mommy” and well, taking a shower and shaving your legs.  Since it may be months before the next date night, there is a lot of pressure to make it a spectacular evening.  Is it really worth all that effort?

With over half of all marriages ending in divorce the obvious answer is yes.  When both parents work and the nightly routine is all about baby, it’s tough to find couple time.  My husband and I used to find ourselves crawling into bed once our daughter is down for the night, channel surfing until one of us falls asleep.

“How was your day?” I’d ask my husband.

“Same, you?” he replies.

“Good…so, anything new with you?”

“Not really” (mashing the page down button on the remote…)


That’s when we realized how far we were drifting away from each other.  We had become like roommates.  And we weren’t alone.

Many of our “couple friends” who have children are already divorced, their kids not even two years old.  It is heartbreaking, and I often wonder if we would have ended up there too had we not made an effort to get out of our rut.   However, we’ve only been on one date night and it was during the rut.  It did nothing but take that same conversation to a new location with a price tag.  Where you are doesn’t matter if the underlying problem(s) are not addressed.

When we were dating our ideal night was spent cooking a gourmet meal together and polishing off a bottle (or two) of wine.  Our love of food, both cooking and eating it, was and still is an important commonality between us.  Our first few years of marriage contained many nights of cooking together and bonding over a great meal.  Weekends were often spent perusing the isles of a Vietnamese or Mediterranean grocery store.   But with both of us working and needing to put our baby to bed at a respectable hour there was no time to linger in the kitchen.  With the day divided into “nap time” and “play time” it was difficult to spend hours at an ethnic grocery store on the other side of town.  We no longer had time for us.  Well, let me clarify.  We no longer MADE time for us.  We focused only on our daughter, her schedule and the everyday chores we previously had more time to accomplish.

After this epiphany, we stayed up late one night and discussed how we could set aside time for us and complete our seemingly endless list of responsibilities.  What we realized is that our lives were forever changed and that “us” now meant three people.   Yes, couples with kids still need time alone, but they also need to accept that their life will never be like it was pre-baby.  Raising children is one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs known to man.  It can be a strain on even the strongest of marriages.  With our daughter not even a year old, it had already become a strain on ours.  We then planned out how we could spend more time together in the evenings through the magical art of teamwork and how we could fit in time for us as a family on the weekends.

The next evening as I was preparing dinner, my husband tidied the kitchen, set the table and got our daughter in her highchair.  After we ate and I began the bath time ritual, he washed the dishes and packed our lunches for the next day at work.  Once she was asleep, we checked off all the everyday tasks and neither one of us had to be asked to do a thing.  We then had “our” time, and celebrated our accomplishments with a bottle of wine.  The following weekend we planned a trip to our favorite ethnic grocery store and Thai restaurant with the understanding that nap time was at 3:00 PM.  Our daughter had a blast and we were able to spend time as a family, doing the things we loved.

With the new meaning of “us” in mind our marriage is back on track.  Thanks to a lot of communication, teamwork and a renewed pledge to make time for the truly important things in life, we no longer feel like roommates.  We make even the shortest moments alone together count regardless of where they are spent and are more appreciative of each other for working hard to get those moments.  Weekends are spent as a family in the kitchen or exploring a new restaurant or grocery store and our daughter has now experienced new sights, smells and flavors because of it.  The bottom line is this: every marriage is tried by the stress of life’s new challenges.  Communicate, first of all.  Second, realize that life is all about change.  Work with that change, together, and life will be much happier.  Last, make time to spend together, both as a couple and family.  Do the things that brought you together in the first place, even if that something is no longer the same due to life’s changes.

Oh, and by the way…we still haven’t had another date night…

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Imagine two piles in front of you.  In one pile are bright red tomatoes, bunches of fresh basil and other aromatic herbs, a large head of garlic and fresh, handmade pasta.  In the other pile you see a handful of dehydrated onions and garlic, a bucket of pureed canned tomatoes, a container of carrot juice, and vials of Potassium Chloride, Vegetable Oil, and Ascorbic , Citric, Malic and Succinic Acid.  You are told you are to eat a meal made from the pile you choose.  Which pile looks more appetizing?

I assume you would pick the first pile.  So why do you give your child the second?  The second pile is a handful of ingredients found in a can of SpaghettiOs®, a common processed food given to children for lunch and dinner.  Let’s take one ingredient from the list above in more detail: Potassium Chloride.  One of the main uses for Potassium Chloride is in the manufacturing of fertilizer.  It is also the third drug used in the 3-drug combination for a lethal injection and was once used as a fire extinguishing agent.  Are you hungry yet?  To be fair, the percentage of Potassium Chloride found in a can of SpaghettiOs is relatively low.  However, it does not occur naturally in food, nor do many of the other ingredients used in the thousands of processed foods found on the shelves today.  I for one firmly believe that the foods you eat (and feed your children) should contain as few unnatural substances as possible.

As a busy, working mom, I can agree that popping the top on a can and throwing a bowl of this seemingly innocent food into the microwave is beyond convenient.  To a family struggling to make ends meet it is relatively cheap (about $1 a can) and is certainly popular among the palettes of children (and many adults, for that matter).  College students across the country would surely starve the death without microwave pizza rolls and Ramen noodles.  Processed foods are obviously popular and plentiful, likely because they are so easy and cheap.  But what is the true cost of feeding the many processed foods out there to our children?

Processed foods generally contain trans fat or hydrogenated fat.  Consumption of trans fat has been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, and can potentially promote the development of Alzheimer’s disease. [i] They also often contain high fructose corn syrup.  Regardless of what the Corn Refiners Association wants you to believe, it is thought to be one of the leading causes of the rise in obesity.  Since the fructose in corn syrup does neither stimulate insulin secretion nor reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin, you will continue to feel hungry while the body converts the fructose into fat. The resulting obesity increases the risk of diabetes and other diseases. [ii] Besides the unnatural and unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods, they are generally low in fiber.  Fiber is the part of food that our bodies cannot break down or absorb.  It provides the sense of feeling full while eating which helps alleviate overeating which can also control weight gain.  It reduces the risk of high cholesterol since fiber traps cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed in the blood.  A diet low in fiber can cause constipation, gas to even more serious diseases like diverticulitis and colon cancer.

Need another reason to kick out processed foods from your kid’s diet?  They have been shown to make your kids hyper!  Almost all processed food contains artificial coloring and in a 2007study done by The Lancet, researchers found that artificial colors and/or a sodium benzoate preservative in the diet can result in increased hyperactivity in children.[iii] “These findings show that adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity (ie, ADHD),” the report states, “but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity. Our results are consistent with those from previous studies and extend the findings to show significant effects in the general population.[iv]

Now, I am not expecting anyone to raid their pantry and remove all convenience foods and chastise parents who give processed foods to their children.  Nor am I saying that occasionally giving your child a bowl of crowd pleasing SpaghettiOs®, a bag of chips or even a can of soda will make them fat and give them cancer.  I’ll use the old adage “everything’s fine in moderation” here.  Furthermore, with today’s busy lifestyle where both parents work and kids are involved in every extracurricular activity known to man, it may be next to impossible to completely eliminate all processed food from your child’s diet (and your own for that matter).  I do believe, however, it is important to do your best and try.  There are a number of websites, cookbooks, and resources available on how to cook nutritious meals with fresh ingredients in a relatively short amount of time.  I have even provided my own fast, healthy recipes here.  (link to recipe section) Furthermore, with proper planning and a little know how, home cooked meals are often cheaper to prepare.  (link to tips and tricks/menu planning) While it may not be as simple as opening a can, your child’s health rests in your hands.  So please, as often as you can, step away from the can opener, and just say no to SpaghettiOs®.

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Hello and Welcome!

Welcome to Raised in the Kitchen!  Please visit the “About Me” tab to learn what I’m all about…

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