Tag Archives: raising foodies

It’s a Small (Food) World After All: Traveling by Way of Cuisine

Gentle Readers, sometimes, the cheapest way to travel is through one’s stomach. Food is a wonderful shorthand to culture, and we here at Team Practical Cook are fans of food of all types. To challenge ourselves, we’ve started collecting stamps on our culinary passport by “visiting” a new country every few weeks.

Black beans and rice from Gregoria's Kitchen in Durham.

Black beans and rice from Gregoria’s Kitchen in Durham.

This started accidentally, with the inimitably cranky Waldorf peppering TPCs Jr with trivia questions about the country whose food we were eating. The Jrs loved it.

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

So far we’ve been to Cuba, Singapore, Mexico, Italy, and Germany. We’re going to France next, as The Eldest wishes to practice her language skills. I will not be practicing my snail skills, for the record.

Vegetarian Enchiladas at a local Mexican Restaurant (fresh spinach and potatoes, nice!)

Vegetarian Enchiladas at a local Mexican Restaurant (fresh spinach and potatoes, nice!)

Questions can include geography, politics, math (what time is it in Germany right now?), along with language and culture. This was obviously constructed as a fun way to bring the world into view for kids, but the adults are enjoying it too. It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating the same rotation of foods. We are essentially gamifying dinner.

Spatzle in all their fried glory.

Spatzle in all their fried glory.

Though one could certainly cook international foods at home (we made spatzle right after our “trip” to Germany), I strongly encourage you to seek out places to dine. First, the more obscure the cuisine, the more likely it’s a mom and pop operation, which is always nice to support.

The Jrs take on the Big City!

The Jrs take on the Big City!

Second, the culture is often present in the restaurant itself (unless you try to pass off the Olive Garden as a trip to Italy, don’t get me started). Food is served at different temperatures, in different ways. Service is different; manners are different.

Bubbling Hot Tofu Soup from Vit Goal

Bubbling Hot Tofu Soup from Vit Goal

So I challenge you, Gentle Readers,  to try a new cuisine, and use it as a learning experience. Life is simply too short for endless chicken fingers. Write to me and let me know how it is. Comments welcome. There’s a box for them. Or email or Tweet. Look forward to hearing your story!

Koh Samui is a refuge off the beaten bath. Well worth the trek for good Thai!

Koh Samui is a refuge off the beaten bath. Well worth the trek for good Thai!

Send all deep thoughts, lucrative book deals, and unicorns to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Vegas Baby!

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An Ode to Belgian Chocolate

Gentle Readers, my heart has gone 74% dark. And Belgian. At a recent industry event I attended as part of my day job, one of my colleagues brought chocolate from his home country. Eating it has been a life altering experience.

Strawberry-filled Milk Chocolate, Belgian Style. I <3 You.

Strawberry-filled Milk Chocolate, Belgian Style. I

The Practical Cooks Junior and I have been slowly working our way through the various types, and it is truly amazing. I’ve eaten what are considered the best chocolates in the United States, I’ve had Swiss chocolate, but my heart belongs to Belgium.

Glorious selection of Belgian Chocolates

Glorious selection of Belgian Chocolates

The 74% dark chocolate mentioned above is rich without being bitter, and somewhat floral in a non gross way. The Eldest PC Jr, who is outspoken on her dislike of dark chocolate, called it her favorite of the whole group.

The Youngest PC Jr fell in love with the strawberry filled milk chocolate. It was exceptional.

Hello Extra Dark Belgian Chocolate. You are never bitter.

Hello Extra Dark Belgian Chocolate. You are never bitter.

In terms of texture, purity of flavor, and quality, the Belgian chocolates are unmatched for me. It’s easy to eat just a little of it, as the experience is one to be savored. But how do I handle Easter, Halloween, etc. with foodie kids? Farewell KitKat bars, hello dark chocolate. Special thanks to GreenFoodie for the chocolate!

What’s the best chocolate you’ve ever eaten? No really, I want to know this. Perhaps we’ll do a chocolate tasting here in upcoming months!

Send your questions, lucrative book deals, and kitchen confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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On Friday, Why I Don’t Go Negative.

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First Time Fast Foodies

Gentle Readers, this past week marked a first that caused a bit of a firestorm. As part of a series of holiday meet and greets, The Practical Cooks Junior and I met with some old friends at the most convenient and recognizable of spots off the highway, McDonald’s. What’s remarkable about that? TPC’s Jr have never been to one.

First McDonald's Fries: Response, Whatevs.

First McDonald’s Fries: Response, Whatevs.

I’m waiting for you to wake up from a dead faint. Are you back with us? Great. We had sundaes at an in-museum McD’s this past summer on our trip to Washington, D.C., and we’ve stopped at a Wendy’s here and there. But never at the freestanding Golden Arches. TPC’s Jr have never consumed a Happy Meal, and they just tried the famous fries for the first time.

More Tweeting Than Eating

More Tweeting Than Eating

Survey says: my sweet potato fries are better. Not going to McDonald’s was not some extremist stance I attempted, nor do I have a burning desire for a McRib or a McNugget. I like my Fried full on and pure, no halfway for me, so our junk food has looked more like this.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

When they became vegetarians, there was even less reason to go to fast food places. But it happened, and they were not blown away in any direction. It was just a place. I will openly admit that while I have no judgment about a Big Mac craving or the love of fries, fast food joints are not my first choice for dining. We are spoiled in knowing more than one chef on a first-name basis, and a load of talented home cooks, and we can cook most things to our taste at home. With so much food and food knowledge around us, we barely have time to eat all the things we want to try.

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

I’m incredibly proud to be raising kids who are brave enough to try new things (including the homemade pepper jelly and wine jelly we were handed at the McD’s), who are also confident enough to like what they like. The Youngest would live on bread and fruit if permitted, with a side of spinach. The Eldest has a deep love of chocolate-covered cherries, all legumes, and eggs. They both stand their ground when adults they respect challenge them about their vegetarian beliefs.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

So the trip to McDonald’s passed like any other new experience, they chewed their fries thoughtfully and went right on with their lives, blissfully unaware of a milestone or any parenting fail on my part. What is your stance on fast food for you or your kids? Are you a fan, foe, or something in between?

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #fastfood as the tag. I look forward to hearing from you.

Send your ketchup packets, deep thoughts, and bright ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Hello 2013 Edition

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/12/2012

Gentle Readers, it is hard to believe that summer is drawing to a close. I will fully admit that I’m reaching the end of my tomato consuming capacity, I’m done with humidity, and I look forward even to the structure the school year will bring. Perhaps that’s because this was a summer like any other for Team Practical Cook: we embraced it with both arms and squeezed.

Mango dessert at ONE Restaurant. "I'm going to eat this until it's gone." --The Youngest

Mango dessert at ONE Restaurant. “I’m going to eat this until it’s gone.” –The Youngest

I haven’t been in the kitchen as much it seems, but when I am, there has been great joy and relative simplicity. It has been about cooking with and for more people, new adventures, new places, new tastes. There’s an incredible backlog of things to try, and I look forward to working through that list this fall. Please keep your challenges and questions coming, they will be addressed as the seasons turn.

Summer adventures in the Guggenheim.

Summer adventures in the Guggenheim.

Enough waxing poetic, we still all have to eat. Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Weekly Menus: 8/12/2012

Weekly Menus: 8/12/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/13/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/13/2012

The above is still so lean because we continue to get vegetable drive-bys from the family. Not complaining, just explaining how I can feed the family without ever apparently shopping for food.

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Eggplant Parm or Dine Out
I know, I know, we are dining out a lot. But the Juniors have a much richer social calendar than I do, and I have to accommodate the requests for their time. Field research has been fantastic, more on this upcoming. Otherwise, we’re making Italian food at home.

Monday: Nachos!
A family favorite. We’re taste testing different chips, and this is a good way to use them up. Our version is with black beans and sweet potatoes, cheesy without being gloppy, and no meat.

Tuesday: Salad Surprise
The other trick of this summer has been lots of salad. Great way to use up leftovers. Always evolving, and make it according to your own personal style.

Wednesday: Pancake Courses
We’ve been challenged to create a 3-course pancake meal. This will either be the test run or the live edition, if the guest of honor (aka, the challenger) is available. It will be appetizer pancakes (small cornmeal ones), savory crepes, then a dessert pancake (like an apple fritter).

Thursday: Beef and Veg
We really have to use up the cow in the freezer. It’s becoming a friend at this point.

Friday: Soup and Sammie
The heat has broken enough that soup (not just gazpacho) is on my mind again.

What is your summer food memory for this year? Share your comment below! It’s wide open there, like the beach first thing in the morning.

Send all challenges, strokes of brilliance, and gold medals to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Simply Herb Pasta Recipe.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/5/2012

Gentle Readers, this has been a whirlwind summer for The Practical Cook and the Juniors. We have often found ourselves lacking the sheer stomach space to consume all we want to try. Not a bad problem to have, I know. However, it has also meant a real lack of kitchen time. I think I’ve cooked in other people’s kitchens more than my own!

The magic quadrant of pancakes from #projectpancakes

The magic quadrant of pancakes from #projectpancakes

Not a bad skill to acquire. Last night’s #projectpancakes was a huge success, as you can see. We field tested a couple of mixes with add-ins for a tough crowd. And there was bacon. That was less of a hard sell. Wright’s Hickory Smoked, the victor from Bacon Madness, again reigned supreme.

Underline your panckaes with bacon. For emphasis.

Underline your panckaes with bacon. For emphasis.

However, I find myself lacking inspiration. I resubscribed to Everyday Food, on my iPad. Let’s see how that format goes, if I use and enjoy it as much. So here’s what I’ve got for the week. Would love to hear from you all, what you’re cooking and eating these days. I also wonder if I’m going to be able to get up at 6 AM again before too long–schooltime draws near!

Totally counts as a vegetable. Cucumber gimlet for the win!

Totally counts as a vegetable. Cucumber gimlet for the win!

But alas, back to the late days of summer. Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Weekly Menus: 8/5/2012

Weekly Menus: 8/5/2012

And the four-square grocery shopping list:

The still lean Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/5/2012

The still lean Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/5/2012

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Italian
We’re being treated to a 3-course meal featuring pork. Part of my ongoing quest to learn to cook Italian courtesy of the cantankerous Waldorf.

Monday: Eggplant something
This will be Turkish (broiled and pureed, a smoky base) or Italian (oregano/thyme plus a hit of red sauce and mozzarella)  in nature. TBD.

Tuesday: Leftover surprise
This may change because now we need to do some field research this week. So it may be Mexican and leftovers may be lunch.

Wednesday: Field Research (Dine out!)
I am fortunate enough to know a couple of local chefs, and the Juniors have demanded a seat at the table. Since summer is the perfect time to stay up late, we’re going out more than usual! I will reveal our mission in a future guest blog by the Juniors themselves.

Thursday: Beef and Veg
Because both of these things need to be eaten, work in volume, and can be frozen for the future.

Friday: Dine Out!
More field research! There are not enough meals in the day. Truly.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Though this may very well turn into leftover surprise. Or a salad! I adore the Whole Foods salad bar on a Saturday. The challenge of not building a $20 salad and the infinite variety!

Share your summertime cooking strategy (or eating strategy works too)! Post a comment! The crickets and I await your feedback.

Send confessions, challenges, and inspiration to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Kitchen Tool Talk, More of My Favorite Things.

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