Tag Archives: vegetarians

Weekly Menus: Week of 1/6/2013

Gentle Readers, it’s that special time of year between the holiday cookie rush and physical fitness. Each year this is punctuated by my yearly cholesterol check. So chances are extremely high that I will clean up my Deep Fried habits. Tomorrow.

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

I jest, I know it is time to focus again, and so I will eat salads and grapefruit and run more than usual to beat the odds.

Which means on this week’s menus we have:

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

Translating into a reasonably healthy:

Sunday: Salmon and Veggies
I will have a fall-back plan, probably eggs, for the TPCs Junior. But I’m craving salmon, and listening.

Monday: Leftover Surprise
We’ve been rocking out the leftovers in the last couple of weeks, recommitting to not wasting food. It’s always a good challenge to use what’s on hand.

Tuesday: ??? Dine Out ???
This is scheduled to be our night out eating some culture’s cuisine with our favorite crankypants, Waldorf. The challenge is answering history and culture questions about the “country” in which we land. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday: Burgers and Fries
While at first glance this may not look like healthy living, it will probably be a combo of actual burgers and veggie burgers. We are hosting the handiman with the mostest, TPCs Dad, and that means beef is what’s for dinner. Food on a bun is an easy compromise. Plus the fries will be sweet potato, and there will be serious green veg on the side.

Thursday: Fake Chicken and Broccoli
Look for a full review on this one soon. We tested a new line of soy chicken (again, I don’t love meat replacement products, I prefer unadulterated ones, but this is transitional), and it was a huge hit. Even I’ll admit it was tasty. With broccoli and brown rice or noodles, it’s a quick weeknight dinner, and we’ve got a busy week.

Friday: Salad Bar!
We bought three kinds of salad greens (each of us has a preference), and this will be the last call to use up whatever has not been consumed during the week.

Saturday: Dine Out!
More field research is to be done! I’ve heard rumblings that a place I tested and disliked has improved, and there are several others untried in the area. As always, ping me with suggestions, I’m happy to try new spots!

Are you committing to good health in 2013? Any changes on the horizon? I’m still trying to walk the line between raising vegetarians and my own personal drive for protein. I do not want to raise pastatarians or cheesetarians. Sigh, onward and upward. Comment away!

Send your lettuces, lucrative offers, 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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Coming up Wednesday, Review of Rise in Durham: Biscuits and Doughnuts, Oh My.

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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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Telling the Truth About Food: Picky Eater Updates

Gentle Readers, do you hide vegetables? In the dark of night, do you puree spinach and put it in brownies? I am frequently asked how I get my kids to be brave eaters. If you have kids, you know there’s no getting them to do anything, any more than one can coerce an adult.

Tofu Matchsticks

Tofu Matchsticks

However, the question remains, how do I avoid the “chicken finger pandemic” (a phrase from a NYT article of yore, I can’t remember who coined it)? There are lots of answers to that, but today I’ll answer the sub-question, do I lie to my kids about food? No, I don’t.

My theory, if you hide things in food, you break trust. If I want TPCs Junior to try something, I always ask, do you trust me? If they do, they’ll try it. I don’t want to break that by sneaking something they hate with a big reveal later. They are welcome to hate things, they just have to say why.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

This has become exceptionally important since they became vegetarian. They know I still eat meat. I eat it in front of them on occasion. The Youngest often asks “is this meat?” I always respond, no, I would tell you and give you a choice. What if I didn’t?

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Perhaps I’m exceptionally passionate about this because I’m allergic to shellfish. The last thing I need is someone sneaking a little into a dish just to test it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn't eat it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn’t eat it.

I encourage all the parents of picky eaters (and really, we all are at a certain level, food is deeply personal) to treat your eaters with respect and trust. There is no “it’s yucky,”–ask why, how, what could be different. Try again. Be honest about what you don’t like.

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

The Juniors know I don’t like gummi things, hazelnuts, and sweet drinks. The Eldest shares my aversion to Nutella, the Youngest eats it with glee. They know I support their eating choices, that food is fuel, that you can stop when you’re full, and that I might challenge them to cook something better if they don’t like what’s on the table.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

Trust. It starts with owning up to what’s on the table, and soldiering on even when they complain. I’m rewarded by a 7 and 5 year old who can discuss the nuances of goat cheese and the merits of Cuban versus Singaporean food. They don’t even mind waiting a second while I shoot a picture of their plates. 🙂

Thus ends the lecture. What’s your stance on truth in eating? Share your comments below!

Send your questions, deep thoughts, and doughnuts 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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On Friday: Sweet vs Savory.

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How Skim Is Your Milk?

Gentle Readers, what color is your milk bottle cap? For years I have been a skim milk person, though I’m not sure how I fell into the habit. Tall decaf nonfat latte is a matter of routine at this point. (Withhold any comments on the decaf part unless you want to take full responsibility for a caffeinated me.)

Cafe con leche: Breakfast of champions

Cafe con leche: Breakfast of champions

Then I saw an article much like this one, if not this one, about skim milk making people fat. As a rule, I am not a low-fat fan, and my Fried exploits are well-documented. I buy into the idea that fat is not the enemy, it makes you full.

Very respectable fried pickles to be found at Carolina Ale House.

Very respectable fried pickles to be found at Carolina Ale House.

With both of The Practical Cooks Junior declaring vegetarianism, more fat in the diet is not a bad thing. So I switched to 2%. Results have included much richer and more delicious faux bechamel sauces and a lack of obese children in my home.

Pasta two ways with a side of fruit.

Pasta two ways with a side of fruit.

Yes, moving from the light blue to the dark blue cap (and this is a big deal in Tarheel country) did not set the world aflame. I run. I workout. Eating all vegetables has frankly left me hungry on more than one occasion. I am happy for the extra fat myself.

Milk Bottles Old, New, and Buttermoo

Milk Bottles Old, New, and Buttermoo

Perhaps it was the lusciousness of the cafe con leches I consumed in Barcelona, but it was time. I think this change will stick. So what color is your milk bottle cap? Post a comment below, tweet my direction, or chat with your cow. I look forward to hearing from you!

Send your questions, queries, and quips 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 Sunday, Weekly Menus, Gangnam Style.

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School Lunches, Revisted

Gentle Readers, multiple times a week, The Practical Cook faces the ultimate challenge: prepping two lunches that are portable, healthy, vegetarian, and able to be consumed in 15 minutes or less. Now, the joy of raising the Juniors as foodies is immeasurable. Conversely, they are incredibly adept food critics.

The ultimate leftover compliment.

The ultimate leftover compliment.

So here are a few tricks we’ve pulled out in the last few weeks. Also for the record, since both Practical Cooks Junior have converted to vegetarianism, we really haven’t partaken of the cafeteria lunch.

School Lunches, Revisited

1. Cheese and Crackers. Serve this with fruit and make everything bite-sized. The Whole Foods bits and pieces bin is a great value for trying new cheeses. It keeps lunch interesting to try different flavors.

Two cheese are better than one. From the bits and pieces bin at Whole Foods, Parmesan and Romano.

Two cheese are better than one. From the bits and pieces bin at Whole Foods, Parmesan and Romano.

2. Hummus and Mini Pitas. Just add baby carrots, celery sticks, or cucumbers. Throw in a fruit leather if you feel crazy.

3. Bagels with Cream Cheese. Half a bagel with cream cheese has been the perfect serving size. Serve with a side of nuts and some raisins.

The Jrs' First New York Bagel

The Jrs’ First New York Bagel

4. Yogurt with Fruit and Granola. The key here is including the toppings separately. Mixing your lunch is very satisfying. I often serve this with nuts or a side of fruit as well.

Apple Walnut Parfait!

Apple Walnut Parfait!

5. Pumpkin Butter and Cream Cheese on Bread. Tis the season! Pumpkin butter is a great peanut butter alternative. Served with kale chips or dried seaweed for balance.

What’s in your lunchbox these days? Post a comment below!

Send your quips, brownies, and good 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!)

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Coming up Friday, How Skim Is Your Milk?

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Weekly Menus for a Crazy Week: Week of 11/4/2012

Gentle Readers, thank goodness for the extra hour. At least that’s how The Practical Cook looks at the fall time change. I blissfully ignore that it doesn’t mean an extra hour. Another conference happening this week, this time locally, means another week of forward meal planning. Simplicity is key.

The most requested dish by the Juniors right now? Polenta. If my other experiment fails on Friday, Polenta is my back-up option. Several people have asked me about this dish, and yeah, it’s that good. Easy too, just not something that can be prepped in advance.

Which leads me nicely to this week’s menus:

Weekly Menus: 11/4/2012

Weekly Menus: 11/4/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping list:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/4/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/4/2012

Which translates into:

Sunday: Burgers and Fries
Odd as it seems, I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat, this is one of the easiest meals to serve to both vegetarians and meat eaters. Whether you opt to do turkey, beef, tuna, salmon, etc burger, it’s very little extra effort to offer a portobella or veggie burger of some stripe as the alternative. Food on bun. Repeat. The fries will be sweet potato.

Monday: Pasta and Salad
Our plans on this day are up in the air, so I’m going to lean on pantry staples if the original meal plan doesn’t happen.

Tuesday: Leftovers
Somehow we always make more than we can eat. Plan for a day of reintroducing the food if you don’t eat it for lunches.

Wednesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
A tried and true favorite, full of iron and packed with protein, the speed on this dish can not be beat. If yours can’t abide spinach, try adding something else to avoid being just cheesetarians.

Thursday: Baked Mac and Cheese with Squash and Veg
I’m determined to make at least one casserole this week to leave for the Juniors. It is fall, the happy casserole time. I feel a savory bread pudding in the not too distant future as well.

Friday: Beans and Rice OR Vegetable Pastry Puff
This is in response to a good idea/poor execution dish I experienced earlier this week. I can do better, and I’ve got the puff pastry to prove it.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We have been traveling so much, it will be exciting to do a bit of exploration in our own backyard.

What’s on tap for you this week? I would love to hear some of your make-ahead selections, particularly vegetarian adaptable ones! Post a comment below. I don’t bite.

Send your good ideas, kitchen questions, and lattes 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, School Lunches, Revisited.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/28/2012

Gentle Readers, it promised to be another action-packed week here for Team Practical Cook. Leading off, Halloween. As the parent of two trick-or-treaters, I have optimize for last-minute costume prep AND a meal that will offset the sugar bomb that is to come.

This week is pretty straightforward due to pending travel. Our job will be to dutifully report on it. Game on.

Here’s how it’s shaking out, with this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 10/28/2012

Weekly Menus: 10/28/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/28/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/28/2012

Which all means:

Sunday: Dine Out
Field Research in Progress!

Monday: Dine Out
I already know this will be the Whole Foods takeout meal. Nothing is easier while still taking a swing at healthy.

Tuesday: Salad for Dinner
I will transform Monday’s meal to sit atop the family salad that comes with.

Wednesday: Faux Nuggets and Broccoli
Vegetarian junk food and the vegetable they always eat. Some padding for the sugar bomb that is to come. Assuming we all still have power after the storm of the century. Again.

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
Eggs work. We made some beautiful omelets last week. Well not at all beautiful, but stuffed full of vegetables, and that is attractive by itself.

Friday: Burgers
Learning that burger night is ideal to feed omnivores and veggies at the same time. Just put something different on each bun! Of course, the Juniors have gone crazy for Portobella Mushroom caps right now. Try them out if you haven’t. They work.

Saturday: Dine Out

What do you serve on Halloween to prevent sugar shock? Post your ideas in the comments section below!

Send leftovers, decorative gourds, and peanut butter cups 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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On Wednesday, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake Mix Reviewed! (And a recipe.)

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