Sunday, May 9, 2010


I love food. My enthusiasm for eating informs many major decisions in my life. I choose where to live based on proximity to quality grocery shopping and restaurants. I've taken vacations based entirely on the local food. In fact, when I'm traveling I abandon my mostly vegetarian diet because I feel that eating the local cuisine is essential to experiencing the culture.

I consider how one eats to be a major quality of life indicator. However, until recently, I didn't actually cook food unless it was a holiday and I was helping my mom. I watched cooking shows and read cooking magazines but performed no actual cooking. In my single life, I existed primarily on prepared foods, take out and pizza.

When I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom, the first thing that had to go was eating out at restaurants. Also, cooking our meals just seemed like the right thing to do if my new job was to take care of our family. It seemed like part of the job description.

In the past year I've learned to plan meals, create a grocery list and shop under a tight budget. I've become a grocery shopping ninja. I shop at several different grocery stores to get the best deal.

I'm learning how to cook and entertain my kids at the same time. Yesterday, while making pizza, I gave both girls a little hunk of dough and rolling pins while I rolled out the family's pizza. Mia did a fantastic job making her own pizza. Eevy had great fun using her rolling pin to pound the dough like a mallet. When I can't distract the kids,  I've learned to cook quickly by either putting a meal into the slow cooker before my husband heads in to work or throwing it together when he gets home.

I've found that I get a lot of satisfaction from cooking. I sometimes miss the sense of accomplishment I experienced when I worked out of the home. Turning out delicious food isn't quite the same as a win in court, but it comes close. I can't help but smile just thinking about Mia saying, "Mama, this tastes good!"

I also like having complete control over what my family eats. I know exactly how my girls' food was prepared and exactly what went into it.  I try to avoid BPA, pesticides, rBST, hfcs, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats and other bad things I'm forgetting about at the moment. If make our pizza, I know that it doesn't have canned tomatoes or hfcs in the sauce or rBST in the cheese.

Not everything my family eats is homemade or from scratch - not that those terms have clear definitions anyway - but I do my best to cook for my family using the most basic ingredients as practical. For example, I'm not planning on milling my own flour anytime soon, but I would like to stop buying commercial bread except for the occasional artisan loaf. I like to say that if I can make it, why buy it?

I try to buy local when I can afford to do so. We love boggy creek farm and would shop there all the time if money wasn't an issue. We grow many of the vegetables that we eat thanks in large part to help from my father, Papa. Also, thanks to help from Papa, construction of our chicken coop is underway. Hopefully by mid-summer we will no longer buy commercial chicken eggs. I'd like to expand our growing efforts in the Fall to include some raised beds in our front yard for a cole crop. Fall and Winter are great seasons for gardening in Texas.

Here are some of my current food goals:

Grow more of our own food
Raise chickens for eggs
Bake our own bread
Learn to make our girls' much loved cheese crackers
Learn to decorate a layer cake (improve piping skills and learn to use fondant)
Learn to can my own tomatoes for BPA-free convenience in the winter
Buy a freezer for the back porch and make a bunch of casseroles for times when I'm tempted to order a delivery pizza
Improve food photography skills

I'll conclude with a recent baking effort - my second attempt at a layer cake. I made it for Mia's third birthday last month. She loves Hello Kitty. I used the white cake recipe from Baking Illustrated and Martha Stewart's recipe for swiss meringue buttercream. The edible decal was a huge pain in the butt. I won't use that again. My goal is to improve my decorating skills before they are old enough to care.

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