1.24.2011

Meal Plan Monday

I have a few things on tap for this week, including a new gig! If you haven't heard, Green is the new Bad, as in, I am the latest member of The Bad Moms Club. Check out what I'm bringing to the party every Monday, the baddest day of the week. This week: Lullaby Improv 101.

As for the food, a well-intentioned trip to the farmers' market on Saturday was kiboshed by pure laziness and fear of the cold, so I had to make due with pickins from the supermarket. I don't like to buy produce from far away lands, but it's January in Canada so unless I wanted us to subsist on potatoes and grossly overpriced hot house tomatoes, I had to add a bit of variety. I do make efforts to keep it seasonal, though.


Monday:

Slow cooker butter chicken with chickpeas, carrots & spinach thrown in (prepped last and plugged in this morning)

Basmati rice
Naan

Tuesday:

Leftovers
I’ll be at Theresa Albert’s Ace Your Health booklaunch getting even more ideas for healthy meals and healthy living, so the huz and the kids are on their own. I am suggesting they eat leftovers, but chances are they will have grilled cheese sandwiches and canned tomato soup, my husband's specialty. I do not say a word about such things, except thanks to the huz for being such an awesome, competent man who lets me have my fun.

Wednesday:

Braised Lentils - a note on this recipe: we eat the lentils as a main, so skip the pork chop if you want. Don't be scared off by the words pre-cook or braise - this is actually a very simple recipe though you need a bit of chopping time. I use pancetta if I don't have double-smoked bacon, and I skip the creme fraiche at the end, though a tablespoon or so of butter at the end does make everything look and taste gorgeous.
Arugula Salad

Thursday: (no skating this week)

Salmon Patties – prepped the night before so I just have to pop them in the oven

Sweet potato fries
Steamed broccoli with garlic

Friday:

I have no idea yet. Suggestions?

(No red meat, please; we had it twice last week!)


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1.20.2011

Snack Time

When my daughter came home from her first day of Senior Kindergarten last September, I was greeted with excited chatter, a very non-linear recap of her morning, and the requisite backpack full of correspondence from the school. Calendars, notices, order forms and permission slips littered the tabletop, but as I was sorting through the papers, something I was not expecting confronted me.

It was a short note, printed on bright pink neon paper – the elementary school version of high priority communication. I read the note:

Dear parents,


We have a student in our classroom this year with severe allergies, and therefore, in addition to not sending any food with nuts, we ask that you refrain from sending snacks with dairy, eggs or soy. Please send only fruits or vegetables for snack every day.


Thank you,


Your daughter’s school

I read it twice. No nuts we were used to – as far as I know, nuts are strictly verboten throughout our entire school district – but now no soy, eggs or dairy? Fruits and vegetables only? I quickly did a mental inventory of what my pantry looks like during the year, scratching snacks off the list.

No cheese and crackers. No cheese. No crackers.

No yogurt.

No banana bread. Or zucchini bread.

No homemade muffins – a snack staple last year.

No baked goods at all.

Fruit.

Or vegetables.

I’m lucky – my daughter likes a good variety of fruits and vegetables, and will be happy with grapes or apple slices or carrot sticks or cucumbers. And I think it’s great to expect healthy snacks to be sent, but even for lucky me, this felt limiting. And boring.

I wondered what the moms of more picky eaters were going to do. There was no way that I would want to endanger any child in the classroom, and having to send healthy, whole foods is hardly a sacrifice a parent should complain about, but still, this felt like an extreme measure.

We’re a few months into the school year now, and we’ve gotten used to the grind again. And although I had my misgivings, school snacks have not caused me one iota of stress. On the contrary, it has positively reinforced all of our efforts to eat well.

Each evening, I ask my daughter what she would like for snack the next day, and I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to review the contents of my produce drawer – my daughter most often has the choice of a wide variety of foods (Carrots? Apple slices? Cucumber? Tiny tomatoes? Grapes? Red pepper and hummus? Baby orange?), but if the choices are getting low, I have no recourse but to plan to stock up on more fruits and vegetables. It’s satisfying to hit the farmers’ market or even the just the grocery store, and fill my basket with colourful, fresh foods.

Having all this beautiful food on hand also means that we are a) more likely to eat it and b) more likely to substitute it for less healthy choices. All of our snacking habits have improved. It’s hard to insist that your children snack on only fruits and vegetables and then munch on a bag of chips yourself after they’re asleep. (Hard; not impossible. I’m working on it.)

And it’s good to know that my child’s day has been a virtually sugar-free one, and that if I really want to blow my children’s socks off, all I have to do is add a spoonful of Nutella to some sliced strawberries after dinner and they think they’re eating the best dessert in the world.

So kudos to the school administration for implementing such rigid snack rules. You are inspiring my daughter to make better food choices, and she, in turn is inspiring us to do the same.


What is your school's snack policy? Have the rules gone too far?

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1.13.2011

Tiger, Mama

I was born in 1975, and for years I thought this pointed to me being a rabbit. Never quite comfortable with the designation, I wondered why my personality was in such opposition with the Eastern zodiac.

Zoologically speaking, I don’t really resemble a rabbit. I’m small and quick, but that’s where the similarities end. Bunnies are sweet, soft, gentle, harmless (except perhaps in the eyes of the farmer). Scroll through the traits of the hare in the Eastern zodiac designation and the contradictions to my fundamental personality continue: soft-spoken? Reserved? Not so much. Tendency to be stubborn – ok, I’ll give ‘em that one, but tendency towards superficiality? I’ve been accused of many things, but superficiality is definitely not one of them.

And then, at some point in my late 20s, a Chinese friend pointed out the error of my zodiacal ways: My birthday is January 6. Chinese New Year in 1975 was February 4. I’m not actually a rabbit.

I’m a tiger.

Daring. Passionate. Restless. Affectionate. Obstinate. Sincere. Moody. Generous. Quick-tempered. Colourful.

Now this makes sense to me and the people that know me. My husband’s reaction to my revised totem animal was a dry, ‘Of course.’ I feel much more at home with jungle cats than meadow bunnies. I feel like whatever stock I put in such things is restored, which is comforting.

I am a tiger friend, a tiger daughter, a tiger sister, a tiger wife, and for the past almost 6 years, a tiger mama.

And tiger mamas have been getting a bad rap lately. So I’m here to reclaim the title.

This tiger mama keeps her babies close, and makes her den a place of safety, security and love.

This tiger mama is not afraid to take risks and once her littlest cub no longer has to go down the stairs on her bum, will encourage them to do the same.

This tiger mama knows that being caged, forced to perform or berated for failing will not make her offspring thank her later.

This tiger mama works hard to retain realistic expectations of her cubs as they grow, and keeps her paws stretched wide open.

This tiger mama offers love and affection as a constant, not as a reward.

This tiger mama expresses her feelings openly, and knows how to roar. And so do her cubs, and this tiger mama loves the sound of their powerful voices.

This tiger mama is a leader, not a dictator.

This tiger mama parents by instinct, not fear or statistic.

Amy Chua makes perhaps a few reasonable claims for parenting the way she does, but make no mistake, she is not a tiger mama.

A tiger mama – a real tiger mama – would eat Amy Chua alive.



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1.10.2011

You Came To My Blog For The First Time In 3 Weeks And All You Got Was This Lousy Meal Plan

Wow, 10 days into January and all I've got for you is a meal plan? Cheap. I know. But as I work on some big changes and work out some other stuff, at least we'll eat well!

Meal Plan - Jan. 10 - Jan. 14

Monday
Lemon-herb tilapia
Boiled potatoes
Garlic sautéed spinach

Tuesday
Roasted roots
Maple-dijon chicken (recipe below)
Steamed broccoli

Wednesday (hosting book club, no time for meal
prep)
Kosher chicken wieners
Sweet potato fries
Fresh veggies

Thursday (Skating until 6:30 - dinner needs to be ready when we get home)
Carrot/orange/ginger soup, which I will adjust for the slow cooker
Homemade bread with butter
Mixed green salad

Friday
Veggie & tofu stirfry
Jasmine rice

I don't like to plan for dessert; even though we are judicious, we still feel like our kids eat too much sugar, so we are happy to program them to think that a tangerine or melba toast is dessert.


Maple-Dijon Chicken 
Very quick, very simple, very yummy. Serves 4

1 ½ - 2 lbs chicken thighs (or breasts, whatever you prefer)
¼ cup your favourite Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs (any breadcrumbs will do, but Panko retain a nice crunch)

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Mix together mustard and maple syrup
• Brush mixture all over chicken
• Dredge in breadcrumbs until evenly coated
• Bake in a single layer in a shallow pan 45 min.
• Enjoy!



So, what are you having for dinner this week?
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