Friday, May 23, 2008

Cabbage Chronicles: Purple Cabbage

Looking over old posts, it must seem like I'm a big cabbage lover. I'm not. But it does present its challenges at the family table. I am always on the hunt for new vegetable recipes that will add more variety and color to our usual rotation. My kids happen to love spinach, broccoli, and many of the other supposedly "hated" vegetables, so cabbage is the most notorious one around here. Except for maybe chard. I have no luck with chard really, though it often looks so beautiful at the store. The worst thing about chard is my older daughter has literally choked on the stems (twice now), which makes me reluctant to make it again. (If a child chokes to death on food, it is definitely not healthy!)

So here we go with cabbage again. Last night I made purple cabbage with turkey sausage, and a peppery vinegar sauce on the side. This accompanied pork chops my husband made. I thought it was very good, and a nice match with the pork. I was going to follow my own advice and add applesauce to the table for an extra fruit, but we were out of it. Dear daughter (didn't choke) and said the cabbage was "OK." Considering we were talking about cabbage, that was good enough praise for me.

Purple Cabbage with Sausage
(Serves 4)
  • Slice half of small purple cabbage in quarters. Steam for 10 minutes. Chopped cooked cabbage into small bite-sized pieces.
  • In a skillet, cook 2 links of turkey sausage, crumbled or sliced into small pieces when throughly cooked. Remove when finished.
  • On same skillet, add a little oil, half a minced onion, some grated ginger, and one squeezed garlic clove. Add a little beer, water, or wine, if needed, to loosen brown bits in pan.
  • When vegetables are soft, add cabbage and sausage to pan. Toss and reheat until hot.
  • Can serve with pepper-vinegar sauce: 2-4 tablespoons of vinegar and add hot sauce to taste.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Food for Thought: Work-Life balance

Over the last few weeks, I've been balancing my extensive network of non-paying jobs with a paid job. Not even counting the big job of being a mom to three, which is paid though indirectly, my non-paying jobs include being an involved parent at my kids' school, being a community gardener, and of course, being, the "eat dinner with your family" blogger. This past week was a trifecta of obligations with the school's big fundraiser, the neighborhood greening day, and the usual assortment "can't miss" parent events, like my son's track meet and a parent meetings on "health" (aka need-to-know stuff on puberty, drug use, and other adolescent adventures.) On top was the paid job I took writing a grant for a very important topic that won't be named here (way too depressing).

I was very excited to get the opportunity to work freelance in my field (public health policy), and especially happy since it was a time-limited gig (the hard deadline was May 15th). It was interesting work and I hope the grant is ultimately successful, but the most important things I learned were about how I might balance a full-time job with my real life in the future.

First, I think my family can handle it. I had to get a lot of extra babysitting (and needed extra housekeeping), but in general, the older kids and even my two-year old adapted very well. My two girls were actually playing "get dressed up to go to a meeting" this morning instead of the usual princessy dress-up. That is a totally new phenom in my house.

Second, we still had dinner together every night and there were no major melt-downs from anyone, myself included. True, that might be hard to sustain, but I was glad that we had enough "systems" in place so that this relatively minor schedule change didn't derail us completely.

Last, and perhaps most importantly in this forum, I missed blogging on my favorite topics--food, health, and family dinner. I really enjoy this platform and the process of reading, learning, writing, and advocating for family dinner. I hope my readers enjoy it too. The challenge is sustaining it and moving forward, financially and professionally. But I'm up for it. I think it's worth a shot, so stay posted!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eat More Vegetables!

Wow! Sorry, I skipped a whole week of posts! I plan to be back more consistently, though I'll need a plan of action in a few weeks when school is out.

I'm taking the easy way today and angling off a great column in today's NYT by Tara Parker-Pope, "Getting the Most Out of Vegetables." My take-away message is that the best way to get more out of vegetables is to eat them (!) and to eat more of them. In other words, it matters less how you prepare vegetables, just as long as everyone likes them enough to actually eat them at the table. Sometimes I serve our veggies totally plain, and since they tend to be fresh and organic, they do get eaten. But when I add a little butter, salt, or maybe Parmesan cheese, the vegetables do tend to get snapped up even faster. Last week. my hand tipped a bit too much when I was salting green beans and I added way more salt than I meant too. The result: the kids and my husband said they were the best green beans ever! (I'm not recommending overdosing on salt, but it's a little lesson in trade-offs.)

Butter isn't so bad either. One interesting note at the end of the article referred to a study done at Ohio State. It found that adding a little fat to the veggies actually helped you absorb more nutrients from them. And of course, another study with teenagers found that taste trumped all in terms of eating vegetables.

Another "trick" I read about in Real Food: to encourage your family to eat more vegetables, put more than one out on the table. So have a cooked vegetable and a salad, or raw veggies. Or you can add fruit as an actual course or side dish. Plus this adds variety to the table and to the foods you introduce to your family. Have one "stand-by" vegetable, say frozen peas, and try our a new one, say collard greens or cabbage, as a second.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

City Farms

Photo: Yue Qui, Edible Brooklyn, Spring 2008

It's a beautiful day in Brooklyn. Fittingly, there was more about spring, and food, and gardening in the NYT today: an interesting article on city farms and raising crops for cash in community gardens. Community gardening can connect to so many issues: food, health, the environment, the economy, the urban landscape, and more.

I biked by the Red Hook Farm last week and it was aglow with new plantings, small and light green, so full of potential. One thing I like about urban gardening is that it is seems so incongruous, so unlikely. How can you really grow anything in a vacant lot? But plants, like many urbanites, are tough; they fight the odds, they grow and thrive in the most unlikely of places. Love, care, work, and of course, sunlight is needed, but you'd be surprised what you can grow on a little scrap of dirt. I wish more suburbanites would rip out their lawns (or at least a small portion of it) and take advantage of the wonder of space and sunlight that they have. Maybe urban gardens can inspire, too.

What's the family dinner angle? Well, sparkling fresh food you've grown yourself is certainly appetizing, but that's not an easy order. (Believe me I don't do it, although I dream a little with my little herbs in window boxes.) So instead, support these farmers. Seek out farmer's markets, and bring your kids. The high produce time doesn't come for several weeks, but there is lettuce, spring veggies, and many lovely flowers out now. I saw "ramps," the foodie sign of spring, at the Brooklyn Boro Hall market yesterday. Your kids will probably love the tables piled high with offerings that you pick out yourself. These are not the sterile, waxed vegetables of the grocery store, wrapped in plastic and stacked under florescent lights. The warmer connection to Farmer's Market food may pique their interest in a wider variety of vegetables. And this may translate into a greater willingness to try it at the table. It's worth a try.

City Farmer's Crops Go from Vacant Lot to Market, NYT 05.07.08
Two articles in Edible Brooklyn, Spring 2008 about the Red Hook farm ("Homegrown") and a personal chef who uses CSA veggies ("Farm to Fork")
Red Hook Farmer's Market opens in June
More ramp recipes at