Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kitchen inspiration

My new books -- two cookbooks, one novel!
The challenge of preparing meals and keeping the kitchen in order while simultaneously taking care of a baby has been far more difficult than I ever imagined. I've been barely getting by for months now. I often manage to prepare healthy paleo meals, but the mess that gets left behind is embarrassing! I don't care for messes. I know they kind of go hand-in-hand with having kids, but messes really harsh my mellow. Physical clutter creates mental clutter, and mental clutter makes it harder for me to tackle the physical clutter. It is a viscous cycle.

I've been going on and on about this (to myself, to Carl, to whomever will listen) for weeks, but I wasn't really sure how to solve the problem. Actually, I'm still not entirely sure how to solve the problem. But I am at least inspired to try. And I owe it all to one of my favorite celebrity cooking experts, Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Lynne hosts The Splendid Table on American Public Media. I've been a fan for years -- her programs and her ideas are fabulous. Last fall, she released a cookbook called How to Eat Weekends and, along with her co-author Sally Swift, recorded several short podcasts based on the book's content. We decided to listen to a few of them while on a road trip to Washington to visit family. I thought I was listening just to pass the time. Instead, I suddenly found myself inspired, motivated and excited to get back into the kitchen.

Along with teaching me a few new things, the podcasts reminded me of some tried-and-true kitchen principals, principals that had always served me well in the kitchen before -- like the importance of cleaning up as you go, how to choose the right pan and the benefits of mise en place. One episode focused on making the perfect chicken adobo. We love chicken adobo (I paleoized a Cook's Illustrated recipe), but my own version needed some fine tuning. Now I know how to go about it. And my favorite episode? The one where they discussed tables. Round versus square versus oval versus rectangular. We're in the market for a new dining table, and we were mostly looking at square tables. Thanks to Lynne and Sally, I am now thoroughly convinced that a round table is the way to go. I am also thoroughly convinced that with some effort, I'll get my act together. Families have (successfully) juggled children and household tasks since the dawn of time, so there is no logical reason I can't do the same. Maybe I'm just optimistic right now?

Anyway, after we arrived home from our trip I immediately logged on to Amazon and ordered How to Eat Weekends (along with two other books). When it arrived two days later, it felt like Christmas. I haven't had a chance to try any of the recipes yet, but I will -- and soon. Yep, some of the recipes are paleo, and several others will be easy to paleoize. As for my kitchen organization, I've been doing much better. I still have my off days, but I've seen a marked improvement. And this gives me hope for the future!

Who/what is your kitchen inspiration?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rice cereal as a bedtime snack? Not for Pebbles.

Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn people are suggesting that I give my baby rice cereal as a bedtime snack. The rice cereal, they say, will help her sleep a solid 12 hours without waking up.

This is not an option for us. Pebbles (by the way, in case you missed it on Facebook, Pebbles is my baby's new blog nickname) does not and will not eat rice cereal. I consider it junk food. She's a paleo baby, so she eats no grains whatsoever. She eats meat, vegetables and fruit. She's super healthy and super happy. There are plenty of other healthy and happy paleo babies out there, too. Some sleep through the night; some do not. None eat rice cereal.

I know the moms offering advice just want to help, and I'm sure many of them empathize with my lack-of-sleep situation. But I'm starting to get a bit stressed over the frequency in which the suggestion comes up. Especially because I just don't know how to respond.

Do I just say "thank you for the advice" and leave it at that? I like this idea in a way, because it allows me to avoid having to explain it all to someone who may or may not be interested. Then again, why should I actively avoid the discussion? I mean, I know why. It is because people get offended very easily. If I share my feelings about processed baby cereal, some moms will be insulted because they gave their babies rice cereal. They'll feel like I am criticizing their choices, accusing them of loading their babies up on junk food. I don't want anyone to get that impression. Paleo or not, I firmly believe that almost every mother out there wants to give her children the best nutrition possible (some just have different ideas about what that means and/or different available resources). Inevitably, though, I run the risk of offending someone. The irony is people seem to have no qualms about trying to persuade me to abandon my principles for the sake of my own sleep (a couple of moms have actively tried to talk me into giving her rice cereal or other grains). Double standard?

So far, I've just been explaining (briefly) that she doesn't eat grains. I get a lot of blank stares. I guess I feel a bit ... stuck. Avoiding the subject seems like a cop out, but I also don't know that engaging people in a discussion about it is all that beneficial to anyone involved.

I'm sure I'm not the only mom who has encountered this scenario. How would you respond?