real food

It's officially summer vacation-- ever since 8:10am today when the camp bus picked up the kids for eight hours!!! We kicked off the season this weekend with our first ever family camping trip. Thankfully, we were also accompanied by our good friends who are pro campers and made the whole experience lots of fun. Minus the deafening nocturnal frogs, it was not nearly as traumatic as we predicted.

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Including the meals. A reheated frozen chili was easy (though the nachos with Rotel and Cheddar Cheese soup were soggy.) We loved steak tacos with all the fixings. They were a bit more work but there's not much else to do when you're sitting around a campsite. The kids ate hot dogs as if they were at home. And the egg hack--crack them into a jar before you leave--worked brilliantly. 

On the way home we tried to counteract all the chips we ate with food from a Catskills farmers market—just-caught whole trout and beautiful produce. Next to the market was the Livingston Manor Farm- part cafe with delicious gourmet sandwiches and part store selling small-batch local food. It's exactly what the Rivertowns need.

Out here, it's easy to rely on a lot of cheap and processed food. After years of city living, Costco and giant grocery stores with big parking lots have been kind of thrilling.

But since reading A Mind of Your Own in which Dr. Kelly Brogan argues that processed food affects not just our physical but also our mental health, I’ve tried to buy more real food. We joined Butcher Box that delivers grass-fed farm-fresh frozen meat to our house every other month, as well as the local CSA. And I have been making an effort to go to Irvington’s fabulous farmers market.  

On the other hand, I haven’t made it out of the kitchen yet today. Just now, as I was finishing the breakfast dishes, Mack ran in claiming he was “STARVING.” 

the never ending winter

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Winter in the suburbs, just as everyone said, is intense. Wool hats have become sleepwear and slippers are no longer optional. Sometimes my fingers are so cold as I’m typing that I have to sit on them. And no I’m not writing outside. This house just only gets so warm. Then there are snow days—seven this year so far. The one thing home-bound cold weather is good for however is cooking. I’ve even roped the kids in to the kitchen a few times-- mostly with the help of this Hanukah-gift Cooking Class: 57 fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat).

**Quick story: The problem with Hanukah (okay, I know I said I was trying to be more positive but hear me out) is that small gifts like say, a mini lego set, the night after they got a large lego set, tend to be a disappointment—which makes us get angry at the kids’ spoiled brat-ness and Hanukah turns into a sulking fest. This year we did the dessert plan: Every night we lit the menorah but Instead of a gift, we ate a fabulous dessert. On two of the eight nights, we gave gifts (a worthy stash that made the Israelites journey worthwhile.)

The cookbook gift was a surprising success --  all the recipes are simple and yummy enough to hold their attention and make them want to do it again. Which at this point, is really the point.

We started with granola bars, crepes and pancakes. Then Mack and I made the popcorn chicken. I also got them this plastic knife set, which I highly recommend. The boys use them all the time to cut their own food without me needing sedatives. The book has some fun tips and labels in the back which we used to package the granola bars for their lunchboxes.

Last night we had a fabulous 7 course “Dinner with Dave” (see below) who admitted that most of his culinary prowess came from cooking with his mom, who wasn’t even a great cook. Maybe someday these boys will catch the bug.

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kids picks

Ever since their older cousin Mae showed them how to mix dirt, leaves, worms and orange juice in a bowl, the boys have been asking to do "science experiments." They've seen their uncle perform the black pepper in soapy water trick to show how molecules separate (or something like that). He blew their little minds. And their grandmother makes slime and other messy substances that take minutes to make and hours to clean up.

I"m always a little skeptical of the mess vs. value of the product. But then I remembered referring to my pickle-making attempts as science experiments. So I found a new recipe in the Jerusalem cookbook (no vinegar or sugar but lots of interesting spices, plus dill) and made it with the boys. They liked smelling cloves and learning about mustard seeds, and what happens when salt dissolves in water. Nate's persistent question throughout was "will they be sour?" To which I had to admit, I don't know. We'll see in 5 days. 

"Aw man," Mack said. "Can we play now?"

Update: They were not sour enough for Nate's taste but they were tasty. Next time I'll play around with the spice mix. A different kind of playing than Mack had in mind, I guess. Stay tuned.