Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Warm Fuzzies

Fall is the time of year when I feel the most kinship with food. Though summer provides a bounty of fresh produce, most of my culinary aspirations were put to the wayside as weddings, schoolwork, family, and work pressures took priority. My yearly blueberry picking and jam making sadly remained on my to do list, as the season seemed to slip by in just a few short weeks.

But as the air turns more crisp and we retreat indoors, all the other things that previously seemed so important are suddenly brushed aside as I find myself drawn to a warm stove and my dutch oven. There is something so irresistible about throwing together a rustic vegetable soup, or coring and peeling apples for a cinnamon-laced fruit crisp. My almost impulsive urge to cook is so prevalent during this season that my family can hardly eat all the food I make. Our refrigerator is overflowing with leftover braised chicken, chili, and various other comfort foods. I make hot biscuits just so I can share them with the neighbors, and any hint of an extra guest is just one more excuse to whip up a batch of molasses oatmeal cookies.

And even with all these fulfilling culinary endeavors, why is it that I continue to live in a perpetual state of regret for all the things I haven’t done? Though I do my best to plan healthy, nutritious meals for my family, some days end up being frozen pizza days. Though I want to buy natural and organic ingredients, often my lack time and money get the best of me. Coupled with a husband who could care less about the quality of his food (his last independent grocery purchase included hotdogs with beef hearts listed as the first ingredient), I often feel I have to constantly compromise my ideals with reality.

Last month at food group we discussed living in a state of inspiration vs. condemnation. While the movement toward sustainable food is definitely a positive trend in our culture, it also has the ability to fill us with dread about how we are going to live up to a standard that at times can feel overwhelming, expensive, and time consuming. However, I am beginning to understand that small steps are the only way that I will ever attain the healthy way of living I so desire for myself and my family.

Instead of viewing the sustainable food movement as a stamp of disapproval on the way I live day to day, I am trying to simply be excited when I do get the chance to make a positive step in the right direction. Instead of lamenting that I couldn’t afford organic chicken, I will rejoice in the fact that I was still able to make my own delicious msg-preservative-additive free chicken stock. So let’s ditch the guilt and get on with the comfort food already.

Want to make a comforting, inexpensive, one-pot meal? Try making Braised Herb Chicken Thighs with Potatoes. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Late Night Canning

The other night, Paul and I canned a dozen ½ pints of applesauce. Since Elaia will be starting on solids around February, we thought it would be fun to have some yummy applesauce for her developing palate. Making applesauce was also the perfect opportunity to use my newly acquired Foley Food Mill that I picked up at Goodwill this week for $2.99. An obliging apple tree on Paul's family farm provided the apples and Paul's younger brothers provided the labor in picking them (Thanks!).

I have to admit that Paul did all of the work in preparing and cooking the apples, as I was more agreeably occupied in rocking our baby and reading Little Women. However, I did eventually put the baby to bed and leave the March sisters in the living room to help my hardworking husband. After a bit of sweat, a couple German songs about “Apfelmus”, a couple cranky attitudes (from me), and a couple apologies (also from me), we had a couple sweet rows of apple goodness ready for winter.

I think I love the look of canned goods on my shelf almost as much as the taste.

Happy Preserving,


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