Archive | June, 2013


19 Jun

Nope. Not that one. The CIA, to a foodie like me, always means the Culinary Institute of America. I have been to the CIA in San Francisco, and it is a beautiful facility. A truly magical place to learn, cook, and dine.

As you can imagine, since they train chefs, the CIA supports dining out. I like to dine out in moderation, choosing to eat in most often because of health and budget concerns. I feel that it is usually a healthier option to cook your own food, and there is no way my budget could support eating out multiple times a week. So when I dine out, it needs to count!  I want good fresh “farm to table” meals.

Greg Dreshcer of the CIA recently spoke about the american budget and eating out. He said “Consider these statistics from our annual report: In 1980, only 15% of a family’s food budget went to food from outside the home. Restaurants were primarily for special occasions, and restaurant industry sales were just below $120 billion”.

I can certainly comment on that. In 1980 I was one of 5 kids in my family, but 2 of my brothers were already out of the house. When I went out with my parents and the other kids, it was a special occasion for sure. When we did go out for dinner, my folks could not often  afford to take us out for fine dining. We usually to the local VFW hall for a Friday night fish fry during Lent. (It doesn’t get more midwestern and catholic than that!). I would say that the 15% referred to probably reflected my family at the time.

Mr. Drescher goes on to say “Today, 47% of American food dollars are being spent on restaurants and other food service operations: The industry’s sales have soared to $660 billion”. Wow! That is a huge number! Almost half of our food dollars go out the door. As I said, I enjoy dining out, but for my family, it is, like it was for me as a kid, a special occasion. But the dollar amount wasn’t really the focus of Mr. Drescher. The good news is that restaurants and chefs are now responding to a plea for healthier restaurant meals. Yay!

The consumers can really make a dent in good food choices offered at restaurants. If the consumer becomes a bit of a squeaky wheel, we can really make a difference in healthier food choices while dining out. That is our challenge for today. Start questioning the dining staff at restaurants and gently demanding healthier options. If half of our food dollars are going out the door, then we have a voice. Make it heard!  Encourage and support your local chefs that are featuring healthy food on their menus!  If they are getting 47% of our food dollars, then speak up.


12 Jun

Everyone has their food quirks.  Something that makes our food distinctly ours.  My oldest son?  He likes what I call a “naked” sandwich.  No condiments.  Bread, meat, maybe a little lettuce or banana peppers from a jar.  That’s it.  I say eeww to that.  Too quirky.  I simply cannot eat a naked sandwich.

And ketchup.  Does it go on the pile of fries, or next to them to be dipped?  Or do you forgo the ketchup all together and go for the European way with mayo on those fries?

Then there are hot dogs.  Kind of a sacred food for this Chicago girl.  Being of german heritage with Chicago as my home town, no hot dog is edible without that bright yellow mustard slathered o it!  In fact, I am into a Chicago Dog all the way.  That includes mustard, celery salt, peppers, tomato wedges, and never ever ever does a Chicago dog done right include ketchup.  In fact, just forming that last sentence, the very thought of ketchup on a hot dog made shivers go up my spine.  No kidding

And Rice Krispies are not at all edible unless there is a ripe banana (no green whatsoever!  It must be soft, yellow and well on it’s way to brown!) cut up in neat little slices plopped into the bowl of  snap! crackle! and pop! in milk on my breakfast table.  But my friend will not eat Rice Krispies unless they are mixed in with a heap of melted marshmallow.  It’s just his thing.

Being a foodie, I, of course, will try just about any food prepared any way.  But I must hail back to my roots and recognize my quirks.  Deleveloped somewhere along my forty-something years of eating, I am not certain quite how my quirky food habits formed, but I allow them air time.  I embrace them.  I also very much enjoy hearing and observing others food quirks.  We all have ’em.  They are fun, and distinguish us from one another.  As in all things, I celebrate differences.  I find differences in food preferences, eating habits, and individual quirkiness intriguing.  Interesting.  Thought provoking.  Fun.

Try all foods, expand your palate, but for comfort…embrace your food quirks!


And Go!

4 Jun

Its 6:14. P.M.   Time (or past time!) to start dinner.  Well, it is a little late tonight, but I am busy mom that works outside the home in addition to managing my family.  This will have to do.  Whats for dinner?  A wonderful home cooked chicken dinner.  Chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  And ready in a snap.  Here we go.

I cut the red potatoes into quarters, put them in a large sauce pan and covered them with water.  I tossed in a teaspoon of salt, and put the pan on the stove.  I turned the burner to high until they started boiling,  then down to medium heat.  I covered the pot, but left a crack in the lid for the steam to vent.  15 minutes and they would be done.  By the way, potatoes can be “rustic” and don’t always need to be peeled, especially if short on time.  Mashed potatoes are delicious with the skins mixed in.

Next, I took boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut them in half (okay, I call chicken breasts like these  Dolly Parton Chicken…) and sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper.  I sprayed a large skillet with non stick cooking spray and put it on a medium high heat.  I let the pan heat up for a minute and then in went the chicken.  6 pieces in all.  I am feeding myself and my three teenagers.  It is 2.17 pounds of chicken, and I hope it calms the beast of a stomach within my teenagers!

Then I put a time saver move into play,  but a nutritious one and necessary at this point. I opened 2 cans of green beans and poured them into a microwave safe bowl.   I added about 1 tablespoon of butter and a healthy grind of some fresh ground pepper.  I put them into the microwave for 4 minutes.

In the meantime, I drained the red potatoes.  (There is a lot of steam when you do this.  If you kind of put your face over the potatoes, but not too close, when you drain them into the sink. I call this my “busy moms mini facial”. Ha!).   I put them back on the stove with no heat under them.  The residual water needs to evaporate for a minute. Then, I added about 1/4 cup skim milk, about 2 tablespoons of butter, a few tablespoons of fat free sour cream, and some horse radish for a punch of flavor to the potatoes.  I used my hand mixer to smooth them out a bit.  I finished by added some salt and pepper.

When the chicken was done, I oozed a bit of flavorful barbecue  sauce onto the breasts.  The cover went on the pan, I removed them from the heat, and let the flavors take hold.

While the meal was cooking, I called my kids into the kitchen to set the table so it was ready when the food was.   They also put some nice music on.  They helped get the food to the table, and dinner was served.   And the rule in my house?  Whoever cooks dinner is off the hook for dishes!

That’s it.  Dinner is ready to come to the table in less time than driving to the local fast food place.   In a snap my family had a good home cooked meal to share.  We also always enjoy dinner time to catch up about school, new movies, and what friends are up to.   It is a great time to connect as a family.  And it is easy, nutritious, and budget friendly!